Rancho Simi Trail Blazers

A Division of the Rancho Simi Foundation


        2016        

December 31st – Las Llajas Trail to the Shovel

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Despite the possibility of rain, seventeen hikers met at the Las Llajas Canyon trailhead on Evening Sky Drive in Simi Valley on a cool last-day-of-the-year morning.  We began our hike under low-hanging cloud cover by descending a short paved section of road into the canyon bottom; from there we followed the wide well-graded dirt road upstream to the north 1.8 miles, crossing the creek three times (there was actually some water at each crossing thanks to recent rain).  We then followed a “use” trail (the remnants of an old mining road) as we climbed up the eastern slope of the mountain atop which we usually have panoramic views of the surrounding area including parts of Chivo Canyon, Las Llajas Canyon, the Santa Susana Mountains, Simi Valley, and the San Fernando Valley.  Eventually we reached our goal, the site of a coquina (a soft whitish limestone formed of broken shells and corals cemented together and used for building) mining operation.  Various mining equipment artifacts are strewn about near the mining site, most notably a 1920 crawler-propelled P&H Model 206 shovel.  Unfortunately, the cloud cover severely limited the usual panoramic views.  After taking a break, we retraced our route and returned to our vehicles having completed a pleasant 6.3-mile hike with 1,100’ of elevation gain/loss.

December 24th – Sage Ranch Loop

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4 hikers arrived at the parking lot in Sage Ranch Park in the Simi Hills on a chilly-but-pleasant early-winter morning under a clear blue sky.  The 625-acre park is located just north of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) (aka Rocketdyne/Boeing) at an elevation of 2,000’.  It is chock-full of world-class sandstone rock formations and has lots of picnic tables shaded by large oak trees.  Shortly after we began our hike, we were rewarded with gorgeous views of Simi Valley and the snow-covered Topa Topa mountains (and others) to the northwest.  Our route was bordered by lots of bright green grass and the foliage glistened with raindrops from the recent much-needed rain.  We took advantage of the opportunity to explore a variety of interesting new-to-us trails that branched off the main loop trail.  After hiking for a while we climbed up on Sandstone Ridge, a long, steep rock formation rising alongside the trail on the west side; it afforded us with excellent views of the once-bustling SSFL (many of the structures have been removed from the property as the cleanup effort continues).  All-too-soon, we completed our invigorating holiday stroll (4.5 miles with 850’ of elevation gain/loss).

December 10th – Tierra Rejada Park Exploratory Hike

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16 hikers met at Stargaze Park in Simi Valley on a chilly, foggy late autumn morning.  After assembling and preparing for very light drizzle, we headed north to the trailhead entrance into Tierra Rejada “Park.”  We immediately noticed some heavy equipment being used to grade a portion of the hillside on the west (uphill) side of the recently restriped asphalt path that is apparently an extension of the bike trail that runs along the Arroyo Simi [the reason for the grading was not evident].  When we reached the eastern end of an Edison Road we headed uphill to the west along it, stopping briefly for a group photo. Visibility was severely limited due to the dense fog but the chilly temperature made our upward climb easier than the usual hot sunny weather we’ve experienced during this hike in the past.  Surprisingly there was lots of bright green grass on the hillsides.  Eventually we headed south and then climbed west along an abandoned ridge road that would usually have afforded 360-degree views of the surrounding area, but the fog was still fairly dense.  After taking a break at our turnaround point on another high ridge to the northwest, we mostly retraced our steps with the notable exception that near the end of the hike we followed an access road adjacent to the Arroyo Simi where we heard the plant-choked stream flowing and actually saw a miniature water cascade at one point.  By the time we reached our vehicles the fog had lifted considerably and we had completed a relatively pleasant 7.7-mile hike with 1,600’ of elevation gain on a rain-free morning.

December 2nd – Christmas Holiday Party Potluck

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Ursula Christie again welcomed us into her beautifully decorated home for our annual potluck holiday party.  A wide variety of foodstuffs accumulated on the tables as a steady stream of “Trail Blazers” arrived to partake in the festivities.  The participants quickly took advantage of the rare opportunity to spend non-hiking time with “old” friends – some of whom they had not seen since last year’s party – as small conversational groups formed and re-formed to trade news of each other’s recent activities and discuss plans for futures activities.  Soon the various culinary delights could no longer be ignored and we began sampling the plentiful delicacies.  As usual, everyone looked even better than usual (hiking gear) in their holiday dress.  After a sit-down dinner (during which it was impossible not to overeat!), we continued hobnobbing before taking our leave with holiday well wishes and promises to see one another soon.  Not surprisingly, we had been unable to devour all of the food that the guests had brought so there were some delightful “leftovers” to take home, such as slices of a delicious chocolate cake.  We are all grateful for this wonderful opportunity to spend time with good friends, especially Ursula, who is truly one-of-a-kind!

November 26th – Tapo Canyon Open Space

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24 hikers met at the trailhead (1,145’) of the Tapo Canyon Open Space Trail (T23) in Simi Valley on a chilly autumn morning to work off some of the “Thanksgiving-calories” we had consumed a couple of days before. We headed northward along the nearly flat dirt road which was bordered with new bright-green grass and numerous oak trees that have so far survived the ongoing drought. After a mile or so the road rose steadily to a narrow pass and a dirt-road junction (1,535’) where we took a break and enjoyed the views of the “valley” before us and the rows of mountainous ridges to the northeast. Resuming our hike, we took the right fork (leaving T23) and began the loop portion of our hike as we followed an unnamed section of dirt road downhill through a pretty oak woodland until we reached its eastern junction (1,276’) with T23. After a short break, we took the left fork and again followed T23 as it rose gently to the west through a large “valley” before rising fairly steeply to the southwest to another dirt road junction (1,620’, the highest point on our hike). We enjoyed the scenery from this viewpoint and then took the left fork and followed T23 back to the narrow pass (completing the loop) and then on down to the original trailhead. We completed our leisurely hike under a clear blue sky with a pleasantly cool temperature having hiked about 4.5 miles with a total elevation gain/loss of about 750’.

November 12th – Ferndell Park to Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Lee

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12 hikers carpooled to the Ferndell area (600’) near the southwest corner of Griffith Park on a pleasant autumn morning.  Our hike began on a well-shaded trail dominated by large oak and sycamore trees, but soon began climbing northward on the busy East Observatory Trail (a dirt fire road), reaching the Griffith Park Observatory (1,131’) in a mile or so.  After a group photo was taken, we continued northward on the busy Charlie Turner Trail through the Berlin Forest and then crossed the Mt. Hollywood Drive tunnel and followed another busy dirt fire road as it wound its way uphill to the Mount Hollywood overlook (1,625’), the highest point in Griffith Park.  The 360-degree view of the surrounding area was clearer than usual.  After taking a break, we headed north and then west (passing near Mt. Bell and Mt. Chapel) via a combination of dirt fire roads and a couple of deserted narrow single-track trails to the top of Mt. Lee (1,680’), just above the famous Hollywood sign.  We returned to our vehicles via Mt. Lee Drive, the Mulholland Trail, the abandoned Mt. Hollywood Drive, and the West Trail, reaching them just as a light rain started.  Happy but tired, we headed home having completed a 9.6-mile hike with 1,850’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice day for hiking.

November 5th – Cloudburst Summit to Buckhorn Campground via Cooper Canyon

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On a lovely autumn morning, ten hikers carpooled to Cloudburst Summit (7,018’) in the San Gabriel Mountains where our one-way hike was to begin.  After positioning a shuttle vehicle at the hike’s end in the Burkhart-Trail-trailhead parking lot at the north end of the Buckhorn Campground, we began hiking northward along the section of the Pacific Crest Trail that descends into Cooper Canyon.  We immediately entered a wonderland of Jeffrey and sugar pine trees (as well as cedar, alder, and oak trees) as we hiked along a trail often covered in pine needles giving off a pleasant pine scent.  At first the trail descended steadily but then it rose along a mountain ridge providing scenic views of the surrounding mountains.  After hiking 2.5 miles we reached the Cooper Canyon Trail Camp (6,300’) which is used by backpackers.  After taking a short break we continued our descent to a junction with the Burkhart Trail (which descends northward all the way to the Devil’s Punchbowl).  We took another break above the nearby Cooper Canyon waterfall (5,656’) but decided not to descend the treacherous “use trail” to the base of the waterfall which was only a trickle of water due to the ongoing drought.  Continuing our hike, we followed the Burkhart Trail up to our shuttle vehicle (6,411’) enjoying the striking incense cedars and the bright-yellow foliage along the way.  We returned to Simi Valley having completed a very pleasant 6-mile hike with 1,000’ of elevation gain and 1,650’ of elevation loss.

October 29th – Simi Peak from King James Court via China Flat

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20 hikers met at a trailhead on Lindero Canyon Road (near King James Court) in Oak Park on a beautiful clear-and-cool autumn morning.  Our hike in the Simi Hills began along a single-track trail, but soon continued along an old dirt-and-rock road as it rose steadily up the south side of the mountain, providing ever-expanding views to the south.  Upon reaching the apex of the old road, we headed north and descended into lovely China Flat with its oak trees and sprawling meadows.  Despite the continuing drought, many of the oak trees displayed bright green leaves and there was even a small amount of green grass (no doubt a result of recent rain in the area).  When the trail “leveled out” in China Flat, we followed a single-track trail westward and climbed to Simi Peak (2,403’), the highest point in the Simi Hills (which occupy the area between Simi Valley and Hwy 101 and between Hwy 23 and the San Fernando Valley), where we were greeted by unusually clear vistas.  We took a rest-and-lunch break atop the peak and enjoyed the panoramic views including the Santa Susana Mountains, the Topa Topa Mountains, the San Gabriel Mountains, Santiago Peak (in Orange County), and three of the Channel Islands.  After a while we returned to our vehicles the way we came, completing a 6.1-mile hike with over 1,500’ of elevation gain/loss on a beautiful day.

October 22nd – Work Party – Wild Animal Corridor – Cache In Trash Out Event

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This was the eighth time the Trail Blazers teamed up with the local geocachers, to clean up the Wildlife Corridor above Corriganville Park. 32 of us removed six bags of garbage and painted over the graffiti at the Corridor.  This year we had a few families and Girl Scouts in attendance too.  It was a clear and cool day, so we enjoyed fine views of Simi Valley from the far eastern side. Many thanks to the RSRPD, for providing all we needed to get the job done. We all had a lot of fun and enjoyed some good conversation. We’ll do it all again next year!

October 15th – Chivo Canyon Loop

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15 hikers met on a mild early-autumn morning in Simi Valley near the mouth of Chivo Canyon in the Marr Ranch Open Space in northeast Simi Valley.  After we “dropped” into Chivo Canyon, we hiked northward along the old Chivo Canyon (dirt) Road to the upper end of lower Chivo Canyon (just south of the Chivo Canyon “Narrows”).  We passed by a large oil seep and crossed a marshy area (with water in it) along the way.  We took a short break and then partially retraced our route to the junction with the Buckhorn Trail (named by Joe Beautz, a local expert on hiking in the area) which we followed as we climbed up to the north-south road (named the “Marr Ranch Road” on Google Earth) atop the eastern ridge overlooking both Chivo Canyon and part of Las Llajas Canyon to the east.  We enjoyed the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and then, while enjoying a cool breeze, we headed south along Marr Ranch Road to its junction (“Four Points”) with the Cappocchi Trail (named by Joe Beautz from spray painting on a nearby water tank) which connects with the Chivo Canyon Road below; we spotted several head of free-range cattle grazing nearby.  However, we continued south along an the Cliff Trail that overlooks and runs parallel to Chivo Canyon; there were breathtaking views straight down into the canyon at times along the way as well as a view of the Las Llajas Canyon dam.  Eventually the trail (an old road) dropped steeply to Cottonwood Drive and we returned a short distance to our vehicles having completed a pleasant 5.8-mile hike with a total elevation gain/loss of nearly 1,300’.

October 8th – The Hummingbird Trail and Rocky Peak

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12 hikers assembled at the inadequate on-street parking area at the north end of Kuehner Drive at the trailhead (1,175’) for the Hummingbird Trail (just outside the gate into Hummingbird Ranch) on what promised to become another very hot day.  The morning was already warm as we began our 2.4-mile eastward climb to the Rocky Peak Fire Road.  The trail passed through (and on) a variety of imposing rock formations along the way including very large boulders and giant slabs of sandstone rock, many with small “caves.”  By the time we had reached the fire road (2,100’) the day had turned hot.  At this point several of the hikers decided to return to the trailhead and did so.  Those of us who continued on followed the road northward along with a variety of bikers and other hikers while enjoying the sweeping views of eastern Simi Valley, the Santa Susana Mountains, and the Simi Hills.  After reaching the customary viewpoint (2,624’) near Rocky Peak (2,715’), we rested briefly while admiring the panoramic views including the hazy outline of Santa Cruz Island.  After taking a short break, we retraced our route and reached the trailhead having completed an 8.2-mile hike with about 1,800’ of elevation gain/loss.  NOTE: By the time we finished the hike the temperature was in the mid-90’s and the heat was intense.

October 1st – Long Canyon, Oak Canyon, Montgomery Canyon, Challenger Park, Coyote Hills Park, Canyon View Trail Loop

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Our two hike leaders arrived early at the very full Long Canyon Parking lot this morning. There wasn’t a single empty parking space to be found, even outside the lot. Two unscheduled track events arrived earlier and filled the entire lot. There was no legal street parking to be found anywhere nearby. After some last-minute brainstorming, we decided to move the meeting place, and the starting trailhead, to Challenger Park and begin our counter-clockwise loop from the opposite end.

Temperatures were running about 10 degrees warmer than forecast, and the air quality was poor. Smoke from the Soberanes Fire to the north, came back inland with the mild ocean breezes, following the recent Santa Ana wind event earlier in the week. The loop didn’t provide many opportunities for much-needed shade. The day proved not to be the best for hiking.

Our hike started with 25 people and one dog. One hiker turned back before the Canyon View Trailhead. The remaining group started up the very steep trail, and after arriving at the top of the ridgeline, enjoying great local views, despite the fact the distant views were obscured by smoke. After arriving at the intersection of Long Canyon Road and the Canyon View Trail, three hikers and the dog headed back to the trailhead, following Long Canyon Road east to Challenger Park. 21 hikers continued on 7/10 of a mile, up the steep Long Canyon Trail, to a trail junction that overlooks a good part of Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks. From there we took a “use” trail connector into Oak Canyon. At intersection of Montgomery Canyon and Oak Canyon, five additional hikers elected to continue on down the hill, and also head back to Challenger Park via Long Canyon Road. 16 hikers continued on up the next hill into Montgomery Canyon, heading to Challenger Park. As before, two more exhausted hikers decided not to tackle the final hill in the Challenger Park, and they too followed Long Canyon Road to the Challenger Park Entrance. 14 remaining intrepid hikers completed the entire 7.5 mile loop, overcoming almost 1,700’ of total elevation gain.

September 24th – Malibu Creek State Park

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The Mt.-Pinos-to-Sheep-Camp hike that was planned for this day was canceled on Thursday evening due to a “Red Flag Warning” issued by the National Weather Service for all of the L.A. and Ventura County mountains; it was replaced with this hike.  7 hikers carpooled to the trailhead in the northwest corner of the park (at the intersection of Cornell Road and Mulholland Hwy).  It was pleasantly chilly as we headed east from the dirt/gravel parking lot and we soon passed the park headquarters facility, formerly part of a ranch owned by Ronald Reagan.  Shortly after starting along the Yearling Trail which passes through a large meadow, we took a right fork onto the Deer Leg Trail which winds through an oak woodland, passing a couple of nicely situated picnic tables and spotting four mule deer including one buck.  Rejoining the Yearling Trail we passed its junction with the Cage Creek Trail and followed the well-shaded Lookout Trail as it climbed to a view point overlooking much of the park.  The trail then descended to Crags Road which we followed eastward to a narrow trail that led down to the Rock Pool Trail.  While we took a break at the beautiful Rock Pool, the not-so-shy “Simi Valley merman” frolicked in the water while a group of about 40 “Trash Free Earth” volunteers looked on in amazement.  We returned to Crags Road, climbed westward, and then descended a short trail to the eastern shore of Century Lake near the dam across Malibu Creek.  From there we followed Crags Road southwestward to the former site of the M*A*S*H television series which is showing signs of ongoing vandalism; we also spotted one deer there.  Returning northeastward we followed the Forest Trail as it led delightfully along the western shore of Century Lake.  Retracing our route we hiked the well-shaded Cage Creek Trail as it climbed to its junction with the Yearling Trail.  The morning had warmed up as we then headed westward and returned to our vehicles, having completed an 8.4-mile hike with 975’ of elevation gain.

September 17th – Edison Fire Road and Runkle Canyon

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The Cloudburst Summit hike that was planned for this day was canceled at 5:30 a.m. due to a “Red Flag Warning” issued by the National Weather Service for the San Gabriel Mountains.  However, six hikers met at the carpool point and decided to hike locally instead.  After carpooling to the Vista Del Arroyo Park on Chicory Leaf Place, we headed east along the Arroyo Simi and then began climbing a north-south ridge along an Edison Road toward the Albertson Motorway which runs east-west atop the Simi Hills.  We soon had views of the nearby mountains and canyons as well as the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin campus to the east and the still-under-construction Runkle Canyon housing development and beyond to the west.  As we climbed higher the Arness Fire Road appeared to the east and several still-remaining structures on the Santa Susana Field Laboratory property [aka Boeing/Rocketdyne] came into view.  Eventually we reached the Albertson Motorway where we were caressed by a nice cool breeze while we enjoyed a rest break in the shade of some large oak trees.  We headed back the way we had come, but decided to take an access path into the Runkle Canyon housing development and followed Sequoia Avenue back to our vehicles.  We completed our 8.1-mile hike with 1,645’ of elevation gain/loss and returned home on a pleasant late-summer morning.

September 10th – Carpinteria Bluffs, Tar Pits Park, and Bates Beach

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21 hikers met in the parking lot at Rincon Park a little south of Carpinteria on a cooler-than-normal late-summer morning.  Our hike began along the Carpinteria Bluffs overlooking Bates Beach and the Pacific Ocean.  The trail ran parallel to the railroad tracks for about a mile and a half and then led through a grove of eucalyptus trees over to the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Preserve which is home to almost 100 adult seals who give birth to their cubs on the Carpinteria shoreline; it’s one of the four harbor seal rookeries remaining along the southern California coast.  Luckily there were dozens of seals lounging in the sanctuary.  We continued on to Tar Pits Park with its naturally occurring asphaltum and then took a break nearby and enjoyed the mild temperature and the ocean and beach views, though the Channel Islands were not visible due to the overcast sky.  We continued northwest along Carpinteria Beach where we spotted the elusive “Simi Valley Merman” taking a dip in the ocean.  We returned to a connector trail and descended to Bates Beach for a leisurely sandy stroll beside the ocean back to the picnic area at Rincon Park.  We returned to Simi Valley, having completed a refreshing 7.2-mile hike with about 220’ of elevation gain/loss.

September 3rd – Arroyo Simi Bike Path Ride: Madera Road to Ralston Street

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It was an unseasonably cool September morning and perfect for a bicycle ride. Several species of water birds were frolicking in the Arroyo today, especially at the western end of the Valley. We saw a Great Blue Heron, more than a dozen egrets, and a multitude of mallards, coots and grebes. Still enduring severe drought conditions, many parts of the Arroyo were dry, but there was sufficient water to support a struggling ecosystem. After arriving back at the trailhead, we completed exactly 16.1 miles, and about 350′ of total elevation gain and loss. The bicycle ride was a great change of pace from our usual hiking schedule.

August 27th – Devil Canyon to Brown’s Canyon Road

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28 hikers met at the starting point of the hike on Poema Place in Chatsworth on an unusually cool, but welcome, summer morning.  Our hike began as we descended into the heavily shaded bottom of Devil Canyon where we followed the remnants of the Devil Canyon Motorway upstream as it frequently crisscrossed the dry creek bed.  We spotted Chalk Live-Forever plants and beautiful “Naked Ladies” (aka. Surprise Lily) as we made our way up to the large dam at the junction with the mouth of Ybarra Canyon.  After a brief rest break we continued upstream along the trail which from this point on had been transformed a couple of years ago from single-track to a “one-lane” dirt road [the reason for this not being apparent though several short dirt “side roads” had also been created].  As the canyon widened we passed by grass-covered hillsides dotted with oak trees.  As we reached the upper-canyon Cathedral-like oak woodland, the trail reverted to its natural undisturbed state.  Upon reaching Brown’s Canyon Road we turned right (east) and hiked a short distance uphill where we took a break and enjoyed views to the south.  We retraced our route back to our vehicles and returned home having completed a very pleasant 9.7-mile hike with about 1,200’ of elevation gain/loss.

August 20th – Johnson Motorway to Chumash Trail Shuttle

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13 hikers carpooled to the trailhead on Iverson Road just outside the gated southern entrance to Indian Springs Estates in Chatsworth on an already warm summer morning. After following the easement through the upscale gated community, we reached the beginning of the unpaved Johnson Motorway (once a toll road). The trail (an old dirt and sandstone roadbed) rose westward until it met a short “driveway” leading north to the ruins of the ranch house that was built by Ann and Neils Johnson (for whom the motorway is named) in the late 1800’s. Continuing our hike we followed the Johnson Motorway as it passed through a landscape of dramatic rock formations, climbing steadily, but not steeply, toward the Rocky Peak Fire Road; the temperature also climbed steadily as the sun beat down on us mercilessly. After 3.5 miles we reached the fire road where we took a short break. We then headed northward along the Rocky Peak Fire Road enjoying views of the boulder-laden landscape at the eastern end of Simi Valley, soon reaching the upper end of the Chumash Trail which we followed down to the northeast end of Flanagan Drive where we left most of our vehicles. Having finished our one-way hike, we returned home having completed a 6.9-mile hike with 1,334’ of elevation gain and 1,499’ of elevation loss.

August 13th  –  Newton Canyon and the Backbone Trail

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Twelve hikers, met at the Donut Delite parking lot and carpooled to the Newton Canyon Trailhead, where we met one more hiker from Thousand Oaks. The Newton Canyon trail follows a segment of the Backbone Trail, known for its extensive riparian canopy. It is the shade, provided by this canopy, that makes this hike a good choice in the hot Summer months. A quick spot check with NOAA weather indicated that the forecast trailhead temperature, near the end our our hike, would be about 90 degrees. Humidity was high today, so the comfort window was short. As it turned out, NOAA’s forecast was almost spot on.  There were no wildflowers in evidence, except a smattering of Cliff Asters, Wand Chicory, and Cudweed Aster. The car’s AC felt especially good, having completed 7 miles, and a bit more than 1,500′ of total elevation gain.

August 6th     –     Mt. Baldy, Ski Lift, Devil’s Backbone, Ski Hut Loop

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Six hikers carpooled to the Mt. Baldy (Mt. San Antonio) Ski Lift parking lot (6,447′) at the north end of Mt. Baldy Road on a pleasant summer morning to hike to Mt. Baldy peak (10,064′), the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains. After riding the lower ski lift up to Baldy Notch (7,802′), we set out on the 3.6-mile climb to the peak. Initially the trail followed a fire road/ski run heading up the mountain to the west for about 1.25 miles, eventually leading to the well-named Devil’s Backbone portion of the trail. This middle portion of the trail led onto a sharp narrow ridge with steep drop-offs on both sides posing a serious danger to careless hikers, but affording great views into the deep gorge of Lytle Creek to the north and into San Antonio Canyon to the south. The trail then narrowed to a pulse-raising 12″ – 18″ width as it wound around the southeast flank of Mt. Harwood, again requiring a keen focus on the trail. Eventually, Mt. Baldy peak came into view in the distance. After crossing a saddle, we began climbing the steep trail to the top of the mountain, pausing as needed to catch our breath. Finally we reached the top of Mt. Baldy and were rewarded with a 360-degree view. After resting, eating our lunches, and enjoying the view we descended the unsigned, steep/rocky/slippery Baldy Bowl Trail to the Sierra Club Ski Hut and enjoyed its beautiful setting. Continuing our descent we eventually reached pretty San Antonio Falls. After retrieving our shuttle vehicle we returned to Simi Valley, tired but happy, having completed a strenuous 8.4 mile hike with 2,695′ of elevation gain and 4,237′ of elevation loss.

July 30th     –     East Canyon to Mission Point

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9 hikers met in Simi Valley and then carpooled to the “East Canyon, Rice Canyon, and Michael D. Antonovich Open Space” section of the 4,000-acre Santa Clarita Woodlands Park via I5 and “The Old Road” in Santa Clarita. It was already a warm morning as we began hiking southward along the non-maintained and somewhat-eroded East Canyon Motorway as it followed the dry streambed in the canyon bottom. The route was lined with bay laurel, black walnut, cottonwood, sycamore, and oak trees. Soon the dirt road began rising more steeply along the western side of a wooded ridge that provided us with views of the steep slopes to the west and relics of the bigcone Douglas-fir trees that once covered the mountain. An intermittent breeze and occasional shade cooled us as the road led us upward to a junction with Bridge Road (and the Oat Mountain Motorway) which is blocked by a SoCal Gas fence and gate. Having reached the highest point in our hike, we headed southeast along the pleasant Corral Sunshine Motorway to Mission Point which usually provides a panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley and beyond. However, on this day visibility was severely limited as a result of the Sand (Canyon) Fire and the air quality was poor. After resting, we retraced our route to the trailhead and returned home having completed a 9.3 mile hike with about 1,750′ of elevation gain/loss on a hot day with temperatures into the high 90’s.

July 23rd     –     Danielson Memorial via the Wendy Trail and Satwiwa

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9 hikers assembled at the Wendy Trail trailhead on Potrero Road at the south end of Wendy Drive in Newbury Park (which borders the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area) on an already warm morning on a day that was forecast to be “a scorcher.” Our hike began by following the Wendy Trail to the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center at Rancho Sierra Vista and then heading diagonally southeast across the adjacent grassland to the Danielson Road leading to the Danielson Memorial. The trail (dirt road) climbed for a while before dropping into Upper Sycamore Canyon and crossing its dry streambed where we briefly enjoyed some welcome shade. After taking a short break we continued upward on the dirt road and followed it as it rose up Old Boney Mountain via a series of switchbacks which soon provided us with sweeping views of the northern portion of Big Sycamore Canyon and its surrounds. A few blooming wildflowers were in evidence, especially cliff asters, and we spotted a Mountain King Snake. Eventually we reached the tree-shaded Danielson Memorial and the ruins of the nearby Danielson Cabin (only a chimney remains). After a pleasant lunch/rest break in this beautiful spot, we began returning along the Danielson Road. By this time the scorching temperatures had arrived and the sun beat down on us mercilessly as we plodded back to the parking area. Reaching our vehicles, we completed a strenuous (due to the heat) 6.7-mile hike with 1,321′ of elevation gain/loss.

July 16th     –     Mt. Waterman Loop

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On a day when the temperature in Simi Valley was forecast to reach the 90’s, five hikers carpooled past Cloudburst Summit to the parking lot adjacent to the Buckhorn Day Use Area at mile marker 58.02 along the Angeles Crest Highway (ACH) in the San Gabriel Mountains [Angeles National Forest] in an effort to “beat the heat.” The trailhead temperature was in the 70’s as we crossed the ACH and began hiking. The trail entered a cool shady pine-scented forest as it climbed steadily, but not steeply, up Mt. Waterman. After about three miles of very pleasant hiking (including cool breezes) with stunning views of mountains and canyons, we reached the shady summit of Mt. Waterman where we climbed on some of the rock formations and rested before continuing our clockwise loop hike. We soon reached a brand-new sign that pointed us to the upper end of Waterman ski lift #1 and then on down the mountain via the wide well-maintained dirt road used by authorized vehicles; the road was bordered by the pine forest so visibility was quite limited on the way down and we were exposed to the sun for most of this section of our hike. After reaching the ACH we retrieved our vehicle and headed home having completed a pleasant 6.7-mile hike with 1,470′ of elevation gain/loss.

July 9th     –     Westward Beach to Point Dume to Paradise Cove

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6 hikers carpooled to Malibu and Westward Beach Road where we took advantage of limited free parking along the road and then hiked to the parking lot trailhead. The temperature was pleasant but there was fairly high humidity as we began hiking up onto Point Dume. After an easy climb, we hiked over to a platform overlooking the ocean and viewed a nearby seal rookery; we then backtracked and followed a trail and a rusty stairway as they led down to Dume Beach. The tide was “out” as we leisurely walked along a short stretch of rocks and then sandy beach for two miles, enjoying the ocean sounds and sights, eventually arriving at the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe, a landmark for decades. We rested for a while in the free-of-charge Adirondack chairs facing the ocean outside the restaurant; there were lots of beachgoers enjoying the day. Access to the nearby pier has been restored and there was a brief appearance by our resident merman but it was cut short because much of the sandy beach has been destroyed by nature over the past year leaving a rocky bottom a few feet offshore. After a while we resumed our hike and headed back along the beach the way we had come; the tide was now “coming in” but it was still possible to avoid getting our boots wet. After climbing back onto Point Dume, we hiked to a higher observation platform which afforded views of the ocean and the surrounding land. We returned to the main trail and descended to the parking lot where we spotted three dolphins playing in the water. Agreeing that the outing was a nice change of pace, we then headed home having completed an easy 5-mile hike [plus a mile each way to/from where we parked] with about 400′ of elevation gain.

July 2nd     –     Mt. McCoy to the Reagan Library

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23 hikers (and one dog) met at the carpool point near the intersection of Royal Avenue and Madera Road on a cool summer morning and then (since trailhead parking is quite limited) walked from there to the Mt. McCoy trailhead on Washburn Street a few blocks to the west. The hike began along the trail heading south but it quickly began climbing gradually westward along the well-maintained (but frequently “cut” by bicycle riders) trail leading to the summit via a series of switchbacks. As the trail rose up the mountainside, we were rewarded with views of the western end of Simi Valley, including Sinaloa Lake, Wood Ranch, and the Bard Reservoir. There is a white concrete cross (erected in 1941) as well as two concrete benches at the summit, from which the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library can be seen. After a short break to enjoy the panoramic view of the desiccated landscape, we hiked southwest to Presidential Drive and then hiked along it to the west side of the library where President Reagan was buried in 2004 (and Nancy Reagan in 2016). The setting of the library is quite beautiful. We sat in the shade on the patio and enjoyed a cool breeze for a while. Eventually we returned the way we came completing a 6 mile hike with 900′ of elevation gain/loss.

June 25th     –     Wildwood Park Loop

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10 hikers arrived in the main parking lot in Wildwood Park at the west end of Avenida de los Arboles in Thousand Oaks on a cool foggy morning. After taking a group photo, we headed west on the Mesa Trail were soon greeted by a seemingly unending string of runners coming toward us; they were participants in a 10K run scheduled for that morning. As a result we avoided the Stagecoach Bluffs Trail and took a trail north of the runners’ route to Lizard Rock by which time the fog had lifted though there was still a nice breeze. We then hiked down into Wildwood Canyon and followed its shady trail to a large shady picnic area where we took a rest/snack/bathroom break and then headed on to Paradise Falls which was quite crowded but still had water. Continuing on upstream we spotted over 20 mallard ducks in Wildwood Creek. Eventually we reached the shady Indian Creek Trail and followed it as it climbed upward, passing a nice display of blooming Chalk Live Forever plants. We followed a short connector trail back to the main parking lot and headed home having completed an enjoyable 5 mile hike with about 865′ of elevation gain/loss – and we “beat the heat”!

June 11th     –     Matilija Falls

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Thirteen hikers met at the trailhead at the west end of Matilija Road a few miles northwest of Ojai on a pleasant late-spring morning. The hike began along a road that headed west through the private Matilija Canyon Ranch Wildlife Refuge where we passed by a large cage housing several peacocks. The stream crossing at the 0.4-mile mark was easy since there was no water in the creek at that point. After a little over a mile our route crossed through a lovely private ranch via a dirt road that hikers are restricted to; several of us spotted a grazing doe. At about the 2-mile mark the dirt road became a narrow trail as it wound through a shady poison-oak-paradise stretch. In fact, since the route closely followed Matilija Creek the rest of the way, poison oak was frequently present [long pants and a long-sleeved shirt are recommended]. After a while we stopped by the flowing stream at a particularly lovely spot and took a short break (and some photos). Continuing upstream the maintained trail ended and we began to scramble and boulder hop, frequently finding short open stretches of trail. Occasionally we were required to cross the stream in order to continue. We were rewarded for our effort by beautiful scenery including the flowing creek, several large pools of water, vast expanses of sedimentary rock layers, an extensive riparian oak woodland, towering canyon walls, and many wildflowers including Matilija poppies. At about the 4.5-mile mark we reached a cascade with a beautiful shaded campsite just above it. We took a rest-and-lunch break in this idyllic location. Continuing on upstream we soon reached the fabled waterfall(s) which were unfortunately completely dry and rested briefly. The scrambling and boulder-hopping going downstream seemed considerably easier than going upstream and the scenery was just as beautiful. When we reached a large deep pool of water we spotted the rarely seen “Matilija Merman” frolicking in the water. After we made it back to our vehicles we returned home having completed a strenuous 10.25 mile hike with around 1,250′ of elevation gain/loss.

May 28th     –     Hondo Canyon to Topanga Lookout

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Ten hikers arrived on a cool overcast morning at the trailhead located 0.4 mile northwest of “downtown” Topanga along Old Topanga Canyon Road where the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s “Backbone Trail” crosses the road. As we began our hike up the steep north-facing mountain slope we crossed a dry streambed and soon passed through pretty meadows filled with dry yellow grasses and dotted with oak trees and interesting rock formations. Next we reached a wonderful pink gorge on the right (west) side of the trail where a small waterfall is sometimes visible (but not today). As we continued upward through chaparral, there were glimpses of the pink-colored sedimentary rock formations/cliffs (the Sespe Formation) that form the west side of the canyon. We then entered a dense forest comprised mostly of oak and bay laurel trees; the trail was also adorned with ferns, moss-covered rocks, and lots of very healthy poison oak. After negotiating a long series of heavily shaded switchbacks through the forest we neared Saddle Peak Road. However, we headed west on a lovely trail that paralleled the road; it was adorned with a variety of blooming wildflowers. Upon reaching the old Topanga Tower Motorway we left the Backbone Trail and headed north to the end of the road where there was once a fire lookout tower. After a lunch/rest break we retraced our steps and returned home having completed a 10.9-mile hike with 2,350′ of elevation

May 14th     –     Triunfo Lookout, Canyon View Trail, Grotto Trail

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13 hikers carpooled to the day-use-parking area (1,631′) below the Circle X Ranger Station on Yerba Buena Road in the Santa Monica Mountains and dropped off a shuttle vehicle; we then carpooled to the Sandstone Peak Trail parking lot (2,066′) on Yerba Buena Road near Triunfo Pass (2,100′) in the Santa Monica Mountains on a cool overcast spring morning. We began PART ONE one of our two-part hike downhill on the Canyon View Trail which lived up to its name and there were many wildflowers along the trail. After hiking 1.5 miles we reached the junction with the Grotto Trail as it headed downstream for about a mile along the West Fork of the Arroyo Sequit, enjoying the canyon views including stunning rock formations and a variety of beautiful wildflowers. After climbing carefully over some large boulders filling the streambed we reached The Grotto (1,215′) where some water was pooled but there was no waterfall due to the continuing drought. We took a lunch/rest break and then followed the Grotto Trail up to our shuttle vehicle which we used to retrieve our other vehicles. We then carpooled a few miles north/northeast to the dirt parking area along Yerba Buena Road where we began PART TWO of our hike. We started hiking along the dirt Yellow Hill Fire Road; soon the path was bordered by a stunning seemingly never-ending display of blooming sticky monkey flower. Reaching a fork in the trail we turned left and followed the abandoned access road up to the ruins of the Triunfo Lookout (2,658′) from which there were breathtaking views in all directions, though the view over the ocean was obscured. We returned to the Yellow Hill Fire Road and followed it a short distance down to the SMMRA Backbone Trail which we followed eastward to a short unmarked connector trail which led us back to our vehicles. We then returned home having completed a 6.5 mile hike with about 1,300′ of elevation gain/loss.

 

May 8th     –     Fish Canyon Narrows

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Despite forecasts of possible rain and thunderstorms, 15 hikers braved the elements for this unique hike. Fortunately the only rain we encountered fell as we were driving to the starting point of our hike at the gate at the east “end” of Templin Highway north of Castaic Lake. It was a cloudy day with pleasant temperatures during the entire hike. We began by descending northeast along the closed paved road to a concrete bridge at the mouth of Cienega Canyon [which is quite overgrown]. 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 variety of beautiful blooming wildflowers; after several paved creek crossings we reached the abandoned Cienega Campground (nearly three miles from our starting point). 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 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 returned home having completed an 11 mile hike with 1,000′ of elevation gain/loss, a hike described in 2009 by Los Angeles Magazine as the best hike in Los Angeles!

April 30th     –     Towsley Canyon

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11 hikers (plus one dog) met at the “Ed Davis Park at Towsley Canyon” section of the 4,000-acre Santa Clarita Woodlands Park on a pleasant spring morning. We began hiking along a dirt road toward the Sonia Thompson Nature Center, crossing Towsley Creek on a concrete bridge. Soon we began a counterclockwise hike on the Towsley View Loop Trail. After passing through The Narrows section of Towsley Gorge, the trail began rising via switchbacks along the shaded eastern slope of the canyon. The verdant north-facing slopes of the Santa Susana Mountains rose steeply to the south. The single-track trail passed through sage scrub, stands of California walnut and bay laurel trees, and scattered oak trees as we made our way to the 2,450′ high point on the trail from which much of the Santa Clarita Valley could be seen. The hillsides were adorned by many blooming wildflowers which begged to be photographed. The trail then began dropping into shady Wiley Canyon which we followed downstream to a junction with the Canyon View Loop Trail which rose along the northern flank of the mountain before descending to the Sonia Thompson Nature Center. After a brief respite we were led on our first hike along a portion of the new Elder Loop Trail in the nearby Rivendale Park and Open Space which led us back to our vehicles. We returned home having completed a very pleasant 7.5 mile hike with over 1,600′ of elevation gain/loss.

April 24th     –     Horn Canyon to Pines Trail Camp

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13 hikers met at the Horn Canyon trailhead adjacent to the Thacher School a few miles east of downtown Ojai on a nice spring morning. As our hike began, the trail rose gradually upward to the north along a dirt road flanked by wildflowers. The route soon became a shady trail that followed a pleasant creek (with water in it!) as it continued up toward the Nordhoff Ridge; there was an amazing array of lovely wildflowers adorning the path. After several easy stream crossings, the trail began to rise inexorably via switchbacks toward our destination and we were rewarded with great views of the Ojai Valley and onward to the ocean and Santa Cruz Island plus a view of a slice of Lake Casitas – and more beautiful wildflowers! Eventually we reached the Pines Trail Camp which provided cool breezes and some shade although most of the pine trees have been cut down or are dead but still standing [camping is no longer permitted in this campground]. After resting and eating lunch we returned the way we came, again admiring the beauty of the trail. We reached our vehicles and returned home having completed a somewhat demanding 5.5-mile hike with 1,845′ of elevation gain/loss, planning to return again next year.

April 9th     –     Canyon View Trail, Grotto Trail, and Circle X Ranch

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3 hikers traveled to the Sandstone Peak Trail trailhead parking lot (2,066′) on Yerba Buena Road near Triunfo Pass (2,100′) in the Santa Monica Mountains on an overcast spring morning with a forecast of rain. There were a handful of vehicles in the parking lot, but no other outdoor enthusiasts were visible. Local visibility was good as we began hiking down the Canyon View Trail toward the ocean. The foliage glistened with water droplets from the overnight rain, but the trail footing was good. The canyon/mountain views were emerald green and the trail was bordered with lots of blooming wildflowers. Upon reaching the junction with the Grotto Trail, we followed it as it headed downstream along the West Fork of the Arroyo Sequit, enjoying the canyon views including stunning rock formations and more wildflowers. Eventually reaching The Grotto (1,215′), we decided not to climb over the wet and slippery giant boulders that blocked further exploration. As we began to retrace our route upstream, the promised rain began to fall, but we were prepared for it and enjoyed the rare opportunity to hike in it, especially in such a beautiful area. When we reached the junction with the Canyon View Trail, we decided to take the left fork and hike up to the Circle X Ranch ranger station and then uphill along Yerba Buena Road to our parked vehicle. We encountered no other hikers during our hike and only three vehicles along Yerba Buena Road. After leaving our wet outer garments/packs in the trunk of the car, we returned to Simi Valley having completed a 4.8-mile hike with about 900′ of elevation gain/loss.

April 2nd     –     Nordhoff Peak Lookout Tower via the Pratt Trail

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12 hikers met at the Pratt Trail trailhead near the north end of Signal Street in Ojai (just northwest of the Stewart Canyon Debris Basin) on a pleasant spring morning. As our hike began, the trail rose through a shady woodland with a smattering of wildflowers and lots of wild cucumber plants. After a mile the trail reached a plateau above the canyon with great views of the Ojai Valley. Eventually we reached a junction with the Cozy Dell Road where we encountered a group of yoga practitioners who were enjoying the nice day. The Pratt Trail then continued unrelentingly upward toward Nordhoff Peak, providing increasingly scenic views all the way to Lake Casitas and the Channel Islands. Wildflowers continued to adorn the trail and there was a surprising abundance of shade which helped us endure the rising temperature. Around noon several members of our group reached Nordhoff Ridge Road where we could see the lookout tower a mile to the east. A temporary physical ailment experienced by a member of our group caused us to return slowly to our vehicles. We then returned home having completed a hike of over 10 miles with an elevation gain/loss of over 3,000′.

Mojave National Preserve

March 19th     –     Kelso Dunes

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March 18th     –     Kelso Depot, Cinder Cone Lava Beds, and Lava Tube

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March 17th     –     Barber Peak Loop Trail

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The Barber Loop Trail circumnavigates Barber Peak, which is a prominent peak west of Hole in the Wall Campground. The trail passes the Opaline Cliffs to the northwest, and returns to the Hole-in-the-Wall area via Banshee Canyon. The loop was another opportunity to enjoy the concentration of geologic formations. Desert flowers were in bloom and plentiful. We had a special opportunity to see a male Chuckwalla enjoying the morning sun. Five of us completed the 6.9 mile, 800′ elevation gain loop.

Two hikers opted to hike New York Peak. Despite a good hike description from a book, and some coaching from a local Ranger, they were unable to find the route. The were treated to a private tour of the nearby Rock House, adjacent the Rock Spring Loop Trail. The Rock House is full of history:

“While fighting in Europe during World War I, Bert Smith was exposed to poison gasses used during that war. Returning to the U.S. with scarred lungs, Bert eventually moved to the Mojave Desert in the late 1920s. When Bert built his Rock House and started living here in 1929, it was a desperate attempt to regain his health. Although he expected to survive only a short time, he lived here until 1954 – 25 years!”

March 16th     –     Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Loop Trail

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The plan was to arrive at the Black Canyon Equestrian & Group Campground mid to late afternoon, set up up tents/RVs, and then hike the nearby Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Loop Trail. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Les’ Jeep broke down just east of Barstow, so sadly Les and Gary were unable to attend the event.

The Hole in the Wall area is a geologic wonder. From the USGS website: “About 18.5 million years ago, a powerful volcanic eruption blasted outward from the nearby Woods Mountains. Propelled by the force of rapidly rising and expanding gasses, a ground-hugging cloud of ash and rock fragments spread out at near super-sonic speeds across the countryside. Some of the rocks thrown out by the blast are 14-20 meters (60 feet) across – the largest ever documented! An area of over 600 km was covered with ash and rock fragments so hot that they welded together after they reached the ground. Almost instantly, hot, suffocating ash buried every living thing in the path of the blast. Whatever birds, mammals, and plants once flourished in Mojave Preserve at that time now lie entombed beneath the volcanic tuff that forms the colorful cliffs of Hole in the Wall.”

Six hikers completed the 2 mile, 200′ elevation loop and then headed back to the campground. The campground was spacious, quiet, isolated and clean. It was designed to support 50 people. Seven of us had the whole place to ourselves. Even the pit toilets didn’t smell. We all turned in early in anticipation of our adventures the next morning.

March 12th     –     Conejo Mountain

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15 hikers assembled at the signed “Powerline Trail” trailhead on Via Ricardo in Newbury Park on a lovely spring-like morning – the sky was a clear blue with a few puffy white clouds, the temperature was perfect for hiking up a mountain, and there was a wide variety of blooming wildflowers on the mountainside. The trail began gently enough and soon afforded us with views of Old Boney Mountain to the east. As we reached the Edison Road we had a brief view of Camarillo and beyond to the west. We followed the Edison Road through a landscape littered with volcanic detritus to a spur road that led up to a pair of power transmission towers at which point we regrouped and followed a “use” trail which led steeply up the eastern flank of Conejo Mountain. We were in luck since the previous day’s rain had softened the dirt on the steepest section of the trail (which improved traction), but had not made it muddy. Once we summited the eastern portion of the mountain, we could see our destination: the highest point on the mountain which is “marked” by a small man-made rock cairn. We followed the “use” trail across the rock-strewn landscape to the “peak” of Conejo Mountain where we enjoyed 360-degree views of both near and distant mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and parts of several cities. We retraced our route to Via Ricardo and returned home having completed a very pleasant 5.5-mile hike with 1,600′ of elevation gain/loss on a beautiful day.

February 28th     –     Slide Mountain Fire Lookout from Frenchman’s Flat

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6 hikers met at the carpool point on a pleasant late-winter morning. Upon reaching Frenchman’s Flat (2,068′), the starting point of our hike, we were greeted by 7 additional hikers (and two dogs) who joined us for the hike. We began our hike by walking 1.6 miles northward along a nearly flat, all-but-abandoned section of Old Highway 99 (aka Golden State Highway) toward the Pyramid Lake dam. We were greeted by a fierce 20-mph wind blowing directly at us. The old road crossed Piru Creek on a bridge where we heard and saw the small stream flowing in a pretty wooded riparian area. Soon we reached the entrance (2,210′) to Forest Service Road/trail 18W04 which leads up Slide Mountain. The wind abated as we hiked along the steadily rising well-maintained dirt road to a small parking area known as Kermit’s Corner where the “lookout” had parked his truck. At this point FSR 18W04 became a single-track trail since it is no longer being maintained to the top of the mountain. As we continued upward we enjoyed great views of the surrounding area, particularly of Pyramid Lake to the north, and then of the seemingly endless rows of rugged mountainous ridges to the southwest. Eventually we reached our destination, the Slide Mountain Lookout Tower (4,631′) built in 1969; it is now “manned” by volunteers during the “fire season” and is the only remaining active fire lookout in the Angeles National Forest. Saturday’s volunteer, Kevin LaSota, kindly greeted us, shared some history about the lookout, and hosted us for a very interesting tour inside the lookout tower from which there are truly spectacular 360-degree views including Mt. Pinos, Frazier Mountain, Hungry Valley, Pyramid Lake, Santa Clarita, the San Gabriel Mountains, Lake Piru, the Sespe Wilderness, the Santa Clara River Valley, and the Santa Susana Mountains. We retraced our route to Frenchman’s Flat and returned home having completed a pleasant 11.5-mile hike with nearly 3,000′ of elevation gain/loss on a nice day with good visibility.

February 13th     –     Santa Paula Peak

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14 hikers carpooled to the entrance to a private ranch along Highway 126 a few miles west of Fillmore on a cool morning. After passing through a locked gate, we drove north several miles on paved and deeply rutted dirt roads to a parking area at the beginning of the route leading up to Santa Paula Peak (access to this trailhead is by permission/invitation only). After taking group photos, our strenuous hike began easily enough along a dirt road that passed through a beautiful oak woodland with lots of bright green grass. Soon we reached a hard-to-spot junction with the narrow, sloping, neglected trail (USFS 20W16) leading up the mountain. As we climbed steeply upward through chaparral and scrub, we were soon rewarded with great views of Santa Paula Peak (4,957′), nearby mountains, and pretty green mountainsides. The trail on the eastern flank of the mountain rose unrelentingly via switchbacks and provided ever-improving views of the surrounding area including the Santa Clara River Valley. We eventually reached the easy-to-miss spur trail leading to the peak; it presented a triple-threat challenge: it was narrow, steep, and contained a lengthy field of rocks that required extra caution to cross (and some of the needle-sharp yucca plants couldn’t be missed entirely!). However, once we arrived at the peak the 360 degree panoramic views were spectacular, including the San Gabriel Mountains, the Peninsular Ranges, two of the Channel Islands, the Topatopa Mountains, Santa Clarita, and Ojai. We returned to our vehicles the way we came having completed an 8.2-mile hike with 2,827′ of elevation gain/loss on a warm day, grateful for the opportunity to summit a little-visited peak that once hosted a fire lookout tower.

February 6th     –     Franklin Trail to the Los Padres National Forest Boundary

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9 hikers carpooled to Carpinteria on a mild winter morning where we were met by two additional hikers. Our hike began near the Carpinteria High School as the trail began climbing through agricultural property (mostly avacados), dense chaparral, and rock outcroppings. We were soon rewarded with expansive views of the ocean/coastline, the valley floor, a salt marsh, and three of the Channel Islands including Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Santa Rosa Island (vaguely). At the top of the Horton Ranch the single-track trail met the dirt Edison Road which we followed from then on. After stopping briefly at Frank’s Bench, we continued upward, passing through several oak woodlands with bright green grass, ferns, and a few wildflowers. Soon there were excellent views of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north and we were treated to a gentle ocean breeze during the remainder of the hike. We turned back near the boundary of the Los Padres National Forest after hiking a little over 5 miles. Eventually the restored Franklin Trail will again reach East Camino Cielo (aka Divide Peak OHV Road) and will join the Alder Creek Trail which leads down to Jameson Lake/Reservoir to the north. We returned to our vehicles having completed a 10.5-mile hike with nearly 2,400′ of elevation gain/loss.

January 30th     –     Oak Flat Trail to Whitaker Peak to Old Highway 99

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10 hikers met at the carpool point on a cool overcast morning. Since it was to be a one-way hike, we took three vehicles to the hike’s end-point at the east (lower) end of Whitaker Peak Road (6N53). After dropping off one vehicle there, we carpooled to the hike’s starting point in a large dirt parking area just outside the Verdugo Oaks boy-scout camp (2,831′) where we were met by three additional hikers who live in the area. 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. We followed the Whitaker Ridge Road southeastward down to its junction with Whitaker Peak Road which we then followed southwestward up to its end (4,119′), enjoying “ever-widening vistas of fault-tortured canyon country” and a growing “ocean” of low-lying white clouds which blocked a view of Lake Piru to the south. After a rest stop, we returned down Whitaker Peak Road all the way to Old Hwy 99 [aka Golden State Hiway] where our shuttle vehicle awaited. After retrieving our remaining vehicles we returned home having completed a pleasant 9.7-mile hike with 1,900′ of elevation gain and 1,785′ of elevation loss on another cool crisp winter morning.

January 23rd     –     Sunset Hills Open Space to Oakbrook Regional Park Hike (Shuttle)

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20 hikers met at the carpool point on a cool overcast morning. Since it was to be a one-way hike, we took eight vehicles to the hike’s end-point at the northwest end of Falling Star Avenue in Oak Park. After dropping off four vehicles there, we carpooled to the hike’s starting point in a dirt parking lot along Erbes Road. After the obligatory group photo was taken, we hiked up to a fine overlook of the Bard Reservoir in Simi Valley. As we then followed a trail eastward along the north side of the gated community in Sunset Hills there was enough very light rain to warrant donning rain jackets. Next we headed south into the Lang Ranch Open Space where we experienced a bit of route-finding confusion which was soon resolved as we followed the Autumn Ridge Trail to Lang Ranch Parkway where a neighborhood park provided a convenient rest stop. Our hike continued as we climbed steeply up the Oakbrook Vista Trail to a high peak which provided a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding areas. We then followed the Hidden Meadows Trail to Falling Star Avenue. We retrieved our other vehicles and returned home having completed a pleasant 7.5-mile hike with 1,500′ of elevation gain on a cool crisp winter morning.

January 9th     –     Mugu State Park – Hidden Pond Trail Lollipop Loop

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7 hikers carpooled to the main parking lot at the Rancho Sierra Vista site in Point Mugu State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) on a chilly overcast winter morning. Our hike began as we hiked past the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center and descended southward down a paved road into Big Sycamore Canyon. When we reached the bottom of the hill and the paved road became a dirt road, we turned right (west) onto the Hidden Pond Trail and followed it nearly three miles as it rose and fell on its way to Hidden Pond (which held no water) enjoying “backcountry” views along the way, including a flock of bright-green South American parrots. Our hike continued southward along the 2.2 mile Coyote Trail as we climbed along a ridge that provided excellent canyon and mountain views of the surrounding area. When we reached the Two Foxes Trail we stopped for a lunch/rest break. We then headed northward along the Two Foxes Trail and the Sin Nombre Trail (with its pleasant oak woodland) to a section of the Hidden Pond Trail and retraced the first part of our hike back to our vehicles, thus completing a 12.1 mile hike with about 2,400′ of elevation gain/loss on what turned out to be a good day for hiking.

January 2nd     –     Charmlee Natural Area Loop

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12 Trail Blazers met at Donut Delite, and carpooled to the Charmlee Natural Area parking lot, where we met 3 more hikers. It was a cool and mildly overcast morning and the light was especially good for taking scenic pictures. As we climbed to several good lookout points along the trail, we could see Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands in the distance. In 1950, Leon and Charmian Schwartz bought the Park, hoping to build a golf course on the property. The name “Charmlee” is a combination of the first parts of their first names. We visited the remains of the only permanent structure in the Park, an A-frame ranch house, which burned to the ground in 1978. There’s something special about Charmlee that is difficult to express. Hiking its beautiful wooded canyons, experiencing the many colors of the eroding sandstone rocks, and of course taking in the expansive views, all contribute to this peaceful and tranquil place. Our leisurely hike was enjoyed by everyone. Total distance was 4 miles, with about 625′ of elevation gain and loss.