Running with the LADWP

As fall stretches into winter, and the days shorten, it gets tougher to squeeze in runs during the week -- and well-nigh impossible to run while it's light outside. As if on cue, this is exactly when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power opens its annual Light Festival in Griffith Park.

(All photos reproduced here are provided courtesy of the LADWP.)

The LADWP's Light Festival is a yearly tradition (2006 is the 11th annual) where the local Water and Power company -- along with a few other city departments and sponsors -- installs large light displays along Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park, and cars (or cyclists, or runners) can go through the park and view the displays.

Most of the installations relate to local landmarks: City Hall is a particularly well-designed likeness in lights, but it's also joined in this luminous parade by a mini-LAX, and a great display featuring the newly-renovated Griffith Observatory.

A tunnel of lights dazzles the eye as you run through, and at one point along the trail you get to run by a scaled-down replica of the Port of Los Angeles, complete with container ships and a mini Vincent Thomas Bridge that stretches across the road, over your head.

Even the Hollywood Bowl, the very symbol of summer evenings in Los Angeles, finds itself depicted in this Christmas-y display, flanked by a scaled-down Hollywood sign.

Ice-skating penguins, Santa Claus, Sioux hunters with bows and arrows stalking bison near a village of tipis -- this light display has it all. And you can leave your i-pod at home: the LADWP pipes in Christmas carols to keep your stride peppy as you take in the sights.

Thanks to the LADWP, trail runners in Los Angeles can put in their miles at night, kicking up the dirt with a built-in show.

It's not a wilderness experience by any stretch of the imagination -- and this is no substitute for a contemplative run in the woods. All the same, don't be surprised if even at this busy time of year you should cross paths with one of Griffith Park's many resident coyotes; it's happened to me many times.

Happy holidays, and see you on the trail!