Los Angeles to Big Sur
My Trek America tour was due to leave the Hacienda hotel in El Segunda, Los Angeles at 7:30am. After sharing my hotel room with a guy who had already experienced a Trek America tour, I was very much looking forward to life on the road over the next two weeks. He said he had had an amazing time in our brief conversation and as if to underscore this fact he was out all night with his trek buddies for their farewell party.
With the prospect of meeting new travel buddies, I was excited with a touch of apprehension. I was in the hotel lobby by 7:00am and quickly found the trek leader who was warm and approachable and within minutes he had introduced me to the rest of my tour group who came from a wide range of countries – Australia, Sweden and Germany. I was impressed with the four-wheel drive minibus that was to transport us around California, Nevada, and Arizona over the next two weeks. The first struggle was hauling my backpack up onto the roof of the mini-bus – I think it took the strength of three people and as it was as big as me I already regretted bringing the damn thing – especially when other travellers had a suitcase with wheels! After forming a circle and introducing ourselves to the rest of the group we left just after 7:30am and before we began the journey to Big Sur where we were camping overnight, we had a brief tour of Los Angeles.
We headed to Hollywood and suddenly I found myself on the Hollywood Walk of Fame which is located on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. This is of course is an internationally recognised Hollywood icon and I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to walk along it! The Hollywood walk of Fame was created by E. M. Stuart who was the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s volunteer president. He sought to maintain the glory of the glamour of Hollywood and its stars which has been remarkably successful marketing ploy! He appointed a committee to develop the idea and employed Periera and Luckman’s architectural firm to develop some specific proposals. By August 1958, the Chamber and City unveiled the first eight stars on Hollywood Boulevard. They included Olive Borden, Ronald Colman, Louise Fazenda, Preston Foster, Edward Sedgwick, Ernest Torrence and Joanne Woodward. On February 8th, 1960, construction began on the long-planned Walk of Fame and Stanley Kramer was unveiled as the first star of the new Walk of Fame in March 1960. From 1962 the Los Angeles City Council approved the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in all matters regarding adding more names to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Johnny Grant became a star of the walk and impressed organisers with a memorable star ceremony and so he was awarded the chair of the Walk of Fame Committee which he accepted and chaired until his death in 2008. The Walk of Fame has gradually been extended with an average of two stars a month being added. Andy Madadian was honoured with the 2,684th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Friday, January 17th, 2020. It was interesting to walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame star spotting. It was amusing that Donald Duck had his name on the Walk of Fame and then of course the likes of Steven Spielberg also had his name imprinted on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
There was also time to have a photo taken outside the TCL Chinese Theatre which is the most iconic movie palace in the world. Since 1927 the TCL Chinese Theatre has hosted the most star-studied events including red carpet movie premiers where movie stars have been adored. It hosts the world’s largest IMAX auditorium which has amazing state of the art sound and digital images. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to enjoy one of the VIP tours inside the theatre or to walk through the golden doors but hopefully I will be back there in the future. The next stop on the tour was a photo opportunity with the Hollywood sign in the background. It was another iconic landmark I was looking forward to seeing. Situated on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains ‘Hollywood’ is spelled out in 45 foot tall white capital letters and is 350 feet long. Originally it started as a billboard sign for real estate development called Hollywoodland. In 1978 the sign was rebuilt and illuminated with 23 search lights after a storm had irreparably damaged it. Nine generous donors made the 1978 rebuild of the sign possible. It is a sign that has taken on a life of its own inspiring people across America and the World to become stars. With this in mind I was excited to see the Hollywood sign.
After a brief tour of Hollywood, we headed up the Pacific Coast Highway towards Big Sur. State Route 1 runs along the Pacific coastline and at 656 miles is the longest state route in California. We stopped at San Simeon to have a look at the monstrous elephant seals! They were pretty awesome! They would haul themselves a few metres and then literally collapse with exhaustion. It was the first native American animal I had seen, and they were definitely mighty impressive. Some of the others were basking in the sun and others were sparring and being aggressive. It was truly an unbelievable natural wonder!
Eventually we arrived at Ventana Campground in Big Sur which is located 65 miles north of those impressive elephant seals in San Simeon. The site was beautiful and set within a 40-acre redwood canyon. The beautiful sequoia trees tower up to 380 feet above you and some have been around for 1,800 years. The tallest and oldest trees are found in deep valleys and gullies where streams flow all year round and where it becomes foggy. Camping amongst these beautiful giants was an absolute privilege. Big Sur also has a rich Native American history with three tribes (the Ohlone, Esselen and Salinan) originally inhabiting the area for thousands of years where they lead a hunter-gather existence.
The campsite had a picnic table and a fire ring with water faucets a short walk away and was close to local amenities. We were introduced to our leader for the rest of the tour who preceded to teach us how to pitch our tents. The tents were included as part of the tour and were stored on the roof rack of the Trek Van. I had not camped since I was a child, so I listened intently to our knowledgeable trek leader. I shared my tent with a guy from South Korea who had served in the military so thankfully he was skilled and knowledgeable too and whipped up our tent in under 10 minutes. If it were left up to me, I would probably still be there now! After the tent was set up, we enjoyed a fantastic, cooked meal from our new trek leader and after dinner he began our trek orientation. We were placed in groups and we would take it turns to shop and prepare and cook our own meals.
After our trek orientation we introduced ourselves again in front of the group and talked about what we wanted to get out of the trip. The evening was quite short as everyone was tired from travelling but I decided to take a shower in the public restrooms – which was quite an experience! It was a short walk away but by now it was pitch black and I did not have a proper torch just a little one on a keyring! I was learning fast! Although I had limited camping experience, I relished the opportunity to cook my own food, sleep in a tent and enjoy the beauty of the campground. It was beautiful and I could hear a stream running nearby which was calm and soothing and allowed me to sleep well during my first night camping under the stars and in the shadow of the giant sequoia trees.