You don't truly understand how much you love and appreciate where you live until you are gone from home for an extended amount of time. Its pretty obvious now that I travel frequently, "caught the travel bug" some may say. The question of "where are you from?" is something that is asked frequently. Los Angeles has always been my home sweet home.
"You're from Los Angeles!? Why? There isn't any mountains there" "Why would you want to live in such a terrible city" These are responses I constantly see myself battling. I take a shot of ginger, grab my $5 dollar coffee and light saber and attempt to battle my feelings for my home city. The moment I say I'm from LA I can see their facial expression go from curiosity to a child tasting a new vegetable as to say "EWWWW MOMMY THAT'S YUCKY".
I find myself constantly defending the city. Don't get me wrong, I have a strong distaste for traffic, overpopulation, car honking, sirens, loud music, some people (errr most people) oh the list could go on. However, Los Angeles isn't just hustle and bustle, sky rises and traffic jams like everyone thinks. Well, yes, there are traffic jams technically all the time but far from the traffic jams, the people ordering their Vegan, gluten free, paleo, keto cupcake(like myself)- there are beautiful mountains that surround the city filled with endless trails. To the east you have the San Gabriel Mountains and to the west you have the Santa Monica Mountains which both offer a wide range of terrain to play on year round. And if you are up for a little more of a drive you have San Gorgonio, San Jacinto south and north east you have the Sierra Nevada. Not only are the mountains spectacular so close to home but the food is pretty awesome. As a vegan athlete I thrive off local produce and in Los Angeles you could find a farmers market any day of the week and sometimes a lemon or avocado tree nearby. Vegetables grow in abundance year round here and I like to say my diet is full of very radiant colors and from a nearby farm.
Despite my super healthy daily green juice, I do indulge in the occasional vegan treat. Occasional, meaning daily right? The option for vegan fast food, junk food, or just you're optional fake processed meats are endless. As much as I love to cook and create new recipes and stray far far away from those processed fake "meats", it's nice to try a nearby vegan joint for something I normally wouldn't make myself. Some of my favorites consist of:
- Cafe Gratitude (Chilaquilles for Breakfast, Whole Bowl/Humble bowl or Gracious Wrap)
- Donut friend (try the Cinnamineral and have them add ice cream or almond butter, or the xray speculoos or create your own donut)
- Mohawk Bend (I get their buffalo cauliflower and kale pizza- EVERYTIME. Also great local beers)
- Cinnaholic (Across the street from Mohawk Bend- Any Cinnamon roll you can dream of)
- Doomies (Junk food dream come true, any fake meat you would dream of- I normally go for their chocolate/peanut butter brownie).
- Shojin Sushi (Probably my favorite restaurant that I don't go to very often- Try the Pirates of the Crunchy. The best)
- Golden Road Brewery (One of the best post San Gabe long run, Wold Among Weeds beer paired with their Vegan Burger and fries)
- Vinh Loh Tofu (Really great Vietnamese vegan join. The owner Kevin will order for you after asking a few questions. Great after long runs but beware of the inevitable gas bombs).
Spending nearly two months in Costa Rica truly opened my eyes on how I took my LA lifestyle for granted. I complained about all the terrible things and never was truly grateful for all that it offered. Since being home, despite being plagued with a sickness that left me basically vertical for two weeks, I was so happy to be in my bed and home.
When I wasn't sick (still kind of sick) I tried running a different trail each day and using my vitamix and made a solid effort to try to cook new vegetable dishes. Each trail offered views I've seen a handful or more times but this time with a different set of eyes, a new perspective. At times I wanted to stand on top of the mountain and declare my love. Something I've never truly felt for another person, other than Juniper, but for these mountains I can honestly say they've stolen my heart.
Not just the mountains but LA has several fantastic climbing gyms that I found I truly enjoy going to. There are also several nearby bouldering and climbing areas outdoors that are incredible! Places like Stoney Point, Malibu Creek, Horse Flats, and where I was a few weeks ago Bishop and Alabama Hills which is located at the cusp of the Easter Sierra. The variety of outdoor activity year round is endless.
While in Costa Rica my schedule was constantly on the run, physically and mentally. With working back to back retreats and the Coastal Challenge 147 mile race mixed in the middle, despite the amount of fun I was having I was unable to eat and train the way my body was used to. There wasn't always a kitchen at my disposal to cook the fuel my body craved nor the time to go to the grocery store to purchase the necessary ingredients for such a meal. Thus eating out became regular. Beans and rice became a daily staple- literally for breakfast, lunch and dinner staple. I felt bad for Hailey when we were in a car together, gas bombs were dropped on a regular basis as my body fought to digest this food it wasn't accustomed to breaking down regularly. Costa Rica was an incredible experience, filled with endless adventure, the best company and the funniest collection of boomerang videos but I yearned for the nutritious meals I cooked myself daily when I was home. When the opportunity does arise to return to the beautiful country, I hope I plan my own nutrition a bit better before hand. Other than my eating habits, I had a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). Watching my friends on their runs on the local mountains I grew envious of their experiences. Trails that I have been on probably a few dozen times, if not more, I was still jealous. I missed my home dirt, and most of all my homegirl, Juniper. Any given day in LA you have an opportunity to run a mountain within any 30 minute drive. Want to get up to 6,000ft- 10,000ft? You can within a 30-60 min drive from LA basically all year round. When I travel, not just in Costa Rica, I am constantly in search of a great trail that doesn't take too long to get to, doesn't require permits that you need to apply for beforehand and I can still get done with most of the day left. In Los Angeles, the trail options are endless and at your finger tips. Not only is there a plethora of trail options, but the running community in LA is so grand that you could have a running partner any day of the week. Not just a "partner" but one of your best friends! Work schedules fluctuate and offer companionship on trails not just on weekends but on weekdays as well. This gives me the opportunity to catch up with my best of friends without having to deal with the normal hustle of the trails on the weekend. If you know me, I want all the adventures all the time no matter what day it is! GIMME GIMME GIMME!
Los Angeles is home to some pretty intense mountains, people, traffic accidents, food and incredible weather. That's right, the weather is quite beautiful 99% of the time. And even when its raining, it's mighty fun to run in. Oh I love Colorado and the PNW and I hope I do live there at some point in my life but at this point in time I'm enjoying the sunshine far too much to see how white my skin can get in colder climate. The sun is glorious, vitamin D is amazing. Really though, vitamin D is extremely essential in ones life. I was dangerously lacking the important vitamin during a time I was injured and I never realized how important it is to ones daily activities and functions. With beautiful weather it's incredibly easy to wake up early and eager to get outside and be active.
My home is full of things that I love and if I ever find myself needing to adventure outside the limits of the city, it is also a great launching point to so many other locations. Only a 3 hour drive to the Eastern Sierra, 5 hours to the Grand Canyon, 6 hours to Tahoe and LAX offers great flight deals when planned in advanced- say to Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Peru, and all the other amazing places to see and explore.
I'm forever grateful to call Los Angeles my home, to have the San Gabriel mountains as my playground and to have so many incredible friends because of this city. It also helps that my wonderful parents, sisters, brother and the rest of my family all live here :) Still, I'll continue to travel, adventure and explore new cities, towns, trails and lands.
But for now, damn it feels good to be home.
Don't believe me? Come visit and I'll show you!
Some of my favorite trails:
Mt Wilson: Starting from the base at Lizzie's trail Inn or you can opt to start at Chantry Flats. It's a choose your own adventure as the many little trails connect to the main trail. Some favorites are Joan's Peak, Hastings Ridge, Rim Trail).
You can start from Red Box and take the main trail or Rubio Canyon and cut the run in half for a sweet 3rd class climb-Junipers not too stoked about that, Thanks Vince. Also a great loop if you go down to Strawberry Meadow, around Strawberry Peak to Redbox and down to Switzer Falls.
1.Bear Canyon, Peak, 3T's, Cucamonga. 2.Manker Flats, Register Ridge, Peak, North Backbone, Pine & Dawson & the PCT & back 3. Register Ridge, Peak & down Ski Hut or Devils backbone & down the ski lifts from the Notch.
Parking at Islip Saddle and climb Mt Williamson to the peak and continue onto the ridge to Burkhart trail and down to Devils Punch bowl to the campground and back up to Islip. OR Start from Vincent Gap to Mt Baden Powell and follow the PCT (And AC100 course) down to Islip saddle and down to the campground to manzanita trail back up to Vincent Gap.
Start from Lake and take Steep and Cheap to Lowe toll road and follow the main trail to inspiration point and continue on to Mt Lowe Trail followed by Markam and San Gabe Peak. A great trail if you want to just run or do intervals.
Ah a mile from my doorstep, GP is home to the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, and the Batcaves that were filmed in the first batman movie. My favorite begins in Bronson Canyon and up over the batcaves to the main road till you hit the single track that leads you to the road to the Hollywood Sign, there you can run down from the main trail or hit the single track that will give you a 1000ft descent in a mile back to your starting point.
Need any trail, food or just fun recommendations... Just ask!
Till next time ya'll! I'm running Lake Sonoma 50 miler this weekend despite my lack of training at all since I got sick. Wish me luck!