Rancho Simi Trail Blazers

A Division of the Rancho Simi Foundation


        2017        

June 24th –  Chivo Canyon and the Tapo Canyon Overlook

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On a still cool Saturday morning, 15 cheerful hikers met on Westwood Street, and walked to the nearby Chivo Canyon Trailhead. We originally planned to hike to Matilija Falls, but since the NOAA/NWS was forecasting 90 degrees, just northwest of Ojai, we thought it wise to plan a local substitute hike.

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 Our hike began along Trail #22 (shown on the RSRPD “Park Facilities Directory Map of Simi Valley and Oak Park), as it headed up Chivo Canyon. At 0.7 the mile mark, we turned left on Trail #23 and followed it through a side canyon as it climbed westward to an overlook that revealed a sweeping view of Tapo Canyon. Continuing downhill, we met Trail #24, and turned left heading back to Trail #22, taking us back to the trailhead. Despite the fact that Summer just began, there was still a good many wildflowers in bloom, including Heliotrope, Indian Pink, Datura, Bush Sunflower, Tree Tobacco, Indian Paintbrush, Bush Mallow, Cliff Aster, and Plummer’s Mariposa Lilly. All in all it was a short but enjoyable hike, covering about 4.5 miles round trip, and 600’ of elevation gain/loss.

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June 10th –  Fish Canyon Narrows

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22 hikers took advantage of a nice relatively cool late spring morning to hike the unique and beautiful Fish Canyon Narrows.  We began our hike at the gate at the east “end” of Templin Highway north of Castaic Lake.  After taking the obligatory group photos, we began by descending northeast along the closed paved road to a concrete bridge at the mouth of Cienega Canyon [which is quite overgrown].

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  Passing by and continuing southward as the road turned to dirt we soon veered left (eastward) onto the abandoned easy-to-follow Warm Springs-Fish Canyon Truck Trail which passed through a narrow gorge and was bordered by a plethora of blooming buckwheat and lovely (but deadly) datura plants (aka jimson weed) with their large white lily-like blossoms; later there were blooming yuccas and yellow creek monkey flowers.  After several paved creek crossings we reached the abandoned Cienega Campground (nearly three miles from our starting point) where one member of our group showed us a very interesting outdoor stand-alone “room” fashioned mostly from fallen tree branches in a shaded alcove.  We immediately left the Truck Trail and headed north along a lovely shaded single-track trail for about a mile to “Pianobox” [an old mining claim] where there’s a campsite.  The single-track trail ended as we entered the Fish Canyon Narrows and we found ourselves rock hopping, pushing through brush, and crisscrossing the creek to follow stretches of “use” trail for the next mile-and-a-half or so.  The stream was flowing and provided a musical accompaniment as we hiked carefully through the narrow canyon bordered by very scenic reddish hundred-foot rock walls and populated with oaks and alders.  We eventually reached the Rogers Trail Camp in a small oak-shaded clearing on an oak- and sycamore-shaded bench.  After we took a much-needed lunch-and-rest break we returned the way we came and then returned home having completed an 11.5-mile hike with a little over 1,000’ of elevation gain/loss, a hike described in 2009 by Los Angeles Magazine as the best hike in Los Angeles!

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June 3rd –  Ahmanson Ranch: Cave of Munits

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24 hikers gathered in the Ahmanson Ranch parking lot at the west end of Victory Boulevard in West Hills on a not-yet-hot late-spring morning for a hike in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve which offers a variety of single-track trails and old dirt ranch roads in a landscape of grasslands, rolling hills, and a smattering of ancient oak trees. 

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Our clockwise-loop hike began on a dirt trail that rose to the northwest quite steeply behind the information kiosk in the parking lot.  After reaching the summit of the hill we stopped to catch our breath and enjoy the panoramic view of the surrounding area.  Continuing we followed undulating single-track trails bordered by tall golden grass with occasional patches of blooming plants.  Soon we reached another ridge from which (if you knew where to look) we could glimpse the opening of the cave that was our destination.  We then descended northeast along a somewhat eroded “use” trail toward the cave.  The “use” trail eventually joined Moore Canyon (dirt) Road and we turned left (north) onto it and followed it a short distance to the point at which the “use” trail leading up to the entrance to The Cave of Munits branched off to the left.  We followed the steeply rising heavily eroded “use” trail to the cave’s entrance where we temporarily “installed” a climbing rope and most of the members of our group entered the cave.  As described on the excellent Modern Hiker web site, “The walls of the interior fold and undulate into a seemingly endless series of side caves and back caverns … it’s ceiling is very tall and it can feel like you’re standing inside a natural rock cathedral … this area was spiritually important to the Chumash [Indians].  After exploring the interior of the cave some of the hikers exited by climbing out one of the cave’s chimneys and circling around on the mountainside to the entrance; the remainder returned the way they entered the cave.  We returned to the parking lot along Moore Canyon Road.  By this time the temperature had climbed into the 90’s so we decided to abandon the second part of our hike (a loop around Lasky Mesa) and returned home having completed a nice 4.1-mile hike with over 800’ of elevation gain/loss.

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May 21st –  Wildwood Park Loop

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We had 21 hikers on today’s hike on a clear, cool day. We followed Mesa trail to Santa Rosa Trail and up Mountclef Ridge over to views of the Santa Rosa Valley. Descending to the Lower Santa Rosa trail led us to the paved road, then to the trail to Box Canyon. Hiking up this road led us back to Mesa Trail.

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We then went to Teepee trail and hiked down to Paradise Falls. Following Wildwood Canyon to Indian Creek trail led us back to the parking lot. The hike was just over 8 miles, and we all returned having enjoyed the weather and the rugged scenery.

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May 13th –  Oak Flat Trail to Whitaker Peak

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11 hikers met at the carpool point in Simi Valley on a cool clear morning.  We then drove to the hike’s starting point north of Santa Clarita in a large dirt parking area just outside the Verdugo Oaks boy-scout camp (2,831’) where we discovered a large group of campers engaged in a costumed role-playing activity. 

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As we began our hike, we headed southward up the well-maintained Oak Flat trail as it rose 1.5 miles through an oak woodland and then chaparral to the Whitaker Ridge dirt road (3,820’), enjoying scenic views to the east and north including Pyramid Lake.  The trail and Whitaker Ridge Road were adorned with a variety of blooming plants including Yerba Santa, Catalina mariposa lilies, wooly blue curls, yellow mariposa lilies, bush lupine, golden yarrow, sticky monkey flower, and elderberry.  An intermittent wind gusted as we hiked.  We then followed the Whitaker Ridge Road southeastward down to its junction with Whitaker Peak Road but we mistakenly continued down toward Old Hwy 99 until the error was recognized.  We reversed our direction and then followed Whitaker Peak Road southwestward up to its end (4,119’), enjoying “ever-widening vistas of fault-tortured canyon country” along the way and excellent panoramic views from the turnaround point including Lake Piru to the south and Castaic Lake to the east thanks to the wind which persisted.  After a rest/lunch stop, we returned down Whitaker Peak Road to its junction with the Whitaker Ridge Road where six hikers decided to continue on down to Old Hwy 99 [aka Golden State Hwy] while the remaining five hikers returned the way they had come.  After a short shuttle we returned home having completed a rewarding 11-mile hike with about 2,700’ of elevation gain.

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May 6th – Horn Canyon

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12 hikers carpooled to the Horn Canyon trailhead adjacent to the Thacher School a few miles east of downtown Ojai on a cool overcast morning.  Since a very light rain was falling when we arrived at the trailhead, we donned our rain gear.  As our hike began, the trail rose gradually upward to the north along a dirt road flanked by an assortment of blooming plants/wildflowers. 

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The route soon became a shady trail that followed a pleasant creek (with flowing water in it) as it continued up toward the Nordhoff Ridge; there was an amazing array of lovely wildflowers adorning the path highlighted by sticky monkey flower, Catalina mariposa lilies, and purple sage.  After several easy stream crossings, the trail began to rise inexorably via switchbacks toward our destination.  The customary views of the surrounding area were severely limited due to the continuing drizzle, but there were more beautiful wildflowers!  Eventually we reached the Pines Trail Camp where the dead pine trees we encountered last year had been cut down and sawed into small sections (camping may be allowed again).  After resting and eating lunch we returned the way we came, again admiring the beauty of the trail.  The rain continued and we reached our vehicles somewhat wet, having completed a sometimes demanding 5.5-mile hike with 1,845’ of elevation gain/loss, vowing to return again next year.

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April 29th – Work Party: The North Ridge Trail

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The April 29 Work Party was conducted on the North Ridge Trail, which was badly overgrown – nearly impassable in long stretches. The local Mormon Churches provided dozens of youth, from 12 to 17 years of age. Many adults were also present to work and help out. Even a medical doctor was present.

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In all some 95 people helped out – our best turn out ever. The trail is approximately 1 and 1/4 miles long. It was completely cleared! Thanks also goes to John Sabol, Martin DeGoey and Mike Kuhn for their good work.

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April 22nd – Hike the Descanso Trail and Visit Descanso Gardens

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12 hikers carpooled to 150-acre Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge on an already warm spring morning to begin a two-part outing.  After walking a short distance from the main parking lot to the signed Descanso Trail trailhead (outside the Gardens), we began hiking through a pleasant oak woodland. 

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Soon the trail climbed steeply uphill and we began to enjoy views of the San Gabriel and Verdugo mountains as well as the heavily wooded Gardens below.  We continued mostly uphill along the trail as it led us southward through the San Rafael Hills to the Five Points junction where we spotted a deer.  From there we followed the Cherry Canyon Fire Road to the abandoned Lookout Tower on Cerro Negro.  Built in the 1950’s, the tower was equipped with a 138-decibel Chrysler Bell Victory air raid siren to be used to announce an enemy invasion.  By this time the temperature was uncomfortably hot as we returned the way we came to the main parking lot having completed a 5-mile hike with nearly 1,000’ of elevation gain/loss.  After stowing some of our hiking gear in our vehicles and paying the $9.00 ($6.00 for seniors) entrance fee, the group headed into the heavily wooded portion of the park (thus escaping the heat) with its inviting shaded pathways, admiring the lily-pad pool (with turtles), the Japanese Garden, the Ancient Forest, and a profusion of blooming flowers, bushes, and trees.  Next we toured the Boddy House,  originally the 12,000 square foot home of Manchester Boddy, the founder of Descanso Gardens (the house is now a museum and an interpretive center) and read about the park’s history before heading through the forest to the beautiful Rose Garden (lovely irises were also blooming).  After a quick walk over to the Bird Observation structure overlooking the murky lake, we returned to Simi Valley having spent several hours in a spectacular environment well-worth the entrance fee.

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April 15th – Backbone Trail Part 8:  Trippet Ranch to Will Rogers State Historic Park

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Thirteen hikers carpooled to the eastern Santa Monica Mountains on another pleasant spring morning to hike the eighth (and final) section of the 67-mile-long Backbone Trail (BBT).  After dropping off several shuttle vehicles at Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades we carpooled to the Trippet Ranch parking lot in Topanga State Park. 

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We began our hike along the lush and lovely Musch trail as it ascended to the Eagle Springs Fire Road.  The trail provided lots of shade as well as meadows with tall grass dotted with beautiful Catalina mariposa lilies and other wildflowers.  We took a short break after reaching the fire road and watched a young deer as it tried to decide how to get around us, finally deciding to do so in the nearby brush.  We continued eastward along another dirt road past the base of towering Eagle Rock to Hub Junction where we took another break under a new structure that provided seating, shade, and nice views.  Continuing mostly uphill to the east on the dirt fire road, the route passed Cathedral Rock.  Soon we turned left onto an actual trail (thanks to a BBT sign) and  began the long descent toward Will Rogers State Historic Park (WRSHP), catching brief glimpses of the Los Angeles basin and views of the ocean toward Catalina Island and Palos Verde Peninsula along the way.  After a short lunch break under a large oak tree, we reached “Chicken Ridge,” a well-named narrow isthmus with dangerous drop-offs on both sides made navigable by two bridges which provided excellent views.  Continuing downhill, we reached the end [or beginning] of the Backbone Trail in WRSHP having hiked 11.3 miles with 1,600’ of elevation gain and 2,350’ of elevation loss.  We headed home with a feeling of accomplishment and gratitude that we had nice weather during most of our always interesting and sometimes challenging traverse of the BBT with its gorgeous display of a vast array of blooming plants along the way.

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April 8th – Backbone Trail Part 7:  Saddle Peak to Trippet Ranch

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Despite the possibility of rain and the closure of a 3-mile section of Topanga Canyon Blvd for repairs, nineteen hikers met on yet another pleasant spring morning to tackle the seventh section of the Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail (BBT).  After dropping off several shuttle vehicles at Trippet Ranch (in Topanga State Park),

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we carpooled up to the trailhead on Saddle Peak Road (near its intersection with Stunt Road).  Our hike began along the western end of the short Fossil Ridge Trail which was awash in knee-high grass.  Upon reaching its eastern end, we began descending the popular trail that runs through Hondo Canyon.  It’s popularity soon became evident as we hiked along a series of switchbacks through a dense forest comprised mostly of oak and bay laurel trees.  The trail was also adorned with ferns, moss-and-lichen-covered boulders, and a variety of blooming plants.  Occasionally there were stunning views of the pink-colored sedimentary rock formations/cliffs (the Sespe Formation) that form the west side of the canyon.  As the trail drew closer to Old Topanga Canyon Road it passed through grassy meadows sporting magnificent displays of wildflowers such as Catalina mariposa lilies, blue dick, and lupine.  We then crossed a shallow creek and Old Topanga Canyon Road and used a trial-and-error approach to the maze of trails we then encountered (arguably the most confusing section of the BBT) as we made our way to Greenleaf Canyon Road which we followed a short distance to Topanga Canyon Blvd which we carefully crossed.  The Dead Horse trail then led us steadily upward through chaparral until we reached a very large grass-filled meadow bordered by a fence which we followed to a ranch road leading a short distance to the Trippet Ranch parking lot, thus completing a very pleasant 7.2-mile one-way hike with 1,019’ of elevation gain and 2,211’ of elevation loss.

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April 1st – Towsley Canyon Loop

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13 hikers met at the very busy Towsley Canyon trailhead, on a clear and warm early spring morning. Towsley Canyon has been a favorite wildflower hike in past years. Even during drought years, this route hasn’t failed us. A fraction of the anticipated wildflowers were in bloom, especially when compared to some of our recent Backbone Trail hikes.

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Our favorite Chocolate Lilies had not yet sprouted. Perhaps we were too early. Maybe the area is still recovering from six years of drought. We ended our hike with the Elder Loop trail. There we enjoyed a serious abundance of mostly lupine, all in the areas that recently burned. We can always depend on fire-followers, especially after a relatively wet winter. The hike was still quite enjoyable. Great views and good company is always a good reason to hike. Total distance for our hike was 7.7 miles, with about 1,625 elevation gain and loss.

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March 25th – Backbone Trail Part 6:  Malibu Canyon Road Trailhead to the Stunt Road Trailhead

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Eighteen hikers met on another pleasant spring morning to tackle the sixth section of the Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail.  After dropping off several shuttle vehicles along Saddle Peak Road (at the Stunt Road intersection) we carpooled to Malibu Canyon in search of parking near the Piuma Road trailhead. 

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After a couple of futile attempts, we finally parked in Tapia Park and hiked 0.5 mile to the signed trailhead along Piuma Road.  As we began our hike, we crossed a creek where the destructive effects of the winter’s rain was quite evident.  However, we immediately entered a dense oak woodland (ferns were abundant and a variety of wildflowers were blooming) as the trail rose steadily upward for about 2.5 miles to a road crossing.  After crossing Piuma Road the trail climbed noticeably more steeply through continuing shade (mostly provided by ceanothus) until we crossed a flowing stream and soon emerged into an open section of trail bordered with thousands of blue dick wildflowers as well as smatterings of other wildflowers; also we had excellent views of the surrounding area.  Eventually we stopped for lunch at a point where there was shade but also a great distant view to the northwest.  We continued our hike up the mountain to Saddle Peak where the view toward the ocean was blocked by the incoming fog.  We climbed up on some beautiful rock formations near the peak and enjoyed spectacular inland views.  We then descended past a large water tank to Stunt Road and our shuttle vehicles, thus completing an 8.0-mile one-way hike with about 2,700’ of elevation gain and 900’ of elevation loss.

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March 18th – Backbone Trail Part 5: Latigo Canyon Trailhead to Malibu Canyon Trailhead

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Twenty-two hikers tackled the fifth section of the Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail on a pleasant cool, spring-like winter morning (perfect for hiking).  After dropping off several shuttle vehicles along Malibu Canyon Road (at the Piuma Road intersection) we carpooled to the Latigo Canyon trailhead.

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We began our hike along the trail as it headed northwest down into a heavily shaded canyon adorned by a variety of blooming wildflowers.  We then headed northeast through a riparian woodland along a seasonal creek with running water (which we crossed at least ten times), passing  several meadows filled with bright green grass.  The trail then rose and fell as it wound along chaparral-covered slopes on its way to Corral Canyon Road.  After crossing the road, we soon found ourselves walking among (and on) a variety of stunning sandstone rock formations.  We decided to take our lunch break atop the highest such formation where we examined the ruins of an old dwelling and enjoyed the views afforded by our high perch.  (unfortunately an offshore marine layer hid the ocean from view).  After lunch, we headed east along the Mesa Peak Fire Road toward (but not to) Mesa Peak.  This section of the hike provided excellent views of the mountains and valleys to the north.  About seven miles into the hike we turned north and began a three-mile descent through an oak woodland into Malibu Canyon where we had left our shuttle vehicles, thus completing a 10.3-mile one-way hike with about 1,500’ of elevation gain and a little over 3,000’ of elevation loss.  We retrieved the vehicles we had left along Malibu Canyon Road as well as the shuttle vehicles at the Latigo Canyon trailhead and headed home, looking forward to hiking the remaining three sections of the Backbone Trail.

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March 1st – 5th:  Death Valley National Park (Furnace Creek Campground)

March 1, 2017Arrival and Golden Canyon to Red Cathedral

10 Rancho Simi Trailblazers gathered at the Furnace Creek Campground (200’) along CA Hwy 190 adjacent to the Death Valley National Park (DVNP) Visitor Center for several days of camping, hiking, and sightseeing in a starkly scenic desert setting consisting of salt flats and sand dunes in the valley itself flanked on the east and west by towering mountain ranges capped by Telescope Peak (11,049’)

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in the Panamint Mountains to the west.  Many interesting canyons penetrate the surrounding foothills/mountains and provide a myriad of hiking opportunities with stunning geologic sights.  After setting up camp, we drove a few miles south on Hwy 190 and then Badwater Road to the entrance of Golden Canyon, a popular hiking destination.  This canyon has been described as “The finest badlands scenery in the park: bright red rocks quickly give way to dark brown conglomerate and layers of green mudstone.”  The relatively narrow canyon quickly proved to be every bit as scenic as its description indicated.  Given our late start we decided to take the left fork at the first trail junction we reached; it was a “use trail” which led us upward to the Red Cathedral where we took some photos.  NOTE: An earlier start and proper route finding would lead hikers several miles further up to Zabriskie Point, a noted scenic lookout (but not to worry, we drove up there the following day).  We returned the way we came and returned to the campground having hiked 2.8 miles with 560’ of elevation gain/loss.  That evening after dinner we enjoyed a campfire and an accomplished neighbor’s singing.

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Golden Canyon to Red Cathedral

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March 2, 2017 – Desolation Canyon, Badwater Basin, Natural Bridge, Zabriskie Point, and Dantes View

After breakfast we carpooled south past the Golden Canyon parking lot to the parking area at the Desolation Canyon trailhead.  NOTE: The unpaved road leading to the parking area is poorly marked (a “no camping” sign is set back some distance from Badwater Road so it’s easily missed). 

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A description of this hike states that “This lightly used route follows a narrow serpentine canyon through a landscape of colorful badlands.”  We found this to be true as we hiked through the scenic canyon and climbed (and later descended) several dry waterfalls, helping each other up/down as needed.  Eventually we emerged atop a promontory that provided views of the surrounding area.  We returned the way we came, completing a 4.4-mile hike with 823’ of elevation gain/loss.

Next we drove to Badwater Basin “Noted as the lowest point in North America (282’ below sea level)” and followed a wide footpath out into the salt flats.  We returned to our vehicles having walked 1.4 miles with 15’ of elevation/gain loss.  It was unusual (to say the least) to see a sign on the nearby mountain’s wall showing the sea level nearly 300’ overhead.

We then drove a short distance back toward Golden Canyon and hiked to Natural Bridge, “a rare rock span that arcs across the narrow shady defile of lower Natural Bridge Canyon.”  We followed the canyon a short distance past the bridge, stopping for a lunch break along the way.  We returned to our vehicles the way we came, completing a 1.4-mile hike with 324’ of elevation gain/loss.

Next we undertook the long drive to Dante’s View (5,476’) via Hwy 190.  Along the way we stopped at Zabriskie Point (705’) to enjoy the spectacular views available there.  Dante’s View from the parking lot at the end of the access road is near the edge of the Black Mountains on the east side of Death Valley; “it gives the best overall views of the southern half of the park” looking down on the Badwater salt flats (-282’) and westward to the Panamint Mountains and snow-capped Telescope Peak (11,049’).  We hiked a short distance down to another observation point, enjoyed the views, and returned to our vehicles having completed a 0.6-mile hike with 129’ of elevation gain/loss.  We then returned to the Furnace Creek Campground.

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Desolation Canyon

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Badwater Basin

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Natural Bridge

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Zabriskie Point

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Dantes View

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March 3, 2017 – Mosaic Canyon, Ubehebe Crater, and the Salt Creek Trail

After breakfast we carpooled north and then west on Hwy 190 to the Mosaic Canyon trailhead near Stovepipe Wells Village.  Shortly after entering the canyon “hikers [enter] a narrow chasm where beautiful stream-polished marble and mosaic breccia are well-exposed.” The hike then continues up-canyon requiring climbing (and later descending)

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dry waterfalls until it reaches a high impassible dry waterfall where we turned around.  We returned the way we came, completing a 5.1-mile hike with 1,040’ of elevation gain/loss.

Next we headed east on Hwy 190 and then north on Scotty’s Castle Road until we eventually reached a fork in the road where we turned left and followed the access road to the Ubehebe Crater (the right fork to Scotty’s Castle was closed due to flooding in Grapevine Canyon caused by a severe thunderstorm on 10/18/2015).  The Ubehebe Crater is a large volcanic crater 600’ deep and half a mile across; it was “created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the depths reached ground water.”  Three hikers descended to the bottom of the crater (thus subjecting themselves to the steep climb back up to the rim); the remaining hikers followed the trail around the rim of the crater enjoying views into the crater as well as panoramic views of the surrounding landscape including snow-capped mountains in nearly every direction (they were subjected to strong winds for a portion of their hike).  The rim hikers completed a 2.2-mile hike with 750’ of elevation gain/loss.

Next we headed back toward the campground, stopping along the way for a pleasant walkabout on the Salt Creek Trail, a boardwalk “trail” along the creek that allowed us to view the rare Salt Creek Pupfish, a very small species which is on the Endangered Species list.  Our walkabout was 1 mile with about 10’ of elevation gain/loss.  We then returned to the campground.

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Mosaic Canyon

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Ubehebe Crater

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Salt Creek

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March 4, 2017 – Fall Canyon, Rhyolite (ghost town), Goldwell Open Air Museum, and Beatty, NV

After breakfast we carpooled north on Hwy 190 and then Scotty’s Castle Road to the Titus Canyon turnoff which we followed to the parking lot at the mouth of Titus Canyon; the same parking lot serves as the trailhead for Fall Canyon.  NOTE: Titus Canyon remains closed due to the October, 2015 flooding in Death Valley. 

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We began our hike by heading north on a well-defined trail that led to the actual mouth of Fall Canyon.  The canyon “is remote and little-visited; deep and moderately narrow for many miles with occasional shaded, cave-like passageways of great beauty … smooth granitic walls [sometimes have] a bluish tint.”  We hiked through the scenic canyon mostly on soft gravel until we reached a towering impassible dry waterfall.  After taking some photos we returned the way we came, completing an 8.4-mile hike with 1,200’ of elevation gain/loss.

After some discussion we decided to visit Rhyolite (ghost town) and the Goldwell Open Air Museum (even though Titus Canyon was closed to vehicular traffic).  After a fairly long drive we roamed around the mostly vanished mining ghost town of Bullfrog and then ambled around the outdoor art museum admiring the unique sculptures on display.

Lastly we decided to drive the few miles to Beatty, NV to get gasoline, ice cream, Subway sandwiches, Denny’s, etc.  As we drove back to the campground from Beatty we were battered with high winds.  The campground experienced similar high winds most of the night, making sleeping difficult.

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Fall Canyon

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Rhyolite (ghost town) and the Goldwell Open Air Museum

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March 5, 2017 – Strike camp and drive home Darwin Falls and Randsburg

Due to the high winds the night before (and the resultant lack of sleep) everyone packed up and headed home, skipping the traditional breakfast at the Furnace Creek Inn.

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Three of the hikers stopped and hiked to Darwin Falls which is located in the mountains southwest of Panamint Springs, but still within the park.  The easy one-mile trail eventually became a streambed with flowing water as it led us to the lovely waterfall and pool in a seemingly unlikely location in an otherwise arid landscape.  Two hikers visited Randsburg, a living ghost town, on the way home.   Gold was discovered near the town in 1895 and a mining camp quickly formed, and was named Rand Camp.

As we crossed the desert between Panamint Springs and Olancha we were assaulted by gale-force winds blowing sand and dirt at our vehicle; visibility was sometimes as poor as a couple of car lengths.  We also encountered intermittent rain showers most of the way home from Olancha.

All-in-all we had a great trip to a national treasure, hiking 29.6 miles with 5,111’ of elevation gain/loss (including Darwin Falls).

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Randsburg (living ghost town)

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Darwin Falls

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February 25th – Backbone Trail Part 4: Encinal Canyon Road Trailhead to Latigo Canyon Road Trailhead Shuttle

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On a clear chilly winter morning after dropping off several shuttle vehicles along Latigo Canyon Road, nineteen hikers carpooled from Simi Valley to the point along Encinal Canyon Road at which the Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail (BBT) begins its descent into Trancas Canyon. 

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Shortly after we began our hike along the fourth section of the BBT, we began hearing the pleasant sound of rushing water, a sound seldom heard in recent years.  Soon we could see the nearby stream which was swollen by recent rain.  We crossed the stream on a bridge and then followed the stream up-canyon through a pleasant woodland.  After trading pleasantries with a large National Park Service ranger-led group of hikers and crossing the stream on a second bridge, the trail began climbing to the east through chaparral and ceanothus.  It then wound through upper Zuma Canyon, providing excellent views of a nice waterfall to the northwest, until we reached Kanan Dume Road just north of tunnel #1.  After a lunch/rest stop, we followed the trail as it led uphill to the south and then eastward over the tunnel and into more woods in Newton Canyon.  The erosive effects of recent downpours along most of our hike’s route were quite evident, but the scenery was beautiful as were blooming flora (such as Indian paintbrush, blooming ceanothus trees, miner’s lettuce, ferns, bright green grasses, and Indian warrior plants) and the various flowing streams lent a soothing quality to much of the hike.  Eventually the trail rose to meet Latigo Canyon Road, across which we had parked our shuttle vehicles.  We returned to Simi Valley having completed a 7.6-mile one-way hike with around 2,000’ of elevation gain and 1,400’ of elevation loss on yet another beautiful day for hiking.

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February 11th – Backbone Trail Part 3: Mishe Mokwa Trailhead to Encinal Canyon Road Trailhead Shuttle

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After dropping off several shuttle vehicles along Encinal Canyon Road, sixteen hikers carpooled to the parking lot opposite the Mishe Mokwa trailhead on Yerba Buena Road where we began our hike along the third section of the Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail (BBT) on another pleasant winter morning.

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As we headed east along the south flank of the mountain, we encountered some bicycle riders and lots of runners.  The early morning rain had stopped but had left puddles and muddy stretches of trail behind.  However, there were great views of mountains and coastal valleys gleaming with beautiful green grasses.  There were also blooming wildflowers (particularly shooting stars) and the ubiquitous white blossoms on the ceanothus trees.  After a while we reached the road crossing at Little Sycamore Canyon Road where we encountered a large group of hikers being led by National Park Service rangers [for a fee] along the same route; also we were joined for a few miles by Dr. James Caballero the author of Mileage Hiking Maps [one of our hike leaders had the opportunity to hike the BBT for the first time with “Doc” in 2006].  We crossed the road and climbed up along a short new section of the BBT (which allowed us to avoid trespassing) to its junction with the Etz Meloy Motorway (an old dirt road) from which there were panoramic views to the north (toward the San Fernando Valley and to the south (toward the ocean).  Eventually we reached a section of trail that descended via lots of switchbacks to the road crossing at Mulholland Highway.  We stopped for a lunch/rest break among some pine trees immediately after crossing Mulholland Highway.  The final mile of the Day 3 hike led us along a pretty section of trail (where we spotted several Indian warrior plants) to our shuttle vehicles parked along Encinal Canyon Road, completing a 10.3-mile one-way hike with 973’ of elevation gain and 1,680’ of elevation loss on another beautiful day for hiking.

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February 4th – Backbone Trail Part 2: Backbone Trailhead (across from Mishe Mokwa Trailhead) to Encinal Canyon Road Trailhead Shuttle

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After dropping off several shuttle vehicles at the Big Sycamore Canyon Campground parking lot, sixteen hikers carpooled to the northern (upper) end of Yerba Buena Road at Triunfo Pass to hike the second section of the Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail (BBT) on a cool foggy winter morning.  The hike began at the “Mushy” Mokwa trailhead.

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The muddy trail rose to the west through heavy chaparral to a junction with a short very muddy connector trail which led to the Sandstone Peak Trail (the remainder of our route was nearly “mudless.”  As we gained elevation we had clear views to the north of the reddish-colored Echo Cliffs (a long stretch of sheer vertical sandstone rock faces) against the green side of Boney Mountain, and Balanced Rock, a huge house-sized boulder precariously balancing atop a smaller boulder.  We passed by the spur trail leading up to Sandstone Peak and continued hiking near Tri-Peaks, the tops of which were covered in fog.  We then began our long descent into Big Sycamore Canyon along the Chamberlain Trail which was bordered by beautiful bright green grasses, blooming ceanothus trees, moss-and-lichen-covered boulders, and scattered wildflowers.  After a while we were treated to awe-inspiring views of Big Sycamore Canyon and beyond as well as Serrano Valley.  We stopped briefly at Chamberlain Rock (named for Henry Chamberlain, a beloved local who died in 1945).  Continuing our descent we were greeted by a variety of blooming wildflowers.  At the junction of the Chamberlain Trail and the Old Boney Trail we took a lunch/rest break.  We then followed the Old Boney Trail as it descended to the main fire road in the bottom of Big Sycamore Canyon.  Along the way there was an amazing number of shooting stars.  As we walked the four miles through the canyon to the campground we observed a variety of wildflowers and tall bright green grasses and encountered several easy water crossings.  We reached our shuttle vehicles having completed a gorgeous 12.6-mile hike with 1,400’ of elevation gain and over 3,000’ of elevation loss.

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January 28th – Backbone Trail Part 1: Ray Miller Trailhead to the Big Sycamore Canyon Trailhead Shuttle

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The nearly 70-mile-long Backbone Trail (BBT) winds through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) from the mouth of La Jolla Canyon in Point Mugu State Park to Will Rogers State Historic Park (SHP) in Pacific Palisades.  On its way it crosses three major canyons – Big Sycamore Canyon, Malibu Canyon, and Topanga Canyon.

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It travels along ridgelines that offer spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, the Channel Islands, unique rock formations, deep canyons, and, given a normal rainfall, a dazzling array of wildflowers in season.  It passes through grasslands, valleys, and oak woodlands and crosses seasonal streams.  NOTE: This is the first of eight (8) trip reports that will be filed as we make our way from the west end of the BBT to its east end over the next two-and-a-half months.

On a clear winter morning with a pleasant temperature (but with a “wind advisory”), 18 hikers carpooled to the Big Sycamore Canyon Campground (where we dropped off four shuttle vehicles) and then over to the nearby Ray Miller trailhead in La Jolla Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains, ready to embark on the first of eight Saturday day-hikes which will cover the entire SMMNRA Backbone Trail.  As the Ray Miller trail climbed via gentle switchbacks up to the Overlook Fire Road, it afforded views of several of the Channel Islands and provided some shelter from the strong winds we encountered (which also provided unusually clear views of the area).  As we neared the Overlook Fire Road we were “attacked” by gale-force winds but we persevered.  The mountainside was pleasantly green and a few wildflowers were blooming.  The BBT then followed the fire road to the Wood Canyon Vista Trail (also part of the BBT).  Along the way the hikers were treated to lushly green panoramic views of La Jolla Valley to the west and Boney Mountain, Serrano Valley, and Big Sycamore Canyon to the east.  The trail then descended into Big Sycamore Canyon, passing a small number blooming flowers and blossoming bushes, until we reached the dirt road in the bottom of the canyon as the wind abated.  We took a lunch/rest break at the junction, taking advantage of the availability of drinking water (from a faucet), a picnic table with benches, and a good vantage point from which to watch several bicycle riders go by on their way up and down the canyon.  As we resumed our hike and headed downstream (we actually had to wade across running water twice) toward our shuttle vehicles, we were serenaded by beautiful bright green South American birds in the bare sycamore trees (the birds are not native to the area, but were released or escaped into the wild some years ago).  We eventually arrived at our shuttle vehicles, completing a 9.8-mile one-way hike with 1,100’ of elevation gain, looking forward to hiking the second section of the BBT next week.

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January 14th – Cheeseboro Canyon – Cheeseboro Ridge Loop

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19 hikers (+ one dog) carpooled to the Cheeseboro Canyon trailhead in the Simi Hills on a cool clear winter morning with a forecast of strong winds [fortunately, as is frequently the case with weather forecasting, we only encountered light breezes].  Since our hike was following several days of intermittent rain we anticipated beautiful mountainsides and we weren’t disappointed! 

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We spotted a lone coyote ambling across a grassy open area as we headed north on the Cheeseboro Canyon trail toward Shepherd’s Flat. It was obvious that it had rained as we skirted lots of mud puddles, but we had no trouble avoiding all but a little of the actual mud.  After about three miles of nearly level hiking we reached Sulphur Springs but we could not discern any stench of Sulphur.  From there the trail rose steadily, but with little incline, to Shepherd’s Flat.  So far the scenery had been quite pretty and the day was very pleasant.  After a short break we headed east on the Sheep Corral Trail to its junction with the Cheeseboro Ridge Trail (an Edison Road) which we followed south as it climbed several hundred feet to a nice viewpoint at which we enjoyed a spectacular view of the canyons and mountains to our east/northeast, including snow-covered peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains and the nearby bright green mountainsides.  Continuing on along the ridge trail the beautiful surroundings persisted.  Eventually we followed a connector trail back down into Cheeseboro Canyon and returned to our vehicles completing a 9.8-mile hike with 1,300’ of elevation gain/loss.

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