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GREAT HIKES: Friday Night Hikes

One of the more enduringly popular hikes in the Santa Monica area is the wide, loopy trail to the Parker Mesa Overlook, offered every Friday evening under the auspices of the Sierra Club.  Supervised by dedicated volunteers, like Ed L, the hike has become an institution for hundreds of folks wanting to get a sampling of our local trails – and enjoying what is probably the best view in Los Angeles.  Hikers meet en masse on Los Liones and Sunset Boulevard, near Pacific Coast Highway, and then carpool to the fire road trailhead – a viable compromise for what has periodically been a contentious conflict between the right to privacy folks and the right to access our local trails bunch. The adventure usually begins with a short briefing for the newbies, a few questions, and, then, depending on the season, the 15 to 50 (or more!) take off together in what quickly breaks up into a long chain of folks hiking at different speeds. Years ago, when I first took up hiking and naively confused my youthful enthusiasm for prime physical prowess, I made the mistake of trying to keep up with some of the experienced regulars who bolt out in front, but  just about at the point at which I was wheezing to keep up, some of them gingerly darted up the more difficult ridgeline that paralleled the trail, simply for the fun of adding a little extra difficulty. While I’ve since become an occasional ridge-walker myself, then I appreciated the fact that there was a Sierra Club guide walking “sweep” to make sure that all of us found our way up to the Overlook – and back.  I drifted back to a more reasonable pace and started to enjoy the hike for the experience rather than the training opportunity. Even the easiest hike can be made difficult by a challenging pace, and the road to the Overlook has just enough constant gain to eventually grind anyone down.  However, once you find your rhythm, it’s a spectacular hike ending with a respite on the sky-high knoll that is surely the envy of every home–builder in the city: sweeping views of all of the beach areas as well as inland to downtown. There are a few rocky spots to sit down up there, and folks tend to hang out for a while just relishing the reward for their hard work getting there.  The way back on every hike is almost always easier than the start (with the exception of Wirebreak Two) and the downhill course to the trailhead is more of a warm–down in the cooler evening air. Attentive hikers will notice a variety of enticing side trails that interconnect to the maze of routes networking around the local Santa Monicas.  With a little creativity, you can devise a host of alternate hikes and approaches up to the Overlook, a few of which I’ll describe in future stories.Fearless Readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes should contact Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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