DECEMBER

December 28th – Chivo Canyon Loop

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18 hikers met on a chilly early-winter morning in Simi Valley near the mouth of Chivo Canyon in the Marr Ranch Open Space in northeast Simi Valley. After we “dropped” into Chivo Canyon, we hiked northward along the old Chivo Canyon (dirt) Road, passing a large oil seep along the way. At 0.7 mile we turned left (west) and entered a side canyon where we followed a loop trail as it climbed westward toward an overlook of Tapo Canyon that is now off-limits.

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We enjoyed the green surroundings and occasional blooming plants; before long we removed our heavy outer clothing as the morning began warming thanks to the clear sunny sky. As we completed the loop, we passed through a pleasant oak woodland that has largely survived wildfires.

Returning to Chivo Canyon we continued north to the beginning/end of the abandoned Marr Ranch Road and followed the “Buckhorn Trail” portion of it to the top of the ridge on the east side of Chivo Canyon where we had a sweeping nearly 360-degree view of the entire area including the snow-capped peaks of the Topa Topa Mountains to the northwest. We then continued south along the ridge on the Marr Ranch Road until we reached “Four Points,” where most of us continued south on the Cliff Trail along the cliffs overlooking Chivo Canyon until the trail (an old road) dropped steeply to Cottonwood Drive. We returned a short distance to our vehicles having completed a very pleasant 6.8-mile hike with a total gain/loss of about 1,500′. Those who didn’t continue along the Cliff Trail, “dropped” back down into Chivo Canyon at Four Points and then returned along the canyon bottom.

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December 21st – Malibu Creek State Park

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15 hikers assembled at the starting (and ending) point of our planned loop hike in Malibu Creek State Park on a chilly beginning-of-winter morning. We began hiking northward along the North Grassland Trail as it passed through a landscape covered with bright green grass and dotted with oak trees blackened by last year’s Woolsey Fire. We soon reached the dirt Liberty Canyon Fire Road which we followed through the oak-dotted rolling hills of the Liberty Canyon Natural Preserve to the Phantom Trail’s northern trailhead.

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Soon we began climbing steadily up a still-heavily-wooded slope heading southward until we crested high on a ridge. Continuing southward along the ridge we encountered patches of bright green grass and enjoyed distant views of the surrounding area which was surprisingly green; there were also a few blooming plants of various types as well as lots of blooming cliff asters.

Eventually the trail dropped down to Mulholland Drive which we crossed to the Cistern Trail which led us to the Lookout Trail. As we descended the Lookout Trail we had views of Century Lake and the surrounding craggy mountains. We enjoyed a lunch/rest break along the shady shore of Century Lake and watched a few coots and mallard ducks floating on the water and searching for food. We then followed Crags Road eastward to the picturesque Rock Pool (along Malibu Creek) where quite surprisingly we were the only people there. However, we did pass a group of aspiring mountain climbers practicing rock-climbing as we neared the Rock Pool. Eventually we followed the High Road and the Grasslands Trail northward back to our vehicles parked along Mulholland Highway west of Las Virgenes Road and returned home having completed a scenic 8-mile hike with about 1,400’ of elevation gain/loss on what had become a very pleasant morning.

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December 14th – Work Party: Wild Animal Corridor and Cache In Trash Out Event (CITO)

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It was cool and cloudy, the moring of the eleventh annnual Wildlife Corridor work party event. Fifteen people assembled near the trailhead at Camp Rotary in Corriganville Park. Three Trail Blazers and twelve Geocachers were in attendance. After a slight delay with our supplies, we headed up the trail to the Corridor, gaining 350′ in just 0.3 miles.

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Having done this event for so many years, our well-seasoned workers knew exactly what needed to be done, and finished up just over an hour later. This left plenty of time for good friends to tell their latest tall stories and do some very enjoyable catching up. Everyone agreed we would do it all again next year.

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NOVEMBER

November 30th – Escondido Falls Trail

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6 hikers carpooled to Escondido Canyon Park at the junction of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and East Winding Way on a chilly cloudy winter morning. There was very little traffic although we didn’t leave Simi Valley until 8 AM.) NOTE: We had planned to hike in Charmlee Wilderness Park, but when we arrived there we encountered a closed gate and a “Keep Out” sign at its entrance, presumably as a result of last year’s Woolsey Fire).

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After parking in the small parking lot adjacent to PCH and paying the $8.00 parking fee, we began our hike by walking up Winding Way past some beautiful homes while enjoying views of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean (there were many “Stay on the Trail” signs guiding us as to which side of the paved road to walk on.

At just under a mile, we reached the signed trailhead where we began following a single-track dirt trail down into Escondido Canyon. We crossed the creek and turned left (upstream), following the nearly level forested trail as it crossed the winding stream several times. The hike was very pleasant as a result of recent rain; there was flowing water in the stream and there were several types of blooming plants along the way. Eventually the trail began rising, though not steeply, and we soon reached Escondido Falls. There was a slender waterfall flowing on the right side of the face of the wide lower waterfall as we stood in the lovely area at its base which was “surrounded by travertine rock.” After taking a break to enjoy the peaceful environment (there were no other hikers while we were at the waterfall), we reluctantly returned the way we came and returned to Simi Valley having completed a 3.8-mile hike with just under 600’ of elevation gain/loss on a great day for hiking.

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November 23rd – Ahmanson Ranch, Lasky Mesa, Las Virgenes Canyon Lollipop Loop

9 hikers carpooled to the trailhead at the north end of Las Virgenes Road in the Simi Hills on a pleasant autumn morning (cool temperatures, clear skies with good visibility, and intermittent light breezes (some stronger wind). A short distance after the hike began we reached a T-junction and turned right onto the East Las Virgenes Canyon Trail (ELVCT), a dirt road that winds through the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (aka Ahmanson Ranch) to the Victory trailhead at the west end of Victory Blvd in West Hills.

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The preserve consists of a vast expanse of rolling hills and grasslands dotted with large old oak trees. Just before we would have reached the Victory Blvd entrance parking lot, we followed an old ranch road as it climbed up onto Lasky Mesa where we ascended to an overlook that provides a panoramic view (that was excellent today) of the San Fernando Valley and the Simi Hills. Continuing our hike on Lasky Mesa we soon reached several buildings on the site of the old ranch house where there is some shade.

NOTE: Lasky Mesa is named for Jesse L. Lasky, a key founder of Paramount Pictures. A number of famous movies were (partially) filmed here, including the sunrise scene in Gone with the Wind in which Scarlett O’Hara declares “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

After a short break we followed a trail (a dirt road at first which became a single-track trail after a while) down to the ELVCT which took us back to our vehicles. We returned to Simi Valley having completed a pleasant 6.8-mile hike with around 850’ of elevation gain/loss. NOTE: Refer to the following web site for an excellent and very interesting history of the Ahmanson Ranch (and surrounding) area: http://www.moviesites.org/laskymesa.htm .

NOTE: We had originally planned to hike in Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons but parking was non-existent near the trailhead due to the SocalUltraRunning group’s “No Name 5030” foot races (13.1m, 15k, 10k, 5k, and 1m) that were in progress in the area when we arrived. A decision was made to avoid the parking “mess” and presumably hordes of runners by relocating our hike to the Ahmanson Ranch area (where there were no such “problems”). We anticipate rescheduling the Cheeseboro Canyon – Palo Comado Canyon Loop hike in 2020.

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November 9th – Simi Peak from King James Court via China Flat

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13 hikers met along Lindero Canyon Road (near King James Court) in Oak Park on a pleasant autumn morning. Our hike in the Simi Hills began along a single-track trail, but soon continued along an old dirt-and-rock road as it rose steadily up the south side of the mountain, providing ever-expanding views to the south. Upon reaching the apex of the old road, we headed north and descended into lovely China Flat with its oak trees and sprawling golden meadows. Despite the recent drought and last year’s Woolsey Fire, many of the oak trees displayed bright green leaves and provided some much-appreciated shade as the morning grew warmer.

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When the trail “leveled out” in China Flat, we followed a single-track trail westward and climbed to Simi Peak (2,403’), the highest point in the Simi Hills (which occupy the area between Simi Valley and Hwy 101 and between Hwy 23 and the San Fernando Valley), where we were greeted by relatively clear vistas. We took a rest-and-snack break atop the peak and enjoyed the panoramic views including the Santa Susana Mountains, and two of the Channel Islands (Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands). After a while we returned to our vehicles the way we came, completing a 6.1-mile hike with over 1,500′ of elevation gain/loss on a beautiful day.

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OCTOBER

October 26th – Conejo Mountain

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10 hikers assembled at the signed “Powerline Trail” trailhead on Via Ricardo in Newbury Park on a warm autumn morning on a much-appreciated break between high-wind advisories and red-flag warnings. The temperature was pleasant for hiking up the mountain and the air was surprisingly clear. The trail began gently enough and soon afforded us with views of Old Boney Mountain to the east.

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As we reached the Edison Road, we had a brief view of Camarillo and beyond to the west. We followed the Edison Road through a landscape littered with volcanic detritus to a spur road that led up to a pair of power transmission towers at which point we regrouped and followed a “use” trail which led steeply up the eastern flank of Conejo Mountain. Once we summited the eastern portion of the mountain, we could see our destination: the highest point to the west on the mountain. We followed a “use” trail across the rock-strewn landscape to the “peak” of Conejo Mountain where we enjoyed 360-degree views of both near and distant mountains, Camarillo, and the Pacific Ocean including Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park. We followed a different “use” trail back down to the spur road and then retraced our route to Via Ricardo and returned home having completed a pleasant 5-mile hike with 1,275’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice morning (which had heated up some by the time we completed the hike). We encountered a small (young) rattlesnake near the Conejo Mountain “peak.”

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October 19th – Newton Canyon and the Backbone Trail

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10 hikers carpooled to the Newton Canyon trailhead just north of Tunnel #1 on Kanan Dume Road in the Santa Monica Mountains on a cool autumn morning (which promised to warm up later). Our out-and-back hike covered a formerly (before 2018’s Woolsey Fire burned it) 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 along a mostly open trail with scattered shade and wide open mountain views eventually reaching Latigo Canyon Road. Surprisingly there were lots of blooming plants along the trail including Cliff Asters, Morning Glories, California Fuchsia and Bush Mallow among others. Despite the recent wildfire, there was ample evidence of botanical recovery including lots of black walnut trees.

After crossing Latigo Canyon Road, the trail dropped into another canyon as it headed northeast. The temperature was still pleasant so we continued hiking all the way to Corral Canyon Road. After a short break we turned around and retraced our steps to the original trailhead, marveling at nature’s ability to recover from a natural (wildfire) disaster. As we neared our starting point the temperature had risen to a slightly uncomfortable level so we were happy to reach our cars having completed a pleasant 8-mile hike with about 1,775’ of elevation gain/loss.

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October 5th – Camp Three Falls to Lilly Meadows

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Eight hikers carpooled to the entrance to Camp Three Falls on Boy Scout Camp Road in Lockwood Valley on a cool autumn morning. We began our hike along the lower end of the North Fork [of Lockwood Creek] Trail (22W02). The first two miles of the hike were along a dirt road that led through the Boy Scout Camp and then continued through low hills dotted with pine trees and interesting rock formations until we reached North Falls, currently only a small trickle of water.

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We then carefully followed a narrow trail as it climbed up the mountainside to skirt the nearly dry waterfall; this took us to a vantage point that provided us with a fine view to the southeast. The trail then followed Lockwood Creek upstream through a surprisingly verdant narrow canyon populated with heavy brush in the streambed; very little water was visible but we could hear the moving water. Eventually we emerged into the lovely pine forest surrounding Lilly Meadows where we took advantage of a picnic table with benches for our lunch/rest break. We had not planned to continue further up the mountain toward Sheep Camp so we returned the way we had come, encountering no other hikers during the entire hike. We returned home having completed a pleasant 7.6-mile hike with 1,280’ of elevation gain/loss. Several plants were blooming in the area including penstemon and virgin’s bower. NOTE: The trail leading up from the dirt road to the top of the waterfall has continued to deteriorate; it requires constant vigilance for one’s safety.

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SEPTEMBER

September 28th – Mission Point via Neon Way

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: 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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AUGUST

August 31st – San Buenaventura State Beach

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10 hikers traveled to the Greenock Lane “entrance” to San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura on a pleasant somewhat foggy summer morning [Note: Greenock Lane is on the west side of Marina Park; parking is free]. As we began our out-and-back hike along the beach it was nearly deserted, making our walk along the shore easy to enjoy as we watched ocean breakers and various birds searching for food near the water.

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We passed lots of homes set back a reasonable distance from the shore and a series of four rock groins (“a rigid hydraulic structure built from an ocean shore that interrupts water flow and limits the movement of sediment”) that extend offshore to protect the beach from erosion as we drew closer to the Ventura Pier.

Since the “beach” had turned mostly to rocks by then we moved onto the paved walking and bicycling path for the remainder of the “out” portion of our hike. Continuing we passed under the Ventura Pier, walked through Promenade Park, passed by Surfers Point at Seaside Park (there were a couple dozen surfers in the water), and hiked beside the Ventura River Estuary (where the river flows into the ocean), passing by the Ventura County Fairgrounds as we did so (Note: There were no “deep-fried” goodies to be had there on this day). Turning around we hiked back to the Ventura Pier and then climbed up the stairs to the pier and hiked to its far end. There were several fishermen on the pier; unfortunately the marine layer over the ocean had not improved so visibility from the pier was poor. Regrouping we retraced our route to our vehicles and returned home having completed a 7.1-mile hike with about 120’ of elevation gain/loss [Note: By the time we turned around there were a lot more people along our way].

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August 24th – Ormand Beach to the Port Hueneme Lighthouse

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12 hikers traveled to the gated Arnold Road entrance to Ormond Beach in Oxnard on a pleasant summer morning (Note: there is very limited parking at this entrance, so it’s best to arrive early). As we began the short walk from the parking area to the beach, we spotted over a dozen mallard ducks. The beach is “an 865-acre undeveloped beach in Oxnard that is off the beaten track.

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The beach is backed by acres of farmland and has an extensive dune structure.” It “also includes a salt marsh wetland preserve, mud flats, and a freshwater lagoon [and the] preserve is on the Pacific Flyway, a 2,000-mile migratory route providing habitat for birds between Alaska and Latin America.” Due to our early morning start, we encountered only a few individual fishermen but quite a few sandpipers as we hiked northwest along the beautiful nearly deserted beach while enjoying the sound and sight of waves breaking as they approached land.

Eventually we reached Port Hueneme Beach Park, “a well-maintained, landscaped park to the southeast of the 1,600-acre Port Hueneme Naval Construction Battalion Center.” The 50-acre park “has a wide sandy beach and a T-shaped recreational Pier that extends 1,240 feet out to sea [with] great views of the Ventura County coastline and the Channel Islands.” Upon reaching our turnaround destination, the Point Hueneme Lighthouse, we learned that it is open for free tours on the 3rd Saturday of each month (sadly we arrived on the 4th Saturday of August).

As we started back the way we had come, we walked out to the end of the long fishing pier in Port Hueneme Beach Park and then continued back to our vehicles, returning home having completed an 8.5-mile hike with less than 100’ of elevation gain/loss on a beautiful day to be at the beach.

NOTE: The 3.6-mile (RT) Bubbling Springs Recreational Greenbelt Trail is also available from our route (though we did not hike it). Bubbling Springs Park “is a long, narrow greenbelt extending from the ocean at Port Hueneme Beach Park to Port Hueneme’s inner residential area.”

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August 17th – Temescal Canyon

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16 hikers carpooled to the lower parking lot at Temescal Gateway Park. A lovely refuge from the nearby urban congestion, it borders Topanga State Park. Our hike began on a shady trail along the streambed in Temescal Canyon and led pleasantly past rustic buildings constructed in the 1920’s for the Methodist Church as a west coast center for the Chautauqua movement. The whole area is shaded by towering eucalyptus trees as well as oak trees and a variety of other non-native trees such as palms and conifers.

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The trail began rising in Temescal Canyon as it entered Topanga State Park and we soon reached a wooden bridge crossing the streambed at a point where there is sometimes a series of cascades (a “waterfall”) though there was very little water at this time of year. Continuing westward (and upward) along the trail we reached Temescal Ridge where there were panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains and the coastline and a hazy view of the Los Angeles skyline.

We then descended along the Temescal Ridge (aka Viewpoint) Trail to the canyon bottom where we made our way to a different trailhead for the second part our hike. We hiked eastward on a shady trail over another ridge and down into Rivas Canyon where the heavily shaded trail followed a seasonal stream (dry this day). Using a short connector trail, we reached Will Rogers State Historic Park where we took a lunch break on the front porch of the old ranch house and enjoyed the views of the spacious green lawn and the nearby polo field. We then returned to Temescal Gateway Park and our vehicles via the Rivas Canyon trail, completing a 9.3-mile hike with over 2,000’ of elevation gain/loss on a pleasant day for hiking. NOTE: Though there weren’t many wildflowers at this time of year, there were lots of Cliff Asters blooming along our way.

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August 10th – Carpinteria Bluffs to Tar Pits State Park

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This time of year is often the warmest, so we schedule hikes in locations that afford us a break from the heat. This summer has been relatively cool. Temperatures in Simi Valley were in the mid-eighties today. It was still a welcome 68 degrees when our hike was over. So, while Les was high up in the Sierras yet again (http://www.sierramulepacks.org/trips.html#trip4), this time chasing down somebody’s ass all morning, 10 hikers met at the trailhead next to Carpinteria Bluffs overlooking Bates Beach.

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Again this year, there were no seals to be seen at Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary, except for one bobbing around just off the shore. Passing Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve, Tar Pits Park was the next stop on our hike. It is second only in size to the famous La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Next the trail took us to Carpinteria State Beach, where we left the trail to begin the first beach segment of our hike. We stopped briefly at at the San Miguel Campground facilities, where several of us took water shoes to better enjoy the walk on the beach. The beach was especially inviting, with it’s unusually high water temperatures, and a welcome change of pace from our usual hikes. Continuing past Marsh Park, we saw a large flock seagulls enjoying the day too. The turn-around point of our hike was Sand Point, where we took a break on the stairs for lunch and snacks. A welcome and cool ocean breeze started just in time for our return. Just past the Nature Preserve, we took a short and steep connector trail that took us down to Bates Beach. On the way back to Rincon Park, we enjoyed exploring the unusual rock formations, and finding shells along the tide-line. We found several Wavy Turban Snails, both alive and dead, in the surf. Our hike was 7.65 miles with with 200′ of elevation gain/loss.

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August 3rd – Serrano Canyon Lollipop Loop

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11 hikers carpooled to the day-hiker’s parking lot at the Big Sycamore Canyon Campground on Pacific Coast Highway in Point Mugu State Park on a slightly overcast morning near the ocean. Our hike began by walking through the campground and then hiking 1.1 miles north on the dirt Sycamore Canyon Fire Road which we shared with bicyclists and scores of high-school-student runners.

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We then headed 1.7 miles east on the Serrano (“from the mountains”) Trail as it climbed gradually upstream through the beautiful shaded – but somewhat overgrown in places (particularly the upper section) – canyon. We enjoyed the sound and sight of running water in the stream as well as a surprising number and variety of late-blooming plants along the trail, including cliff asters, buckwheat, morning glories, wild roses, cattails, Dudleya live forever chalk plants, and poison oak (which we did our best to avoid).

We emerged from the canyon into lovely Serrano Valley which is ringed on all sides by mountains; it consists mainly of large meadows covered by wild grasses and dotted with a few trees and some bushes along the seasonal streams. After resting briefly to enjoy a cool ocean breeze, we began hiking the Serrano Valley Loop in a clockwise direction, stopping briefly to examine an old water pump. Resuming our hike, we soon reached a fork in the trail; we took the right fork and headed northeast, eventually dropping to a dry creek bed which we crossed and then continued eastward, climbing uphill. Upon reaching a narrow single-track trail on our right, we followed it as it headed southwest, spotting four mule deer just before crossing the dry creek bed again, and eventually completing the loop portion of our hike. We then followed our initial route downstream through Serrano Canyon and then Big Sycamore Canyon reaching our vehicles having completed a nearly 8-mile hike with 1,000’ of elevation gain/loss on a surprisingly pleasant day for hiking (we “beat the heat”).

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JULY

July 21st to 26th – Little Lakes Valley Mule Pack Trip

During this morning’s MidWeek Mountaineers hike in Wildwood Park (Thousand Oaks) I was asked several times how last week’s Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Mule Pack Section’s camping-and-hiking trip to Little Lakes Valley (which I co-led) went. I was also asked if I had any photos I could share, so here goes – – –

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1) A map showing the location of Chickenfoot Lake in Little Lakes Valley in the John Muir Wilderness in the eastern Sierra Nevada (mountain range) about 20 miles southeast of Mammoth Lakes, CA (Hwy 395). Our hike to our base camp (10,800’) near Chickenfoot Lake began at Mosquito Flat (10,200’) at the south end of Rock Creek Road [shown near the upper end of the map]. We dropped our camping gear and food off at the Rock Creek Pack Station (9,875’) across from Rock Creek Lake (9,695’) and then carpooled to Mosquito Flat. Then we hiked with day packs (rather than much heavier backpacks thanks to the mules) to the base camp location.

2) An activity diary describing mostly hiking activities during the mule pack outing.

Les

July 20th – Josephine Peak

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While Les was high up in the Sierras (http://www.sierramulepacks.org/trips.html#trip1), riding somebody’s ass all morning, eleven intrepid Trail Blazers summited Josephine Peak. Les’ description warned us about a “use trail reportedly requiring some class 3 climbing,” but at the end, and our delight all we found was a short, single-track trail completing the final accent.

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Josephine Peak was once the site of a fire lookout, erected in 1937. The structure was destroyed by the Big Tujunga Fire, in November 1975. The Peak was named for Josephine Lippencott, wife of USGS surveyor Joseph Barlow Lippencott. Its rocky top remains an active electronic communications site today. Our hike began behind a gate at the entrance to the Josephine Peak Fire Road (2N64), across the road from the Clear Creek fire station, at the intersection of Highway 2 and the Angeles Forest Highway. The trail was definitely up all the way following the relatively well-maintained fire road. As we gained elevation, the view continued to improve. Once on top, we found a very confused survey marker inscribed with “Mt Lowe F2A.” Spectacular views from this vantage point included the nearby Strawberry Peak, most all the peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains, San Gabriel Peak proper, Mount Lukens, and all of Big Tujunga Canyon. Wildflower season is rapidly coming to an end, but there was still a good number Heart Leaved/Climbing Penstemon and California Buckwheat in evidence. Several of us enjoyed tasting the California Blackberry. There were also several non-native species along the trail, including Eucalyptus Trees and Oleander bushes. Our up-and-back hike was a total of 8.3 miles, with 1.900′ of elevation gain. Every agreed is was a most enjoyable hike.

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July 13th – Tierra Rejada Park

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10 hikers met at Stargaze Park in Simi Valley on a pleasant (but forecast to be the beginning of hot summer days) morning. After assembling and preparing for higher temperatures, we headed north to the trailhead entrance into Tierra Rejada “Park” where we took a group photo. As we continued, there were lots of rabbits running in all directions.

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When we reached the eastern end of an Edison Road we headed uphill to the west along it, enjoying widening views of the landscape as we gained elevation. Eventually we headed south along an overgrown path and then climbed west along an abandoned ridge road that afforded 360-degree views of the surrounding area. After taking a break in some sparse shade, by which time the temperature had risen considerably, we decided to forego the last steep uphill stretch to our usual turnaround point on another high ridge to the northwest. We mostly retraced our steps with the notable exception that near the end of the hike we followed a nearly level access road adjacent to the Arroyo Simi, thereby sparing ourselves from having to hike steeply uphill on the final part of the hike (by this time the temperature was definitely uncomfortable though there were occasional breezes). We reached our vehicles (and their air conditioning) having completed a nearly 7-mile hike with about 1,300’ of elevation gain, really glad that we had begun our hike at 7 AM. NOTE: Despite the heat and no rain for a while, there were still some blooming plants along our route, e.g., Cliff Asters, Purple Nightshade, Bush sunflower, Bindweed, Mexican Elderberry, Slender Leaf Milkweed, Tarweed, Vinegar Weed, Heliotrope, Coyote Melon, Giant Wooleystar, and Wild Rose.

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July 6th – Mt. McCoy to the Reagan Library

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15 hikers met at the carpool point near the intersection of Royal Avenue and Madera Road on an unusually cool 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. 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.

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As the trail rose up the mountainside, we were rewarded by a cool breeze and views of the western end of Simi Valley, including Sinaloa Lake, 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 not-yet-desiccated landscape (there were lots of buckwheat and cliff asters along our route), we hiked southwest to Presidential Drive and then hiked along it to the west side of the library where President Reagan was buried in 2004 (and Nancy Reagan in 2016). The setting of the library is quite beautiful. After a short rest/snack break, we returned the way we came, completing a nearly 6-mile hike with a little over 900’ of elevation gain/loss.

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JUNE

June 22nd – Hondo Canyon to Topanga Lookout

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Nine hikers arrived on a cool overcast morning at the trailhead located 0.4 mile northwest of “downtown” Topanga along Old Topanga Canyon Road where the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s “Backbone Trail” crosses the road. As we began our hike up the steep north-facing mountain slope we traversed our only wet stream crossing and soon passed through meadows filled with dry yellow grasses and dotted with oak trees and interesting rock formations.

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Next we reached a wonderful pink gorge on the right (west) side of the trail where a small waterfall is sometimes visible (but not today). As we continued upward through chaparral, there were glimpses of the pink-colored sedimentary rock formations/cliffs (the Sespe Formation) that form the west side of the canyon. We then entered a dense forest comprised mostly of oak and bay laurel trees; the trail was also lined with ferns, moss-covered rocks, and lots of poison oak as well as a variety of blooming plants (see below).

After negotiating a long series of heavily shaded switchbacks through the forest we neared Saddle Peak Road. However, we headed west on the Fossil Ridge Trail that paralleled/overlooked the road; it was also adorned with a variety of blooming plants, particularly phacelia. Upon reaching the old Topanga Tower Motorway, we left the Backbone Trail and headed north to the end of the road where there was once a fire lookout tower. After a lunch/rest break we retraced our steps and returned home having completed a 10.7-mile hike with 2,350’ of elevation gain/loss on a very pleasant day for hiking.

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June 15th – Switzer Falls and Bear Canyon

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Seven hikers carpooled to the trailhead at the Switzer Picnic Area, about 10 miles up Highway 2 from its intersection with the 210 Freeway. Switzer Camp was founded in 1884 by a Pasadena carpinter named Perry Switzer. The camp was an arroyo rock village, and one of many privately owned attractions that dotted the front range of the San Gabriel mountains, hosted outdoor enthusiasts who hiked from one lodge to the next. All that remains of Switzer Camp today, are the chapel arches and the overgrown foundation of the lodge.

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It was a cool morning, as we hiked down the Gabrieleno Trail following the Arroyo Seco stream bed, dividing the beautiful riparian canyon. We already had several stream crossings under our belt, as we climbed up out of the canyon and into the bright sunshine, before stopping to rest at the intersection of the Gabrieleno Trail and Bear Canyon Trail. Next, we headed southwest, into the well-shaded Bear Canyon, where we came a junction that gave us access to Switzer Falls. We took a short spur up a box canyon that terminated at the Falls. The Falls were flowing well this year, since the drought ended this past winter. After enjoying the beauty of this 50′ waterfall with its well-established plunge-pool, we began the gradual uphill climb to Bear Canyon Trail Camp. Stream crossings were never-ending, but finally we reached the end of the trail. Bear Canyon Camp is pleasant destination and the perfect place to rest and east lunch. We returned the way we came, traversing the stream 31 times in total, after hiking 10 miles, with 1,600′ of total elevations gain and loss. We enjoyed a good many wildflowers on the hike, including Humbolt Lilies, Speckled Clarkia, Indian Paintbrush, California Everlasting, Meadow Nemophila, Chinese Houses, Dudlia, Black Sage, Tree Poppy, Caterpillar Phacelia, Virgin’s Bower, Golden Yarrow, Yerba Santa, and a few others we have yet to identify. Everyone agreed that this was a very special hike.

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June 8th – Matilija Falls

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Eight hikers met at the trailhead at the west end of Matilija Road a few miles northwest of Ojai on a pleasant late-spring morning. The hike began along a road that headed west through the private Matilija Canyon Ranch Wildlife Refuge where we were greeted by a dazzling display of large Matilija poppies as we passed by a cage housing sheep and goats.

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The stream crossing at the 0.4-mile mark required care to avoid slipping into the creek which had flowing water whereas our visit in 2016 was easy since there was no water in the creek at that point then. After a little over a mile our route crossed through a lovely private ranch via a dirt road that hikers are restricted to. At about the 2-mile mark our route lost any resemblance to our hike in 2016 (and previous years) [see below]. The heavy foliage we encountered along the stream in previous visits had almost entirely disappeared. We located a well-defined, if somewhat overgrown, single-track trail that we followed as it climbed steadily up the mountain on the west side of the stream’s canyon. We were treated to an overwhelming display of blooming plants, especially Deerweed, as well as Bindweed, Caterpillar Phacelia, Golden Yarrow, Purple, Black and White Sage, Chaparral Yucca, Humboldt Lily, Poodle Dog Bush, Golden Eardrops, Large-Flowered Phacilia, Matilija Poppies, and Scarlet Monkey Flower.

After a while the trail began to descend to the creek (the last part of the trail down required special attention as it was very narrow and partially eroded in places). Upon reaching the wide boulder-strewn canyon bottom and agreeing that our hike now bore no resemblance (other than exhibiting mountains, a canyon, and a stream) to our prior visits. The canyon bottom was devoid of foliage and as we looked upstream we saw a series of small cascades in the stream and lots of rocks all around. After inspecting the area we spotted a pink ribbon (one of a series of such markers) across the stream, so we carefully crossed to the other side where there was an obvious trail heading upstream. After taking a rest/snack break we headed upstream along the trail. However, the trail soon began to deteriorate and eventually disappeared entirely, leaving us on a shelf above the stream. Spotting a solitary hiker heading downstream in the canyon bottom, we asked her if she had reached the waterfall. She said that she had but she was equipped with water shoes. Although we were happy to learn that we were headed in the right direction (despite its foreign-to-us look), we decided to turn around at this point since we were not equipped to hike in the water. We returned the way we came, all agreeing that although we didn’t make it to the waterfall it was still a beautiful outing. We returned home having completed an 8.5-mile hike with about 1,250’ of elevation gain/loss.

THE JUNE, 2016 VERSION OF THE TRIP REPORT – – –

“At about the 2-mile mark the dirt road became a narrow trail as it wound through a shady poison-oak-paradise stretch. In fact, since the route closely followed Matilija Creek the rest of the way, poison oak was frequently present [long pants and a long-sleeved shirt are recommended]. After a while we stopped by the flowing stream at a particularly lovely spot and took a short break (and some photos). Continuing upstream the maintained trail ended and we began to scramble and boulder hop, frequently finding short open stretches of trail. Occasionally we were required to cross the stream in order to continue. We were rewarded for our effort by beautiful scenery including the flowing creek, several large pools of water, vast expanses of sedimentary rock layers, an extensive riparian oak woodland, towering canyon walls, and many wildflowers including Matilija poppies.”

OUR CONCLUSION AS TO THE VAST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE 2016 AND THE 2019 HIKES: Wildfire and subsequent flooding in the Matilija Creek Canyon since 2016 sculpted a barren rock environment in the canyon bottom and also led to a change in trail direction as a result, i.e., the steep climb up the mountain on the west side of the canyon, followed by the steep descent back into the canyon.

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June 1st – Mt. Lukens

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Ten hikers carpooled to the Haines Canyon Trail trailhead at the upper (east) end of Haines Canyon Avenue in Tujunga on a slightly chilly, cloudy/foggy late spring morning to tackle hiking steadily uphill to the summit of Mt. Lukens, the highest peak (5,078’) in the city of Los Angeles.

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As our hike began we passed by a debris dam and catch basin near the mouth of Haines Canyon (it contained some water). Soon we reached a fork in the trail; we avoided the left fork and continued northeast, climbing steadily (though not steeply) while taking in the canyon views including a variety of blooming plants. Eventually we reached a section where the trail took a left turn that was somewhat confusing due to bicyclists (some of whom were present) who have developed a downhill series of “jumps” on a lengthy separate “bandit” course parallel to the trail. The trail became a shady single-track path as it made its way eastward out of Haines Canyon to a junction with a somewhat eroded and overgrown dirt road (rising from the Deukmejian Wilderness Park to the south) which we followed mostly northeast via a series of long switchbacks as it led us to the summit of Mt Lukens. The sun “came out” as we approached the top and quickly warmed the morning. The summit hosts several tall communication towers and it provides wide-ranging views (including lots of mountains) in several directions, though heavy fog reduced our visibility on this day, particularly to the south. There are several routes to the summit, including Stone Canyon Trail which rises steeply from its trailhead in Big Tujunga Canyon immediately to the north. After taking a leisurely rest/lunch break “on top of the world,” we returned to our vehicles the way we came thus completing an 11-mile up-and-back hike with just over 3,000’ of elevation gain/loss.

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MAY

May 25th – Alamos Canyon

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Sixteen hikers met at the Simi Valley Sanitation Department parking lot this morning. It was a clear and cool morning, unusual for late May. After crossing Easy Street and the railroad tracks, we continued north up the gated Los Alamos Canyon Road to the official trailhead, about a half mile up the hill.

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We decided to do the lollipop loop in a counter-clockwise direction; the first leg skirting the western side of the nearby landfill. At the terminus of the loop, one of our regular hikers remarked that the area to the north looked much like the grasslands of Africa, as seen in so many TV shows and movies. None of us would be surprised had we seen lions, elephants, or wildebeest in the distance. We began the second half of the loop, heading south and up a hill offering us a fine view of western Ventura county. Finally descending down a wooded canyon, we returned to our cars the way we came. It was a perfect local and relatively short hike for Memorial day weekend, with 4.75 miles total and 500′ of with elevation gain. As in previous hikes this year, many wildflowers adorned the trail. We saw Purple Sage, Indian Pink, Sticky Monkey Flower, Chaparral Yucca, Deer Weed, White Sage, Black Sage, Chalk Live-Forever, Spring Vetch, Elegant Clarkia, Golden Stars, Golden Yarrow, Heart-Leafed Penstemon, Santa Barbara Locoweed, and Bladder-pod.

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May 4th – WildWood Park Loop

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10 hikers met at the Wildwood Park trailhead. Our hike started on a cool and foggy morning. We climbed to the top of Mount Clef Ridge, via the Santa Rosa Trail. From there we dropped down on the Shooting Star Trail to the Lower Santa Rosa Trail. The climb was steep back up to the ridge on the Lizard Rock Trail.

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From there we dropped back down past the Hill Canyon Sewage Treatment Plant, where we continued on to Skunk Hollow where we stopped for some much needed rest and lunch. Next was Paradise Falls and then on to the Lynnmere Trail, where we followed the stream, finally reaching Lynn Road and the parking lot. It seemed like it was quite a distance, with a lot of up and down, at 9.65 miles and about 1,900′ of total elevation gain. Thank you for an excellent job leading the hike today, Goldie! The wildflower display was better than it had been for many years in Wildwood Park. In evidence was Chalk Liveforever, Cottonwood Tree, Parry’s Phacelia, Creek Monkey Flower, Black Mustard, Prickly Pear Cactus, Bush Sunflower, Morning Glory, Conejo Buckwheat, Purple Sage, Black Sage, Turkish Rugging, Bladder Pod, Yellow Mariposa Lily, Catalina Mariposa Lily, Sticky Monkey Flower, Indian Pink, Peninsular Onion, Golder Star, Golden Yarrow, California Everlasting, Lacy Phacelia, Bush Mallow, Microseris, Datura, Spring Vetch, Curly Dock, Wild Rose, Milk Thistle, Chaparral Yucca, California Poppy, Chamise, and several others.

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APRIL

April 24th to 28th – Big Sur

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24 – Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground – Arrival and Valley View Trail

12 Rancho Simi Trailblazers gathered at the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground along the Pacific coast of California. Half of the group came in recreation vehicles; the other half set up their tents on three adjacent campsites. We then walked along the campground road adjacent to the Big Sur River amid a forest of giant Coast Redwood trees to the trailhead of the Valley View Trail (traversing the short Nature Trail along the way).

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As the shaded trail rose steadily uphill we were treated to an increasing variety of blooming wildflowers and we eventually reached the upper end of the trail where we had views of the Santa Lucia Range and Big Sur Valley. We retraced our steps as we made our way back to our campsites, thus completing a 5.7-mile hike with over 650’ of elevation gain/loss in a truly lovely environment.

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THURSDAY, APRIL 25 – Andrew Molera State Park: Creamery Meadow Trail, Ridge Trail, Panorama Trail, Bluffs Trail, and Spring Trail

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After breakfast, we carpooled to the Andrew Molera State Park trailhead parking lot on the southwest side of Hwy 1. Shortly after we followed signs for the Beach Trail from the parking lot, we reached the Big Sur River where we switched to water shoes and then waded carefully through the cold above-the-knee flowing water.

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After switching back to hiking boots, we hiked along the Creamery Meadow Trail (dirt road) admiring the blooming wildflowers and the towering ancient-looking trees along the way. Upon reaching a fork in the well-maintained dirt road, we turned left and almost immediately went left at the next fork onto the [Pfeiffer] Ridge Trail, another well-maintained dirt road that climbed inexorably upward onto the ridge; there was a fantastic display of blooming plants on both sides of the road. Eventually the slope of the road lessened and we entered a heavily wooded area through which the trail passed and the road became a trail that “ended” at the south park boundary marked by a fence. After enjoying a rest break and admiring sweeping coastal and mountain views, we turned right and hiked down the Panorama Trail toward the ocean (more great views and lovely wildflowers) to its junction with the Bluffs Trail which descended parallel to the coast to its junction with the Spring Trail. We followed the narrow Spring Trail down to a wide sandy “pocket” beach where we took another break and enjoyed the beach/ocean environment. Continuing our hike, we headed back up the Spring Trail to the Bluffs Trail and followed it and then the Creamery Meadow Trail back to Big Sur River where we again changed footwear to facilitate its crossing (the water was still cold!). We returned to our campsites having completed a truly beautiful 9.5-mile lollipop loop hike with 1,660’ of elevation gain/loss.

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FRIDAY, APRIL 26 – Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: Liewald Flat Trail AND Buzzards Roost Trail

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After breakfast, we began a hike that included two trails in a figure-eight configuration. We started by walking on the campground road along the Big Sur River but without crossing the river to the opposite side as motor vehicles were required to do; instead we stayed on the same side of the river as our campsites.

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Eventually we reached the trailhead (for both hikes) and followed the trail as it passed under Hwy 1 while sticking to the river. The heavily forested trail rose gradually to a fork on its left (leading to Buzzard’s Roost), but we continued straight ahead passing the presently unused group campground and continuing on to an oval-shaped meadow (Liewald Flat) and the adjacent Fernwood Campground and Resort. After wandering around the Fernwood area, we continued our loop around the pretty meadow and returned to the aforementioned left fork (now on our right).

We then began hiking up the Buzzard’s Roost Trail (a lollipop loop itself) in a clockwise direction through the wooded mountainside (lots of wildflowers). When we reached Buzzard’s Roost there were few trees so we had views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and toward the Pacific Ocean. After a lunch/rest break we completed the loop and then returned the way we had come (skipping the Liewald Flat part) and arrived having completed a very pleasant 5.5-mile hike with 1,150’ of elevation gain/loss.

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After lunch several of us carpooled to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve where we paid the $10 entrance fee and then drove westward straight through the Natural Reserve to the Cypress Bay parking lot. We then braved a strong chilly wind and explored the trails above Cypress Cove and Headland Cove noting (and photographing) the marine flora (Monterey cypress and a surprising array of various hardy wildflowers) and fauna (seals, sea otters, sea lions, and cormorants) as well as awesome views of the rocky shoreline and its coves. We then drove to the southern end of the paved road and hiked the Bird Island Trail where we saw hundreds of cormorants nesting as well as sea otters in an estuary. We hiked an estimated two miles with 150’ of elevation gain/loss.

Pfeiffer Beach – While several of us were visiting Point Lobos, others explored Pfeiffer Beach. The road (Sycamore Canyon Road) leading down to the separate-fee-required parking lots near the beach is not signed but it’s a very short distance south on Hwy 1 from the entrance into Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground. Those who went there explored tide pools among other things.

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SATURDAY, APRIL 27 – Garrapata State Park: Soberanes Canyon Trail AND Soberanes Point Trails

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After breakfast, we carpooled to the undeveloped Garrapata State Park (no road sign on Hwy 1 announcing it) and parked in a good-sized unpaved parking area along Hwy 1. We then undertook a two-part hike, one on each side of the highway (the trailheads were across Hwy 1 from each other).

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FIRST We began hiking the Soberanes Canyon Trail as it followed Soberanes Creek upstream (crossing it 7 times) into a forest of Coast Redwoods, gaining elevation along the way. It was very peaceful and there were again lots of beautiful wildflowers. Eventually we reached a point where the trail was closed “due to poor and potentially hazardous trail conditions.” We reversed direction and returned to the trailhead. SECOND We crossed Hwy 1 and began hiking the Soberanes Point Trails, mostly a loop along coastal bluff trails which provided us with views of “a myriad of crenelated coves, hidden beaches, and rocky points” and lots of beautiful wildflowers (particularly poppies). At one point we spotted a vulture down near the water in a cove eating a dead animal. When we reached the south side of the loop, we hiked up a short side trail to Whale peak with its 360-degree views (but we saw no whales). Returning to the loop trail we hiked back to our vehicles and returned to our campsites, having completed a combined 5.3-mile hike with 1,090’ of elevation gain/loss.

Since the annual Big Sur International Marathon was scheduled for Sunday morning (4/28) from just south of the entrance to our campground north to Carmel along Hwy1 (and there would be some delay in being allowed to use Hwy 1 that morning), most of us headed home after Saturday’s hikes, having spent about four days in one of the most beautiful spots on earth. If you haven’t spent time (several days) exploring Big Sur, it should be on your “bucket list” of things to do.

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April 13th – Santa Cruz Island

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Eight eager hikers assembled around 7:00 a.m. at the Island Packers facility in Ventura Harbor with their hiking gear, looking forward to exploring Santa Cruz Island, the largest (96.5 square miles) of the five islands in the Channel Islands National Park (in comparison, Santa Catalina Island is 74 square miles). Shortly after 8:00 a.m. our trip across the Santa Barbara Channel began. Luckily the channel was relatively calm, though we were riding into the waves.

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Anacapa Island (1.1 square miles) was visible to the south. At one point as we crossed the channel, we encountered a very large pod of frisky dolphins. We disembarked at Scorpion Anchorage on the east end of the island, happy to be on firm ground again. After a short briefing by park personnel (during which there were warnings of fines and other punishment for misdeeds), we walked a short distance to rest rooms and a few picnic tables where we regrouped and prepared for our hike. The environment was quite attractive due to 2019’s “wet” beginning with lots of greenery on the hillsides and lots of blooming plants (particularly some coreopsis and lots of white morning glories).

We began our hike by following Smuggler’s Road as it climbed over 700’ to a trail (dirt road) junction. Along the way we were treated to lovely ocean and land views; in addition to many large clusters of morning glories, we were greeted by lots of blue dick and some pretty Island poppies. The temperature was quite conducive to hiking uphill so it was very pleasant as we did so. Shortly after we passed the junction with the trail up to El Montanon peak, Smugglers Road descended to Smugglers Cove, a lovely sandy bay on the eastern edge of the island with a nice view of Anacapa Island; shade was provided by many large eucalyptus trees (and there was a nearby privy).

We sat at a picnic table to enjoy lunch; we had an ocean view along with the noise of waves breaking on the sandy shore. Soon we were approached by a couple of Island foxes (they’re about the same size as a house cat) who “posed” for photographs [actually they were waiting until it was safe to check to see if we had left any crumbs for them to eat]. After lunch we walked along its “driveway” to an old ranch house (built in 1889). It was fenced to keep “tourists” out, but its unique timepiece – a sundial applied vertically to the front of the house – was quite visible and it still showed the accurate time (except that it wasn’t designed to account for daylight savings time in 1889!). We spotted several patches of lupine near the ranch house and there was evidence on a nearby hillside of the olive grove and nut trees that once flourished there.

We had elected NOT to climb El Montanon (1,808’) is the highest mountain on the island that is accessible by the public; the views from the peak are said to be spectacular, including other islands in the Santa Barbara Channel and the coastline of Southern California. It is accessed via Montanon Ridge and High Mount and (according to those who have hike it) has stretches of narrow trail flanked by pulse-raising drops along the volcanic slopes. This hike (which we did not take) is 9.5 miles with 2,547’ of elevation gain/loss.

We returned to Scorpion Anchorage the way we came, enjoying the views but wishing the temperature had not increased as much as it had as we headed uphill. We investigated the small “museum” and then hiked up Scorpion Canyon to check out both the Lower and Upper Campgrounds (both appeared to be very nice). After spending some time on the beach, it was time to gather for boarding an Island Packers boat for our return trip which was more pleasant since we were going “with the waves.” At one point, as we re-crossed the channel, we encou