Singer Diane Lawrence and her two dogs, Princess Pushy Piggy Peggy and Queen Crystal, have been walking in the park almost daily for three years. "Even though it's right in the middle of the city, it's overgrown and wild, and I like that," she says.
For hikers and climbers, there are a couple of trails that present formidable challenges. Aspiring screen writer Dan Poynter runs up the steep western ridge at least three times a week, tossing off brisk greetings as he passes those of us climbing at a more leisurely pace.
"It helps me vent," Poynter says. "It's a way of getting out of the whole Hollywood mess for a while each day." Picking up speed, and leaving me in the dust, he adds over his shoulder, "I don't even bring my cellular phone with me anymore."
If you just can't get enough of the biz, the park is also a great place to spot celebrities. Among those I have recently clocked: Jeff Goldblum with dog and neighbors, Paul Reiser with attractive woman and dog, Rupert Everett with no shirt and no dog.
As night falls, Lawrence and I stand on Inspiration Point overlooking the vast twinkling grid of the city. The Park Ranger's horn honks below: time to close up. On the way down, we pass the tennis court with its chalked messages waiting to be washed away by the next rain: "Love Is Forgiveness," "Apologies to None," "Bob loves Johnny."
We bid the ranger good night, and I look back on the rambling wilderness with its elegant ruins, wondering if errant bands of teen-agers still sneak in after midnight to tell ghost stories.