Sure, there are exposed hillsides, hidden wildlife, and a few trees. But "rustic" hardly captures the character of the Cahuenga Pass these days. Cars whisk through this notch in the Hollywood Hills at 70 miles per hour. Truck horns and tire squeals pierce the steady hum of the 101 freeway.
Yet there was a time when "rustic" applied. Adventurous types once camped beneath the pass' oak-dotted hillsides. In the 1870s, a primitive hotel -- named the Eight Mile House because Los Angeles was eight miles down the road -- rose among a stand of eucalyptus trees inside the canyon. As late as 1914, filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille rented a wooden cabin in the pass as his home. He rode daily into his studio on horseback -- with a revolver on his hip.
The pass has long been a convenient shortcut between the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles Basin. In a previous geologic epoch, the Los Angeles River spilled into Hollywood through the pass, before continued uplift of the Santa Monica Mountains rerouted the waterway around present-day Griffith Park. The first Southern Californians likely blazed a foot-trail millennia ago, and by the late 18th century the villagers of Cabueg-na or Kaweenga (the origin of the name "Cahuenga") near Universal Studios regularly trekked through the pass. In 1852, a steep wagon road replaced the old trail, and in 1911 the Pacific Electric stretched its interurban railway tracks through the pass. Any remnants of the pass' rustic character vanished in 1940, when the Cahuenga Pass Freeway -- one of L.A.'s first -- opened through this erstwhile campground.