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Walkers rediscover Los Angeles on foot in The Big Parade

by Elyssa Dudley | Off-Ramp

Hikers climb one of the many public stairways on the Big Parade route. Gary Kavanagh

A group of Angelenos trekked from Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles to Griffith Observatory last weekend, stopping for a celebration and some sleep in Silver Lake. Dubbed “The Big Parade,” this two-day, 35-mile urban hike includes 100 stairways and appearances from local writers, poets and musicians along the way.

“Thirty-five miles, 80 stairways sounds insane — no sane person should ever try that,” said the event’s organizer, Dan Koeppel, after finishing The Big Parade Route Sunday evening.

Koeppel began organizing this annual event six years ago, when some locals asked to be taken on one of the stairway-filled walks he had written about in a magazine article.

“That became a one-day walk, and my walks got bigger and bigger," Koeppel said. "So I realized we had to do a two-day walk that would be fun for a lot of people. And it just grew organically from there."

He estimated that around 500 people joined The Big Parade for some portion of the hike over the weekend and added that the largest group to form along the route was about 210 people. The majority of the participants don’t complete the entire hike. But Koeppel emphasized that finishing shouldn’t be the goal.

“The point of the walk is you come and go as you please. You can come for a mile, come for an hour, come for a day. The crowd get big, it gets small… That’s the whole point. When that happens, it means it’s working.”

Ten-year-old Toussaint Bolden walked both days of The Big Parade with his mother, Liz Dwyer, making him the youngest hiker to ever complete the route. 

“There were a lot of stairs,” said Toussaint. “I can’t wait to get home to my couch.”

For more information about The Big Parade and the monthly walks led by organizer Dan Koeppel, visit the event website.

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