A Romantic Mystery on Mount Washington's Sidewalks

Chalked messages of love are a secret in plain sight.

Mount Washington is full of secrets, if you know where to look.

There’s the elaborately beautiful “Peligroso” sign by a big deal artist in a little back alley, the trail of trinkets and bits of lyrics embedded on the sidewalk of a major thoroughfare, the wooden bench on a man-made ridge that looks towards the dawn.

A few weeks ago, though, I found a secret in plain sight.

Meandering up Glen Muir, curving around on Canyon Vista, and finally, detouring a bit down Mount Washington Drive, was (and still is) a trail of love notes written on the sidewalk in chalk.

A broken toe limited my walks for several weeks so I discovered sections of the secret bit by bit as my mobility improved.

It was like an archaeological love dig.

Hearts and Arrows

Initially, all I saw were a couple of chalked hearts interspersed with arrows pointing up the hill.  At first, I thought the notations were intended as encouragement for a visitor new to Mount Washington – a visitor who was attempting what is admittedly a challenging walk up a steep grade.

To put the matter in perspective, Canyon Vista Drive is, in fact, the street that broke the .

As far as the hearts go, I first want to emphasize that I’m as romantic as the next person. So I blame my broken toe for putting me in a medical frame of mind and making me think that the hearts were a cheerful reminder of the cardiovascular benefits of exercise.

I know.  Don’t laugh.

Love Notes

As I was able to venture further afield, I found an occasional note interspersed with the hearts and arrows. One read, “I (heart) you” with a “2” written underneath the heart.  Another read, “You make me = )"  Again, a “2” was written underneath the “smile."

At first, I thought the chalk talk started at the top of the street-to-street stairs at the bottom of Canyon Vista Drive. Then, one day, the was hot on the trail of a coyote/raccoon/possum/smelly dog so we went all the way down to Avenue 42 where we discovered more hearts and arrows.

I don’t know about the intended recipient but the walk of love was the gift that kept on giving ... and kept me guessing.

More Clues

One bright, hot Sunday, the mystery was revealed.  My toe was on the mend.  I was walking up the hill to the Christensen brothers’ in front of Mount Washington Elementary ... and noticed that the love trail led across the street and down Mount Washington Drive.

I speculated all the way up the hill.  I pondered as I filled bags with beets and carrots and Blue Lake beans.

I didn’t stay to chat over the vegetables. I didn’t linger long at the white wooden railing with the view to Palos Verdes. I hurried around the curve at Jack Smith’s former house and headed down into the canyon.

I didn’t have far to go.

The Mystery (Kind of) Revealed

At the first curve was a chalked message that read, “Happy anniversary, my love.  I (heart) you w/ all my (heart)."  The message was so long and exuberant that I couldn’t get it all in one photo.

Not that a photo could convey that much love.

Near the top of the message, a star and an arrow marked the spot ... but for what?  A car?  A pony? A bicycle built for two? (Somehow, the ambulatory nature of the trail of hearts suggested a transportation-related gift.)

The anniversary message wasn’t intended for me, of course, but I was as excited about the discovery as if it was.

I stood on the street where a view of the city is framed by hills and trees and smiled and smiled.

Thanks, Lovebirds!

I never found out who the anniversary couple was (although I’d love to know if the lovebirds want to reveal their identities!)

But if I never learn the details behind the sidewalk chalk love trail, that’s okay too.  The hearts and arrows and notes lured me ever onward despite my broken toe.  It made me happy that Mount Washington inspires secrets in plain sight.

In a way, it was a little love poem to everyone who walked up that steep slope.

Thank you, secret romancers, for sharing your love.

And "Happy Anniversary" from all of us on the Hill.

Kim Axelrod Ohanneson August 03, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Happy Anniversary, Susan!
Lisa McGuinness August 03, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Thank you for such a touching story! It Really lifts my spirits.
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson August 03, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Thank you, Lisa! The chalked declarations of love are still on the sidewalk and the sight of them makes me happy every time I see them.
Bebe Anderson August 31, 2012 at 04:06 AM
I'm a little late, but how did you break your toe?
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson September 04, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Bebe, I slipped on a wet pool deck and somehow, mashed the top of my foot on to a metal plate in a doorway and broke the toe. Definitely one of the weirder accidents I've had!


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