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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