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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