January 27th – Nicholas Flat Trail from Leo Carrillo State Park to Nicholas Pond

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11 hikers met on a pleasant Saturday morning in Simi Valley to car pool to the Nicholas Flat Trail trailhead in Malibu; two other hikers met us at the trailhead. We drove through the Santa Monica Mountains via Hwy 23 to Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) and then headed to the parking lot at Leo Carillo State Park.

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Thanks to relatively mild overnight “devil winds” our journey provided magnificent views of mountains, valleys, the Pacific Ocean, and a clear blue sky. The hike began with a steady, fairly steep, ascent as the trail gained around 1,600’ in about 2.5 miles which tested our pulmonary and circulatory systems. The mild morning temperature and a light breeze combined perfectly to keep us from overheating. There were great views of the Santa Monica mountains, Point Dume, and the ocean as well as views of Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, Anacapa, and Santa Cruz Islands plus the vague outline of San Nicholas Island. We crested the mountain, descended through a large meadow, and followed the trail down to Nicholas Pond which contained a surprising amount of water [it had been bone-dry during our last visit] and several ducks/coots were floating on the pond. We then followed a short trail up to some large boulders and enjoyed the view toward the ocean looking out over San Nicholas Canyon. After a while we returned the way we came, taking the Willow Creek Trail on the last leg of our journey. We had most of the hike to ourselves although we did encounter several hikers, particularly on our way back down. Our very pleasant outing covered 7.2 miles with a total elevation gain/loss of nearly 2,200’.

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January 20th – Work Party: Tapo Open Space

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Our first trail work of the New Year: Tapo Open space/Chivo Canyon trail. We were joined by eleven Boy Scouts and their three chaperones along with four Trailblazers. We headed back through Chivo Canyon, to the Tapo Open space turnoff, and after almost a mile of hiking reached the Southeastern part of the loop, the location we would be working on today.

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After our safety meeting, we quickly handed out the assignments and the Scouts went to work. Very good seeing these youngsters discussing together and finding solutions for some of the work they were doing. We had three working on a small landslide, clearing it off the trail and then smoothing it all out.

After clearing a quarter mile of trail fairly fast, we headed off for the next section. In this section, we had two groups working on a set of two water runoffs. These run offs are experimental water disruption techniques that we learned of while on a recent trip to Wisconsin (while working with their trail group). They really do get a lot of rain throughout the year and have worked out some very nice (we hope) solutions for water-cutting ruts into the middle of trails. The Scouts dug drain ditches 18” across and 8” deep at a 30-45 degree angle, draining into the creek alongside the trail. These ditches were then filled with rocks to break up the force of the water and then drain down and away from the trail.

The group really put forth a great effort today as evidenced by all of the “thanks for all the trail work!” kudos from the many hikers that we encountered.

From the Trailblazers: a big thanks to all the Boy Scouts for their work today!

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January 13th – Devil Canyon to Browns Canyon Road

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NOTE: This hike replaced the scheduled “PCT crossing at Soledad Cyn Rd to Vasquez Rocks County Park” due to a High-Wind-Warning for the Agua Dulce area (20-25 mph w/40 mph gusts).  I posted a cancelation notice on Meetup.com to inform the folks who were planning to meet us at Vasquez Rocks. 

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However, a dozen of us showed up at the Stearns Street Park-and-Ride lot where we decided to hike in Devil Canyon instead (later two hikers decided to go on up to Vasquez Rocks and hike there anyway, one of them having hiked the section of the PCT before).

10 hikers met at the Stearns Street carpool point in Simi Valley and decided to hike in Devil Canyon to avoid the very strong winds forecast for the Agua Dulce area where the day’s hike had been originally scheduled and to avoid the strong winds forecast for Simi Valley.  We then drove over to the hike’s starting point on Poema Place in Chatsworth on a cool windy winter 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 sometimes wet creek bed (thanks to Tuesday’s rain).  We spotted lots of chalk dudleya “liveforever” plants 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 dry (though occasionally muddy) trail which from this point on had been transformed a few 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”  and one long one heading north have also been created].  As the canyon widened we passed by grass-covered hillsides dotted with oak trees and spotted two red-tailed hawks riding the thermals.  As we reached the upper-canyon Cathedral-like oak woodland, the trail reverted to its natural undisturbed state (including lots of fallen oak trees, presumably killed by wildfire and drought).  We spotted several head of free-range cattle grazing on a hillside along the way (they watched us warily as we continued up the trail).  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 then retraced our route back to our vehicles – spotting a slow moving gopher snake along the way – and returned to our vehicles having completed a very pleasant 9.8-mile hike in this unique canyon with about 1,200’ of elevation gain/loss and having successfully avoided the high winds and, as it turned out, remaining cool despite the 80-degree temperature we encountered at the end of our heavily shaded hike.

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January 6th – Simi Peak from King James Court via China Flat

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17 hikers met along Lindero Canyon Road (near King James Court) in Oak Park on a beautiful early-winter morning.  Our hike in the Simi Hills began at the upper end of King James Court 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. 

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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.  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 rewarded with good visibility in all directions including Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands.  We took a leisurely rest-and-snack break atop the peak and enjoyed the panoramic views and pleasant temperature.  Eventually we returned to our vehicles the way we came with a couple of minor exceptions including taking the single-track trail near the end of the hike down to the signed trailhead on Lindero Canyon Road as we completed a 6.25-mile hike with around 1,300’ of elevation gain/loss.

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