Wandering with the Big Parade in Los Angeles

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One week ago I finally made it to the Big Parade in Los Angeles. The Big Parade is a public stairway walk, now in its sixth year, conceived and organized by the writer Dan Koeppel. I first learned about the Big Parade and the whole notion of public stairways in an article that Dan wrote for the September 2010 issue of Backpacker Magazine.

Within two weeks of reading the article I was on my way to Los Angeles to spend my entire time in town walking around neighborhoods and climbing stairways. It was and still is one of the best trips that I have ever taken.

What makes the stairways so appealing for wandering is that they were built for people traveling on foot. They provide short cuts and allow you to go where a car cannot go. And when you wander on foot you have given yourself the opportunity to be right here, right now. When you do that you can see all that is around you and see that it is all wonderful as you explore new neighborhoods.

Dan developed the Big Parade to share the stairways with people who may not know about them. Going on the Big Parade is good way to learn where they’re located and to get started. Once you know that they’re there, you can then go out and start wandering on your own.

If you live in Los Angeles I suggest that you get a copy of Finding Los Angeles by Foot: Stairstreet, Bridge, Pathway and Lane by Bob Inman. The book is indispensable for the walker as it covers every neighborhood of Los Angeles that has a way to get around on foot. The book is available at Amazon.

Rather than keep talking about the Big Parade, let me show you some of what we saw along the way.

Day One of the Big Parade began in downtown LA and worked its way to Echo Park. Here we are climbing up a stairway in Echo Park.

Day One of the Big Parade began in downtown LA and worked its way to Echo Park. Here we are climbing up a stairway in Echo Park.

Here we're climbing the 231 step Baxter stairway in Echo Park.

And here we are climbing the 231 step Baxter Street stairway in Echo Park.

Still working our way to the top.

Still working our way to the top.

Stairs and people were not all that we saw. We also saw some great houses.

Stairs and people were not all that we saw. We also saw some great houses.

And houses with great doorways.

And houses with great doorways.

And wonderful craftsmen bungalows right on the stairs.

And wonderful craftsmen bungalows right on the stairs.

When this water tank was built in the early part of the 20th Century it was on the highest spot in Los Angeles. It is also the gateway to one of the greatest urban paradises in the world.

When this water tank was built in the early part of the 20th Century it was on the highest spot in Los Angeles. It is also the gateway to one of the greatest urban paradises in the world.

Wouldn't you love to stay in this guest house and swing on this hammock?

Wouldn’t you love to stay in this guest house and swing on this hammock?

Or have this path as your nearest cross street?

Or have this path as your nearest cross street?

Here's Dan Koeppel telling us something the neighborhood.

Here’s Dan Koeppel telling us something the neighborhood.

A trip to Echo Park would not be complete without passing the woodcut artist Paul Landacre's cabin.

A trip to Echo Park would not be complete without passing the cabin of woodcut artist Paul Landacre.

This a recently constructed rustic stairway below the Landacre cabin.

This recently constructed rustic stairway is just below the Landacre cabin.

Along with steep stairs there were also steep streets.

Along with steep stairs there were also steep streets.

Toward the end of Day One we passed the Randyland Wall. This picture does not do it justice. Randy was out in front to say "Hi" to everyone.

Toward the end of Day One we passed the Randyland Wall. This picture does not do it justice. Randy was out in front to say “Hi” to everyone.

Day Two began at the Music Box stairs near the Silver Lake neighborhood. The steps are where Laurel and Hardy filmed "The Music Box."

Day Two began at the Music Box stairs near the Silver Lake neighborhood. The steps are where Laurel and Hardy filmed “The Music Box.”

There was always something to see along the way including this artwork in Silver Lake.

There was always something to see along the way including this artwork in Silver Lake.

I thought this house on the stairway was interesting.

I thought this house on the stairway was interesting.

This is the west end of the Red Car property. This is a former right of way of the Pacific Electric Railway. You can see where an artist has decorated the old viaduct footings.

This is the west end of the Red Car property. This is a former right of way of the Pacific Electric Railway. You can see where an artist has decorated the old viaduct footings.

This is one of the many stairways we climbed in Silver Lake.

This is one of the many stairways we climbed in Silver Lake.

I guess the owner of this house wanted to tells that LA Rock!

I guess the owner of this house wanted to tell us that LA Rocks!

And another neighbor gave us this wonderful little library.

And another neighbor gave us this wonderful little library.

These steps were recently renamed the Mattachine Stairs. Harry Hay founded this early gay rights organization near these stairs in 1950.

These steps were recently renamed the Mattachine Stairs. Harry Hay founded this early gay rights organization near these stairs in 1950.

Here's a view of Silver Lake from the top of the stairs.

Here’s a view of Silver Lake from the top of the stairs.

Here is another one of many stunning houses we passed along the way.

Here is another one of many stunning houses we passed along the way.

Here is one of the many steep streets we walked on during the Parade. A stairway would have been nice here.

Here is one of the many steep streets we walked on during the Parade. A stairway would have been nice here.

From this ridge in Silver Lake we had a great view of these three LA icons. The Griffth Park Planetarium and the Hollywood Sign are obvious. The curved build nearest to us is Silvertop designed by architect John Lautner.

From this ridge in Silver Lake we had a great view of these three LA icons. The Griffth Park Planetarium and the Hollywood Sign are obvious. The curved build nearest to us is Silvertop designed by architect John Lautner.

I was told that this stairway was gated at the request of the record producer Daniel Lanois. He didn't want stairway walkers disturbing his recording sessions.

I was told that this stairway was gated at the request of the record producer Daniel Lanois. He didn’t want stairway walkers disturbing his recording sessions.

Here is the drive to Daniel Lanois' house.

Here is the drive to Daniel Lanois’ house.

After climbing stairs all day, this little guy decided that he had had enough.

After climbing stairs all day, this little guy decided that he had had enough.

And we'll end this tour of the Big Parade with a picture of another stunning house along our route.

And we’ll end this tour of the Big Parade with a picture of another stunning house along our route.

I hope you have a chance to do the Big Parade sometime in the future. You’ll be glad you did. For more information you can visit www.bigpardela.com.

2 Comments

  1. As almost a life time resident of Southern Cali. I’m fascinated by what I’ve seen since I first ran into the Globe/Miami steps. I can see I stay home way too much. I never knew these walks took place in either place. I never lived in L.A. but I kept expecting to see Graffiti on something and yet I saw none. Amazing. You were in L.A. on a good day, you could see across the street. I’m curious about how the people acquired the land not only to build on but how they managed to get the material there.

  2. Nice illustration of BP VI in your photos, David. You captured the event very well (including how unrelenting the sun was that weekend). It was great to have you in LA. I hope to see you and some of your readers along next year.

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