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 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 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 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 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’d 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 encountered three 20-plus-foot-long basking sharks, the second largest living sharks. “The basking shark is the second-largest living shark, after the whale shark, and one of three plankton-eating shark species, along with the whale shark and megamouth shark. Adults typically reach 6–8 meters in length. They are usually greyish-brown, with mottled skin.”

We disembarked on a dock in Ventura harbor having hiked 8.2+ miles with over 1,700’ of elevation gain/loss and returned home. Everyone agreed that our outing had been a great success! NOTE: Some of the blooming plants we saw during this outing were coreopsis stands bursting with yellow blossoms, lots of white Island morning glory, purple blue dick, and orange Island poppy plants).

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April 6th – Towsley Canyon Loop

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20 hikers met at the “Ed Davis Park at Towsley Canyon” section of the 4,000-acre Santa Clarita Woodlands Park this morning. It was perfect hiking weather, never exceeding 70 degrees. Our hike began on the dirt road leading to the Sonia Thompson Nature Center, and crossing Towsley Creek on a concrete bridge, where we began our counter-clockwise hike on the Towsley View Loop Trail. Recent storm damage re-routed the trail somewhat where the trail narrows.

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After passing through The Narrows section of Towsley Gorge, the trail quickly gained elevation, via multiple switchbacks along the well-shaded shaded eastern slope of the canyon. The verdant north-facing slopes of the Santa Susana Mountains rose steeply to the south. The single-track trail passed through sage scrub, stands of California walnut and bay laurel trees, and scattered oak trees as we made our way to the 2,450′ high point on the trail from where much of the Santa Clarita Valley was seen visible. The hillsides were adorned by many blooming wildflowers, including Fiddleneck, Lupine, California Poppies, Blue Ceanothus, Blue Larkspur, Fiesta Flower, Purple Nightshade, Indian Paintbrush, and Wild Sweet Pea. It was evident that the bloom had not yet peaked. Missing in recent years, were the Chocolate Lilies. Several beautiful examples adorned the higher elevations of trail this morning. The trail then dropped into shady Wiley Canyon, which we followed downstream to a junction with the Canyon View Loop Trail rising along the northern flank of the mountain, before descending to the Sonia Thompson Nature Center. After a brief rest, we returned to our cars at the trailhead and headed home, after enjoying a very pleasant 6.7 mile hike, with over 1,450′ of elevation gain/loss.

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March 30th – Santa Paula Canyon

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On a pleasant early spring morning 12 hikers began an out-and-back hike in Santa Paula Canyon from the trailhead on Highway 150 a few miles northwest of Santa Paula, a quaint town located in the agricultural Santa Clara River Valley and referred to as the “Citrus Capital of the World” for its orange, lemon, and avocado groves.

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The initial portion of the hike involved skirting the campus of Thomas Aquinas College, the Ferndale Ranch, avocado groves, and an oil field with mountains looming in the distance. Then we reached the swollen, swiftly flowing Santa Paula Creek which we carefully crossed to reach the trail on the other (north) side. We then followed the trail upstream toward the waterfall (our original destination), enjoying the sound of the creek (on our right) and gorgeous displays of swaths of wildflowers which covered much of the mountainside to our left (west) [refer to the photos accompanying this report]. It quickly became apparent that the 2019 rains had severely damaged sections of the trail which slowed our progress upstream. We eventually reached a point on the trail where the old dirt road/trail that leads up to the Big Cone Campground on the opposite (east) side of the swiftly flowing stream was supposed to be. We sent a scouting team across the creek (to the east side) to look for evidence of the old dirt road, but there was none (at that point). The trail ahead (on the west side) appeared to deteriorate even more so we decided to abandon trying to hike further upstream and returned the way we had come (again enjoying the wildflower display), completing a lovely 6.5-mile hike with 675’ of elevation gain/loss.

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March 23rd – Happy Camp Canyon

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16 hikers gathered at the Donut Delite parking lot and carpooled to the trailhead at the eastern end of Broadway Road in Moorpark. It was a calm and partly cloudy day, not too warm, and just perfect for a hike. Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park was once home to several Indian groups. Later is became part of the expansive Strathearn Ranch, owned by a Simi Valley pioneer family.

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Evidence still remains from when the land was a cattle ranch and vacation spot. Today, Happy Camp is a 3,000 acre wilderness area, managed by the MRCA (Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority), under an agreement with the County of Ventura. With almost 18” of rainfall so far this season, there was a prolific wildflower showing. The list was long, but included Owl’s Clover, Fiddleneck, Bladder Bush, Tanzy Phacelia, Chaparral Currant, Curly Docks, Prickly Phlox, Popcorn, Mustard Evening Primrose, Strigose Lotus, Purple Nightshade, California Poppy, Blue Dick, Scarlet Bugler, and three varieties of Lupine. We followed the canyon to the picnic benches and returned the way we came, having completed the 9.8 mile hike, with about 1,000′ of elevation gain/loss. We all agreed the wildflowers made this a very special hike.

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March 9th – Beaudry Loop

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14 hikers carpooled to a not-so obvious trailhead along Beaudry Boulevard, at the northeast base of the Verdugo Mountain Range in Glendale. The hike began following a flood control channel on the left, and after a half mile, came to the intersection of South Beaudry Motorway to the left and North Beaudry Motorway to the right. We decided to do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, expecting a bit less elevation gain. Our climb to the ridge-line was slow and steady, as more and more of the San Gabriel Mountains came into prominent view, along with the expanse of the city below.

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There was much evidence of erosion along the trail, including a landslide that almost obliterated a section of the fire road, certainly from the recent rains. Tongva Peak (2,656 feet) was the next milestone on our hike. Named commemorating the Gabrieleno ~ Tonga Community of Wiqanga Native Americans, the peak is an important Los Angeles area broadcast site, and the home of “World Famous KROQ.” A clearing just past the peak offered an expansive view in all directions, and was the half-way point along our hike. There we rested, enjoyed our time with expanse, and marveled at the majestic clouds remaining from the previous storm. We left the peak and continued down the ridge to the South Beaudry Motorway. As we started to loose elevation, we found a short offshoot from the main trail, covered with wildflowers. In evidence were Red Maids, Meadow Nemophila, Fiddleneck, Filaree, and Sticky Monkey Flowers. We dropped elevation quickly, proving our wise decision to do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. Soon after the flood control catch-basin came back into view on the right, a young-looking coyote quickly crossed the trail and was soon out of sight. Completing the 6.2 mile loop, with close to 1,600′ of total elevation gain, we were again back at our cars’ knowing that our first time on this trail was well worthwhile.

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February 23rd – Mentryville Park and Pico Canyon

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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.

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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.

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January 26th – Johnson Motorway to Rocky Peak

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18 hikers met at the trailhead on Iverson Road just outside the gated southern entrance to Indian Springs Estates in Chatsworth on a mild winter morning with a wind advisory. After following the easement through the upscale gated community, we reached the beginning of the unpaved Johnson Motorway (once a toll road).

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The trail (an old dirt and sandstone roadbed) rose westward until it met a short “driveway” leading north to the ruins of the ranch house that was built by Ann and Neils Johnson who were the first English-speaking homesteaders in the San Fernando Valley; they had built their primary home in “Chatsworth Park” in the 1870’s. It should be noted that we were “assaulted” by strong intermittent winds at times during the hike, although there was little or no wind during more than half of the hike. Leaving the ruins, we followed the Johnson Motorway as it passed through a landscape of dramatic rock formations, climbing steadily, but not steeply, toward the Rocky Peak Fire Road. The temperature rose (but was still pleasant) as the sun ascended and we soon removed our jackets. After 3.5 miles we reached the fire road where we took a short snack/rest break while we enjoyed the scenery including lots of green hillsides. We then headed southward along the Rocky Peak Fire Road enjoying views of interesting rock formations and Simi Valley to the west. A short spur trail led us eastward to an overlook of the San Fernando Valley near Rocky Peak. We took another break while we enjoyed views as diverse as snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Cruz Island, and the tops of tall buildings in downtown Los Angeles. We soon retraced our route downhill back to our vehicles and returned home having completed a pleasant 9.5-mile hike with about 1,900’ of total elevation gain/loss.

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January 19th – Las Llajas Canyon and Chumash Trail Loop

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21 hikers met at the Las Llajas Canyon trailhead on Evening Sky Drive in Simi Valley on a cool winter morning. We began our hike by descending a short paved section of road into the canyon bottom; from there a wide graded dirt road followed a streambed north through the canyon, crossing the streambed three times.

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The stream had a little water in it and a trickle was slowly moving downstream; there were also several separate mud puddles in the road itself. The steep canyon walls provided shade and a refreshing breeze as we enjoyed an easy 3.5 mile trek up the canyon. Nearing the Poe Ranch gate, we took the right (east) fork and continued up the dirt road leading to an abandoned oil field which has been “cleaned up” (purposefully stripped of all remaining aboveground equipment/pipes) and then on up to a junction with the Rocky Peak Fire Road, savoring the views back down the canyon and of the surrounding area along the way. After reaching the Rocky Peak Fire Road (where a majestic oak tree has died and crashed to the ground), we turned right and headed south toward the upper end of the Chumash Trail. Along the way we passed Fossil Hill (named for the shells of sea creatures left behind when the area was under a vast sea). We enjoyed panoramic views of mountains and canyons to the east, south, and west including some snow atop a peak in the distant San Gabriel Mountains. The nearby mountainous terrain was covered with pretty bright green grass that had seemingly appeared overnight. Upon reaching the upper end of the Chumash Trail with its “Chumash Trail 2.7 miles to Flanagan Drive trailhead” sign, we stopped briefly before rapidly descending the familiar trail into Simi Valley; along the way down we spotted two red-tail hawks and a vulture. We then turned right (west) and followed a short connector trail to a closed-but-not-locked gate in a fence at the east end of Evening Sky Drive. A short walk along Evening Sky Drive took us back to our vehicles, having completed a very pleasant 9.6-mile hike with over 1,900’ of elevation gain/loss.

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January 5th – Devil Canyon to Browns Canyon Road

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21 hikers met at the hike’s starting point on Poema Place in Chatsworth on a cool winter morning. As our hike began we descended along a fairly steep “use” trail into the heavily shaded bottom of Devil Canyon where we followed the remnants of the Devil Canyon Motorway upstream as it frequently crisscrossed the sometimes wet (thanks to recent rain) creek bed.

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We spotted lots of interesting sandstone-rock-cliff formations and chalk dudleya “liveforever” plants as we made our way up to the large dam at the trail’s junction with the mouth of Ybarra Canyon. After a brief rest break we continued upstream along the occasionally muddy, but mostly dry, trail which from this point on had been transformed a few of years ago from single-track to a “one-lane” dirt road [the reason for this not being apparent though several short dirt “side roads” and one long one heading north have also been created]. As the canyon widened we passed by grass-covered hillsides dotted with oak trees. When we reached the upper-canyon Cathedral-like oak woodland, the trail reverted to its natural undisturbed state (including lots of fallen oak trees, presumably killed by wildfire and drought). Upon reaching Brown’s Canyon Road we turned right (east) and hiked a short distance uphill where we took a break and enjoyed views to the south. We then retraced our route and returned to our vehicles having completed a very pleasant 9.6-mile hike in this unique canyon with about 1,300’ of elevation gain/loss.

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