September 28th – Mission Point via Neon Way

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14 hikers gathered in the parking lot at the entrance to O’Melveny Park (the second-largest park in Los Angeles County) in Granada Hills on a cool overcast morning with intermittent light drizzle and poor visibility. Not to be deterred by the weather, we began our hike by walking southwest along the nearby sidewalk on Sesnon Blvd to its junction with Neon Way. We then followed Neon Way three blocks north to the lower end of the Sulphur Spring Fire Road (aka the Dr. Mario A. De Campos Trail).

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We then began the steady climb along the fire road to Mission Point in the Santa Susana Mountains. As we gained elevation we could see our immediate surroundings, but views of the San Fernando Valley and its surrounding mountains were obscured by fog. On a positive note, the uphill hike was relatively easy compared to the same hike on a hot day.

When we reached Mission Point, the fog was pretty thick (as shown in the group photo taken at the small, stone monument memorializing Mario De Campos, a lover of the local mountains). After a short break we resumed our hike by retracing our route a short distance downhill to the junction with the Mission Point Trail which we followed northeast as we made our way down into Bee Canyon; the trail became increasingly steep as it lost elevation and was somewhat muddy, but visibility increased considerably as we neared the canyon bottom and we were treated to excellent views of the rugged landscape to the north. After reaching the floor of Bee Canyon we followed the trail downstream into beautiful 627-acre O’Melveny Park with its well-maintained green lawns shaded by oak and eucalyptus trees; there are still some citrus trees near the entrance to the park which were bearing fruit the day of our hike (signs forbade us from “picking fruit”). We reached our vehicles, completing our loop hike, having hiked 6.1 miles with nearly 1,500’ of elevation gain/loss. Several types of plants were blooming including lots of bush sunflowers and datura (aka Jimson weed), as well as a little bush mallow and tree tobacco.

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September 21st – Wildwood Park Loop

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7 hikers arrived in the main parking lot in Wildwood Park at the west end of Avenida de los Arboles in Thousand Oaks on a cool late-summer morning [3 other hikers who arrived a bit late joined us near Lizard Rock for a total of 10 hikers]. After taking a group photo, we began our counterclockwise loop hike by heading west on the Mesa Trail as we enjoyed the company of good friends.

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We soon turned left, hiked a short distance south on the Tepee Trail, and then took the Stagecoach Bluffs Trail westward which provided views down into Wildwood Canyon as we hiked past lots of prickly pear cacti; we also spotted several “conejos” (rabbits) for which the Conejo Valley is named. Upon rejoining the Mesa Trail, we took a relatively new, unnamed trail along the north side of the ridge that contains Lizard Rock; this provided us with views of Santa Rosa Valley. We then followed another unnamed trail as it climbed steeply up to Lizard Rock.

After the three late-arriving hikers joined us just below Lizard Rock, we followed the Lizard Rock Trail down into Hill Canyon and soon headed eastward into heavily shaded Wildwood Canyon. We headed upstream to a large shady picnic area where we took a rest/snack/bathroom break. We then crossed the flowing water several times before reaching Paradise Falls where we enjoyed looking at and listening to the waterfall. Continuing on up the Wildwood Canyon Trail, we spotted several dozen mallard ducks in the stream above the waterfall. Eventually we reached the always pleasant Indian Creek Trail and followed it up to an unnamed trail that led us back to our vehicles, thus completing a 5.4-mile hike with 950’ of elevation gain/loss while “beating the heat.” We also spotted lots of Cattails and blooming Dudleya “Live Forever” chalk plants during the hike.

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September 9th to 14th – Yosemite National Park

picture credit: Les
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picture credit: Gary & Julie
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picture credit: Carol & Mark
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picture credit: Jodene

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2019 — Arrival and Mirror Lake (4,094′) Loop

11 Rancho Simi Trailblazers gathered at the Upper Pines Campground (4,000′) in Yosemite Valley in western Yosemite National Park for several days of camping and hiking in one of the most beautiful areas in the world (a 12th hiker joined us on Wednesday). After setting up camp at the base of Half Dome, we hiked over to the Mirror Lake Loop trailhead and then hiked the easy loop trail as it followed the Tenaya Creek up Tenaya Canyon.

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According to the park service, “Mirror Lake was once regarded by park scientists as a stream-fed lake slowly filling in to become a meadow. As hydrologists have developed a more complex understanding of the water’s dynamics they now theorize that the “lake” is a pool in a seasonal stream” [it was a small pond on this day]. Nevertheless it was a good “warm-up” hike for the following day’s activity [and the trail continues on up Tenaya Canyon for a longer hike]. We returned to the heavily shaded campground having hiked about 4 miles with a mere 150′ of elevation gain/loss.

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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2019 — Upper Yosemite Fall from Yosemite Valley (4,000′) to Yosemite Falls Overlook (6,526′)

7 participants boarded a Yosemite Valley shuttle bus at the entrance to the campground and disembarked at the Yosemite Falls stop [frequent shuttle buses make a loop around Yosemite Valley, making it easy to reach hiking trailheads and the many other activities available each day]. We hiked a short distance to the Upper (rather than the Lower) Yosemite Fall trailhead and began our mostly upward journey.

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It was a pleasant morning and much of the trail was shaded; also there were intermittent breezes. NOTE: Yosemite Falls (upper plus lower falls) is the tallest waterfall (2,425′) in North America. After rising about 1,000′ in one mile, we reached a great viewpoint at Columbia Rock (where we took photos). The trail dropped down for a fairly short distance before continuing its inexorable climb up to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall. There were lots of hewn granite steps and though the trail was not wet, it was made quite slippery by loose-sand/dirt-on-granite most of the way, especially going back down to the valley. The views from the trail, particularly when we reached the top, were awesome (Half Dome, Mount Clark, Sentinel Rock, et al.), making the tortuous ascent well worth the effort. We also discovered two pretty, hidden pools of water above the top of the upper waterfall. After carefully returning to the valley floor, we hopped onto a shuttle bus and returned wearily to camp having completed a 10.5-mile hike with 3,187′ of elevation gain/loss.

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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2019 — Yosemite Valley Floor Loop: Lower Yosemite Fall to Curry Village

We again boarded a Yosemite Valley shuttle bus at the entrance to the campground and disembarked at the Yosemite Falls stop. However, this time we visited Lower Yosemite Fall and then began hiking westward on the Yosemite Valley Floor Loop Trail. It skirts the base of the cliffs that surround the valley and is frequently well-shaded.

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Despite the crowds that frequent the valley, we encountered few other hikers during our hike on another pleasant day. The trail followed the Merced River for quite a while and we took a lunch/rest break at a sandy beach along the river. There were views of Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks and, as we neared Curry Village, we toured LeConte Memorial Lodge (aka Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center). We eventually reached camp having completed a 12.9-mile hike with 521′ of elevation gain/loss.

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2019 — Happy Isles TH (4,035′) to the Backpackers Campground in Little Yosemite Valley (6,100′) via the Mist Trail, returning via the John Muir Trail

We hiked from our campground to Happy Isles and began the climb toward Nevada Fall on another pleasant morning. When we reached a fork in the trail we “stayed left” and began hiking the strenuous Mist Trail which led us up to Vernal Fall and then on up to Nevada Fall. Both waterfalls had subsided considerably from their late spring/early summer volumes, but were still captivating.

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We continued up the John Muir Trail to the Backpackers Campground in Little Yosemite Valley and then walked the short distance over to the nearby Merced River where we enjoyed a leisurely picnic at the “beach” along the river. Returning to the Nevada Fall area, we took a much closer look at the waterfall and then headed back down to Happy Isles via the John Muir Trail. We then walked back to our campground for a well-deserved rest, having completed a 12.6-mile hike with 2,625′ of elevation gain/loss.

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2019 — Glacier Point (7,214′) to Sentinel Dome (8,122′) to Taft Point (7,503′) and back

We carpooled to Glacier Point, which took about an hour. Once there we enjoyed the spectacular views of Yosemite Falls, North Dome, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, Tenaya Canyon, Vernal Fall, and Nevada Fall as well as lots of distant mountain tops. We then followed the Pohono Trail to Sentinel Dome onto which we climbed and were rewarded with magnificent 360-degree views including (among many others) Half Dome, North Dome, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan. We then continued along the Pohono Trail to Taft Point and the nearby Fissures and Profile Cliff.

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In addition to views to the west of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and other points of interest, we witnessed a young man practicing “high-wire walking” 3,000′ above the Yosemite Valley floor. We hiked back to Glacier Point mostly the way we came and then returned to our campground, having completed a 9.4-mile hike with 1,830′ of elevation gain/loss.

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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2019 — Strike camp and drive home (300+ miles)

We had a wonderful time in Yosemite Valley. The weather was prefect, the temperatures were mostly pleasant, the scenery was magnificent, and the company was congenial. Note: Two of the participants left on Sunday.

The TOTAL DISTANCE hiked as described above was 49.5 MILES with 8,313′ of elevation gain/loss.

September 7th – East Canyon to Mission Point

16 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 pleasantly cool 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. The route was lined with bay laurel, black walnut, cottonwood, sycamore, and oak trees.

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Soon the dirt road began rising more steeply along the western side of a wooded ridge adorned with a few blooming cliff asters 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 pleasant Corral Sunshine Motorway to Mission Point which provided a fairly smoggy 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 nicer-than-expected day for mountain hiking (we also took advantage of the recurring patches/stretches of shade).

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