MAY

May 25th – Long Canyon, Oak Canyon, Montgomery Canyon, Canyon View Trail Loop

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9 hikers arrived at the Long Canyon Trail trailhead parking lot at Wood Ranch in Simi Valley on a pleasant early summer morning which promised to heat up to the low ‘90’s during the day.  We began hiking the Long Canyon Trail as it climbed steeply 0.7 mile to a trail junction atop a ridge overlooking western Simi Valley to the north as well as the Lang Ranch Open Space to the south.  We then followed a “use” trail down to the dirt road in Oak Canyon while enjoying views of the surrounding mountain slopes and some blooming plants.  After a short break we headed eastward fairly steeply up a dirt connector road to a ridge that provided nice views of western Simi Valley.  We continued along the dirt road as it dropped into Montgomery Canyon (which still had a surprising display of blooming wildflowers) and headed toward Long Canyon Road.  We then crossed the street, walked a short distance northward and then hiked steeply up the northeastern end of the Canyon View Trail.  The trail provided views of the surrounding area including the Bard Reservoir as we followed it as it undulated along a ridgeline back to the trailhead parking lot, thus completing a 6.2-mile loop hike with about 1,500’ of elevation gain/loss on a relatively pleasant morning for hiking thanks in large part to an intermittent cooling breeze particularly during the Canyon View Trail portion of the hike.  We encountered a rabbit and a few blooming wildflowers including cliff asters, morning glories, bush mallow, tree tobacco, bush sunflowers, and California buckwheat (actually not blooming but still looking nice).

May 11 – Hummingbird Trail to Rocky Peak Fire Road

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9 hikers assembled at the on-street-parking area at the north end of Kuehner Drive at the trailhead (1,175’) for the Hummingbird Trail (just outside the gate into Hummingbird Ranch) on a pleasant but-soon-to-heat-up late spring morning.  We began our 2.4-mile eastward climb to the Rocky Peak Fire Road, taking in the increasingly wide views to the west as we gained elevation.  The trail passed through (and on) a variety of imposing rock formations along the way including very large boulders and giant slabs of sandstone rock, many with small “caves.”

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Unfortunately the official trail continues to be damaged by bicycle riders who (without permission) create “bandit trails” that cut steeply through the pleasant original switchback trail; the “bandit trails” make it nearly impossible to discern the original trail at many intersections; in fact, several sections of the original trail now have plant-life hiding them since most people now hike sections of the “bandit trails.” 

Nevertheless we eventually reached the trail’s junction with the Rocky Peak Fire Road where we took a rest break and enjoyed a cool breeze before retracing our route to our vehicles.  We reached the trailhead having completed a 4.8-mile out-and-back hike with about 1,250’ of elevation gain/loss on a summer-like morning.  NOTE: The wildflowers we encountered included (but were not limited to) California buckwheat, Bush sunflowers, black mustard, Turkish rugging, and several Plummer’s mariposa lilies.

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May 6th – Conejo Mountain

6 hikers assembled at the “Powerline Trail” trailhead on Via Ricardo in Newbury Park on a cool autumn morning.  The temperature was pleasant for hiking up the mountain and despite an overcast sky the air closer to the ground was surprisingly clear.  The trail began gently enough and we soon reached the Edison Road which we followed through a landscape littered with volcanic detritus to a spur road which we followed up to a pair of power transmission towers at the end of the spur road.  There were several types of wildflowers along the way.  We then 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 on the mountain – in the distance to the west.  We followed the “use” trail southwestward across the rock-strewn landscape to the mountain “peak” where the foggy overcast deprived us of seeing the usual 360-degree views of nearby mountains, the eastern portion of Camarillo, and parts of Newbury Park.

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However, the overcast kept the temperature cool and we were rewarded at the “peak” by encountering scores of Plummer’s mariposa lilies in full bloom [the most I’ve ever seen in one place and a lot more than the half-dozen (in total) I’d seen during the more-than-40 hikes I’ve been on this year].  After taking a break, we headed carefully back down to the spur road a different (a lot less steep) way and then retraced our route to Via Ricardo and returned home having completed a pleasant 5.3-mile hike with about 1,350’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice morning for hiking.  NOTE: The wildflowers we encountered included (but were not limited to) sticky monkey flower, deerweed, chaparral yucca, California everlasting, California buckwheat, cliff asters, and black mustard.

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May 28th – Placerita Canyon Trail to Los Piñetos Trail to Wilson Saddle and then back to the Nature Center via a Steep Firebreak loop

8 hikers arrived in the main parking lot in Placerita Canyon County Park in southeastern Santa Clarita Valley on a somewhat overcast late spring morning.  After taking a few photos Placerita Canyon Nature Center (1,550’) they began hiking eastward along the Placerita Canyon Trail.  The air was pleasantly cool, there was running water in the canyon, and there was a stunning abundance of blooming plants (many types of wildflowers, etc.) for this time of year particularly since there is an ongoing drought.  Eventually we reached the Walker Ranch Group Campground (about two miles from the trailhead) and the lower (northern) end of the Los Piñetos Trail. Boy scouts had camped there a week earlier for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic started in early 2020 [according to a local hiker].

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Since the nearby Waterfall Trail was closed to the public, the group began heading southward on the Los Piñetos Trail, climbing steadily toward Wilson Saddle (3,100’) and the Santa Clara Divide Road enjoying a cool light breeze.  After the first moderately steep mile or so, the trail entered a still-pleasant woodland (burned by the Sand Fire in 2016) for the remainder of the nearly three-mile-long trail, passing Los Piñetos Spring along the way.  We took a short break at Wilson Saddle (which has comfortable seating and bathroom facilities) when a group of horseback riders appeared, having come up Wilson Canyon.  After resting and having conversation with the equestrians, we resumed our hike along a short portion of Whitney Canyon Road, but soon turned northward onto an unmarked firebreak leading down toward the Nature Center.  This firebreak is not a fire road; it has many steep downhill stretches as it heads to the northwest, as well as several short sometimes-steep uphill stretches.  It is challenging and strenuous if one is heading up it and if you are descending it as we were, care is required to avoid the danger of injury from slippage on the way down (hiking poles and boots with good traction/deep lugs are helpful).  Eventually we reached the Manzanita Mountain trail leading down toward a large water tank overlooking the Nature Center. Finally we descended to the parking lot via the Hillside Trail.  We returned to Simi Valley having completed a pleasant 9-mile loop hike with about 1,800’ of elevation gain/loss.

NOTE: The wildflowers we encountered included (but were not limited to) sticky monkey flower, deerweed, California buckwheat, golden yarrow, cliff asters, bush sunflower, elegant clarkia, speckeled clarkia, climbing penstemon, milk thistle, California everlasting, caterpillar phacelia, fern-leaf phacelia, Chinese houses, Mexican elderberry, and one Plummer mariposa lily.  Photos of these wildflowers are available in the May 21st entry below of the solitary “pre-hike” taken by the leader of today’s hike [it was the same route as today’s hike].

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May 25th – Work Party: North Ridge Trail

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There was plenty of parking on the south side of Evening Sky Drive.  The weather was not too warm, the sky was slightly cloudy, and there was a faint breeze. 15 volunteers gathered to clear weeds from the North Ridge Trail (rsrpd.org)  The trail overgrowth was dry. The Mustard and Russian Thistle were tough and there was a lot of Wild Oat grass. The volunteers were good spirited and cleared a good portion of the trail, using weed cutter grass whips, pick mattocks, loppers and hoes. It was a great morning as always working with volunteers from Student Corps. Many thanks to Andrew Chen, Baohui Chen, Jonathan (Junru) Chen, Harry Ding, Stella Ding, Nelson Hu, Jayden Hu, Mingfei Luo, James Miller, Daniel Choi, Noah Kang, Chun Lu, Tianyue lu, Vicky Chen, Mike Kuhn, and Martin DeGoey.

May 20th – Pre-hike: Placerita Canyon Trail to Los Piñetos Trail to Wilson Saddle and then back to the Nature Center via a Steep Firebreak

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Les Wilson decided to “pre-hike” the route planned for the RSTB hike on the following Saturday (5/28/2022)  He arrived in the main parking lot in Placerita Canyon County Park in southeastern Santa Clarita Valley on a very nice spring morning.  After taking a few photos Placerita Canyon Nature Center (1,550’) he began hiking eastward along the Placerita Canyon Trail.  The air was pleasantly cool, there was running water in the canyon, and there was a stunning abundance of wildflowers, for this time of year particularly since there is an ongoing drought [he took scores of photos].  Upon reaching the Walker Ranch Group Campground (about two miles from the trailhead) he spotted a group of boy scouts setting up camp for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic started in early 2020 [according to a local hiker Les encountered].

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After determining that the nearby Waterfall Trail was closed to the public, Les began heading southward on the Los Piñetos Trail, climbing steadily toward Wilson Saddle (3,100’) and the Santa Clara Divide Road.  After the first steep mile or so, the trail entered a still-pleasant woodland (burned by the Sand Fire in 2016) for the remainder of the nearly three-mile-long trail, passing Los Piñetos Spring along the way.  He took a short break at Wilson Saddle which has comfortable seating and bathroom facilities.  The hike resumed along a short portion of Whitney Canyon Road, but soon turned northward onto an unmarked firebreak leading down toward the Nature Center.  This firebreak is not a fire road; it has many steep downhill stretches as it heads to the northwest, as well as several short sometimes-steep uphill stretches.  It is challenging and strenuous, particularly if one is heading up it (rather than down as Les was).  There was a recurring danger of injury from slippage on the way down, making hiking poles (which Les had and used) almost a necessity.  Eventually he reached the Manzanita Mountain trail leading down to a large water tank overlooking the Nature Center.  He then descended to the parking lot via the Hillside Trail.  He returned to Simi Valley having completed a mostly pleasant 9-mile loop hike with about 1,800’ of elevation gain/loss.

NOTE: The wildflowers encountered included (but were not limited to) sticky monkey flower, deerweed, California buckwheat, golden yarrow, cliff asters, bush sunflower, elegant clarkia, speckeled clarkia, climbing penstemon, milk thistle, California everlasting, caterpillar phacelia, fern-leaf phacelia, Chinese houses, Mexican elderberry, a few Catalina mariposa lilies, and a couple of Plummer mariposa lilies.

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May 14th – Wildwood Park: Arroyo Conejo Creek, Hill Canyon Open Space, Wildwood Canyon (Paradise Falls), Lynnmere Trail Loop

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6 hikers arrived at 8:00 a.m. at the trailhead at the northwest end of Calle Yucca on the south side of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks on a pleasant spring morning.  As the hike began we descended into the shady canyon through which the Arroyo Conejo Creek flows.  The trail (an old dirt road) ran through a pleasant woodland of oak and walnut trees; we crossed the creek four times by walking on wooden planks recently placed to facilitate the crossings whereas in the past we had to carefully step on rocks in the stream (hiking poles are still advised) before reaching the (2005) Hill Canyon Wetlands, formerly the home of coots, mallards, herons, and pond turtles. However, there were no signs of life in or around the water, much of which was covered with a layer of light green algae(?).

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Leaving the wetlands, we made our final “wet” stream crossing (also with the help of recently placed wooden planks) and then hiked along a narrow trail through some tall brush, soon reaching what was once an open grassland, but is now victim to lots of black mustard [which was quite pretty].  At this point we were in the Conejo Canyons Open Space.  Then we hiked north through Hill Canyon to a very nice bridge and crossed over Wildwood Creek to Hill Canyon Road which we followed to a trail which skirts the modern-looking Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Continuing past the junction with the Lizard Rock Trail, we headed upstream through Wildwood Canyon, taking a break in a wooded picnic area at Hoegeman’s Hollow near the foot of the Teepee Trail.  Along the way we happened upon a mother mallard duck and half a dozen of her young offspring in the creek only a few feet from us.

We continued on upstream to Paradise Falls where we spent a few minutes enjoying the view.  We continued further upstream to an access to the Lynnmere Trail and crossed Wildwood Creek for the last time during this hike.  We followed the trail (a fairly steep dirt road) as it rose to the southeast before reaching a fork to the west which we followed as it led us around the north side of the mountain and then climbed southward to the top of the mountain, affording us with a spectacular 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains and a light refreshing ocean breeze (the day had become quite hot).  We then descended back to the original trailhead and headed home having completed a mostly enjoyable 8-mile loop hike with about 1,200’ of elevation gain/loss.  The blooming plants we saw included black mustard, caterpillar phacelia, Catalina mariposa lily, morning glories, purple sage, sticky monkey flower, deerweed [sic], golden yarrow, Chinese house, scarlet bugler, cliff asters, sunflowers, thistle, and bush mallow.

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May 7th – Towsley Canyon and Wiley Canyon Loop

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5 hikers met at the “Ed Davis Park at Towsley Canyon” section of the 4,000-acre Santa Clarita Woodlands Park on a pleasant spring morning.  We began hiking along a dirt road toward the Sonia Thompson Nature Center, crossing Towsley Creek on a concrete bridge.  Soon we began a counterclockwise hike on the Towsley View Loop Trail.  After passing through The Narrows section of Towsley Gorge, the trail began rising via switchbacks along the 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 which much of the Santa Clarita Valley could be seen.  The hillsides were adorned by many blooming wildflowers which begged to be photographed.  The trail then began dropping into shady Wiley Canyon which we followed downstream to a junction with the Canyon View Loop Trail which rose along the northern flank of the mountain before descending to the Sonia Thompson Nature Center.  After a brief respite we followed the dirt road back to our vehicles.  We returned home having completed a pleasant 6.5-mile hike with about 1,600’ of elevation gain/loss.  The wildflowers we saw/enjoyed included (but were not limited to) caterpillar phacelia, yellow mariposa lily, morning glories, purple sage, lupine, sticky monkey flower, elegant clarkia, deerweed [sic], California poppies, Indian paintbrush, golden yarrow, scarlet bugler, cliff asters, bush mallow, yerba santa, datura (aka Jimson weed), and black mustard.

APRIL

April 30th – Cheeseboro Canyon – Palo Comado Canyon Loop

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April 23rd – Devil Canyon to Browns Canyon Road

14 hikers met at the Cheeseboro Canyon trailhead in the Simi Hills (5792 Chesebro Rd, Agoura Hills; GPS coordinates for the main parking lot entrance: N 34.1543 W -118.7339) on a chilly spring morning.  We began our hike by heading north on the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail (a dirt road) under a blue sky with some clouds.  Almost immediately the trail was bordered with invasive black mustard plants with their pretty yellow blossoms.  We soon passed through what had been an open grassland in the wide canyon bottom and then through a drought-weakened oak woodland; the effect of the prolonged drought (and a past wildfire) was obvious from the number of dead trees lying on the ground.  Still the oak woodland was appealing though the trail continued to be bordered with black mustard plants.  Eventually we reached Sulphur Springs which in the past produced a strongly pungent smell, but this day there was no water and no stench.  As we were hiking, quite a few bicyclists passed us as well as some high-school-age cross-country runners.  There was a variety of blooming plants as well as black mustard as our hike progressed.

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As we continued hiking northward we passed through a wide area that had not yet succumbed to black mustard.  It provided an amazing array of beautiful blooming plants including (among many others) mariposa lilies and California poppies. Upon reaching Shepherd’s Flat at a trail junction we took a short break before heading west on the Sheep Corral Trail (the corral is all but gone), enjoying the blooming plants along the way and ascended the ridge between Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons.  Our immediate objective, an overlook of Palo Comado Canyon, offered distant views of the surrounding area and we enjoyed a rest/lunch break while enjoying the lovely views.  We then began hiking south through Palo Comado Canyon and soon realized that the morning had heated up noticeably.  The final portion of our hike became more challenging for some of the participants as it got hotter so we slowed our pace and worked on our hydration.  Eventually we reached the trailhead parking lot having hiked approximately 10 miles with about 1,200’ of elevation gain/loss.  The wildflowers we encountered included (but were not limited to) black mustard, caterpillar phacelia, Catalina mariposa lily, yellow mariposa lily, purple nightshade, morning glories, lupine, sticky monkey flower, elegant clarkia, deerweed [sic], California poppies, blue dick, Indian paintbrush, scarlet bugler, and yerba santa.

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9 hikers met at the hike’s starting point on Poema Place in Chatsworth on a cool spring 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.  One stretch of trail was actually the stream bed but it was mostly dry.  We spotted lots of interesting sandstone-rock-cliff formations and some dudleya “liveforever” (chalk) plants as we made our way up to the large check 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.  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 looked more like the one-lane road it once was.

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The morning was perfect for hiking: [1] the temperature was mild since we were hiking in a canyon with shade from its walls as well as that of the many trees; [2] recent rain had “cleansed” the flora and there was a little water in the creek (but not so much that it impaired our progress); [3] we were greeted by a variety of blooming plants (mostly wildflowers); and [4] there were only a few other humans (a dozen or so bicyclists) in the canyon while we were there.  Upon reaching Browns Canyon (dirt) 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 1,100’ of elevation gain/loss.  The blooming plants we saw included (but were not limited to) yerba santa, blue dick, caterpillar phacelia, morning glories, sticky monkey flower, deerweed [sic], wild roses, elegant clarkia, and black mustard.

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April 16th – Work Party: The Lower Stagecoach

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On the most beautiful partly cloudy morning, 13 volunteers gathered near the picnic area at Corriganville Park.  After going over safety and tool use we worked our way up the Lower Stagecoach trail, Corriganville Trails (rsrpd.org), using Pick Mattocks, loppers, and shovels. We filled in ruts on the lower portion but mainly cleared plant overgrowth from the trail, mostly Black Mustard, Deer Weed, California Sage and Russian Thistle.  We cleared the trail past the small drainage creek and picked up where litter accumulates.  We filled in some large gullies with rocks and continued up the trail midway, just before the larger creek crossing, where we shored up a switchback with a 2in x 12in x 8ft plank.  Most of the volunteers were from Student Corps, https://studentcorps.org/about/our-mission/. The work party ended with a group picture and with great appreciation to Ming Fei Luo, Nelson Hu, Harry Ding, Liang Wang, Qifan Zhang, Amy Wang, Weijie Zhang, Lian zhi Guo, Yonghong Tong, Anna Lu, Chun Lu, Mike Kuhn, and Martin DeGoey.

April 9th – Simi Peak via China Flat

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8 hikers met along Lindero Canyon Road (near King James Court) in Oak Park on a pleasant spring morning.  Our hike in the Simi Hills began at the easier trailhead in King James Court as we headed uphill along an old dirt-and-rock road as it rose steadily via switchbacks 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 China Flat with its oak trees and sprawling meadows.  The oak trees that have survived the 2018 Woolsey Fire (and the ongoing drought) displayed bright green leaves and provided some much-appreciated shade as the morning grew a bit warmer.  Fortunately an intermittent cool breeze kept the temperature at a pleasant level and there was a lovely display of wildflowers along the trail.

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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 though the quite-distant landmarks were hazy or couldn’t be seen at all.  We took a rest-and-snack break atop the peak and enjoyed the closer views.  After a while we returned to our vehicles the way we came, completing a 6-mile hike with around 1,500’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice morning for hiking (however, it was noticeably warmer as we descended the southern slope during the final leg of the hike).  There were lots of wildflowers including yerba santa, fiddleneck, blue dick, purple nightshade, caterpillar phacelia, morning glories, sticky monkey flower  deerweed [sic], Mexican elderberry, black mustard, yerba santa, and some very healthy wild cucumbers [not actual cucumbers].

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April 2nd – Johnson Motorway to Rocky Peak Fire Road

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12 hikers met at the trailhead on Iverson Road just outside the gated southern entrance to Indian Springs Estates in Chatsworth on a chilly foggy spring morning.  After following the easement through the upscale gated community, we reached the beginning of the unpaved Johnson Motorway (once a toll road).  The fog was so thick that we could only see a short distance in any direction.  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.  After exploring the ruins, we followed the Johnson Motorway as it passed through a landscape of dramatic rock formations (which we couldn’t see), climbing steadily, but not steeply, toward the Rocky Peak Fire Road.  We soon warmed up thanks to our bodies’ generation of heat as we hiked uphill.  We were able to see a variety of wildflowers bordering the trail/road along the way.  When we reached the fire road the view of Simi Valley to the west was “invisible” to us since the fog was still thick.  We soon retraced our route downhill back to our vehicles and returned home having completed a pleasant 7.25-mile hike with about 1,450’ of total elevation gain/loss.  The fog had finally lifted somewhat as we neared the end of the hike.

MARCH

March 26th – Ahmanson Ranch, Lasky Mesa, Las Virgenes Canyon Lollipop Loop

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13 hikers carpooled to the trailhead at the north end of Las Virgenes Road in the Simi Hills on a chilly spring morning (cool temperatures, and clear skies).  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.  The preserve consists of a vast expanse of rolling hills and grasslands dotted with large old oak trees.  There were many swaths of yellow “black” mustard on the still-green hillsides.  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 fair 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.  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 home having completed a pleasant 6.8-mile hike with around 850’ of elevation gain/loss.

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NOTE 1: 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.”

NOTE 2: 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

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March 21st – Work Party: Mt. McCoy

Saturday’s Work party was postponed to Monday 3-21-2022.  Two volunteers meet at the Mt. McCoy trailhead and began work where the trail goes through the cactus grove, clearing away growth encroaching on the trail.  The trail was cleared to about midway to the cross, where on the last of the lower switchbacks the trail was eroded to a sandy slippery side slope, that needed shoring up.  The previous Friday, a pressure treated plank was brought up the trail, and the volunteers anchored it in, and filled in the slippery side slope. Much thanks to Mike Kuhn and Martin DeGoey.

March 12th – East Canyon (and Corral Sunshine Motorway) to Mission Point

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13 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 a little chilly as we began hiking southward along the non-maintained and somewhat-eroded East Canyon Motorway as it followed the small  (nearly dry) creek in the canyon bottom.  The route was lined with bay laurel, black walnut, cottonwood, sycamore, and oak trees.  Soon the dirt road began rising more steeply along the western side of a wooded ridge adorned with quite a few wildflowers including lupine, sticky monkey flower, fiddleneck, California poppies, miner’s lettuce, 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 [many of the trees appear to have died as a result of the ongoing drought and wildfire].  An intermittent breeze cooled us and the temperature became pleasant 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 where we took a break.

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Having reached the highest point in our hike, we headed southeast along the pleasant Corral Sunshine Motorway to Mission Point which provided a fairly good panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley and beyond as far as the San Gabriel Mountains (including one mountain with snow on top).  Some of us also peered through the fence separating us from the infamous Southern California Gas Company’s natural gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon to the west.  After resting/snacking, we retraced our now warmer (and mostly downhill!) route to the trailhead and returned home having completed a 9-mile hike with about 1,750’ of elevation gain/loss on a very nice day for mountain hiking and wildflower viewing.  NOTE: About a mile from the end of the hike we encountered several very large expanses of California poppies which had fully opened since the wind had abated and the temperature had risen enough to “encourage” them to open; it was truly awesome.

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March 5th – Northern Malibu Creek State Park

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20 hikers assembled at the starting (and ending) point of our planned loop hike in Malibu Creek State Park on a chilly winter morning.  Shortly before we started our hike a very friendly deer approached us [no doubt it had been given food in the past] and posed for photos.  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 the 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.  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 still surprisingly green.  There were lots of wildflowers of various types including California poppies, lupine, purple nightshade, sunflowers, blue dick, Indian paintbrush, and morning glories as well as lots of blooming white ceanothus trees.

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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.  After taking a short break at Century Lake where we spotted two Canada geese and a few coots (birds, not old men), we followed Crags Road eastward to the picturesque Rock Pool (along Malibu Creek) where some other folks were already enjoying the morning.  We passed a group of aspiring mountain climbers practicing rock-climbing not far from 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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FEBRUARY

February 26th – Mission Point Loop via Neon Way

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17 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 chilly but clear winter morning with intermittent wind gusts.  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).  We then began the steady climb along the dirt fire road to Mission Point in the Santa Susana Mountains.  As we gained elevation we were treated to expanding views of most of the San Fernando Valley and its surrounding mountains, as well as the view through the Cahuenga Pass of the upper sections of the tallest buildings in downtown Los Angeles and the nearby view of the Los Angeles Reservoir (which replaced the Van Norman Reservoir whose dam nearly failed during the 1971 Sylmar earthquake).

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There were lots of blooming sunflowers and new-grown bright green grass despite the meager rainfall this year.  There were also lots of lupine and some blue dick and morning glories.  Eventually we reached a nice bench shaded by a large oak tree with a “million-dollar view” of the San Fernando Valley.  After taking a short break we continued a short distance up to Mission Point with its small, stone monument memorializing Mario De Campos, a lover of the local mountains.  The view from the top was spectacular (but the wind was pretty fierce).  Some of us also peered through the fence separating us from the infamous Southern California Gas Company’s natural gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon to the west. 

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.  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 but they were not bearing fruit the day of our hike (signs forbade us from “picking fruit”).  We reached our vehicles, completing our loop hike, having hiked 6.2 miles with about 1,500’ of elevation gain/loss on a relatively nice morning for mountain hiking.

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February 19th – Work Party: Lower Stagecoach Trail

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The Work Party was spectacular. Thirty People meet by the picnic area at Corriganville.  Most were from Student Corps: https://studentcorps.org/about/our-mission/ The atmosphere was lively and the chill in the air was gone. We went over the usual safety rules, then talked a little about the trail, and the volunteers were eager to get started. The younger volunteers, with their trash grabbers, were the first up the trail.  Then came the groups with the Pick Mattocks, loppers, and shovels who went to town clearing the trail of encroaching plants. To name a few: Black Mustard, Deer Weed, California Sage, and Russian Thistle.  With much appreciation for Mark Scheele, a veteran RSTB volunteer, helped oversee things while the other volunteers were busy filling in sinkholes on the edge of the trail with large rocks. The work party ended where there is some kind of run-off, presumably coming off the freeway, where there was a lot of trash and the trail was washed out down to boulders. Some volunteers gathered many big rocks, and made two huge water bars, and back filled the trail.  Other volunteers picked up trash that was mixed in with runoff debris – it was such an incredible job.  It was the best work party in many years thanks to GeeGee Garcia, Geno Gonzales, Monty Gonzales, Martin DeGoey and the Student Corps: Jonathan Chen, Harry Ding, Andrew Chen, Nelson Hu, Sansur Borijin, Kevin Wang, Eric Qifan Zhang, Edward Shen, Ryan Shen, Maxwell Zhong, Isabella hou, Simon Yao adults: Naren Borjigin, Mingfei Luo, Baohui Chen, Ada Tang, Stella Tong, Vicky Chen, Yuqin Wang, Yanchun Zhong, Xin Zhou, Apple zhang, Jie zhang, and Jack Borijin. Click here to view a movie.

February 12th – Danielson Memorial via the Wendy, Fossil, and Old Boney Trails

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25 hikers gathered at the Wendy Trail trailhead at the south end of Wendy Drive in Newbury Park on a pleasant warmer-than-usual winter morning with a clear blue sky.  Our Santa Monica Mountains outing began as we hiked the Wendy Trail over to the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center in Rancho Sierra Vista.  We then headed south as the paved upper section of Big Sycamore Canyon Road descended into the canyon; as we did so we passed large areas covered with lush green grass.  Immediately after crossing the bridge in the canyon bottom, we left the road and headed northeast on the Upper Sycamore Canyon Trail for a very short distance to a junction with the Fossil Trail which we turned right onto [the former sign at the trail junction that was burned badly in the May, 2013 Camarillo Springs Fire is still gone completely].  The Fossil Trail began climbing steeply to the east on a flank of Boney Mountain, gaining 760’ of elevation in 0.9 mile.  Our route was adorned with lots of wildflowers including bush sunflowers, purple nightshade, wild cucumber, blue dick, California poppies, deerweed, and ceanothus trees (both white and blue); near the trail’s upper end we stopped briefly to admire several fossils embedded in rock.

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When we reached the junction with the Boney Mountain Trail, we took a break and then turned left and continued on up the mountain with excellent views to the west and after a while to the north and east; we encountered more wildflowers along the way.  When we reached the junction with Danielson Road, we turned right and hiked the short distance to the Danielson Memorial and the ruins of the Danielson house (only a chimney remains) where we took a lengthy break in the still heavily wooded (unburned) area.  As we continued our hike we descended along the Danielson Road deciding not to visit the usually dry waterfall along the way. However, there was a little water flowing in the stream in the bottom of the canyon.  A short while later we followed the Lower Satwiwa Loop and Wendy-Satwiwa Connector Trails back to the parking area which we reached having completed an estimated 8-mile loop hike with about 2,000’ of elevation gain/loss on a great morning for hiking.

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February 5th – El Escorpion Park: Cave of Munits and Castle Peak

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14 hikers met at the El Escorpion Park entrance (905’) at the west end of Vanowen Street in the San Fernando Valley on a cool mid-winter morning.  We began our hike into the Simi Hills along the Hunter Allen Trail (aka Moore Canyon Road), a wide dirt road with no shade, but soon turned right/north on a “use” trail which led down to a second heavily shaded “use” trail that led us westward parallel to (but out of sight of) the dirt road.  We eventually reached the well-defined “use” trail leading north up to the entrance to the Cave of Munits.  Upon reaching the vertical cave entrance a few members of our group decided to climb steeply up into the cave.  Doing so required the use of both hands and both feet (a short class 3 climb).   As described on the excellent Modern Hiker web site, “The walls of the interior fold and undulate into a seemingly endless series of side caves and back caverns … it’s ceiling is very tall and it can feel like you’re standing inside a natural rock cathedral … this area was spiritually important to the Chumash [Indians].”  After exploring the interior of the cave, the hikers exited by returning the way they entered the cave [rather than climbing out one of the cave’s chimneys and carefully circling around on the mountainside back down to the cave’s entrance].

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After regrouping, we headed southward down to the Hunter Allen Trail and followed it westward a short distance until it turned southward.  At that point we continued westward along a trail/dirt road which we followed to another “use” trail that led us mostly northward past several oak trees and then steeply up a north-south ridge to the main east-west ridge (with Castle Peak at its east end).  Our climb was aided by the mild temperature (and the absence of the forecast strong winds).  Once up on the east-west ridge, we walked over to an overlook facing south and spent some time enjoying the excellent view of the surrounding area including a view of Castle Peak at the east end of the ridge we were on.  We then decided not to hike on over to Castle Peak; instead we returned to the Hunter Allen Trail and our vehicles having hiked an estimated 4.5 miles with about 1,100’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice morning for hiking

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JANUARY

January 29th – Mentryville and Pico Canyon

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5 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 [by road] from Towsley Canyon).  Mentryville was an oil boom town in the 1880’s and was home to over 100 families until the early 1930’s.  Pico Canyon was the site of the first commercially successful oil well (Pico No. 4) in the western United States.  Several historic buildings are still standing in Mentryville including Charles Mentry’s grand 13-room mansion, a one-room school house, and a small barn.  After taking a quick tour of the “ghost” town, we headed southwest along the paved road into shady Pico Canyon with its towering walls and a pleasant stream until we reached Johnson Park (“the party place for oil miners of more than a century ago”) where we dallied for a while.  As we continued further into the canyon, the paved road made a sharp switchback to the northeast, became a dirt road, and we began climbing up out of the canyon.  As we gained elevation our views of the surrounding rugged landscape with green mountainsides (thanks to recent rainfall) steadily improved.  As we continued southeast toward the road’s upper end we had excellent views of the transverse range of the Santa Susana Mountains.  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.  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.

January 15th – Work Party: The Hummingbird Trail

It was chilly and a little windy when we arrived.  Filming was happening at the Hummingbird Nest Ranch, so there wasn’t much parking.  By the time the four volunteers gathered, the wind started to die down.  It was a lovely hike up to where we worked.  There were two switchbacks, maybe a quarter the way up the Hummingbird trail, that needed shoring up with wood planks. Two 2″ X 12″ X 8′ pressure treated planks, were brought up by wheelbarrow, a couple days earlier.  We trenched in the planks, and filled in the eroded trail, by hauling fill dirt by wheelbarrow and flattening out the trail with pick mattock, McLeod hoe, and shovel.  The soil moisture content was perfect.  It sprinkled a little bit but not enough to get us wet.  Thanks for the remarkable accomplishment and the tireless efforts of Sheryl Knight, Muffit Jensen, Mike Kuhn and Martin DeGoey.

January 8th – Santa Rosa Valley Park (Conejo Canyons Open Space)

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14 hikers met in a dirt parking area on the left (east) side of Hill Canyon Road just past Santa Rosa Valley Equestrian Park (10241 Hill Canyon Rd, Camarillo) on a chilly winter morning (a 15th hiker joined us during the hike).  We began our hike into the Conejo Canyons Open Space just west of Wildwood Park by crossing 25-foot-wide Arroyo Conejo Creek via a nice bridge that provided excellent views of the year-round creek which had lots of water flowing.  Our route then followed the Hill Canyon Trail upstream along the creek toward a trail intersection that we’ve named Five Points, but before reaching it we took a “use” trail down to the creek where we noted that the temporary dam that is sometimes there was “missing” and there were no waterfowl in evidence.

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We then continued the short distance to Five Points where we continued south passing under majestic oak trees dotting a partially green grassland until we entered Hawk Canyon (a usually dense riparian woodland with poison oak).  The shaded canyon trail led us along a seasonal stream (presently a slow trickle) to a dirt road (part of the Western Plateau Trail) which we climbed as it rose steadily westward to a junction with an unnamed trail that continued southwestward to an overlook of the Oxnard Plain and the Pacific Ocean.  Note: As we gained elevation the sunlit morning had warmed up and the hike became quite pleasant.  After a short break at the overlook we returned to the loop portion of our hike heading northward on the Western Plateau Trail but we soon took the Plateau Rim Trail which is relatively new; it was quite attractive.  When the northern end of the Plateau Rim Trail reached [a different spot on] the Western Plateau Trail, we continued on to Five Points and then returned to our vehicles having completed a pleasant 6.6-mile hike with about 875’ of elevation gain/loss.  Note: Not long after our hike started we spotted two coyotes on the mountainside.

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