TARZANA ADVENTURES VI
Hillman Memories of ECOF 2002
||Edgar Rice Burroughs drew upon experience in the
telling of his remarkable stories. A few of the experiences across his
75 years included being: a cadet with MMA military training who later commanded
militia groups, an exhibition horseman, a teacher of geography/geology,
the driver of the first battery-powered car at Chicago exhibitions, a cowboy
range rider and trail driver, the hunter of Apache renegades with the U.S.
Cavalry, buster of hobos as railroad policeman, a gold miner, photography
shop owner, veteran of many cross-country adventures by auto caravan, a
businessman who launched a multitude of business schemes, a Hollywood mogul,
a ranch and estate owner, a devoted family man, a dabbler in art, photography,
journalism, a war journalist... and a dreamer. The same elements that drew
film makers to Hollywood at the beginning of the last century also provided
inspiration for his writing after he moved to his sprawling ranch estate
in California's San Fernando Valley: canyons and valleys, mountains and
uplands, range and scrubland, ocean beaches, rugged isolated areas contrasting
with nearby modern cities, a cultural mix, sunshine, and the creative imagination
factory of America's film and entertainment capital. Burroughs was an avid
horseman who loved to explore the diverse landscapes on and around his
ranch property and descriptions of much of this scenic and rugged area
found their way into novels as diverse as the The Girl From Hollywood,
The Moon Maid (Red Hawk), "Jimber Jaw," as well as into his numerous Western
and Apache novels and even parts of the Mars series.
Much of this land is now known as Caballero Canyon has been preserved in its natural state by the Santa Monica Mountains and Recreation and Conservation Authority. Hikers, cyclists, and nature lovers have long treasured the experience of exploring the area. One of the most avid of these devotees of the Tarzana wilds is writer/actor, and respected ERB scholar, Tracy Griffen. Tracy volunteered to lead a group of some of the hardier ECOF attendees and on Sunday morning, before the 100 degree heat of the day set in, "Lord Passmore" assembled his safari near the hotel entrance. After a a brief orientation talk about 20 Tarzan "wannabees" scrambled into cars and formed a caravan for the short drive to the rugged hills and gullies of Tarzana. Huck, Sue-On and myself hitched a ride with Bill "Mors Kajak" Herr. Within half an hour the hike was underway and Passmore set off at a pace worthy of his adopted persona. Also leading the pack were the Bwana's two California cohorts, lieutenants Bruce Boxleitner and Tom Yeates. I took advantage of the still-tolerable temperatures at the beginning of the hike to race from front to rear to get some shots of this disparate -- and increasingly desperate -- assemblage of sweating and puffing hikers. Ninety minutes of this steady pace started to take their toll so our intrepid guide agreed to a rest stop when the summit -- Mulholland Drive -- was almost in view. This was close enough for some of the party who opted to rest in the shade where they could take in the panoramic view of the valley below. By this time the vigors of the hike, the relentless sun, the rising mercury and the racing about to get in position for shots of the group, were starting to take their toll on this photographer, as is evidenced by some of the photo images that are filtered through sweat on the camera lens. At this point many of the hikers expressed envy for the Burroughs family, who regulary made this trip with the aid of horsepower.
The Mulholland Drive that stretches along the crest of the uplands in this area is far different from the section that overlooks Hollywood at its other extremity. At this point the Drive is no more than a dirt road providing access to fire fighters. This is an important access as the dry canyons below are very vulnerable to fires which, once started, are fanned by funneled sea breezes from the Pacific which is visible in the distance. Also visible in the far distance is LAX and part of Los Angeles. Looking in the other direction one sees the sprawling San Fernando Valley. The jubilant hikers now took pause to suck on water bottles, congratulate each other on their achievement, marvel at the view that Ed must have enjoyed from horseback so many years before, and to pose for victory photographs. Huck looked amazingly fit and refreshed, explaining that he does an equivalent hike almost daily through the jungles of Washington D.C.
Despite the ever-increasing heat of the day, the return trip seemed somewhat easier as it was all downhill. We now had time to take in the rugged beauty of our surroundings -- interrupted only by the occasional appearance of rattlesnakes... and the resounding victory cry of a bull ape. We learned later that the distant ape cry came from compadre Bruce Boxleitner, who was obviously totally caught up in the spirit of our morning adventure. This spirit carried over to most of the party. Sue-On even swore that she had found a fossilized thipdar egg. While venturing off trail in search of the Coonskin Cabin I was lured into a cactus trap by what was either a scurrying histah or small gimla. The ride back to the hotel in an airconditioned car, followed by a cool shower and cool drinks in our room helped rescue us from the brink of heat stroke and total exhaustion.
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