I can’t remember the last time I was up early enough to see a sunrise. Yesterday, though, I saw a beautiful one… while in the middle of a fantastic stair workout. Here’s the sunrise…
…and here are the stairs:
These awesome stairs are known as the Culver City Stairs, and they’re at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. How I ended up there was a happy accident.
I gave my friend Tavi a ride to the airport for his early morning flight. It required me to pick him up at 4:30am. I planned to come home afterward and get some more sleep, but then I had the bright idea to get my workout in before I came home, so I could cross that off my list and sleep in without anything looming.
Plan A was to go straight from the airport to the gym. But it was Sunday morning and my gym wasn’t open that early. Plan B was to go to the Santa Monica Steps, a public stairway on the same side of town as the airport. That plan got thwarted by Jamzilla - the closing of the 405 freeway for construction – which would’ve made coming home afterward difficult. (Jamzilla, by the way, isn’t a cutesy nickname – it’s the official name for the closure that the County Transportation Authority came up with. Well done, folks.)
I was putzing around online trying to figure out a Plan C when I stumbled across a link to the Culver City Stairs – a giant set of stairs in a small state park about 20 minutes from the airport. Sold! I had my Plan C!
It was well before 6am when I arrived at the trailhead.
I’m glad I had my phone, because I used the flashlight feature to see where I was going. The moon was out (and it was pretty full), but it wasn’t much help.
It was so dark when I arrived at the base of the stairs that I could barely see the top. But I started up them anyway.
Here’s what you need to know about the Culver City Stairs:
- There are 282 steps. (According to the interwebs, I didn’t count them myself). That’s approximately a 15-18 story building.
- The steps go straight up a 500-foot hill, and there’s only about 5 landings. There are no handrails.
- The steps are made of stone and concrete, and each one is different. There’s no consistency. Some steps rise up only 4 or 5 inches, while others are nearly two feet. On average, it’s much steeper than a typical staircase, and because of the irregularity and spacing, they’re very hard to run. Believe me, walking them is challenging enough!
There’s also a trail that winds down the hill, if you don’t want to take the steps. I decided on a route where I would go up the steps and come down the trail. The first loop, in darkness, was difficult, just because I couldn’t see a damn thing. Soon, though, it started getting lighter. I snapped this photo from the summit:
And the morning sky from the trail back down:
Once there was more light, I got a much better sense of the staircase. It’s tricky to traverse, and resulted in a killer burn in my quads.
The steps look like they belong in an epic Biblical movie:
And here’s the view down the steps from the summit:
Once it got lighter, I also started seeing wildlife. There were snails everywhere. A few times I had to really watch my step to avoid crushing these little guys.
My first loop was pretty slow, on account of the darkness. After that, though, I got faster, and started running down the trail instead of walking.
In total, I climbed the steps 6 times. That’s a total of 1,692 steps! (That’s over 200 more than I’ll be racing up in the Stratosphere!) I took short breaks at the top of each ascent, mainly because I had to, as it was so exhausting. One loop (stairs up, trail down) is about .7 of a mile (according to my RunKeeper app), so I climbed, hiked, and ran a total of 4.2 miles. It took me about an hour and a half.
I snapped this selfie after my 6th and final ascent of the stairs:
I left the park around 7:30am and started for home. I’m so glad I found this park, completed this workout and saw that sunrise. And I had no trouble whatsoever getting more sleep – I crashed as soon as I got home!
Keep It Up, David!