July 28th – Zuma Ridge to Buzzard’s Roost

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14 hikers carpooled to the trailhead in the Santa Monica Mountains at the north end of Busch Drive in Malibu near Point Dume on a soon-to-be-hot morning. After a group photo was taken, our hike began steadily (but not steeply) uphill northward for over 4 miles along the well-maintained Zuma Ridge Trail (dirt road).

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The air quality was good but the ocean (near the shore) was covered in fog so the anticipated views – including Zuma Beach, Point Dume, the Pacific Ocean, and Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, Anacapa, and Santa Cruz islands were not available. However, we had good views of the mountains supporting and surrounding our hike. About two-thirds of the way up, several of the hikers chose the shorter “5-mile” option and turned around and descended the Zuma Ridge Trail. The remainder of the group continued on up the mountain to Buzzards Roost [which is private property]. We then climbed up on the knob across the trail from the private property and enjoyed the nearly 360-degree views (although the ocean near the shore was still covered with fog). Despite the recent hot temperatures, there were still blooming plants along our route, predominately cliff asters and bush mallow with a smattering of other types of wildflowers. After taking a rest/snack break, we descended the way we came thus completing an 8.9-mile hike with 2,158’ of elevation gain/loss.

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Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks

July 16th – Tokopah Falls Trail

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Arrival at Lodgepole Campground and Tokopah Falls Trail (4.9 miles with 586’ of elevation gain/loss) – – –
After arriving at Lodgepole Campground (6,700’) in Sequoia National Park, checking in, and setting up camp, several of the 14 Rancho Simi Trailblazers who participated in the seven-day outing in the western Sierra Nevada walked a short distance to the nearby Tokopah Falls Trail trailhead (6,737’) for a late-afternoon hike to help them acclimatize to the higher elevation in the park.

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The trail roughly paralleled the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River which was flowing pleasantly nearby; at first the trail rose mildly through a mixed forest comprised mostly of conifers (red and white firs, incense cedars, ponderosa pines, and Jeffrey pines) as we passed beautiful meadows adorned with blooming wildflowers. The riverbanks were lined with willows, aspens, and chokecherries. Eventually the trail rose more sharply and we made our way over a granite rock-based trail to an awe-inspiring cirque with towering granite walls down which easily seen Tokopah Falls plummets in a series of waterfalls. After enjoying the view and resting for a while, we returned to camp the way we came.

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July 17th – Lakes Trail to Heather Lake

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(10.3 miles with 2,283’ of elevation gain/loss) – – –
We carpooled the few miles by road from the campground to the Lakes Trail trailhead (7,285’) at the edge of a large parking lot at the end of Wolverton Road.  As soon as we started hiking up the trail we spotted a black bear (with a collar) nearby; it was easily convinced to move further away from us and (after taking photos of the bear) we continued hiking up to a trail junction with a trail connecting with Lodgepole.

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 to help them acclimatize to the higher elevation in the park. We passed by this turnoff as well as a second trail junction (this one circling Long Meadow).  We soon passed by the Panther Gap Trail (leading to Alta Meadow/Peak) and continued on to the lower Hump/Watchtower trail junction.  We decided to continue (somewhat steeply) up the Hump Route; the trail was shady and there were lots of wildflowers (where there was water flowing in small creeks) such as monkey flower, cow parsnip, and many beautiful leopard lilies [which look very much like the humboldt lilies found in the Santa Monica Mountains].  After reaching the highest point during our hike (around 9,400’) we descended the trail to Heather Lake (9,282’) where we spent a leisurely interlude including lunch and for some of the group the opportunity to enjoy a dip in the pretty lake.  When we resumed our hike we took the Watchtower Route, a fairly narrow ledge dynamited out of a sheer canyon wall above Tokopah Valley around 2,000’ below; it provides spectacular views of the surrounding area, especially majestic granite mountainsides.  When we reached the lower Hump/Watchtower trail junction, we returned the way we came.

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July 18th – Mist Falls Trail in Kings Canyon National Park

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(9.2 miles with 765’ of elevation gain/loss) – – –
We carpooled 61 miles from the campground to Kings Canyon Roads End (5 miles past the Cedar Grove turnoff) and the parking lot near the wilderness permit station; we arrived “early” so there was no problem with parking (and there were public restrooms). We began our hike (5,047’) along a wide sandy trail along the South Fork Kings River with its many cascades and views of The Sphinx and Avalanche Peak on the opposite side of the canyon.

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We passed through a forest of incense cedars, ponderosa pines, black oaks, sugar pines, and white firs; lots of severely burned trees gave evidence that a wildfire had burned the area at some point. After hiking 1.9 miles we took the left fork at a trail junction and followed the well-shaded trail through a mixed forest now composed of alders, black oaks, canyon live oaks, incense cedars, white firs, and ponderosa pines as it climbed steadily up toward the majestic Mist Falls (5,628’). Along the way up to the falls we were treated to even grander white-water cascades with their signature roar. Upon reaching the turnaround point not far from the falls in their granite setting, we spent our time taking in the magnificent scenery, eating lunch, and resting. Eventually we returned the way we came.

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July 19th – Giant Forest, Crescent Meadow, Sugar Pine Trail, Moro Rock

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(7.0 miles with 800’ of elevation gain/loss) – – –
We carpooled the few miles by road from the campground to the General Sherman [Tree] parking lot (6,840’) via Wolverton Road; again, our “early” arrival ensured us of easy parking (and there were public restrooms). We began our hike by descending the trail to the General Sherman Tree, “… the largest living organism on the planet.”

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After taking a group photo, we continued along various trails which wound their way through the heart of the Giant Forest (lots of giant sequoias), passing the Circle Meadow and then on to Crescent Meadow. We followed the trail on the east side of Crescent Meadow to the parking lot at its south end where we discovered a trailhead for the little-used Sugar Pine Trail (sugar pine trees have very large pine cones) which we followed over to the base of Moro Rock. Several of us climbed up Moro Rock (a huge granite monolith) via its 380 granite stairs built in 1931 but the 360-degree views at the summit (6,725’) were degraded by smoke in the air. After taking a rest break, we boarded the free summer shuttle Gray Route (#2) bus and rode it to the Giant Forest Museum which we visited. Then we boarded the shuttle Green Route (#1) bus and rode it to our parked vehicles in the General Sherman [Tree] parking lot.

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July 20th – Redwood Mountain

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(9.7 miles with 1,524’ of elevation gain/loss) – – –
We carpooled 24 miles to the large dirt parking area at Redwood Saddle (6,230’); the last 1.7 miles were on a single-lane dirt road (with pullouts) which started at Quail Flat directly opposite Ten Mile Road. Since Redwood Mountain is “off the beaten path,” there were few other hikers in evidence during our hike.

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As we began our hike, the trail dropped down to a fork where we turned left onto the Hart Trail which we followed southeast as it wound through “… the largest intact grove of giant sequoias in the world.” In addition to the ubiquitous giant sequoias, interesting sights were Redwood Cabin, Hart Meadow, Hart Tree, and two “free-range” cattle temporarily blocking the dirt road on the way out. During our hike we encountered lush riparian habitats with wildflowers, ferns, and trickling streams; we took a rest/snack break at one such beautiful spot and later a lunch break at another lovely spot (where there were small fish in the stream). We completed the loop portion (95%) of our hike on the Redwood Trail and returned to our vehicles.

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July 21st – Mineral King

(there was no hike there due to wildfire/smoke) – – –
All but two members of our group left Lodgepole campground Saturday morning (or before); the other two hiked the Tokopah Falls Trail which they had missed on Monday (they left the campground Sunday morning). Three members of our group (including the author) were determined to go to Mineral King (7,839’) and hike the Mosquito Lakes Trail to Mosquito Lake #1 (9,077’) despite the estimated 3-hour tedious drive to get there.

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The three of us left Lodgepole Campground and drove down Hwy 198 [almost] to Three Rivers; we were slightly delayed due to some much-needed (due to avalanches) road maintenance that has been going on for a while and has resulted in a two-mile stretch of Hwy 198 being “one lane” with alternating one-way traffic [this accounted for several “late” arrivals on Monday]. After turning left onto Mineral King Road, we tackled the two-hour drive to the upper end of the road. About half way up we noticed an increase in smoke in the air and then spotted three new wildfires on a nearby mountain. We stopped and watched a couple of helicopters drop fire retardant (or water) on the new fires before we turned our vehicles around and headed home, a little disappointed but very pleased overall with the time we spent in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP. We highly recommend spending some “me” time in the area.

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July 14th – Newton Canyon

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11 hikers carpooled to the Newton Canyon trailhead just north of Tunnel #1 on Kanan Dume Road in the Santa Monica Mountains on a pleasant summer morning (which promised to become hot later). Our out-and-back hike was to cover a heavily-shaded section of the 67-mile-long Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail (BBT).

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The trail initially climbed to a point where it crossed above Tunnel #1 and then rose and fell as it wound mostly eastward two-and-a-half miles through a very pleasant oak woodland eventually reaching Latigo Canyon Road. Despite the recent record heat and the summer season, there were still a surprising number of blooming plants along our route, particularly cliff asters and climbing penstemon with a smattering of other varieties such as Indian paintbrush and woolly blue curls. Wildlife sightings were mostly of lizards. After crossing Latigo Canyon Road, the trail dropped into another canyon as it headed northeast. The temperature had risen noticeably by the time we reached the point at which the trail left the oak woodland and began climbing through chaparral (with no shade) toward the upper end of Corral Canyon Road. Due to the heat (made worse by the direct sunlight), we turned around at that point and retraced our steps to the original trailhead, marveling at the beauty of the trail and very grateful for the shade it provided, thus completing a pleasant 6.5-mile hike with 1,350’ of elevation gain/loss.

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July 7th – Mt. McCoy

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3 hikers met at the carpool point near the intersection of Royal Avenue and Madera Road on an “Excessive Heat Warning” summer morning and then (since trailhead parking is quite limited) walked from there to the Mt. McCoy trailhead on Washburn Street a few blocks to the west. Since the temperature was already around 90 degrees, we decided to skip the Reagan Library portion of the hike.

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The hike began along the trail heading south but it quickly began climbing gradually westward along the well-maintained (but frequently “cut” by bicycle riders) trail leading to the summit via a series of switchbacks; part way up, a fourth hiker joined us. We took our time and stayed hydrated as the trail rose up the mountainside; we were rewarded with views of the western end of Simi Valley, including Sinaloa Lake (which looked inviting considering the heat), Wood Ranch, and the Bard Reservoir. There is a white concrete cross (erected in 1941) as well as two concrete benches at the summit, from which the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library can be seen. After a short break to enjoy the panoramic view of the desiccated landscape, we returned the way we came completing a 3.2-mile hike with 560’ of elevation gain/loss. The temperature rose to 101 degrees and we only encountered two other hikers during the hike.

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