When I still lived down in Los Angeles, I would find solace in the vast expanse of Griffith Park. I used to live just blocks away from one of the main entrances and escaped every chance I got. And then when Lola found me, we hiked its trails religiously. It was our peaceful oasis, felt like it was miles away from the city, when in fact the park is surrounded by it. Our favorite hiking trails were on the east side of the park, adjacent to Glendale, where you could find lush oak-walnut and eucalyptus forest and thick brush, resulting in nice and shady trails.
One night I woke up from a nightmare, having dreamt that Griffith Park was on fire. The dream lingered all day and I told my best friend about it. He just made fun of me, calling me a worrywart.
Two weeks later I travelled to Switzerland to spend some time with my family. About 4 days into my vacation, my bestie texts me saying that Griffith Park was on fire. I texted back that I didn’t think this was funny and that he needs to cut it out. He insisted that he wasn’t joking and urged me to go online and check the news. So I did and he was right! I sat in front of my computer, tears streaming down my face as I watched all the footage of the devastation caused by a homeless person smoking in the park. The east side of the park, my favorite side, was the most affected and all those beautiful trees just smoldering stumps. I felt like I had lost a dear friend. I was grieving and fell into a depression. My oasis, my safe haven from the city, was gone!
When I got back to Los Angeles and drove by the park for the first time, I didn’t dare look. I was in utter denial that anything had happened at all. It took me three weeks to finally go and have a closer look. I packed Lola into the car, drove the familiar route to the park entrance and was turned around by a big fence blocking the upper parking lot. Leaving the car on the lower lot, we started walking along the fence until we got a good look. I wasn’t prepared for the sight in front of us. The once beautifully grown over side of Beacon Hill and Mount Hollywood were bare, only burnt stumps left of the majestic Eucalyptus trees and the old oaks. I sat right there into the dirt and cried, mostly out of anger. I felt such rage towards the homeless guy that fell asleep in the bushes with a burning cigarette. Another person walked up to me and took in the devastation. She then turned to me, tears in her eyes as well, and said that we will have to be patient for it to heal.
About a year later most of the trails were re-opened and we started hiking them again. A few little pockets of trees had escaped the flames and new plants were springing from the ashes. The park recovered pretty quickly and well, but somehow it never felt the same again. We were no longer able to hike there during hot days, all the shade trees were gone for good and the chaparral just not tall enough. We stayed faithful to the trails until the day we moved and also discovered new favorite places hiking the other sides of the park more. While we lost a friend, we had gained a new one.