Seeking Nature in a City

With vague ideas of moving to California sometime in the foreseeable future, I knew it was time to visit LA. When my friend Jenna found a round trip flight for under $100 perfectly aligned to our work weekend – we jumped at a two day Los Angeles trip. We would arrive early morning Friday and head out on a redeye late Saturday night. Knowing we didn’t have a lot of time and would only be taking a carry-on backpack, I planned a packed schedule to try and hit every major tourist area of LA.

The first day was devoted to all the nature we could explore in one of the biggest cities in America. Since the airport isn’t far from the beach, we got off the plane and headed straight to Venice Beach. It was pretty early on a weekday morning so not too many people were out. We walked along the pier looking for coffee and breakfast and accidentally picked up an overly friendly stray who’d just woken up on a park bench. After losing him and recharging we rented bikes to stroll along Venice Beach, checking out Muscle Beach and several iconic skatepark areas.

More and more people were popping up as our ride progressed. A fun and easy thirty minutes later we were at the Santa Monica pier, enjoying the souvenir booths, the Ferris wheel, and dipping our feet into the freezing waters. Originally we had wanted to swim, but it was much colder than we’d expected so we rolled up our pants and walked along the shoreline, watching the tourists who’d come from all over the world.

We were so close it didn’t feel right not to check out Malibu, so we continued our beach exploration after a quick Uber ride north up the coast. The sand was so clean and the nearby shops so much fancier, we felt like we could see a celebrity at any moment. (My hope was Miley Cyrus since her song Malibu had just hit the airwaves.) We sprawled along the beach, enjoying the weather warming up and the overall relaxed atmosphere away from the crowds.

Next we were on our way to our Airbnb in West Hollywood, but of course we had to get a taste of the infamous LA traffic. We got in the car and literally didn’t move for forty-five minutes. Our Uber driver had to stop our ride because he ran out of time on his lunch break. We got out to walk past a majority of the traffic and then we’re finally on our way. It was insane!

After cleaning off the beach on us, we headed to Runyon Canyon. I’d tried to figure out a way to get close to the Hollywood sign off a trail, but it was harder than I thought with no guide. Instead, we enjoyed a leisurely hike through the hills, superzoomed to get our snap of the sign, and ran into our own meditation coach right as the sunset across the valley.

Once it was dark (and our minds had been cleared and calmed) we headed for dinner at a trendy spot nearby. Then it was on to the Griffith Observatory because what else is there to do at night? Look at the stars, of course!

When we got there they had several of their massive telescopes out on the grounds, knowing their usual two wouldn’t satisfy the masses. We peeked at a great magnification of Saturn, clearly seeing the rings and nearby stars. It was incredible looking through the telescope at the real thing, because as we get older I tend to think we forget how impressive “every day” things are around us. They say stop and smell the roses, but I say stop and relearn things you forgot from Elementary school.

The museum inside the observatory is pretty cool too. Besides the usual how-stars-are-made infographics, there were interesting star charting facts and an original Tesla coil – which they turned on and everything! And when you’re at Griffith, you can’t only look up but have to look out because a lot of the best cityscape views are there.

Overall, there was a lot of nature to discover in this city. It had also been such a great experience to connect with the people of the city, who seem very open and oddly spiritual. So the next time you’re at the top of the world, the sun is making its descent, and you’ve had a full day converging with nature, go ahead and follow along on the loud stranger’s meditation.

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