With the exception of a quick weekend trip to Cleveland for a wedding, my adventuring has fallen a tad stagnant. That's not by accident; I've been trying to save some money for my upcoming trip to Thailand (less than 20 days now)! But as I reflected back on my personal mantra, I reminded myself that adventure does not have to cost a fortune - or any money, for that matter. And I try not to take for granted the fact that I live in one of the most exciting cities in the world. So now seemed like the perfect time for another contribution to the LA Insider's Guide.
I had been itching to try a new trail, and Cahuenga Peak seemed like the perfect new spot for a quick Saturday adventure. The destination is a lone tree at the top of the hill called The Wisdom Tree, which seems to simultaneously exist as a piece of both folklore and fact. Rumors say a group of friends, having received free pine tree saplings around Christmas time, decided to plant the young trees atop Cahuenga Peak. Only one flourished. Then, in 2007, the survivor sapling emerged charred - but alive - from the 2007 fires that ravaged the Hollywood Hills. Since then, the tree has earned names like, "The Wishing Tree," "The Tree of Life" and "The Magic Tree," but none have stuck quite like "The Wisdom Tree."
Views from the hike are stunning. The trail begins as the end of a residential road, winding through the cozy homes nestled in the Hollywood Hills. As the trail ascends, it becomes almost treacherous - as piled rocks and loose dirt incline quickly up the hillside. Both downtown Los Angeles and The Hollywood Reservoir are visible from the trail, along with a peeking corner of the Hollywood sign from certain angles. The hike is steep, but quick - and though it could have been because I was hiking in 90 degree temperatures, the trails were relatively quiet and empty. The Wisdom Tree first appeared about 40 minutes into my hike as a silhouette through the glare from the sun.
As I got closer, I noticed a sea of rock towers, or carins, often used to mark that a hiker had been through a remote area. These carins, however, were used to hold down handwritten notes on leaflet paper and trinkets that had been brought as a pilgrimage to The Wisdom Tree. Mobiles crafted from forgotten keys and lose string swayed from the tree's branches, and pages from community notebooks rustled in the breeze. A large American flag, likely planted by a local hiker as a tribute, flapped quietly opposite the tree.
Though left in a very public place, I got the sense that a lot of the notes and letters were very private. Many were folded and tucked under rocks, or still hidden between the covers of a notebook. Perhaps some think the questions written on paper and left behind would soon become answers, or maybe just that the tree would be a lesser critic to their musings than Facebook friends. Regardless of purpose, it seemed to me that the tree was providing some solace to those in need of wisdom and guidance.
I leaned onto the tree as I looked out onto the San Fernando Valley, thinking maybe the tree would transfer some wisdom to me through spontaneous conduction or some other very non-scientific phenomenon, as deep down I know such things aren't possible. But for a brief second, or maybe a millisecond, I thought, "what if?" And that's all it takes to keep the adventure alive.
Keep learning, keep believing, and keep adventuring.