February 23rd – Mentryville Park and Pico Canyon
12 hikers 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 quick 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 with green mountainsides (thanks to recent rainfall) steadily improved. As we continued southeast toward the road’s upper end we had excellent views of the transverse range of the Santa Susana Mountains as well as some snow on distant peaks in the San Gabriel and Topa Topa 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 there was a large group of cub/boy scouts who had reached the summit shortly before we did. After a leisurely snack/rest 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 what had turned into a very nice day for hiking.