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Hike Long Beach… sort of

I’m not a Long Beach native. I’m from Moreno Valley, where I had a canyon in my backyard and the hike to the “M” on Box Springs Mountain is a rite of passage. So, when I first searched “hiking in Long Beach” on Google, I was a little disappointed that only about three places came up that are actually in Long Beach. I know it’s a city, but I thought there would be more environmental preservation in this “beach” town. Either way, three is better than zero, so I went to check them out.

Dominguez Gap Wetlands

The Dominguez Gap Wetlands are on the edge of Long Beach in the Bixby Knolls area with the entrance on Del Mar and North Virginia Streets. These wetlands were completely man made by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District in 2008. The main purpose is to control floodwater that flows into the LA River and “recharge” the groundwater in the area by using the plants to naturally filter out pollutants. It’s pretty clever and I wish they would do the same in other areas; wetlands definitely provide more aesthetic appeal than concrete does in the rest of the riverbed.

This spot is probably the closest to nature you will ever get within Long Beach. I forgot birds other than pigeons existed until I went there and saw tons of colorful plumes I can’t even begin to try to name. The green grass looks like someone turned the vibrancy filter all the way up in Photoshop, and despite being nestled in between the Metro train tracks and a busy neighborhood, the air smelled fresh and clean.

When my husband and I first got there, it seemed deserted, especially for a Saturday afternoon, but as we walked down the path we started seeing more and more people.

“I was interested in it because it’s supposed to be environmentally friendly for retaining water, so I wanted to check it out,” said Naomi Melendez, a resident in Long Beach who was there with her parents and their dog for the first time.

The trail is well maintained and level and it’s a great spot to take a walk or run on something other than concrete.

“It’s, like, the only open space around here,” neighborhood resident Jordan Tardif said, who was walking his dog Smokey.

This spot was a pretty nice find and it was refreshing to find a place that was so completely focused on reintroducing nature to a place where it was previously removed.

El Dorado Park Nature Center

The nature center is like a little sanctuary in the middle of Long Beach. It was created in 1969 to create a place for nature in the middle of the city from over 100 acres of farmland that were  part of Rancho Los Alamitos.

I was a bit excited about this spot. With “nature center” in the name, I pictured active animals running around, pungent plants perfuming the air, some fish doing fishy things  and a brisk walk on some dirt. While it was pretty underwhelming because the larger dirt-pathed loops were blocked off due to muddy puddles, it’s still worth it to check out.

We got to the center at about 3:45 Saturday afternoon and paid $7 for parking. Unfortunately, the visitor center part, with educational displays, an art gallery and a small gift shop, closed at 4 p.m. I could only peek through the window.

But, I wanted to be outside anyways, right? Except more than half the outside was closed off and the quarter mile loop that was open was congested with people and small children running about. The one- and two-mile loops are both paths that, according to some nice people I met, lead to another lake, stream and more forested areas.

The smallest of the trails offered, the quarter mile loop, is paved and is a hands-on trail, where people can safely touch all the plants to smell and feel them.

After we did the little loop, we stood on the bridge overlooking the lake and looked at the wildlife: some ducks chilling on a floating log and turtles swimming about. There were a few more rare birds there. A gentleman pointed out a cormorant drying its wings and a large white crane.

As we stood on the bridge, I looked over and saw an older couple ducking under the yellow tape blocking the entrance to the one- and two-mile loops. They were exiting the trails, the rebels!

“They’re blocking it for some silly puddles, just walk around them,” the man said. “Go for it, it’s beautiful back there.”

The rebel pair was Rita Powell, an alumna of Cal State Long Beach, and Richard Madeira, who was wearing a peace sign necklace and cooler than I’ll ever be, who said that they’ve been coming to the nature center for years now. They told me that back along the trail that was blocked off was another lake/pond with a little creek flowing out of it. It’s also more quiet and peaceful with more plants and wildlife.

“A few years back, they did a lot of planting, making sure that everything was natural for this area [of California],” Powell said. “They’ve had wild flower gardens and it’s just beautiful.”

When the center was originally created, they planted Mediterranean plant species, but in the ‘80s an effort as made to replace them with native California plants.

Even though the center is supposed to close at 5 p.m., a security car started rolling by at 4:30 telling people to get out. I could practically hear my wallet screaming: “I paid $7.”

“Just go sneak back there and check it out…” Madeira urged us. “It’s worth it.”

I was way too much of a wimp to go and I shuffled out with the rest of the crowd.

This nature center is an amazing concept in a busy city. I was really only disappointed by my experience due to the seemingly unnecessary blockage of the longer trails and the price of parking. Had I gone on a different day and parked somewhere else and walked to the center, I probably would’ve found it way cooler. I also highly recommend this place for kids; it’s a great educational spot.

Pirate Trail, Quarry Loop, Palos Verdes Peninsula

On this hunt to find hiking in Long Beach, I figured out: there really is not a lot of hiking in Long Beach, at least in a traditional sense. There are some nice spots to feel at least a little closer to nature though. So, I had to broaden the scope of my search. Everyone kept telling me of all the great hiking places just outside of Long Beach, so I found some.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula is about a half hour drive from Cal State Long Beach – close enough to get to when you need fresh air, far enough not to be able to enjoy on a regular basis. It’s part of the Forrestal Nature Reserve in the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve. It offers quite a few options. According to hikespeak.com, there’s six trails in the area of varying lengths and elevation gain.

A friend took me on this trail one Saturday morning and nearly killed me.

The Loop is four trails combined to make a loop. After entering a yellow gate a the top of Forrestal Drive and across the street from Ladera Linda Park, you can go left or right. According to hikespeak.com, going to the left will take you on a “gradual ascent up Quarry Trail, Basalt Trail, and Mariposa Trail,” while going to the right will take you on a steeper 325 foot climb over 0.3 miles on Pirate Trail. The website recommends you go to the left.

My friend took me right.

Pirate Trail begins by pretty much going straight into incline. I was cool for about 10 minutes before I started feeling the burn. At the highest point of the Quarry Loop Trail, it offers sweeping views of the ocean, wealthy people’s homes and the Trump golf course in the distance. The canyon the loop is in was beautiful and so was the view.

I would definitely recommend this trail, just go left first, not right.

Sunken City, San Pedro

When someone told me about this place they described it like it was Atlantis, a lost city. And it is, to some extent, and it’s really cool especially considering the history of it.

Before 1929, this place was a housing tract with beautiful views of the ocean. But waves crashing against the cliffs below weakened the stability of the area and began collapsing it gradually. Most of the houses were moved before the final collapse of the area, except two on the farthest edge of the cliff, according to a 2015 article by the Daily Breeze.

The city cleared out most of the rubble, but what remains is six acres of land with concrete slabs jutting from the ground that used to be roads and sidewalks as well as some pipes and train tracks sticking out of the ground. In the ‘80s, the city erected a fence around the area and posted “no trespassing” signs after several accidental falls and suicides.

Fast forward to today and the concrete slabs are canvases for graffiti artists. People climb under the fence (there’s a gaping hole someone dug), or swing around the end of it to explore the post-apocalyptic looking land.

Teenagers go there to party and hang out. Hipsters bring their cameras and their dogs. Artists go there to make art. Even though empty beer bottles and spray paint cans pool at the bottoms of boulders and the smell of weed fills the air, the view is hard to beat. And because of all the rain recently the grass around the whole bluff is incredibly green and vibrant. This place is definition “urban hike” and I was happy to find out about it. I can just imagine being a kid and playing “Indiana Jones” here. The place can get very busy on a Saturday afternoon, but it’s still enjoyable. To get there, people climb over a low concrete fence at the east end of Point Fermin Park (a legit park that also offers some nice views) and crouch under the tall wrought iron fence. Don’t fall and don’t do anything stupid. Also, it is technically illegal and you can be fined for ignoring the graffiti-covered “no trespassing” signs and going in there.

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