Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Arroyo Seco's Secret Riverwalk

The signs call it a 'bike path' but all of us Angeleno locals know that the Arroyo Seco in-channel bicycle path is as much a walkway, dog walking path, and jogging trail as it is a bike path.

Here, Southern California residents and visitors alike can enjoy a great urban nature riverwalk experience with or without a bicycle.

A two-mile in-channel paved 2-lane path, this non-motorized vehicle connectway provides a bucolic glimpse of what the Arroyo Seco river experience might have been like 70 years ago before concrete channelization occurred.

Starting at Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena on the north (take York Blvd east from Figueroa, right on Arroyo Verde Blvd, right into the park), the Arroyo Seco 'bike' path follows the southeast side of the river to Montecito Heights Recreation Area, where it exits from the channel. At its exit point, walkers/joggers/bicyclists can either cross the river bridge to Sycamore Grove Park for a picnic (LA's oldest public park) or cross Griffin Blvd. and go up the hill to visit the Audubon Center at Debs Park (

You can also continue walking/biking southward along LA City streets, since both the historic Heritage Square Museum ( and 'Father of Arroyo Culture' Charles F. Lummis House ( are close by. Or, you can just turn around and walk/bike/jog back upriver.

I generally enjoy walking what I affection-ately call the 'Arroyo Seco Riverwalk' with my loyal dog, Mr. Witkin. It's a beautiful 2-mile stroll each way where I am surrounded by old age trees, the beauty of road and train bridges with beautiful design element features, and quiet moments (yes, truly quiet, despite its proximity to the Arroyo Seco Parkway and Gold Line train tracks) where I can listen to the gurgling of the mostly clean stream (thanks to City park staff and great volunteers) while watching hawks soar overhead and songbirds sing.

Looking upward, I can turn a 360 circle and see the beautiful hills of Debs Park, Mt. Washington and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. Pausing by the channel stream, I'm amazed at nature's efforts to break through the concrete prism with signs of plant life. My fellow travelers ~ whether bicyclists, joggers, or walkers like me ~ are mellow and congenial, happy to enjoy nature without having to jump in a car and drive miles away. The path has recently been refinished, so that senior citizens and wheelchair users can enjoy this river experience as well.

One element I love about the Riverwalk is that Mr. Witkin and I can exit the channel for a spell at Hermon Dog Park, where he can run around and play with other four-legged creatures. Since we believe in good nature stewardship, Mr. Witkin is always on his leash, does not drink the Arroyo water (since the bacteria level is still very high), and I'm always careful to pick up after him (so the bacteria level doesn't get any higher). I always bring extra biodegradable doggie bags in case other dog walkers have forgotten, as well as my stainless steel water bottle and travelling water bowl for Mr. Witkin so we can stay hydrated.

Another factor I love is that the 'bike' path starts just adjacent to the Arroyo Seco Stables. I love watching the chickens strut around and hearing the roosters crow. As a horse lover, I even enjoy inhaling that equestrian aroma, a great change of pace from inhaling automobile fumes. But note: no horsies on the Riverwalk. They do have a separate equestrian trail that runs through the area. I even enjoy waving at the passengers on the Gold Line rail, as it whizzes by Arroyo Seco Park before crossing the river.

When we've finished our 'Riverwalk,' we might stop for a beverage at the Cycleway Cafe in Hermon (5526 Monterey Road) which features periodic jazz jams or Antigua Bread (5703 No Figueroa) in Highland Park near the Avenue 57 Gold Line Station, convenient for those times when I want to bike on the Riverwalk and take the Gold Line 'sag wagon' back to Pasadena afterwards. I'm glad the Gold Line lets me take my bicycle on the train. I just wish they would let Mr. Witkin ride, too!

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