Charlene’s biking photo gallery

By Charlene Lee, Senior writer, 16, Walnut HS
Print This Post

Photo by Ryan Yee, 21

After spending last summer stuck in an office facing an empty wall, I wanted to spend this summer outdoors. I knew there were bike trails in L.A. because I always drive down the 605 freeway and see bikers zooming by on a path next to the freeway. I wanted to see the city from a view other than my car. So I decided to give sightseeing on my bike a try.

My first destination was the Ballona Creek Bike Path in Marina del Rey. I realized I had forgotten both a helmet (a big no-no, according to the bike safety patrol officer I met on the path) and water.

I was worried that I would be too out of shape to bike even a mile because I had quit all my school sports my junior year. But luckily, the concrete path was flat and easy. I started near the end of the trail and raced through two and a half miles in less than 30 minutes. The sailboat-dotted marina was on my right and the large creek on my left. Though this trail was more private than the touristy beach paths, it also had piercing winds that made it cold. I was disappointed with the little scenery I saw besides the marina and the creek, which was concrete and covered in graffiti. I decided to make my next ride more secluded from the city to see more nature.

This led me to bike through the Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park in Tarzana with my friend, Sammie, who recommended it because she’d gone there as a kid. This time, transportation was tough because we had only one car but two bikes. After digging out her parents’ bike rack from her garage, we spent 20 minutes outside strapping it onto her car. It was 10 a.m. and it was already so hot. We went back inside to grab our sunglasses, sunscreen, trail mix and water (one bottle each), then headed out.

The hardest part was riding up the steep concrete path to the entrance of the trail. We were already tired when we reached the top but we now needed to ride on a dirt path to the other side of the mountain. My bike was getting fixed so I had borrowed Sammie’s neighbor’s bike, which was a beach cruiser. It turned out to be the wrong kind of bike because the basket blocked my view of the path in front of me, which made it difficult to dodge the rocks and plants. At the top I saw a huge valley with trees, flowers and rolling hills. I had never seen so much beautiful, undeveloped land before in L.A.

Charlene says to check out to get the info you need to plan a bike trip.

After two hours of biking, Sammie and I called it quits—our water supply was depleted and the 100-degree heat was overwhelming. After getting back, we had proof of our hours riding in the sun: helmet strap tans on our chins.

My next trail was the one I had seen while driving down the 605 and the one I had been waiting for the most: the San Gabriel River Trail, which stretches from the base of the San Gabriel Mountains east of L.A. all the way down to Long Beach. This was my longest ride—20 miles out of an 80-mile roundtrip path.

I went online to plan the trip and found websites with instructions, pictures and maps. There I found out where the entrance was, where we had to park and how long the trail was.

My 21-year-old cousin, his two college roommates and I parked for free in the Santa Fe Recreational Area lot in Irwindale and rode to the entrance of the trail, which started at the top of the Santa Fe Dam wall. We headed south just as the sun was beginning to set. The wall curved ahead so we could see the tiny silhouettes of people biking and running atop it. As we headed toward the freeway I had two different views—on one side, there was a mass of trees so dense I couldn’t see the ground and on the other, power lines and giant warehouses. It was strange feeling both in the city and outside of it at the same time.

When we got to just above the 605 freeway, we stopped because I wanted to see the view. I felt relaxed watching the traffic below me. Unlike the cars that were rushing to go somewhere, I was taking the time to admire where I was. Then I realized we needed to ride back because the parking lot was about to close. We rode back fast and were relieved that we returned just in time, as the exit gates were closing.

Next time I want to ride all the way down to Long Beach. I never knew there was another side of Los Angeles—one that was free of cars and gasoline. Now I know these trails exist whenever I (and you, as well) want to leave the city and escape to areas of nature and peace.