September 29th – Mt. Islip

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Nine hikers carpooled via the Angeles Crest Hwy (Hwy 2) to Islip Saddle (6,669’) in the San Gabriel Mountains/Angeles National Forest on a cool autumn early morning in Simi Valley; we were met by a tenth hiker at the trailhead. A chilly wind greeted us as our hike began along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) opposite the Islip Saddle parking lot, but as soon as we were shielded from the wind the temperature was just right for hiking uphill.

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The trail climbed eastward, soon skirting a large meadow filled with impenetrable prickly bushes and then entering a pine-scented forest of Jeffrey and sugar pines. After 2.5 miles of hiking through the forest, we reached shady Little Jimmy Trail Camp (7,501’) which is equipped with picnic tables, bear lockers, and bathrooms; several backpackers had already set up camp. We then continued on to appropriately named Windy Gap (7,588’), where we had to hold on to our hats to keep them from blowing away; there were good views to the east including the Crystal Lake Recreation area below us and a series of mountain ridges stretching into the distance. Next we followed the Islip Ridge Trail to the south as it climbed to the peak of Mt. Islip (8,250’) via switchbacks. Once there we took a rest/snack break and enjoyed the 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, the Antelope Valley/Mojave desert, Crystal Lake (which is nearly dry and is covered with algae), and a large reservoir along Hwy 39 to the east. Leaving Mt. Islip, we descended to Little Jimmy Trail Camp via an old trail, bypassing Windy Gap. As we then retraced our route to the parking lot at Islip Saddle, we encountered a surprising number of backpackers (including boy scouts) and day hikers coming up the trail. We arrived back home having completed a very pleasant 7.6-mile hike with about 1,700’ of elevation gain/loss while enjoying mild temperatures, cool (sometimes chilly) breezes, lots of shade, and stunning views at the peak where there was once a fire lookout tower.

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September 22nd – Danielson Ranch

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10 hikers gathered at the Wendy Trail trailhead at the south end of Wendy Drive in Newbury Park on a cool early-autumn morning. Our Santa Monica Mountains outing began as we hiked the Wendy Trail over to the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center in Rancho Sierra Vista. We then headed south as the paved upper section of Sycamore Canyon Road descended into the canyon.

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Immediately after crossing the bridge in the canyon bottom, we left the road [and the bicycle riders] and headed northeast on the Upper Sycamore Canyon Trail for a very short distance to a junction with the Fossil Trail which we turned right onto [the sign at the trail junction was burned so badly in the May, 2013 Camarillo Springs Fire that it is useless]. The Fossil Trail began climbing steeply to the east on a flank of Boney Mountain, gaining 760’ of elevation in 0.9 mile. Aside from the large number of dead (but still upright) ceanothus trees, the effects of the 2013 wildfire are muted. When we reached the junction with the Boney Mountain Trail, we turned left and continued on up the mountain with increasingly improving distant views (there was lots of fog when we started hiking, but most, if not all, of it cleared during our hike. There were a surprisingly large number of cliff asters blooming along our route, but not much else. We eventually reached the Danielson Memorial and the ruins of the Danielson house (only a chimney remains) where we took a lengthy break in the still heavily wooded (unburned) area, enjoying the cool temperatures in the shade. As we continued our hike we descended along the Danielson Road, but didn’t visit the (waterless) waterfall along the way. The day had become noticeably warmer as we followed the Windmill Trail back to the parking area which we reached having completed an 8.3-mile loop hike with about 1,975’ of elevation gain/loss.

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September 15th – East Canyon to Mission Point

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17 hikers met at the trailhead in the “East Canyon, Rice Canyon, and Michael D. Antonovich Open Space” section of the 4,000-acre Santa Clarita Woodlands Park via Interstate 5 and “The Old Road” in Santa Clarita. It was chilly as we began hiking southward along the non-maintained and somewhat-eroded East Canyon Motorway as it followed the small (dry) creek in the canyon bottom.

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The route was lined with bay laurel, black walnut, cottonwood, sycamore, and oak trees. Soon the dirt road began rising more steeply along the western side of a wooded ridge adorned with a modest smattering of cliff asters and a few other wildflowers (and lots of healthy black walnut trees). We enjoyed views of the steep slopes to the west and relics of the bigcone Douglas-fir trees that once covered the mountain [several of the trees appear to have died as a result of the ongoing drought]. An intermittent breeze cooled us as the road led us upward to a junction with Bridge Road (and the Oat Mountain Motorway) which is blocked by a SoCal Gas fence and gate. Having reached the highest point in our hike, we headed southeast along the very pleasant Corral Sunshine Motorway to Mission Point which provides a fairly clear panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley and beyond. After resting/snacking, we retraced our now warmer (but mostly downhill) route to the trailhead and returned home having completed a 9.3-mile hike with about 1,750’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice day for mountain hiking.

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September 8th – Las Llajas Trail to the Shovel

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14 hikers met at the Las Llajas Canyon trailhead on Evening Sky Drive in Simi Valley on a warm late-summer morning. We began our hike under a clear blue sky by descending a short paved section of road into the canyon bottom; from there we followed the wide well-graded dirt road upstream to the north 1.8 miles, crossing the very dry stream bed three times.

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We then followed a slightly overgrown “use” trail (the remnants of an old mining road) as we climbed up the eastern slope of the mountain, atop which we enjoyed panoramic views of the surrounding area including parts of Chivo Canyon, Las Llajas Canyon, the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Valley. We took a break when we reached our goal, the site of a coquina (a soft whitish limestone formed of broken shells and corals cemented together and used for road building) mining operation. Various mining equipment artifacts are strewn about near the mining site, most notably a P&H Model 206 “steam” shovel. The day had warmed up noticeably but we enjoyed a mild breeze as we retraced our route and returned to our vehicles having completed a pleasant 6.3-mile hike with 1,100’ of elevation gain/loss.

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September 1st – Solstice Canyon

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It was a cool and very humid morning. 13 hikers met at Donut Delite and carpooled to the Solstice Canyon trailhead. Once we arrived, we found three more hikers eagerly waiting for our arrival. Our lollipop loop out-and-back hike began on the Solstice Canyon Trail, paralleling the shaded Solstice Canyon Creek. Just over a mile up the trail, we gathered at the junction of the Sostomo Trail.

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We rapidly gained over a thousand feet of elevation gain following, the creek through the Sycamore trees, black walnut groves, and Laurel Sumac. Taking the Deer Valley Loop Trail clockwise we began too see expansive views of the coastline, including Point Dume, we we hiked just two weeks ago. Most everyone agreed that the hike was much harder that we remembered from past years, probably due to the very high humidity. Several us did our wet dishtowel imitation very well. After completing the “lollipop,” we found that hiking down the Sostomo trail was much easier. Once we completed the “stick” portion of the lollipop, we took an abrupt left turn, and after a short distance arrived at the ruins of the Tropical Terrace “Robert’s Home.” The once expansive and elegant home was completed in 1952 and burned down in in 1982. After exploring the nearby trickling waterfall, wandering around in the shrine to the now headless Madonna, and enjoying a few snacks, we arrived back at our cars just over a mile down the canyon. We all enjoyed our hike, having completed 6.8 miles with about 1,650′ of elevation gain/loss.

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