April 21st – Work Party: Long Canyon

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The Trail Blazers work party celebrated Earthday a day early this year. We cleaned up the first ½ mile of the trail where erosion cut a groove down the center of the trail. Six new water run-off features where installed and the remaining water cuts were filled.
A big thanks to the five workers that helped us complete our work today!

April 14th – Malibu Creek State Park

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

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Soon we began climbing steadily up a heavily wooded slope heading southward until we emerged into the sunlight high on a ridge. Continuing southward along the ridge we encountered beautiful meadows of bright green grass, California poppies, lupine, and a few mariposa lilies as well as distant views of the surrounding area. 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 as well as more displays of blooming wildflowers. We enjoyed a lunch/rest break along the shady shore of Century Lake and watched mallard ducks, coots, and a “tame” Canada goose. We then followed Crags Road eastward to the picturesque Rock Pool (along Malibu Creek) which we shared with a group of students from Maywood High School who were on a Sierra Club Angeles Chapter ICO outing in the park. Along the way to the pool we watched a nearby rock-climbing class for a while. 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 very scenic 8.2-mile hike with about 1,400’ of elevation gain/loss. Among a variety of other blooming plants we spotted during our hike were blue ceanothus, Indian paintbrush, Mexican elderberry, wild cucumber vines, laurel sumac, blue dick, purple nightshade, chocolate lilies, and caterpillar phacelia.

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March 31st – Mentryville and Pico Canyon

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11 hikers (plus one dog) 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 leisurely 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 steadily improved as did the number and variety of lovely blooming plants including blue ceanothus, yellow tree poppies, lavender prickly phlox, purple bush lupine, yellow tree tobacco, red Indian paintbrush, Mexican elderberry, the white blossoms of wild cucumber vines, lavender yerba santa, and orange California poppies. As we continued southeast on toward the road’s 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 where we took an extended 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 another nice day for hiking. NOTE: Although Pico Canyon is only a few miles away from Towsley Canyon, we encountered only a handful of other people during our hike until we were nearly finished, whereas Towsley Canyon is quite crowded on a Saturday.

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March 24th – Conejo Mountain

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15 hikers assembled at the signed “Powerline Trail” trailhead on Via Ricardo in Newbury Park on a nice early-spring morning – the sun was out after several days of rain, there were some puffy white clouds in the sky, and the temperature was perfect for hiking up a mountain. The trail began gently enough and soon afforded us with views of Old Boney Mountain to the east.

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As we reached the Edison Road, we had a brief view of Camarillo and beyond to the west. We followed the Edison Road through a landscape littered with volcanic detritus to a spur road that led up to a pair of power transmission towers at which point we regrouped and followed a “use” trail which led steeply up the eastern flank of Conejo Mountain. We were in luck since the previous days’ rain had softened the dirt on the steepest section of the trail (which improved traction), but had not made it muddy. Once we summited the eastern portion of the mountain, we could see our destination: the highest point to the west on the mountain. We followed a “use” trail across the rock-strewn landscape to the “peak” of Conejo Mountain where we enjoyed 360-degree views of both near and distant mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. We retraced our route to Via Ricardo and returned home having completed a very pleasant 5.3-mile hike with 1,350’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice day.

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February 24th – Happy Camp Canyon

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February 17th – Work Party – Mt. McCoy

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The Hardcore trail work group showed up today: Mike K, John, Martin, Jamie and Cheri and me. Martin didn’t think carrying all the tools was enough, so he added carrying two 2”x14”X8’ boards on a wheelbarrow up the hill (with some help from Jamie).

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We used the boards to solve a water rut problem on two of the switchbacks going up the hill. Just a ton of hard work by Martin and John on these two projects. Mike K got ahead of us and dug out rocks in the middle of the trail that we would use later in building water run- off solutions. He also started a few water run-offs on some of the worst sections.

Jamie, Cheri and I used dead brush/tree branches to cover up some of the shortcuts that were “unauthorized”. These shortcuts were created by people taking shorter routes down the hill, trying to make that downhill trip easier, but in effect, has long-term damaging effects.

When we all caught up with Mike K, he had started leveling a bad turn on one of the switchbacks. Once everyone caught up with us at Mike’s spot , we now had all the help that we needed to use some more of the rocks (in addition to some other rocks that we found). Passing the rocks up to Jamie, our cooperative efforts created a very impressive rock wall. This will help to fortify this portion of the trail that was at-risk for erosion.

Cheri had also doubled up again as our Historian running around between trail work to take pictures.
Some great work done today and a big thanks to everyone for all the help!

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February 10th – New Millenium Loop Trail

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Despite a longer-than-usual hiking distance, 8 hikers met at the Bark Park on Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas on a slightly chilly mid-winter morning. We began our hike under an overcast sky along a 1.2-mile gently rising connector trail to a junction with the New Millennium loop Trail that circles around mountainous terrain in the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Electing to hike in a counterclockwise direction, we headed south and then east along chaparral-covered hillsides adorned with bright green grass and occasional blooming plants including sunflowers and tree tobacco. Reaching the southeast corner of the loop, the trail climbed via a series of exposed switchbacks to panoramic views of the area, including Calabasas Peak to the east and the mountain-top enclave of Calabasas Park Estates immediately to our west. As we headed northward the trail rose and fell near the fence line of the mountain-top community before dropping through a verdant grassland dotted with oak trees to Parkway Calabasas (and the gated entrance to the Oaks of Calabasas community). Continuing northward we climbed via exposed switchbacks to a large water tank at the crest of the mountain. After taking a lunch/rest break we continued as the trail dropped down the beautiful grassy, oak-dotted mountainside and began heading westward and then climbed back up the mountain to an old dirt road. Ignoring the noise pollution from Hwy 101, we followed the dirt road until it dropped into a canyon to the south. We took a shortcut down to a series of wooden steps that reunited us with the New Millennium Trail at a junction at which we took the right fork and followed long easy switchbacks as the trail made its final climb southward. We soon reached the junction with the trail connecting to Bark Park and followed it down to the parking lot completing a magnificent 13.8-mile hike with 2,600’ of elevation gain/loss on a nearly perfect day for hiking – giving thanks to whoever invented gentle switchbacks.

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February 3rd – Cheeseboro Canyon – Cheeseboro Ridge Loop

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17 hikers carpooled to the Cheeseboro Canyon trailhead in the Simi Hills on a pleasant non-winter-like morning. We began our hike by heading north on the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail (a dirt road) under a clear blue sky. We soon passed through an open grassland in the wide canyon bottom and then through a drought-weakened oak woodland; the effect of the prolonged drought was obvious from the number of dead trees lying on the ground.

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Still the oak woodland was very appealing with its bright new green grass and we spotted a couple of woodpeckers taking advantage of some dead/dying oak trees that were still standing. 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, scores of bicyclists passed us, many more than we’d seen on this route before on a Saturday (it was also a nice morning for bike riding). Continuing we soon reached Shepherd’s Flat at a trail junction. After a short break we headed west on the Sheep Corral Trail (the corral is all but gone) and ascended the ridge between Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons. Our immediate objective, an overlook of Palo Comado Canyon, was filled with a large group of bicyclists but they soon left and we enjoyed a rest/lunch break and enjoyed the surrounding views. We then began hiking south through Palo Comado Canyon and soon realized that the morning had heated up to a summer-like degree. The final portion of our hike became difficult for some of the participants so we slowed our pace and worked on our hydration. Eventually we reached the trailhead parking lot having hiked approximately 11 miles with about 1,300’ of elevation gain/loss.

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January 27th – Nicholas Flat Trail from Leo Carrillo State Park to Nicholas Pond

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11 hikers met on a pleasant Saturday morning in Simi Valley to car pool to the Nicholas Flat Trail trailhead in Malibu; two other hikers met us at the trailhead. We drove through the Santa Monica Mountains via Hwy 23 to Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) and then headed to the parking lot at Leo Carillo State Park.

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Thanks to relatively mild overnight “devil winds” our journey provided magnificent views of mountains, valleys, the Pacific Ocean, and a clear blue sky. The hike began with a steady, fairly steep, ascent as the trail gained around 1,600’ in about 2.5 miles which tested our pulmonary and circulatory systems. The mild morning temperature and a light breeze combined perfectly to keep us from overheating. There were great views of the Santa Monica mountains, Point Dume, and the ocean as well as views of Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, Anacapa, and Santa Cruz Islands plus the vague outline of San Nicholas Island. We crested the mountain, descended through a large meadow, and followed the trail down to Nicholas Pond which contained a surprising amount of water [it had been bone-dry during our last visit] and several ducks/coots were floating on the pond. We then followed a short trail up to some large boulders and enjoyed the view toward the ocean looking out over San Nicholas Canyon. After a while we returned the way we came, taking the Willow Creek Trail on the last leg of our journey. We had most of the hike to ourselves although we did encounter several hikers, particularly on our way back down. Our very pleasant outing covered 7.2 miles with a total elevation gain/loss of nearly 2,200’.

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January 20th – Work Party: Tapo Open Space

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Our first trail work of the New Year: Tapo Open space/Chivo Canyon trail. We were joined by eleven Boy Scouts and their three chaperones along with four Trailblazers. We headed back through Chivo Canyon, to the Tapo Open space turnoff, and after almost a mile of hiking reached the Southeastern part of the loop, the location we would be working on today.

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After our safety meeting, we quickly handed out the assignments and the Scouts went to work. Very good seeing these youngsters discussing together and finding solutions for some of the work they were doing. We had three working on a small landslide, clearing it off the trail and then smoothing it all out.

After clearing a quarter mile of trail fairly fast, we headed off for the next section. In this section, we had two groups working on a set of two water runoffs. These run offs are experimental water disruption techniques that we learned of while on a recent trip to Wisconsin (while working with their trail group). They really do get a lot of rain throughout the year and have worked out some very nice (we hope) solutions for water-cutting ruts into the middle of trails. The Scouts dug drain ditches 18” across and 8” deep at a 30-45 degree angle, draining into the creek alongside the trail. These ditches were then filled with rocks to break up the force of the water and then drain down and away from the trail.

The group really put forth a great effort today as evidenced by all of the “thanks for all the trail work!” kudos from the many hikers that we encountered.

From the Trailblazers: a big thanks to all the Boy Scouts for their work today!

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January 13th – Devil Canyon to Browns Canyon Road

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NOTE: This hike replaced the scheduled “PCT crossing at Soledad Cyn Rd to Vasquez Rocks County Park” due to a High-Wind-Warning for the Agua Dulce area (20-25 mph w/40 mph gusts).  I posted a cancelation notice on Meetup.com to inform the folks who were planning to meet us at Vasquez Rocks. 

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However, a dozen of us showed up at the Stearns Street Park-and-Ride lot where we decided to hike in Devil Canyon instead (later two hikers decided to go on up to Vasquez Rocks and hike there anyway, one of them having hiked the section of the PCT before).

10 hikers met at the Stearns Street carpool point in Simi Valley and decided to hike in Devil Canyon to avoid the very strong winds forecast for the Agua Dulce area where the day’s hike had been originally scheduled and to avoid the strong winds forecast for Simi Valley.  We then drove over to the hike’s starting point on Poema Place in Chatsworth on a cool windy winter morning.  Our hike began as we descended 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 creek bed (thanks to Tuesday’s rain).  We spotted lots of chalk dudleya “liveforever” plants as we made our way up to the large dam at the junction with the mouth of Ybarra Canyon.  After a brief rest break we continued upstream along the dry (though occasionally muddy) 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 and spotted two red-tailed hawks riding the thermals.  As 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).  We spotted several head of free-range cattle grazing on a hillside along the way (they watched us warily as we continued up the trail).  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 back to our vehicles – spotting a slow moving gopher snake along the way – and returned to our vehicles having completed a very pleasant 9.8-mile hike in this unique canyon with about 1,200’ of elevation gain/loss and having successfully avoided the high winds and, as it turned out, remaining cool despite the 80-degree temperature we encountered at the end of our heavily shaded hike.

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January 6th – Simi Peak from King James Court via China Flat

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17 hikers met along Lindero Canyon Road (near King James Court) in Oak Park on a beautiful early-winter morning.  Our hike in the Simi Hills began at the upper end of King James Court along an old dirt-and-rock road as it rose steadily up the south side of the mountain, providing ever-expanding views to the south. 

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Upon reaching the apex of the old road, we headed north and descended into lovely China Flat with its oak trees and sprawling meadows.  Despite the continuing drought, many of the oak trees displayed bright green leaves.  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 rewarded with good visibility in all directions including Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands.  We took a leisurely rest-and-snack break atop the peak and enjoyed the panoramic views and pleasant temperature.  Eventually we returned to our vehicles the way we came with a couple of minor exceptions including taking the single-track trail near the end of the hike down to the signed trailhead on Lindero Canyon Road as we completed a 6.25-mile hike with around 1,300’ of elevation gain/loss.

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