[LA Life] Frolic Among the Flowers at LA’s Best Botanical Gardens

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With the weather we’re blessed with in Southern California, it’s no surprise that we spend the better part of our lives outside.  Beyond the fact my wardrobe is perfectly equipped for it ( my daily uniform consists of a tank top, cut offs and flip flops – thank you, working from home), there’s an impressive amount of outdoor activities to partake in.  You want wine tasting? You don’t have to go to Sonoma or Santa Barbara, just head to Santa Monica or Malibu – skiing and snowboarding are only a few hours away at Big Bear, and the beach is equidistant in the opposite direction.  Fun, sun, snow, sand – we’ve got it all, and then some.  Now that Summer season is in full swing, I’m finding it near uncomfortable to be stuck indoors with so much amazing weather, so when it comes to daily adventures –  it’s time to start thinking outside the box – or at least, outside the home – for some fun day trips and day-tes in the area.

Though Los Angeles can come across as a completely concrete jungle, once you’ve found the right nooks and crannies you’ll realize it’s anything but! From the West in Santa Monica to the East in Pasadena, Los Angeles has been blessed with a gregarious amount of green space throughout the city, and it’s only right that as residents we get to revel in it.  The fabled Griffith Park Observatory offers up acres and acres of fresh green space smack dab in the middle of the city and it feels like you’re on a wild safari when you’re trying to trek towards the Hollywood Sign, while assorted areas like Ernest E Debs Park and NELA’s Lincoln Park provide a pop of vivaciously contrasting greens in the heart of residential neighborhoods and burrows.

Even though I’ve lived in LA for over eight years, I’ve realized that here’s still so much to discover and uncover.  There’s simply so many options to choose from that I have a hard time narrowing it down – after all, they all have their je ne sais quoi moments of sheer bliss, utter beauty and vivacious blooms.  Between the neat little retreats and hidden gems with sincere botanical beauty, I’ve definitely made my way through a pretty solid chunk of what the city of angels has to offer and I’m eager to share my favorite botanical gardens and nature nooks with you.



The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

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The trifecta of artistic expression, creation and perfection – The Huntington boasts a bevvy of fantastic art collections, a wonderful library rich library and of course – a delectable amount of shrubbery, flowers, trees, flora and fauna.  There natural areas are broken out by region, and you can take a leisurely stroll through a Japanese Tea Garden, a Chinese Garden and even a banzai exhibit, which is even cooler when you realize you’re staring at tiny Sequoias and Redwoods – it’s actually unbelievable.  With over 120 acres to revel in, it’s easy to get lost – and even easier to not see absolutely everything the park has to offer.  Good news – you can get an annual pass and visit whenever you want.  Seeing as the park spans the globe, there are always wonderful specimens in bloom.

Check their website for the latest exhibits as well as their Summer hours, from my knowledge the venue is open from 10:30 to 4:30 every day except Tuesday.

1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA

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The Descanso Gardens

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Though I’ve only visited in the Winter (which in Los Angeles just means it’s below 60), the Descanso Gardens boast a stunning landscape that includes a Lilac Garden, a Japanese Garden, California Natives and a sprawling 5 acre rose garden.  Open year round and only $9 for adults, botanical gardens offer a menagerie of courses and programs, and host a wonderful series of summer concerts.

1418 Descanso Dr, La Canada Flintridge, CA

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Los Angeles County Arboretum

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Located off in Arcadia on the East Side of Los Angeles sits one of my absolute favorite venues, and every time I go I’m absolutely astounded by the fact it exists within Los Angeles county.  Just one stroll around the LA Arboretum, in through the tall bamboo shoots or the indigenous South American trees, and you’ll feel instantly transported into a new land.  Each corner and every inch of the park is impeccably maintained and absolutely stunning to marinate on.  Plus, the third Tuesday of every month is free!

301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA

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Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden

Located off the beaten path, in the residental neighborhoods of Pasadena is one of the city’s unique hidden gems.  The Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden is a stunning piece of throwback landscaping and architecture built by the one and only  Kinzuchi Fujii in 1935, not to mention – the last standing one he ever created.  Over 80 years later the two acre span is more beautiful than ever with a teahouse, relaxing areas to sit and meditate in and an active coy pond. The venue is tiny, only about two acres, but there simply so much to see that you could be there all afternoon.

270 Arlington Drive, Pasadena, California 91105

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Arlington Botanical Gardens

One thing about the wonderful botanical gardens in the area – is you more or less have to pay for them.  Great news about the Arlington Botanical Gardens, is they’re open to anyone, any day, for Free.99. The Arlington Botanical Gardens stand as the only public open space in Pasadena and it offers a great arena to walk and relax among it’s community maintained garden, or the rich array of Californian and Mediterranean trees, bushes, flowers and succulents with a wonderful amount of benches scattered among them – so bring a book, get comfortable and get into your R&R.

275 Arlington Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105

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I’ve by no means gone to all of the local gardens, but I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to visit a great number of them and be awe struck by their beautiful, blooming bounties.  Also, if you couldn’t tell – I effing love reflection shots!

What are your favorite Botanical Gardens and Open Spaces – in Los Angeles, or your favorite city?

Let me know in the comments below!

[LA Life] Trekking Cahuenga Peak To The Hollywood Sign

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Now that Spring has officially sprung, it’s been a personal mission of mine to get out and enjoy every ounce of sunshine I possibly can.  Depending on your perspective of Los Angeles, it’s easy to flounder under the incorrect assumption that the city is a concrete jungle – but quite the contrary: in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our go-go-go lifestyle are a plethora of green spaces waiting to be explored.  From The Huntington Gardens to Pasadena’s Arboretum, Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon – there are a lot of amazing nature hikes to offer, and you don’t even have to go far to get it in.

When we first set out for our hike, we only had one thing on our mind – it’s a beautiful day to get some exercise in.  We packed a little pack of water, snacks and goodies and were off, off and away on a Saturday adventure.  Not gonna lie on this one, the struggle was definitely real; we haphazardly decided to ascend the Tree of Life Trail to Cahuenga Peak  so we could get as close as possible to the Hollywood Sign.  Depending on your source, the tree in question is equally referred to as ‘The Wishing Tree’, ‘The Wisdom Tree’ ‘The Giving Tree’ and ‘The Magic Tree’, but whatever you choose to call it – it’s a beautiful hike up a ridiculous incline; meaning you’re going to want some badass shoes to accompany you.  As a fair warning, this hike is not for novices or beginners – and I only say this, because I consider myself both, especially when it comes to this trail.

If you’ve been following my adventures over the last few years, I’ve evolved into a nature nymph of sorts and I absolute adore it.  There’s nothing like the brisk air and fresh breeze of the great outdoors, but man – was I a sweaty, panting mess by the end of it. This hike is one puppy that you want to pack some supplies for – some snacks with sugar to keep up your blood sugar, sunblock to prevent heat stroke, tons of water to rehydrate yourself and some quick to eat protein like nuts or beef jerkey.  Overall, I would say it took us about two hours to get to the top with a few pit stops along the way to stretch our muscles and take in the view.  It was only later that we discovered a simpler way to the view, where you can park on city streets and take a paved, lazy river of an incline to the top.  Definitely not as gratifying but thank goodness we could take that route out of the park!

 

Overall, the view from the Tree of Life Trail is breathtaking, and the aerial 360 of the city is as stunning as it sound.  This is one hike that I not only recommend, but will be doing far more frequently – after all, we didn’t actually make it over to the Tree of Life – we caught ourselves a stellar view of the city instead – so that’ll have to be a day-venture for another time.


  

  


  

[Traveling Tales] Admiring Oregon’s Multnomah Falls

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Seasons have changed, the months have rearranged – and I’m still trying to catch my breath so I can convert thoughts to syllables and ideas to writable action.  When I took my part time publicity position back in the Spring, I had little to no actual idea what I was actually asking of myself.  Go after your dream job, they said; it’ll be worth it to do both, they said.  At times, it feels like I’m taking two steps forward and one step backwards; at other times, I remember that I’m not a pawn – I’m a queen who can roam the board of life as she pleases.  For me, this has been a year of evolution, transformation and change – for everything I’ve lost, the world has given back in spades, whether that means I’m actively pursuing friendships with a more solid selection of souls, or a career based on what I passionately believe in.

So, here I am – almost five months later, warped by wanderlust and exhausted beyond expectation, wondering if the means justified this end.  The short answer is that they did; the long of it, is well, long.  But when the adventure is about the journey and not the destination, it’s important to note that the journey has been a fantastic romp through this ruckus called life. I have so many stories locked in my mind, so many riddles yearning to be solved while I sift through memories like an hourglass – I’ve been waiting to break myself open and spill all.

At the end of July, I had a debilitating bout with my dilapidated car (which included, but wasn’t limited to: a broken axle, two new tires, new brakes, a new battery and a faulty transmission), which turned into a catalyst for anti-social behavior.  I’d been feeling  down and further than out, especially when I had to break several longstanding plans – including attending a wedding of a childhood friend so once the car was finally fixed, getting out of town and into the bold, beautiful outdoors seemed like the only solution.  Though our sights were set on Shambhala, we were equally excited to travel off the beaten path and see what there was to see on our way.  Last year on our drive, we admired Oregon’s Multnomah Falls from afar – but this year, we’d made it a mission to see it up close and personal – and man, was it ever worth it!

Photo Cred: Daniel Leist Photography

Located about two hours from my family in Corvallis but less than 45 minutes East of Portland in Oregon, Multnomah Falls sits on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge and relieves itself into Benson Lake.  The tallest waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is a year round, two tiered waterfall that measures in at a magnificent 620′ between the upper and lower falls.  For those that are feeling a little frisky, you can even take a quick quarter-mile jaunt over the Benson Bridge and get an up close and personal view of the falls from the footpath – or try your endurance and hike your way to the top for a birds eye view of the Columbia!  If you are among the daring that do, you’ve just marched over a mile – and you conquered the first part of the 6.5 mile Larch Mountain Trail.

Back in 1915, Philanthropist and Entrepreneur Simon Benson loaned the City of Portland the nearly $6000 necessary to purchase Multnomah Falls and build the bridge sitting at 105′.  Ask any of my friends, I’m beyond terrified of heights – but with a bridge as cemented and sturdy as that, I felt safe beyond belief…as long as I stayed with one hand on the railing and did my best to not look down.

Built in 1925 by the City of Portland to encourage tourism, the Multnomah Falls Lodge sits plush at the bottom of Larch Mountain.  Not only is the venue documented on the National Register of Historic Places but it provides a wonderful deviation from your road trip complete with snacks, coffee and all the touristy knick-knacks you could dream of.  If you’re in the area tomorrow, September 9th, Multnomah Falls and her sister waterfall Wahkeena are celebrating a century as a public park in the Lodge plaza – head on down and join in on the memories!

For more on Multnomah Falls head to their socials – Website | Facebook | Yelp

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”
Terence McKenna

[Oh, Snap!] Exploring The Eagle Rock / Glenoaks Canyon Trail

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In my never ending quest to take in all the nature I possibly can in Los Angeles, the idea of finding lush, green pastures and wind swept trees locally has more often than not escaped me. When I was living in Korea Town and West Hollywood, I was easily and habitually reminded of the close proximity of the heart of the city. I could feel the pulse of the streets and yearned to be closer to nature. So, thank goodness I moved out to Eagle Rock – there’s all the amenities of West Side living but paired with the lackadaisical but passionate work ethic of the modern Renaissance person, advocating equal time for work and play. Instead of being engulfed by the traffic and smog of the city, I’m constantly in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds this area.

For Valentine’s Day weekend, Danny and I had a few friends stay with us and we got to explore a whole new side of the neighborhood. Just over the freeway, where the 2 and 134 meet, there’s a wonderful little trail right on Sleepy Hollow Lane, oh and also – most adorable street name ever. We walked a few miles while the blazing succulent sun-rays rained down on us and I couldn’t think of a more beautiful way to spend my Friday afternoon. What’s even better, is this is just 5 minutes away and boasts a view of Big Bear, Orange County’s Saddleback Mountain, Downtown LA, Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean.

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[Trekking Tales] Griffith Park Observatory


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As the month progresses, I’ve begun to realize that there’s a deeper motive hidden under my menagerie of miniature resolutions.  I fully believe that to evolve, to become a better version of yourself, there are baby steps that need to be taken and in a way each an every one the thirty items on that list are an investment in my future and the person I want to be.  Lingering somewhere between lofty goals and simple practicalities are life hacks that double as cost saving methods, building blocks for future endeavors and last, but certainly not least, there’s the mental and physical gymnastics of it all.  Admittedly, I miss school – not the tests or homework mind you, but the sense of community and the push for personal growth in all endeavors.  Travel, reading, hikes, meditation, crocheting; all of these endeavors are inspiring me to expand who I am at my core and what I’m capable of. By crafting unique infused olive oils, pickling vegetables and manufacturing my own basic salad dressings – I’m not only saving loads by reducing the amount of pre-processed foods I purchase, plus it’s an immensely fun, delicious alternative.  The books on my nightstand have been gleefully riffled through more than once, my yoga poses are getting stronger by the week and through hiking I’ve had the chance to explore the urban jungles that my city has to offer.

With my affinity for activity, a penchant for photography and a need to be in the great outdoors, it’s absolutely no wonder that hiking has also etched its way into my heart. Back when I moved to Los Angeles, I viewed the city as concrete jungle that desperately needed repaving, but after five years of exploring the city I can attest to the contrary.  Between Will Rogers Memorial Park, Runyon Canyon, the Pasadena Hills, the Old LA Zoo and Griffith Park – the city is literally teaming with all sorts of fun urban safaris that don’t shy away from importing a little bit of nature into the city.   Plus, what better way to get intimate knowledge on your city than diving into it headfirst?  I’ve never considered myself much of a hiker, but we all have to start somewhere I suppose.  Two years ago, I didn’t consider myself a runner, either.  But life tends to throw me curve balls, and I’m proud to say that I’ve adapted quite nicely.

When my GTI gave out in ’12, I “lost my ride to the gym“.  For the first three days, I was frustrated but on the fourth, I had a mental breakthrough: why am I driving to the gym just to run on a treadmill?  Immediately, my iPod playlist was updated and I whisked myself out the door before I had the opportunity to give it a second thought. I came back exhausted, dripping in sweat (which, by the by, is rare), out of breath, slightly dehydrated – and the happiest I’d been in months.  As a former competitive athlete, my body literally craves that sweet rush of fresh air (not to mention, endorphins) that the great outdoors can provide – about ten minutes in, this grin starts creeping up through the corners of my mouth, working its way towards dropping my chin and brightening my eyes. And then I remembered what it’s all about – working out makes me a passionate creature without worries or anxieties; not only does physical activity help me be the best version of myself, but it completely plays into loving myself, too. 

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Part of my new years resolution was to find a new hike every month and I love that it’s pushing me to explore more of Los Angeles.  The first hike of the new year was Griffith and personally, I’m sort of having a love affair with it.  One of the best things about hiking at Griffith Park is the ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ aspect of the exercise. I’ve gone about four or five times over the last month an each time, I explored a new and completely different part of the park – terrain and view wise.  Plus, there’s the Observatory – which means I also get to flex my nerd muscles a bit.  

As you walk around the outside of the observatory, you’ll notice some curved lines: these lines represent planetary orbits and equinoxes.  The park is open from sunrise through sunset, and I highly recommend making it for one, if not both of them.  Though you don’t have the same view of the Pacific that you get from Runyon, if you’re there during the magic hour you’ll get to watch downtown slowly light up the city skyline; you can also clearly see the Hollywood sign, Runyon and Santa Monica.  

There are multiple levels and types of terrain for hiking on, the Berlin Forrest is one of the more wooded areas where the hikes by the Observatory tend to be on gravel.  This area is rich with picnic benches and perfect for some lowkey stretches, or even some lowkey laziness 😉

The view of downtown is absolutely unreal; especially when the city is shrouded in haze.

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[Oh, Snap] Arlington Botanical Gardens

Whether you’re a country cat or a city kitty, one thing’s for sure – Los Angeles has a little bit of something to offer for every type of adventurous personality out there. For the best in shopping and people watching head out to  Venice Beach or the Fairfax District, Hollywood boasts some of the trendiest tourist traps around and Downtown LA is home to Chinatown and the Fashion District – perfect for ballers on a budget.  To boot, there are also tons of museums for all ages and minds – the Natural History Museum downtown is perfect for any science and history buffs, near the La Brea Tar Pits you’ll find the LACMA, the Architecture + Design Museum, the Craft + Folk Art Museum and the Peterson Automotive Museum, last but definitely not least are the Getty and it’s sister museum – the Getty Villa – which I had a chance to finally visit last January.  A handful of the museums require some sort of paid admission (or a “donation”) to enter – thankfully, some like minded and fabulous people have compiled a list of ‘Free Museum Days‘ in and around LA county; genius!

Beyond the museums that the city of angels has to offer, there are amazing places to take leisurely strolls, discover street art and take in the nature – urban and authentic – that graces our city.   One of the craziest things about the vegetation in LA (and I learned this thanks to a nasty bout of allergies a few years ago): most of the trees, plants and flowers in LA aren’t indigenous to the area – chances are they’ve been imported from South America,  Australia or a Mediterranean style climate. Flowering trees like the African Tulip and Sweet Acacia are native to Africa but found scattered throughout the city; other trees, like the Olive Tree, were imported from Italy.  There are a few fantastic botanical gardens scattered around the city, but when there’s so much free stuff to enjoy – why bother paying?!

This past Saturday, my boyfriend and I were craving an outdoors-ey adventure and had contemplated going to the Getty or Huntington Gardens over in Pasadena.  The more we researched, the more we realized how many free things were truly at our fingertips so we shifted our sights to the Arlington Gardens – the hours are more flexible, parking is easy and – yeah, it’s free!  From the second we walked in, we knew we’d be making our way back at a later date with books and bottles of wine in tow.  The park is open from dawn until dusk and has literally dozens of park benches, tables and chairs for people to set up and soak in the environment in.  Each and every direction we turned showed us something new to take in and appreciate.  According to the signage there are roughly 35 different areas of plants, flowers and vegetation and it changes throughout the seasons.  The grounds are maintained by Better and Kicker McKenney and they do an absolutely fabulous job of keeping them gorgeous.  Without further ado – here are some of my favorite snaps from the weekend – if you’re ever in the Pasadena area make sure you plan a visit here!