After our near death experience with a squirrel at the Grand Canyon, we are on our way to Los Angeles. At last.
We wake in our little Airbnb and I feel the slightest bit of sadness. Not enough time could be spent in Arizona, but I also already knew I’d love it here. I am a desert person through and through.
Just a couple of hours in, we hit the state line to California and the border agents shruggingly let us through. We could have brought in all of the pests and invasive plants, had we wanted to! I snap a pic of David in front of the Welcome sign and we continue.
The further we drive in, the hazier the world around us becomes. I can’t decide if this is from the LA smog blowing hundreds of miles over or from forest fires. Maybe both. Either way, the mountains around us are now only vague lines in the sky and the landscape makes me feel like I am in Mad Max.
In an effort to hit every single National Park within my general vicinity, I detour us towards Joshua Tree on our way in. This requires you drive up yet another mountain and on top is a very California-ized resort town, of sorts, surrounded by yuccas. There’s crystal shops and art galleries that look as old as the mountain, weaved in with gleaming, new Starbucks shops and places advertising acai bowls. It gives me the impression that this was once a place for the true outcasts and artists before being overrun with hipsters.
We drive straight through and into the National Park. I hold up our ATBP pass and they wave me through. This pass makes me feel so powerful. I am the park queen! Give me all the access.
I am shocked by how different the park desert is to the desert around the town. The sand transitions from orange into a milky white and orange rocks jut out from the earth. I feel so close to the sky up here. You aren’t allowed to camp at this park at night – so I can only imagine what the stars look like.
Joshua Trees wave at us from every direction and we get out of the car to snap some pictures. Two shirtless men sweatily pass us, carrying a dead Joshua Tree with. This seems illegal… because it is. But I think they are tripping so we don’t get involved. Stealing an animal’s home for your stoned spirituality seems counter productive to me.
I’m pretty sure I never saw a yucca tree in The Flintstones, but I can’t seem to get the theme song out of my head as we walk around. Our time here is brief though, and soon we yabba dabba doo out of there.
Magically, we somehow miss all of the traffic on our way into the city and soon we are at our next Airbnb in Los Feliz. This is a really hip spot right next to Hollywood and Griffith, and I’d ten out of ten recommend this area as a place to stay!
As we step out of the car, however, we find ourselves swallowing in humid, polluted air. It’s hot. It’s really hot. And it’s a sticky, smoggy hot. Turns out, LA is having an incredibly out-of-character heat wave – just for the weekend we are staying, of course.
We feel a little ripped off – this place is supposed to be temperate all year! I’d rather be back in Tucson. At least in Arizona it doesn’t feel like you’re breathing in the color yellow.
When we enter the Airbnb, we are greeted with even more stagnate, sweaty air and no A/C. It feels a little bit like we are a gooey cake mix inside of an Easy Bake Oven.
It’s so hot during the night, we actually put blankets on the floor and sleep in the living room because it’s the only area with a fan. I deliriously sweat all night and crawl around the apartment to try and get comfortable. I finally make my way up and settle on the couch where I briefly slumber for an hour.
Our alarm goes off bright and early. Before realizing that this inferno would keep us up all night, we’d made plans to hike to the Hollywood Sign in the morning. We chose this particular day because, out of the long weekend we are staying, it’d be the coolest. So despite really, really, really not wanting to get up or exert any physical activity after our restless night, we know we will regret not going.
Soon, the decision places us at the bottom of the ultra exposed trail. We start climbing. The trail is wide and graveled and full of horse poop. Despite the smell, we are lucky to be granted with overcast, morning skies and the hike is not entirely unbearable… Until we are about 20 minutes from the finish line. All of the sudden the sun decides it wants to say hello and rips the clouds off to greet us. In a matter of minutes, our shirts are drenched in sweat.
Though it’s steamy up here, the view is incredible. The city hasn’t been cloaked in an afternoon smog quite yet and we can see the skyscrapers clearly. The ocean is long and blue and forever. And we are standing directly in front of the sign!
I do my best to pose in front of the D, in an effort to create Hollywoo and fulfill all of my Bojack Horseman reference needs. I post the photo to social media and no one seems to care about wtf I am doing. Aw fish.
The hike up is only 4 miles round trip, but there is an opportunity to add an additional 2ish miles on by hiking to the baaaack of the Hollywood Sign. That would make our entire hike about 6.4 miles in length. David feels unchallenged by the first portion of the hike and makes the executive decision for us to hike to the back too.
In theory, this sounded great. How unique would it be to have a photo of behind the sign?
But the temperature increases quickly and dramatically and I begin to have the urge to throw up. I keep this to myself as we labor up the steep, sunny incline until we reach a meager spot of shade and I heave. Luckily no actual puke comes because that’d be an excellent way to dehydrate myself, and I still have to hike back down. Earlier in the hike, someone had performed some trail magic and placed a drum of water with a spigot in the middle of the trail. We then witnessed a guy take the lid off and wash his face in it like a legitimate asshole.
Soooo, I need to keep as much liquid inside of me as possible because there’s nowhere to fill up again.
(Note: Don’t you EVER be that face wash guy!!)
David is now concerned for my welfare but we are so damn close to the top that I slowly maneuver my way to the peak. There’s no point in quitting now. We round a corner and are there, finally, behind the sign, where I deem it not worth it for the extra two miles in the heat. At least the photo is cool.
Our journey back down is thankfully anticlimactic, aside from dodging several horse tours and their poop torpedoes. Once we have phone service again at the base we can see that the temperature crawled from the eighties at our start, to over one hundred during our climb.
So much for balmy California.
Despite looking like we just hopped in the pool, we decide to reward ourselves with some donuts. We stop by Kettle Glazed Donuts where I stuff a blueberry-lemon iced done into my face. It is glorious.
The heat is relentless and the next day is no better, so we decide to finally take David to his FIRST BEACH! He only just saw the ocean for the first time, when we went to Japan last November. But, since we didn’t get up close and personal with the water, it feels like it doesn’t count.
We choose Leo Carrillo State Beach because the photos make it look quintessentially ocean-like, with craggy rocks and perfect sand. It also is a bit further away then some of the more “popular” beaches, so we hope that means it’ll be a little less busy.
To get there, Waze decides to take us on a back highway route to avoid the current Saturday traffic. We drive around and around winding vineyard roads, up up up a mountain. And then all of the sudden, we are at a peak. From there, we can see the ocean and it’s expansiveness. And that’s all we can see.
“That’s the ocean!” I prod David.
“That’s horrifying,” he replies. “It never ends.”
David doesn’t know how to swim. Water gives him anxiety and him not knowing how to swim gives me anxiety. It’s an anxiety circle. Prior to this trip he had announced to me that he’d not take one step in with me. Instead, we lay our towels down on the ocean’s edges.
We spend a long time on this beach, drinking wine from a Gatorade bottle that heats up into a disgusting, sticky soup and scooting our butts down sandy rocks to find squishy algae and broken oysters.
After enough wine soup, eventually David does submerge part of his body into the ocean and I loudly proclaim victory. Rubbery strings of seaweed begin to wrap around our legs.
“You think we could eat that?” asked David. “I dare you to try it.”
As the sun begins to set, we leave our breezy spot to head back into the city. I drive us down the Pacific Coast Highway and we get stuck in traffic as tourists dart across the road to get to the beach. We join in on the game of Frogger when we find a free parking spot about a half mile walk from the pier.
I visited Los Angeles a few years back and one of the most stunning moments I remember was the Santa Monica sunset. I wanted David to experience this as well, so we briskly walk trying to get there before the sun dips entirely.
As luck would have it, Lime Bike and Byrd just released their controversial electric scooters the same week we are visiting, and we are able to find a few ditched on the side of the road. We basically fly the remainder of the way to our destination, dodging traffic and pedestrians.
It is terrifying.
David gets a funnel cake from a pier vendor and we walk past a man dressed as Donald Trump. A street performer plays Despacito on repeat and we listen to it over and over, as the sugar rush takes control and the sky fades to midnight blue.
It’s pretty perfect.