Sunshine. Fresh air. A hilly hike. All good things on Christmas Day, and the perfect elixir for the holidaze (especially after entertaining all night on Christmas Eve!).
I live on a little-known peninsula of Los Angeles that’s about as far removed from Los Angeles as one could be, both geographically and figuratively. No freeways, no traffic, and you’re more likely to share the road with wild peacocks than local celebrities.
It’s also the most geologically active region in Greater Los Angeles, thought to be an island at one time as it shares a similar — and unique — ecosystem to that of the nearby Channel Islands. Dramatic cliffs formed by lava and vibrant tidepools filled with sea anemones define the shoreline, while miles of trails wind around the Palos Verdes Hills high above the Pacific.
It’s an ecological gem in the southernmost part of the basin, and I pinch myself every time I look out my window: snow-capped peaks just beyond the Port of Los Angeles to the east, and thousands of acres of open space abutting unspoiled ocean to the west.
On Christmas Day, there was not a cloud in the sky and the hills were starting to turn green after all the recent rains. Across the channel, Santa Catalina Island (with its distinctive isthmus) was as clear as I’d ever seen it.
With the pugs in tow, we found a trailhead tucked in the corner of a hillside community near our house. There was no signpost, nor did we see any other hikers coming down or going up. But Google Maps showed a narrow trail ascending what we believed to be the peak of Palos Verdes Hills, a low mountain range on the peninsula. It was such an ideal day for a little stroll, we didn’t really mind where it took us.
As we meandered along the aptly named Seaview Trail, the suburban neighborhood below us gave way to panoramic views of the coastline. We found small white shells, hundreds of them, dotting the hillside.
The trail climbed up San Pedro Hill to the FAA Radar Station, the highest point on the peninsula at 1,457 feet. I’d always seen the radar tower from my neighborhood, gleaming in the sun like a giant golf ball, but had never been to the very top of that hill until that day. We had pristine views stretching across the peninsula from Sacred Cove, our favorite tidepooling spot, to Mossy Rock, our local surf break.
We idled on the peak as the sun waned on the horizon, watching the hills transform from green to gold to red.
And with that, we wrapped up our hike and went home to light a fire, heat up hot chocolate, and open presents under the tree. It was a merry Christmas indeed.