Whether you fly or drive into the City of Angels, all eyes scan the horizon for 9 iconic white letters. Even after living in Southern California for many years, I am still eager to spot the HOLLYWOOD sign. Truth be told it's smaller than expected but no less dazzling to behold. While visiting Los Angeles for a family wedding, my cousins, brother and I decided to hike the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail on the morning before the ceremony. The previous late night activities delayed our departure until we obtained coffee and a bit of breakfast for the expected 4 mile hike. The gorgeous autumn weather, clear blue sky, and sunshine elevated our spirits. We arrived at Griffith Park about 8 a.m. on a Saturday. The park was already packed with people running, hiking, and biking. After a few passes, we found a parking spot, eager to hit the trail. We must have looked lost as a local man helped guide us to the correct trial head. Finally we were on our way along a paved access road leading to what was once Hollywoodland.

In the 1800’s, California was part of the western frontier of native people, missionaries, farmers, ranchers, and bandits. By the close of  the 19th century the warm sunshine and dry weather enticed easterners to the west coast and the tiny Spanish settlement of El Pueblo Sobre el Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciúcula blossomed into the succinctly named city of Los Angeles. In 1907, a Chicago film company headed west during bad weather to complete a shoot. Word spread throughout the film industry about the ideal climate and beauty of the landscape. Soon, more than 15 independent studios relocated to the region. By 1920, Americans were movie crazed and a new wave of migrants moved to Los Angeles hoping for film stardom. As the city grew, real estate developments boomed. In 1923, Harry Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, built a lighted billboard sign to advertise for his upscale “HOLLYWOODLAND” development. Each of the original 13 letters were 43 feet tall by 30 feet wide. Over the next couple of decades including the Great Depression and a World War, the sign fell into disrepair. In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce removed the ‘LAND’ and repaired the fallen ‘H’ reintroducing the new iconic form. The marque again suffered neglect and pranks during the turbulent seventies. Finally, in 1978 the old worn out letters were scraped and for 3 lonely months, Hollywood had no sign. The new letters were auctioned off at $27,700 per letter to a mixed group of celebrities from Gene Autry to Alex Cooper. Today, the Hollywood Sign Trust maintains the iconic sign.

The first view of the Hollywood sign with a long way to go.[/caption] We quickly learned that the easygoing trail was 4 miles one way or 8 miles round trip. Our dwindling water and a wedding ceremony found us pressed for time. However, we all agreed to press onward and make it to the sign. It's a good thing we did...

Hours later, we arrived back to the car thirsty, hungry, and with a couple hours to spare before the ceremony. Thank you to my my cousins and brother for enduring the unexpectedly long hike with little water and a time crunch. The Hollywood sign hike created a shared bond and memories that will last a lifetime. The Mt. Hollywood Trail from Griffith Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Learn more at www.hollywoodsign.org


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