Friday, August 28, 2015

Senior Day at the Abandoned Zoo

There are benefits to getting old.  One, for instance, is that park rangers seldom hassle you when you find yourself sidling through a hole in a chain link fence to trespass in the cordoned-off animal enclosures of an abandoned zoo.

Wanting to go for a hike, my sister-in-law and I headed to Griffith Park.  Griffith Park is known for many things - the hiking trails, the eponymous Observatory, the carousel, the trains at Travel Town, and the world-class, if sometimes controversial, Los Angeles Zoo.  Long before The LA Zoo opened its gates in 1966, however, there was the original Griffith Park Zoo.  The "old zoo" opened in 1912 with a small collection of both exotic and domestic animals.

At the height of the Great Depression, the zoo got a makeover.
 Relief organizations built fantastic environments that, despite every effort to appear
the handiwork of Mother Nature, have a distinctly-Deco feeling about them.

In a move that is contrary to Los Angeles' typical modus operandi of "seek and
destroy," the eighty-year-old enclosures have not only been left standing, many
have also been left open to civilian exploration.

As we cave-hopped, we heard some noises coming from above and decided to follow the trail up-and-around the backside of the caves.  We were met with a chain-link fence behind which stood even more animal habitats - and cages.  Now the fence said "NO" but the gaping hole in the chain link said "YES," (it should be noted here that the rules of consent need not apply to abandoned zoos) so we climbed trough the fence to explore.

Do you ever find yourself in questionable circumstances only to be overcome by the thought, "This is how a horror movie starts," - like, we sneak into "abandoned" animal habitats only to become the animal attractions at some demented human zoo masterminded by Dr. Jane Goodall gone rogue.

Somehow it is not that hard to imagine...

It wasn't long into our exploration before we heard tires on the nearby path.  The sound of the tires was followed immediately by a searchlight, which seemed a wee bit excessive considering that it was about two hours until sunset.  Concealed by the animal habitat, we were such dorks that we looked at each other and wondered if they were looking for us.  Our question was quickly answered when a voice on a loud speaker ordered us out.  I've spent my whole life as a goody-two-shoes so I am pretty sure that I went into full Chunk mode, blubbering as I confessed to every childhood wrongdoing beginning at year one, before putting my hands up and slowly backing towards the fence.

Our hillside hideout

Maybe I overreacted.  I think the ranger was so surprised to see what looked like two responsible, adult citizens that he simply told us that we weren't allowed to be there, directing us to climb through the fence and move along.  He didn't even have time to remove the toothpick from his clenched teeth before he added, "If you can fit..."  I suppose fat-shaming me is just all in a day's work for a park ranger.

Perhaps I'll just stay in here.
As they say, "If the cave fits, wear it."

Actually, I think we looked so square and so sweaty that he was inclined to feel more sorry for us than upset with us.  Also, compared to the scores of young people he probably extracts from behind the fence every day, our activities were comparatively benign.  The odor of marijuana may have hung heavy in the much-graffitied enclosures littered with spray cans, but I think he could tell that the peri-middle-aged nerds in color-coordinated outfits with cameras hanging around their necks were probably up to anything but "no good."

It wasn't us, Mr. Ranger.

We got off so easy that I considered asking the park ranger if he would give the two trespassing oldsters a ride back to the car but my sister-in-law didn't think that was such a good idea.  She said that just because he had a badge didn't mean that it was safe to enter his vehicle and get transported to a secondary location.  Thanks, Sis, for a great hike and for reminding me about the perils of Ranger Danger!

"Pluto at the Zoo" (1942)

The Old Zoo at Griffith Park
Griffith Park Dr
Los Angeles, CA


Mr. Tiny


  1. i don't know how anyone is supposed to resist going in there! I would have been right through that fence too.

    1. Right?! There was no way that we weren't going through the fence! My big question is, if you don't want people to go in there, why don't you mend the fence? If I can fit through it, anyone can! Does this count as us both getting kicked out of summer fun places this year?

  2. I'm so sad I never knew this existed!!! I have been to the new LA fact I got a $400 parking ticket outside of it for parking in a handicapped space without a placard...that could not be overturned after sending the lovely city of Los Angeles a copy of my license, placard, a note from my doctor and a photo of me in a wheelchair!!! I'm still bitter. But I digress, that old zoo is terrifying and awesome. I can't imagine a zoo just being in the center of Griffith park

    1. Ugh!!! That steams me! I guess the old zoo is a reason for you to come back and visit us...and allow this dumb city to redeem itself!

  3. This is my favourite blog post ever! I nominate this post for "Best opening paragraph in the blogosphere."