March 31st – Mentryville and Pico Canyon
11 hikers (plus one dog) carpooled to a dirt parking area about 0.4 mile outside the entrance to Mentryville, located in Pico Canyon in the north end of Santa Clarita Woodlands Park (only a few miles from Towsley Canyon). Mentryville was an oil boom town in the 1880’s and was home to over 100 families until the early 1930’s.
Pico Canyon was the site of the first commercially successful oil well (Pico No. 4) in the western United States. Several historic buildings are still standing in Mentryville including Charles Mentry’s grand 13-room mansion, a one-room school house, and a small barn. After taking a leisurely tour of the “ghost” town, we headed southwest along the paved road into shady Pico Canyon with its towering walls and a pleasant stream until we reached Johnson Park (“the party place for oil miners of more than a century ago”) where we dallied for a while. As we continued further into the canyon, the paved road made a sharp switchback to the northeast, became a dirt road, and we began climbing up out of the canyon. As we gained elevation our views of the surrounding rugged landscape steadily improved as did the number and variety of lovely blooming plants including blue ceanothus, yellow tree poppies, lavender prickly phlox, purple bush lupine, yellow tree tobacco, red Indian paintbrush, Mexican elderberry, the white blossoms of wild cucumber vines, lavender yerba santa, and orange California poppies. As we continued southeast on toward the road’s end we had excellent views of the transverse range of the Santa Susana Mountains. The road ended in a wide flat mountaintop area which was at one time the home of the Union Oil Company’s Odeen #1 oil well, but is now the home of a lone picnic table with two benches where we took an extended break. We returned the way we came and reached our vehicles having completed an 8.5-mile hike with about 1,450’ of elevation gain/loss on another nice day for hiking. NOTE: Although Pico Canyon is only a few miles away from Towsley Canyon, we encountered only a handful of other people during our hike until we were nearly finished, whereas Towsley Canyon is quite crowded on a Saturday.
March 24th – Conejo Mountain
15 hikers assembled at the signed “Powerline Trail” trailhead on Via Ricardo in Newbury Park on a nice early-spring morning – the sun was out after several days of rain, there were some puffy white clouds in the sky, and the temperature was perfect for hiking up a mountain. 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 days’ 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 to the west on the mountain. We followed a “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, and the Pacific Ocean. We retraced our route to Via Ricardo and returned home having completed a very pleasant 5.3-mile hike with 1,350’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice day.