December 30th – Tapo Canyon Open Space Trail

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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 early winter morning to work off some of the “Christmas-calories” we had consumed a few days before.  We headed northward along the nearly flat dirt road which was bordered by numerous oak trees with bright green leaves that have so far survived ongoing drought conditions. 

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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 the main route of T23) and began the loop portion of our hike as we followed a [confusingly also named T23] section of dirt road downhill through a pretty oak woodland until we reached its eastern junction (1,276’) with the main T23 route.  After a short break, we took the left fork and again followed the main T23 route 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 hiked on down (along T23) 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’.

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December 23rd – Sage Ranch Loop

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After successfully navigating Black Canyon Road, 7 hikers (plus Heidi, our canine mascot) arrived at the lower parking lot in Sage Ranch Park in the Simi Hills on a pleasant early winter morning.  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. 

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Shortly after we began our counterclockwise loop hike, we were rewarded with sweeping views of Simi Valley and the mountains to the north when we followed several “use” trails out-and-back to the north.  Soon after we returned to the loop trail, an eighth hiker joined us.  After hiking for a while, we reached a “use” trail and climbed up on Sandstone Ridge, a long, steep rock formation rising alongside the trail on the west side of the park; 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).  As we resumed our hike southward on the loop trail we spotted two coyotes atop a huge boulder to the east; one of them quickly vanished from our sight but the other one stared at us for a while (perhaps posing for a photo!).  Soon after the trail turned eastward we reached a new “detour” section of trail and a temporary “fence” blocking a section of the original loop trail.  The temporary blockage has been caused by a cleanup of the former trap and skeet range in the park.  We eagerly turned onto the “detour” trail which led us northward through the center of the ranch, thus providing us with views of a heretofore unseen section of the park.  Part way along the “detour” section we took a “use” trail eastward up to an overlook down into an otherwise hidden canyon with interesting rock formations and heavy foliage.  We completed our relatively short, but quite scenic, stroll around and through the park having hiked about 3.5 miles with 750’ of elevation gain/loss.

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December 16th – Chivo Canyon Work Party

With 10 to 12 volunteers from our local Boy Scout troop 698 on hand, and another 4 from the Trail Blazers, we arrived at the trailhead and quickly realized how bad the air quality this morning. We thought that with the Red Flag warning discontinued for a few hours, we might be able to hold our event, but the air was still bad, the winds still strong, and not a good time to subject everyone to harmful air from the fires. So, we called off the event and plan reschedule on Jan 20th, 2018. We hope the Boy Scouts will be able to return at this later date, because having the younger ones of our community helping out would be a nice start to the New Year.

December 8th – Christmas Holiday Party Potluck

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Red flag warnings and unhealthy air make it very difficult to hike, but all that was quickly forgotten last evening.  Ursula again graciously opened up her beautiful home and hosted our annual Christmas Holiday. We all enjoyed the wide variety of scrumptious food, and great conversation. 20 Trail Blazers were in attendance. A great time was had by all. Hopefully, we can hit the trails again soon, so we can hike off all the calories from the tasty desserts.

December 2nd – Alamos Canyon Exploratory #2

22 hikers gathered in the Simi Valley Sanitation parking lot at 600 W. Los Angeles Avenue (as previously arranged) on a pleasant autumn morning.  We began our hike along the nearby Los Alamos Canyon Road which we followed northward, passing under Hwy 118 to the Alamos Canyon Open Space, 326 acres of which were acquired in December, 2016 by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District (RSRPD). 

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Everyone was excited by the opportunity to explore a new public-use area in Simi Valley.  We headed northwest along a dirt road through a dry, mostly open landscape which offered a wide view of distant Big Mountain (on the northern side of which is Happy Camp Canyon).  Soon we headed westward a short distance to a junction with the Jeep Trail (according to Google Earth) which we followed northward as it began rising up the southern flank of Big Mountain providing us with nice views of the surrounding area including the murky silhouettes of Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands.  We spotted several head of free-range cattle and several beehive boxes (with bees flying around) as we returned to our vehicles having completed a relatively easy 10-mile hike with 1,300’ of elevation gain/loss.  NOTE: RSRPD plans to construct a small parking lot, a trailhead, and a connecting trail from Oak Park County Park (near Moorpark) to Alamos Canyon Road to support public access to the Alamos Canyon Open Space.

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