Nobody walks in L.A.? It's true that many of our sidewalks sit sadly empty most days of the week, but last weekend, hundreds of Angelenos took to the streets for a big pedestrian event: Big Parade Los Angeles.

Now in its third year, this two-day urban hike is the brainchild of Dan Koeppel (pictured with me, below), even more famous in the environmental world for having penned THE book on bananas -- titled, as you may have guessed, "Banana." Koeppel also happens to be a staircase enthusiast and avid walker — from which evolved his marathon-length walking routes and maps (available on Google Maps for the stairways-curious), and eventually, Big Parade LA.

Siel Ju and Dan Koeppel at Big Parade LA 2011

The totally free, non-sponsored event basically is a big walk fest that starts at Angel’s Flight Stairway in downtown Los Angeles and ends at the Hollywood sign above Beechwood Canyon — traversing a big swath of Los Angeles in between. Along the way, walkers get treated to musical performances, mini talks about local history and ecology, and a street-level photo exhibit of L.A.'s past — all while getting to see new-to-them L.A. neighborhoods up close and meeting fellow walkers in L.A.

Intrepid Angelenos signed up for the whole hike, climbing up and down close to 90 stairways that dotted the route, which stretched more than 33 miles — not counting the descent from the Hollywood sign!

I did not.

Walkers meet up at LA Mill Coffee in Silver Lake for Big Parade LA 2011

But I did join the Sunday morning portion of the parade. After all, paraders are invited to pop in and drop off at any point. The route this year was divided into about 10 different loops, each ranging from a little more than a mile to 5.5 miles in length. So I met up bright and early at 9 a.m. at the starting point for Sunday's 4-mile main loop — and joined an excited crowd of about 50 people at LA Mill Coffee in Silver Lake.

Big Parade LA 2011

From there, we simply started walking! We went through some scenic residential neighborhoods, crossed some less scenic and slightly dangerous crosswalk-less roads, and hiked across a grassy area, guided by Diane Edwardson, a member of the Community Residents’ Association for Parks.

Big Parade LA 2011

And of course, we went up and down a lot of staircases — and some were really, really long! In front of one, we got the story of a Three Stooges film "An Ache in Every Stake," filmed on that very staircase years ago.

The Ukelele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere performs at the Silver Lake Recreation Center at Big Parade LA 2011

Around 11:30 we rounded into the Silver Lake Recreation Center, where The Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere awaited us. The musicians serenaded the paraders with folk tunes — and a cover of Justin Bieber's "Baby."

There my own urban hike ended. I left a little more knowledgeable about the history of L.A., somewhat better aware of the great places to hang out in the Silver Lake area car-free, excited about the potential for walkable neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and eager to explore more of the streets in my neighborhood on foot.

walkers picnic at The Silver Lake Recreation Center at Big Parade LA 2011

Want to find out more about and see photos from the rest of the hike? KPCC has photos from the Saturday portion of the hike, and Big Parade's Flickr Group should soon have many more photos from this great walking event.

And if you missed this year's big event, you don't have to wait a full year to participate in Big Parade LA. Though the huge hike happens only once a year, many shorter "practice" walks are planned throughout the year. Join the Big Parade LA Facebook group to get involved.

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