December 29th – The Hummingbird Trail and Rocky Peak

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10 hikers assembled at the inadequate on-street parking area at the north end of Kuehner Drive at the trailhead (1,175’) for the Hummingbird Trail (just outside the gate into Hummingbird Ranch) on what promised to be a nice day for hiking. The morning was chilly with an intermittent wind as we began our 2.4-mile eastward climb to the Rocky Peak Fire Road.

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The trail passed through (and on) a variety of imposing rock formations along the way including very large boulders and giant slabs of sandstone rock, many with small “caves.” As we gained elevation the views of the area expanded and were enhanced by the very clear skies (thanks to recent strong winds). The trail continues to be damaged by bicycle riders who (without permission) create “bandit trails” that cut steeply through the pleasant original switchback trail; the “bandit trails” make it nearly impossible to discern the original trail at many intersections. We took a rest/snack break when we reached the fire road (2,100’). Two of the hikers decided to return to the trailhead and did so. Those of us who continued on followed the road northward along with a variety of bikers and other hikers while enjoying the sweeping views of eastern Simi Valley, the Santa Susana Mountains, and the Simi Hills. After reaching the customary viewpoint (2,624’) near Rocky Peak (2,715’), we rested briefly while admiring the panoramic views including the San Fernando Valley and the hazy outline of Santa Cruz Island. After taking a short break, we retraced our route and reached the trailhead having completed an 8.4-mile hike with about 2,200’ of elevation gain/loss.

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December 22nd – Big Sky Loop

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18 hikers met along Big Sky Place in Simi Valley on a chilly-early-winter morning for a local hike just south of the Big Sky Movie Ranch for which the nearby housing development was named (the ranch was used for filming many television and film productions such as Gunsmoke, Rawhide, and Little House on the Prairie).

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After a short walk northward on a sidewalk along Erringer Road we turned east onto the well-signed Big Sky Trail. After crossing a dry streambed, we began hiking the loop portion of the hike in a counterclockwise direction as we climbed fairly steeply up to the north-south ridge to the east of the development. Upon reaching the sunny ridgetop we enjoyed views of the surrounding area including the west end of Simi Valley and the Santa Susana Mountains, particularly Whiteface Mountain which some of us climbed in the past. We continued our hike by heading north along the ridge nearly to Lost Canyons Drive, taking in the bright green mountainsides and canyon bottoms. Eventually the trail turned sharply to the south as it wound its way along the oak-lined streambed that runs through the Big Sky development. The remainder of our hike was an easy nearly-level stroll and we finished our invigorating outing having completed a 4.7-mile hike with 900’ of elevation gain/loss.

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December 15th – Work Party – Lower Stagecoach Trail

The December work party was on the lower Stagecoach Trail – from the top down. The soil dampness was perfect to compact the soil. Thanks to the participants: Martin DeGoey, John Sabol, Kelly Demel, Kyler Demel, Mike Kuhn, and Paul Friedeborn.

December 14th – Christmas Holiday Party Potluck

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Ursula Christie again welcomed us into her beautifully decorated home for our annual potluck holiday party. A variety of foodstuffs accumulated as a stream of “Trail Blazers” arrived to partake in the festivities.

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The participants quickly took advantage of the rare opportunity to spend non-hiking time with “old” friends as small conversational groups formed and re-formed to trade news of each other’s recent activities and discuss plans for futures activities. A highlight of the event was the presentation of an award to Linda Martins Mann for her eight (8) years of service as Newsletter Editor for the Ranch Simi Trailblazers. Soon the various culinary delights could no longer be ignored so we sat down together and began sampling the plentiful – and mostly healthy – delicacies including rarely seen dragon fruit. As usual, everyone looked even better than usual (hiking gear) in their holiday dress. After finishing our sit-down dinner (during which it was hard not to overeat!), we continued hobnobbing before taking our leave with holiday well wishes and promises to see one another soon. Not surprisingly, we had been unable to devour all of the food that the guests had brought so there were some delightful “leftovers” to take home. We are all grateful for this wonderful opportunity to spend time with good friends, especially Ursula, who is truly one-of-a-kind!

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December 8th – Echo Mountain via the Sam Merrill Trail

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11 hikers carpooled to the trailhead of the Sam Merrill Trail which begins at the north end of Lake Avenue in Altadena on a very pleasant late-autumn morning with good visibility. We found parking a few blocks from the trailhead and then gathered at the gated entrance for a group photo.

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We started up the well-maintained trail via a series of switchbacks that climbed steadily up the east slope of Los Flores Canyon, benefiting from the shade provided by the mountain for the first two-thirds of the hike upward. As the trail rose we enjoyed increasingly wide views of the surrounding mountainous topography. The trail eventually reached the old rail bed of the Mount Lowe Railway (built in the 1890’s) and we enjoyed a level walk over to the White City ruins, passing nearby shade-producing Coulter pine trees (planted in the 1940’s) and oak trees along the way. White City (named for the elegant white-painted Echo Mountain House Hotel which opened in 1896, but burned in 1900) was conceived by Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe (for whom Mt. Lowe is named) and engineer David J. Macpherson. In addition to the main hotel, a second smaller hotel (The Chalet), an observatory, and a small zoo were built. Supporting infrastructure included a powerhouse, machine shop, reservoir, and the world’s most powerful searchlight. The resort drew more than three million visitors from 1896 to 1936. The incline railway was abandoned in 1938. After inspecting the ruins and enjoying a leisurely lunch/rest break, we began our return trip down the mountain. We arrived at our vehicles having hiked 6.5 miles with an elevation gain/loss of about 1,500’ and headed home, grateful for the abundance of nice well-maintained trails in the San Gabriel Mountains Front Range.

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December 1st – Piedra Blanca to Twin Forks Camp