Urban hiking, Light Rail and Posies (we think)

La Verne Trail Trekkers have been wandering the canyons of the eastern San Gabriels for more than a quarter of a century, on forested trails some 20 miles from Pasadena and 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles.  But after 25 years, we wanted to spread our wings a bit.  So when Charles Flemming published Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide in 2010,  we jumped at the chance to try some urban hiking using his book as a trail guide to Los Angeles.  It was fun but the time it took to battle the traffic from eastern San Gabriel valley to the city and beyond put a definite limit to our explorations.  Then the Gold Line stations in Azusa opened in 2016 and inexpensive light rail to Los Angeles became available.  

Gold Line passing over the San Gabriel River, Irwindale

So the La Verne Trail Trekkers began a new phase of exploration, at first under the leadership of Trekker, Carrie Coolbaugh.

Carrie told me that she was brought up short one day when she watched a movie with her film-buff son and had trouble identifying the city by its landmarks.  She knew it wasn’t London or Paris, but it looked so familiar that she  turned to Mark and asked, “What city is this?”

He looked at her for a few seconds and said, “It’s Los Angeles.”

She had traveled the world and across the United States, but somehow had never spent time getting to know the center of Southern California, where she (and her son Mark) had grown up.

Time to remedy that!  Time to play tourist in her own back yard…and use the newly built light rail for cheap, fast and environmentally friendly travel to downtown LA!   So Carrie began exploring the light rail trains (the Gold Line) to Union Station, Olvera Street, to the Miracle Mile (with transfers) and down to Exposition Park.  Learning from her forays, the Trekkers began following and learning how to navigate the new system and spreading the word.  We learned that it was more fun to travel  in a conversational group, making the train ride a social event compared to a grueling drive on the freeways


Now we are excitedly awaiting the opening of three close-by stations in Glendora, San Dimas and La Verne!  And watching the construction as the rail lines, bridges and walls take shape. 

We cheerfully (well, relatively cheerfully) put up with traffic delays and re-routings that take extra time even in our short local commutes.  But what is taking shape is proving to be more than just a concrete and steel railway track…we are seeing art and design in the bridges, walls and columns of the line.


Driving south on Lone Hill Avenue, one finds traffic congestion due to the repositioning of the tracks and the construction of a long bridge for the light rail trains.  It can be a dreary drive, but for the sudden appearance of what looked like flowers on the supporting columns.  Then some weeks later, the walls of the bridge sprouted decorative tiles with what at first glance might have been posies too.  

It turns out the design is a citrus theme, an abstract of citrus leaves, fruit and cross sections of sliced oranges.  It’s an expression of historical pride in the citrus industry and in the words of one proud planner, it’s not just a bridge they’re building, but a work of art.  And it will appear in San Dimas and in La Verne.  In addition, the city of La Verne is adding a bridge for pedestrians and bike riders that will connect the La Verne Station with the Pomona Fairgrounds.  It will cross six lanes of busy Arrow Highway and descend in a graceful circular walkway…another opportunity for urban hiking.  This time right in our own back yard!






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