How far out do you have to drive to feel that you are far out? It turns out, not very far. If you go out on a Sunday, taking the 10 E. to the 110 N. and exiting at Avenue 43, would you believe about 20 minutes?

Jut when you thought you’d been to all the parks in the area, another one appears, tucked in the hills just off the highway, behind the craftsman houses and soccer fields. And this isn’t a grassy play area with a jungle gym and some trash cans. No, this is a real Audubon Society hiking area which contains within it steep trails climbing up to walnut tress, willows, really forest-y pine trees and one of the most spectacular views of the city and tiny houses below.

Now that the weather is cooler, it is absolutely wonderful making the hike up the hill with its switchback curves and mysterious offshoot trails. And the payoff, after a long hike to the top, just past the picnic gazebo and the bristly branches of a lone fir tree, is a little pond complete with turtles and an unbelievable view. Truly an oasis, it was chilly at this pond on top of the hill the day we hiked there, with a biting wind blowing as if we had reached the pinnacle of a mountain miles up.

On the way back down the trail, we took a trail that branched off to the left, suspecting it was a short cut. It was. This small side trail was the shoot to the many ladders we took to get up the hill. It cut right over the top of the hill and what took us about one hour to climb up, this trail covered within five minutes.

So if you do not want to take a long hike, but would like to get to the pond, start at the base of the main trail and keep going upward until you reach a point where you can see the city skyscrapers of downtown to the south, little houses of Highland Park and Pasadena and its hills to the north. There, to the east on the trail, is a narrow, steep path that will take you right up and over to the pond.

Debs Park has an Audubon Nature Center on the grounds, and I am a big fan of nature centers, but this one happens to be closed on Sundays, as is the main gate to enter the park. The walking path is open and so it is okay to park on Griffin Avenue, across from the soccer field, and enter through the walking gate. The current director of the nature center says it is their goal to be open on Sundays, so keep your eye out.

If, after the hike, you might enjoy something cool to drink, there is another gem hidden in the Highland Park area called Galco’s Soda Pop Stop. Just go north a bit on the 110 and then west on York Avenue. The Soda Pop Stop has old fashioned and hard to find sodas from around the country, plus some old time candies. Make sure to bring Rabbi Eidlitz’s hechsher list with you so you’ll know what’s what.

Notes:

Please note that Debs Park is near Heritage Square, Southwest Museum, and the Lummis House, all interesting historic sites and museums.

Debs Park: 4700 N. Griffin Ave., LA, 90031, tel: 323-221-2255. Hours: Tues. – Fri. 9am – 5pm. http://www.audubon-ca.org/debs_park.php

Galco’s Soda Pop Stop: 5702 York Blvd, LA 90042, tel: (323) 255-7115. Store hours: weekday: 9am-6:30pm, Sunday: 9am – 4pm. http://www.sodapopstop.com/