Around Town: Living La Brea Loca
Jan 21, 2018 07:48PM
I can’t quite put my finger on when exactly my obsession with the Pits started, but like so many things in life I’m pretty sure The Flintstones are directly responsible. This older-than-old stomping ground for giant sloths, mastodons, and saber-toothed tigers lies smack in the middle of a Hancock Park, Miracle Mile, and Mid-Wilshire Venn diagram. Today (and probably tomorrow), archeologists, excavators, and oh-so lucky volunteers slough through 11,000 years of muck to unearth fossils from the Pleistocene Era, which was about 65 million years after dinosaurs went extinct.
Walk the dog, push the stroller, wheel a wheelchair and wander the grounds to watch methane gas bubble and boil from underneath prehistoric natural asphalt, a.k.a. tar—which in Spanish, I was shocked to learn, translates to la brea. Meaning the literal translation of the park’s name is “The Tar Tar Pits.” (Seriously?).
Named after a real estate developer, philanthropist, and amateur paleontologist, the George C. Page Museum is well worth the cost of admission (though Yelp may disagree). For only $17, you gain entry to the museum, which includes access to the exhibits, and you get to watch a movie: Titans of the Ice Age 3D—a 25-minute film narrated by Christopher Plummer that’s actually pretty
If you’re not satisfied scaring your kids with the movie, there are plenty of other exhibits in the Page that can make them squirm: there’s the bad animatronic animals,
If you follow the path that weaves you around the pit-sequestered lawn, you’ll eventually come across the Observation Pit. Here, during regular visiting hours, you can see what an active fossil deposit looks like. Further around the bend are some of the findings from Project 23, an active dig site that started when LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) began construction on an underground parking garage next door to La Tar Tar. Over 16,000 bones have thus been catalogued since the first fossil was found in 2006. They even excavated the remains of a prehistoric camel. No word yet if they will be naming him “Joe.”
For those of you who think you could unstick yourself from a clumsy fall in la brea (where many a modern pigeon and squirrel still go to die), you can test your strength at the Tar Pull. Kid at heart? Roll down the grassy hill bookending the Page Museum—or better yet, twirl across it Sound of Music-style like this La Brea Woman does. And the absolute best part about visiting the Pits? No one’s ever there. Much like the Ice Age that killed the saber-toothed tigers inside the museum, the Pits are virtually devoid of people. This, to me, is as close to earthly bliss as I can get. Well this, and driving on the 405 during the Oscars.
La La Land may be lacking in prewar pretension, but it’s definitely not lacking in prehistory. Spend a day at La Brea and experience what it was like to actually live like a