Outdoor escapism
West Hollywood, California, USA

As much as he loves what he does, running a business can be stressful and he tells me that he feels the need to get outside to re-balance himself. 

“I’ve never understood why people would want to be stuck inside a gym to exercise. I hike up here with Tucker, 3 or 4 times a week. Getting my workout surrounded by nature is an important part of living in WeHo, it grounds me and helps me to reconnect,” he tells me in his no-nonsense, native New York accent whilst pounding up the steep trail ahead of me, holding a 25lb dumbbell behind his neck.

That need to be grounded must be doubly important for those at the epicentre of the Hollywood circus, many of whom live up in these hills. I can only imagine the pressures that global fame exerts on someone. Even the biggest of extroverts – perhaps especially the biggest of extroverts – need somewhere to retreat to and earth themselves. When money is no longer an object and everyone knows and adores you, it must be incredibly easy to lose all sense of reality and proportion. Many of them do, of course, the long line of Hollywood casualties is well documented, even relished by many. So it makes perfect sense to me that so many should want that feeling of solitude and spiritual reconnection that being up here in the hills high above the city offers.

Danny explains that also means a hike up Runyon Canyon can – and often does – involve a celebrity spot or two. As we reach a resting place he points out a few of the palatial hilltop houses. 

“This area is where the cooler celebs tend to have their houses. That one is Drew Barrymore’s, that one belongs to Queen Latifah, Johnny Depp lives just over the hill and owns most of the street leading up to it. Over there is where Madonna lived, you probably have seen pictures of her hiking up here with her personal trainers-cum-lovers back in the day.”

Just then, we are interrupted by a tall, model-looking guy in nothing but a pair of black shorts and running shoes, sweat glistening over his perfectly tanned body, making his way back down the trail. 

“Oh yeah, you’ll see a lot of that too,” says Danny, both of us transfixed on our unexpected, beautiful visitor as he disappears down the hill. 

“Don’t forget to drink water”. Danny says paternally as he hands me a bottle he’s kept for me in the side pocket of his rucksack. He’s got a good point. I’m starting to feel the effects of the hike: my breathing is heavy, there’s a mild burn in my legs, and sweat is beginning to run down the middle of my back. We continue up our secret trail for another 20 minutes or so until we reach the top and join the main Runyon Canyon trail. The view opens out across West Hollywood revealing the entire city. Midsummer in L.A. is known for its lack of visibility. But today, the weather gods have blessed us with a vista that stretches from the sea in the West all the way across Echo Park in the East. On nearby hills are the familiar sights of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory. The cluster of skyscrapers of Downtown juts out across the famously low-rise cityscape. To the untrained eye, it’s a confusing sea of urbanity. But Danny takes a few minutes to orientate me; and for the first time, the city begins to make sense. It also becomes clear to me why West Hollywood is such a great location to be based in. It’s so well positioned between all the main parts of L.A.: Beverly Hills; Hollywood; Echo Park; Silver Lake; Koreatown; even the beach and LAX are all within easy reach. 

We take our time descending, taking the obligatory selfies with the view, and make our way back to where we left Danny’s pick-up, just a few streets from his new, 3-bedroom apartment. 

“I’d invite you in, but it’s a mess at the moment, I’m having the whole thing remodelled,” he says as we pass his building on the way back to the ‘Bikes and Hikes’ base on Santa Monica Boulevard. Instead, we stop on the way for an organic, protein-packed smoothie; of course. In the short time that we are in the juice bar, Danny is greeted three times by different men, one it transpires is a famous celebrity agent, another is a plastic surgeon, and the third, the proud ‘companion’ of a dog Danny fostered as part of his work with an animal rescue organisation. 

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Danny exclaims, reaching into his rucksack and pulling out a t-shirt. “A reward for completing the hike,” he says, handing me a t-shirt. I thank him and unfold it. Proudly emblazoned on the front is “W-E-H-O” spelled out in letters constructed from drawn outlines of naked, well endowed, aroused male figures in various sexual positions. “Welcome to West Hollywood!” he says with a knowing smile.

Martin’s biking adventure was courtesy of www.bikesandhikesla.com.

Photography by Martin Perry