Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label walk Silver Lake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label walk Silver Lake. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WALKING WITH AND WITHOUT GHOST TRAINS

Having got this “haunted house” thing in my head, I dug out a cutting I’d kept from LA Weekly’s annual “Best of LA” issue.  There in the Mind and Body section was a listing for “Best Haunted Hiking,” that read in part, “Where do you go when you want to see a ghost train?  Corralitas Red Car Property sits on land formerly part of the Pacific Electric Streetcar line which cut through Silver Lake on its way to Glendale until it was decommissioned in 1955.  Bordered on both sides by the skeletons of abandoned cars and machinery, the public trail near the old rail is as creepy as it is cool.  Relics of the big red cars are still visible.”


Sounded good to me.  As you see from the map, the Red Car Property is a strange, bent finger of land, than runs between people’s back gardens, and not really very long, less than a mile end to end.  (It's the red bit, I thought it should be clickable but apparently it's not.  Blogger eh?) There have been various attempts to redevelop it, including a plan to build new houses there.  LA is, of course, the home of the impossible real estate plot, but even so it’s hard to imagine how that would work, the land in the corridor is more or less flat but it rises sharply on one side, drops sharply on the other, there wouldn’t see to be room for both houses and an access road.  In any case, so far it’s come to nothing.


I know bits of Silver Lake reasonably well, but not this part.  I used the map and information from a website named www.modernhiker.com.  I gained access at the corner of Alessandro Way and Lake View Avenue, right opposite the Holyland Exhibition which alas was closed when I was there.


Initially the route runs alongside a chain link fence above the freeway, then widens out into open land, a desire line running across the middle, before narrowing again, and remaining unpaved as it takes you between people’s houses and back yards. This land isn’t public, and it certainly doesn’t belong to the properties that line it, but as is the human way, the locals have spread themselves, encroached, extended their gardens, parked multiple cars and trucks on the land.  Someone seems to have made a shrine to a dead pet, at least one hopes it’s a pet.  And nature has played is part too: there are escapee yuccas and cacti cascading down the hillsides.


In various places as you walk along you can see multiple main roads, you’re in sight and loud earshot of the freeways, and you can see mountains and indeed Forest Lawn cemetery in the distance.  It’s a very LA landscape at certain points, at others it feels like you could be in rural Arkansas.


Like I said, it isn’t a very long walk, there and back is just a couple of miles, although it’s easy enough to extend it in various directions.  Journey’s end, such as it is, is an arrangement of concrete blocks set on a hillside above Riverside Drive.  I have read that these are known as the Stonehenge of LA, but I’m not sure to whom.  In fact this City of Los Angeles Historic Landmark # 770, and the concrete blocks were once the footings of the Pacific Electric Red Car Viaduct. 


A website called http://redcarproperty.blogspot.com/ has pictures of the Red Car line, including the viaduct (above), but it takes a pretty enormous feat of the imagination to picture exactly how this fits with the current topography.  As you see, at the time I was there someone was using the footings as bases for art works.


As for the haunted hiking, the ghost train, the skeletons of abandoned cars and machinery, the relics of the big red cars – I didn’t see a damn thing.  Maybe I was distracted or unobservant or preoccupied, but I suppose it’s in the nature of ghosts that they only show themselves to certain people.