Whittier, California is a town hanging off the southeastern edge of Los Angeles County. Holding a population of about 86,000 people, my home is a meld of residents. It’s a semi-arid urban forest of rolling disheveled asphalt and misaligned buildings that never fully recovered from a 5.9 earthquake in 1987.
The town was founded at the turn of the 20th century by a Quaker named Jonathan Bailey, whose home lies in the northern regions of Whittier. The town, however, was named after abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, a famous Quaker who was admired by both Bailey and the general Quaker community.
Whittier himself resided in the throes of the transcendentalist movement out in Massachusetts. There, he teamed up with a group of overdressed and undershaved poets who called themselves the Fireside Poets, who handed out poems along with Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Whittier never made the journey himself to check out the entire town, but he did manage to scrawl out a little poem about it titled “My Name I Give to Thee.” In the poem, Whittier praised the town, despite his absence. Still, he wasn’t opposed to the place immortalizing his legacy.
Yet, if Whittier was alive today, he probably still wouldn’t have visited the town without the help of this very handy guide listing all of the hottest spots to check out:
1) Penn Park
A scenic park with a garden pathway, eucalyptus trees, swing sets and a public accessible bathroom, this gorgeous park has been the home of Whittier residents since its parcel was sold to the city in 1938. Most of the tree here are older than the town itself.
Yet, the place is so beautiful that even though the multi-ton eucalyptus trees keep falling over, the people keep coming. And if you ever feel like metamorphosing into a fractalized conduit for the universe — devoid of ego, meandering through the park without any recognizable references to your previous understanding of reality — check out all of the flowers.
The usual dandelions and daisies flood across the botanical pathways by the streams, but one other flower that’s in the mix includes jimsonweed. While scientifically named Datura Stramonium, they have also been favorably called Hell’s Bells by psychonauts, thanks to their hallucinogenic properties.
2) Pep Boys
This Pep Boys off of East Washington Street is open to the public seven days a week and provides fantastic service for you and your loved ones in need of automobile maintenance and/or accessories. Their service there is second to none; they can provide you a conventional oil change for as low as $19.99 (with a coupon). I’ve had my oil changed down there in less than an hour, a new personal record! With a wide range of pine air fresheners and shelves of mass manufactured candy treats, you and your whole family can find something to do there.
3) Slam Dunk Sports Bar
A dive bar at the edge of town conveniently located next to a motel, you’ll be provided with all of your favorite domestic beers on tap alongside the local truckers.
If you’re not in the mood to drop some quarters for a friendly game of pool with the knife-brandishing locals, check out the stage in the second room of the bar. Here, you can find cover bands middle-aged men trying to relive the glory days playing all of the rock and roll classics during the weekend. Who knows, one of these songs could be serenading a lady or gentlemen out in the crowd that just might be your future soulmate.
4) Turnbull Canyon
For those days where you just need to take a break from society, venture out to these beautiful hiking trails. Here, you can tread through crushed beer cans and abandoned condiment packets.
Other than these attractions, you can also take in the beautiful vistas of all of L.A. county with a temple called the Hsi Lai Temple. This temple is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the Western Hemisphere, lying in the distance and centered between all of these trails.
Although the trail area was named “Hutukngna” (meaning “The Dark Place”) by a local Native American tribe, don’t let the ominous sounds of deep death drum beats, rumored satanic rituals or banshee screams that locals have claimed to hear deter you and your loved ones to come to Whittier. You can check out all the beautiful sights while still engaging in the questionable traditions that have lured Whittier residents for generations.
Contact Paul Martin at [email protected].