How Dodgers fans built a gigantic community of L.A. hikers

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Early Sunday morning, hundreds of hikers and Dodgers fans gathered in a parking lot in Griffith Park. They were decked in blue, huddling in groups and dancing along to energetic music to shake off the predawn chill. As more people arrived, the sea of jerseys and baseball caps licked the edges of the lot.

They call themselves the Dodgers Blue Hiking Crew. Among the team’s ardent fanbase, they express their passion for the game in an especially Angeleno way. Rather than tailgate or organize watch parties, these devotees ring in every Dodgers season by hiking a steep 6.5-mile loop through Griffith Park’s peaks.

The eight-year-old tradition began with Carlos Bérruz. In 2011, the 43-year-old Eagle Rock native climbed to the top of Mt. Hollywood and had an epiphany.

Hiking was new to him then. Bérruz, a runner, had recently injured his left side in a mountain bike accident. Forced to slow down, the man who believed “hiking is for people who can’t run” found himself huffing and puffing up a peak in Griffith Park. What greeted him at the top — the sun setting over the city, with the South Bay and Catalina Island in the distance — planted a seed.

“As I stared out into Los Angeles, I thought to myself, how many people live in this city and how many people have actually seen this view?” Bérruz said. “I thought to myself, ‘I want to share this.’”

At first, doing so meant organizing biweekly hikes with an intimate group of friends. Then news spread, the hike became weekly and suddenly friends of friends were showing up. Bérruz met the growing demand by creating a hiking club called Everyone’s Hike in 2015. Soon after, someone asked him to host a Dodgers-themed birthday hike. It was so popular that Bérruz began offering one every season for a small group of friends. In 2017, he opened the hike to the public and Dodgers Blue Hiking Crew was born.

In its first year of existence, the Dodgers hike drew 300 people to the hills of Griffith Park. The next March the group’s size more than doubled, Bérruz said. He has since stopped counting, and has occasionally been forced by unforeseen circumstances (such as the pandemic) to skip the annual event. But on the years they do hold the gathering, he said that the turnout continues to be overwhelming.

This year proved no exception, with more than 300 fans in blue flooding Griffith Park’s still-green trails, guided by Juan Adams, a former hiking leader and local. Adams was subbing in for Bérruz, who was unable to make the trip from his new home in Sonoma County this year.

The hikers were in high spirits despite the early hour. As they started up Fern Canyon Trail, people chatted with those next to them. When the trail looped back on itself, fans stopped at its edge, shouting encouragement to the hikers below. “Let’s go Dodgers!”

Adams, a self-proclaimed slow hiker, hung near the back. As he walked, he checked in with attendees who‘d stopped to gulp water and shed layers.

“How are you doing?” he asked a woman wearing a Mookie Betts No. 50 jersey. “Take a breather, there’s no rush,” he reminded a mother and her son.

At the tail of the winding crowd, a handful of hikers swept the ground for litter to ensure they left no trace behind.

Over a decade after organizing his first group hike, Bérruz said his best memories come from watching the transformation people go through on the trails.

“When you see somebody struggling, they can’t go any further but they dig deep down inside, pushing their way to wherever our destination is — whether it’s a waterfall or a summit — and they get there, you can see their eyes change,” Bérruz said. “They say thank you for not giving up on them.”

Many of the hike’s attendees start out with little to no experience, Bérruz said. They wear the wrong shoes or don’t pack enough water. But many stick with it.

“Some people did their first hike with me, and now they’ve done Mount Whitney and I haven’t even done that,” Bérruz said. “It’s really inspiring. There’s a quote that I like to use, it says ‘We rise by lifting others.’ That’s what it does. It motivates me too.”

Attendees like Yacxiri Leiva, who started hiking with Bérruz in 2022 as a New Year’s resolution, have made lifelong friends and formed their own hiking crews.

“I joined because I wanted to do hikes that I didn’t feel comfortable doing on my own,” Leiva said. “Now we have our own group chats on Instagram. We’ll get up at 3 a.m. and drive out to Death Valley or Mammoth.”

Whatever the individual takeaways of attendees — whether it be a workout or a sense of community — the streaks of blue snaking through the hills every March make one thing clear: Everyone is there for the Dodgers.

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