This past week on June 17th, I turned 33. Not much of a milestone birthday, so very fitting that it fell on a Wednesday.  The weekend before, June 13th and 14th, happened to be the Weho gay pride festival, and many of my friends had conflicts so that date was out for my celebration. I decided any group plans should therefore come on June 20th, 3 days after my birthday (so should I have called it my 33+3rd day birthday party?!). It’s funny how you have to be so calculated with get togethers as an adult! Back in my early adolescence, if you received a birthday invite, no matter the day or date, there would be no question about attendance because nobody had responsibilities or conflicts!

As my circle of friends, and social networks already know, I live and breathe the fit life. I traded in my club card for an IFBB bikini pro card, my party shoes for Nikes, libations for Sun Warrior shakes, and sleeping in till noon for early morning workouts.  I used to have the black list of the best clubs in Los Angeles for each day of the week, and know the promoters and security guards by name, invaluable information that would go for big bucks… but those days are long gone. Now, my weekend place to be is most likely a city’s best view and dopest hikes!  I scour yelp for A list trails, and obviously difficulty rarely phases me. I suppose park entrance gates are my new velvet ropes!

So this year, being firmly set in this lifestyle, I decided to celebrate ME with a hike.  I had heard about Echo Mountain and the Sam Merrill trail from a member of my Los Angeles Spartan Race Training meetup group.  It sounded like an adult playground of sorts, complete with abandoned railroad tracks and gears, foundations and plaques of a fairytale resort that had burned to the ground, a megaphone made of steel that echoes messages through the canyons, and picturesque views of Los Angeles and beyond.  I had been so anxious to check it out! So I invited 40+ friends to join me on the experience.

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For the love of hiking!

The weather was forecasted to be in the upper 80s by mid afternoon so I wanted to get an early start. The drive from my house would be 30 minutes, and I’d need to have my morning matcha and some time in the bathroom, so I woke at 6:45 am for an 8 am arrival at the trailhead.  Parking was easy on East Loma Alta Drive near Lake Ave, and I enjoyed the plentiful evergreens and their shade while I waited for all my friends to arrive.

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Switchbacks on the Sam Merrill trail

The friends that made it to the mountain were no strangers to hiking trails; more than half the group had done a Spartan Race together in the past, and all had trained and competed in a variety of competitive sports at some point of their lives.  We kept a fairly quick walking pace during our hike, and if we didn’t have two small dogs, we probably would’ve opted for running.  At times the incline was a bit steep, but overall it was quite easy compared to hikes like Mt Baldy or even some of the Griffith Park trails.

The hike up to the old Mt Lowe Railroad and “White City” resort is a little over 2.5 miles (about 5.2 miles roundtrip), and I read about a picnic area at the top. I hit up Whole Foods the night before for some organic peaches and bananas, dark chocolate covered almonds, organic raisins, raw nuts, and a Steaz raspberry green tea sweetened with stevia. The snacks weren’t necessary, but they were fun to have at the top after our many photoshoots!