Midweek Mountaineers

OCTOBER

October 13th – Tapo Canyon Open Space Trail to Chivo Canyon + the Secret Trail

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11 hikers met at 7:30 AM near the dirt trailhead parking area (1,136’) for the Tapo Canyon Open Space Trail (T23) in Simi Valley on a slightly chilly autumn morning with clear skies. As we began our hike we headed northward along the nearly flat dirt road/trail which was bordered by scruffy yellow grass dotted with fairly healthy-looking oak trees, the entire area showing the results of an ongoing drought. We spotted several rabbits which quickly scampered away. After a mile or so the road/trail rose steadily to a narrow pass and a dirt-road junction (1,535’) where we took a short break and enjoyed the views of the “valley” before us and the rows of mountainous ridges to the northeast. Continuing, we turned right and began hiking the T23 loop which took us along a dirt road/trail that led downward through a nice oak woodland toward its eastern junction (1,276’) with itself. We turned right and hiked eastward down to the floor of Chivo Canyon where we observed a nearby apiary which had seen better days.

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We resumed our hike by heading westward [back] up the T23 trail and a short distance on the northern side of its loop. We then decided to add an out-and-back investigation of “the Secret Trail” as it headed northward to a nice overlook of Chivo Canyon. We returned to the T23 trail and continued along the T23 loop as it rose gently to the west through a large “valley” before rising fairly steeply to the southwest to another dirt road/trail junction (1,620’, the highest point on our hike). We enjoyed the scenery from this viewpoint and then took the left fork [the right fork is “keep-out-signed”] and followed T23 back to the narrow pass (completing the loop) and then on down to the original trailhead. We completed our leisurely outing having hiked 6.1 miles with a total elevation gain/loss of about 1,100’ on a pleasant morning for hiking.

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October 6th – Santa Rosa Valley Park

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12 hikers met in a dirt parking area on the left (east) side of Hill Canyon Road in Santa Rosa Valley Park (10241 Hill Canyon Rd, Camarillo) on a chilly foggy early fall morning (just right for hiking but not for distance photos). 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. Our route (which we had all to ourselves) then followed the creek upstream to a trail intersection that we’ve named Five Points where we followed the short spur trail down to the creek where we noted that the “temporary” dam was there but there were no waterfowl in evidence upstream.

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Returning to Five Points we continued south passing under majestic oak trees dotting a largely “bone dry” landscape until we entered Hawk Canyon (a dense riparian woodland with poison oak). The shaded canyon trail led us along a seasonal stream (presently dry) to a dirt road which we climbed as it rose steadily westward to an overlook of the Oxnard Plain and the Pacific Ocean (except that the fog still masked distant views). After a short break we retraced our steps to a “main” (but apparently unnamed) trail heading northeast and followed it to Five Points, thus completing a loop within the overall hike. As we then headed north back toward the parking area the sun came out and the fog was mostly gone. We reached our vehicles having completed a pleasant 6.3-mile hike with about 875’ of elevation gain/loss. We encountered only a few other people during the hike.

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SEPTEMBER

September 29th – Big Sky Trail

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10 hikers met along Big Sky Place (970’) in Simi Valley on a chilly early autumn morning for a familiar neighborhood hike. After a short walk northward on a sidewalk along Erringer Road where we admired the rose beds and waterfalls at the entrance to the Big Sky neighborhood, we turned east onto the well-signed Big Sky Trail. After crossing a dry streambed, we began the loop portion of the hike as we climbed fairly steeply up to the north-south ridge to the east of the housing development. Upon reaching the ridgetop, we enjoyed unobstructed views of the surrounding area including Whiteface Mountain. The hillsides were “bone dry” due to the ongoing drought. After reaching the highest point (1,463’) in our hike, we took a short break and then continued on to the northernmost point (1,357’) in our hike where the trail turned sharply to the southeast, winding its way along the oak-lined streambed that runs through the Big Sky development. We finished our invigorating outing having completed a 4.6-mile hike with a little over 800’ of elevation gain/loss on a very nice morning for hiking.

September 22nd – Mission Point Loop via Neon Way and O’Melveny Park

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9 hikers gathered in the parking lot at the entrance to O’Melveny Park (the second-largest city park in Los Angeles) in Granada Hills on an already warm early autumn morning with the promise of higher temperatures ahead. We began our hike by walking southwest along the nearby sidewalk on Sesnon Blvd to its junction with Neon Way (enjoying some blooming “domestic” plants along the 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 began the steady climb along the fire road to Mission Point in the Santa Susana Mountains. As we gained elevation the temperature also rose steadily; there were a surprisingly large number of sun flowers blooming along the trail as well as datura (jimson weed) and a few morning glories and cliff asters. Though smog shrouded distant views, we were able to see the nearby Los Angeles Reservoir (which replaced the Van Norman Reservoir whose dam nearly failed during the 1971 Sylmar earthquake). Eventually we reached two benches beneath a large oak tree; there was a somewhat obscured “million-dollar view” of the San Fernando Valley but, more importantly, there was lots of shade which we really needed as the temperature had continued rising. After taking a short break most of us 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 fairly good despite the distant smog.

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After another 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 turned right (east) and hiked over to a nice rest stop with lots of shade and a working water fountain. We carefully rehydrated and rested and then continued following a dirt road into beautiful 627-acre O’Melveny Park with its still well-maintained green lawns shaded by oak and eucalyptus trees; there are still some citrus trees near the entrance to the park but there was no evidence of fruit the day of our hike (signs forbade us from “picking fruit”). We reached our vehicles, completing our loop hike, having hiked 6.1 miles with about 1,500’ of elevation gain/loss on what started out as a nice morning for mountain hiking, but steadily heated up, reaching about 100 degrees Fahrenheit by the time we reached our vehicles.

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September 15th – Los Robles Trail via the Los Padres Trail and Oak Creek Canyon

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10 hikers met at the Los Padres Trail trailhead in Thousand Oaks on a chilly ‘foggy’ (marine layer) late-summer morning. We began our hike through a pleasant oak woodland into the hills south of Thousand Oaks. However, many of the oak trees showed the ravages of the ongoing drought (and wildfire). When we reached a dirt access road, we followed it to its junction with the Los Robles Trail, having been shaded (though it was still foggy) all the way up. We headed west on the Los Robles Trail but soon turned right onto the “Scenic Loop” trail which led us to the Conejo Valley Scenic Overlook (where there’s a bench) which provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and grasslands (though not today). After stopping to take a short break, we continued on along the Los Robles Trail as it descended to a nice oak-shaded picnic area (with a table and benches) and then to a junction with a connector trail that led us to the upper (south) end of the Oak Creek Canyon Loop Trail.

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The western 0.4-mile section of this trail is called the Oak Creek Canyon Whole Access Interpretive Trail and is a mostly shaded oak grove area that is accessible by all, including equestrians, bicycles, hikers, wheelchairs, disabled and blind individuals; there is actually a “guide cable” along the fence as well as informational signs in braille. Coincidentally we encountered a woman hiking with a blind dog. After hiking the western section of this loop, we walked a short distance eastward along Greenmeadow Avenue to the eastern section trailhead and hiked back up to the connector trail that led us to the south end of Moorpark Road. We returned to our vehicles about a block away and returned home invigorated, having completed a 4.5-mile hike with about 750’ of elevation gain/loss.

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September 8th – Las Llajas Canyon to the Abandoned Coquina Mining Operation

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Eight hikers met at the trailhead on Evening Sky Drive on a pleasant late summer morning. We began our hike by descending a short paved section of road into the canyon bottom; from there we followed the wide well-graded dirt road upstream to the north 1.8 miles, crossing the dry streambed three times. We then followed a surprisingly not-at-all-overgrown “use” trail (the remnants of an old mining road) as we climbed up the eastern slope of the mountain, atop which we enjoyed panoramic views of the surrounding area including parts of Chivo Canyon, Las Llajas Canyon, the Santa Susana Mountains, and Simi Valley. We were in shade for much of the trek to the top, but the air was somewhat humid.

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We took a break when we reached our goal, the site of a coquina (a soft whitish limestone formed of broken shells and corals cemented together and used for road building) mining operation. Various mining equipment artifacts are strewn about near the mining site, most notably a P&H Model 206 “steam” shovel. We encountered only a few other people during the hike and none once we left the canyon bottom. The vegetation on the hillsides was “bone dry” due to the ongoing drought and the upper section of the trail (old road) up to the AMO site has been “widened” presumably by the lack of water. There were almost no blooming plants and no sign of wildlife. We returned to our vehicles having completed a pleasant-enough 6.3-mile hike with about 1,050’ of elevation gain/loss.

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September 1st – Hummingbird Trail to Rocky Peak Fire Road

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4 hikers met at 7:00 AM at the trailhead next to the paved parking area just outside the gated entrance to Hummingbird Ranch at the north end of Kuehner Drive in Simi Valley to hike up the Hummingbird Trail (and back). It was a cool overcast (marine layer) morning as we began our hike along the trail which is on the west side of the mountain [Note: Access to the trail is still easy despite the adjacent housing development activity]. Soon we began our eastward climb up the mountain and it wasn’t long before we were passing through (and on) a variety of imposing sandstone rock formations along the way including very large boulders and giant slabs of sandstone rock, many with small “caves.” Distant views of the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Hills were hidden by the marine layer during most of the hike but close-up views were fine.

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We had the trail almost entirely to ourselves thanks to our early start, the fact that it was a weekday, and perhaps the marine layer (which was much-appreciated). We were reminded again that, over time, some bicyclists have selfishly “cut” the trail in so many places to enhance their steep-downhill-riding enjoyment [at others’ expense] that it is often difficult to discern the original trail. Nevertheless our hike uphill was quite pleasant. Upon reaching the Rocky Peak Fire Road (our turnaround point) we took a leisurely break; we noted that the nearby bench has been repainted, including pink polka dots. Also there is now a specially-equipped blue post to facilitate bicycle repairs and, after we climbed up on a large boulder we had a nice view of “Happy Face.” The impact of the ongoing drought was obvious during the entire hike as nearly everything was “dry as a bone.” A few datura (Jimson weed) plants were blooming. We then retraced our route back to our vehicles having completed a very pleasant 4.8-mile hike with about 1,250’ of elevation gain/loss on another good morning for hiking.

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AUGUST

August 26th – Wildwood Park: Mesa Trail, Stagecoach Bluff Trail, Lizard Rock Trail, Paradise Falls, Wildwood Canyon, Indian Creek Trail Loop

7 hikers met at 7:00 AM at the dirt parking lot at Wildwood Park at the west end of Avenida de los Arboles in Thousand Oaks on a cool late summer morning. We began our counterclockwise loop hike by heading west on the Mesa Trail as we enjoyed the company of good friends. We soon turned left, hiked a short distance south on the Tepee Trail, and then took the Stagecoach Bluffs Trail westward which provided views down into Wildwood Canyon as we hiked through a display of prickly pear cactus and a few cholla cactus; we also spotted several “conejos” (rabbits) for which the Conejo Valley is named. Upon rejoining the Mesa Trail, we hiked westward up to a trail junction just below Lizard Rock.

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After taking a short break, we followed the Lizard Rock Trail down into Hill Canyon and soon headed eastward into heavily shaded Wildwood Canyon. As we headed upstream we crossed the flowing water several times before reaching Paradise Falls where we enjoyed looking at and listening to the waterfall. Continuing on up the Wildwood Canyon Trail, we spotted about three dozen mallard ducks in the stream above the waterfall. Eventually we reached the always pleasant Indian Creek Trail and followed it up to a short unnamed trail that led us back to our vehicles, thus completing a 4.9-mile hike with 850’ of elevation gain/loss on a very nice morning for hiking.

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August 18th – Canyon View Trail, Oak Canyon, and Long Canyon Trail Loop

10 hikers gathered at the Long Canyon Trail trailhead parking lot at Wood Ranch in Simi Valley on a cool summer morning with an overcast sky which threatened some light rain. We left the parking lot and headed east on an equestrian trail beside Long Canyon Road. We soon crossed the road and proceeded up the southwest end of the Canyon View Trail, enjoying ever-improving views of the surrounding area including the Bard Reservoir. We followed the trail as it undulated along a ridgeline until it finally dropped to Long Canyon Road, between Old Windmill Park and Challenger Park. We turned right and headed over to the “Long Canyon Trail East” trailhead which also provides access to Montgomery Canyon. NOTE: Apparently the eastern section of the “Long Canyon East Trail” (formerly known as Oak Canyon) has been renamed AND a flat stretch of dull dirt road that connects Long Canyon Road to Coyote Hills Park is now named “Oak Canyon” [or perhaps there’s an error on Google Maps].

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We then followed the “Long Canyon East Trail” (dirt road) southwest as it followed a dry streambed and then climbed uphill to a short section of the Sunrise Trail which connected us to the Long Canyon Trail [which should presumably be named the Long Canyon West Trail]. Just to add to the naming confusion, there’s a “Wood Ranch Trailhead” sign at the entrance to the Long Canyon Trail parking lot (but there does not appear to be a “Wood Ranch Trail”). We descended the Long Canyon Trail to our vehicles, having completed a 4.7-mile hike with approximately 1,000’ of elevation gain/loss on a very pleasant morning for hiking. We did see several types of blooming plants (though few of each type) including sunflowers, purple nightshade, and tree tobacco. The hillsides reflected the ongoing drought.

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August 11th – Devil Canyon to the large check dam, then up Ybarra Canyon

5 hikers met at 6:45 AM at the starting point of our hike on Poema Place in Chatsworth on a cool overcast summer morning. We began our hike by descending into the heavily shaded bottom of Devil Canyon where we followed the remnants of the Devil Canyon Motorway upstream as it frequently crisscrossed the presently dry streambed. Notwithstanding the absence of almost any blooming plants, the trail was still pleasant to walk along thanks to lots of shade, steep canyon walls with interesting rock formations, and lots of oak trees and non-blooming plants including quite a bit of red-and-green poison oak. When we reached the large check dam near the trail junction with Ybarra Canyon (“ybarra” is a basque name derived from ‘ibar’ meaning meadow) we decided to take the Ybarra Canyon trail as it headed northward toward its junction with Joughin Ranch Park along Brown’s Canyon Road).

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Soon after we passed by a junction with a “use” trail that heads northeast to the Curaco Trail, we noticed an unpleasant smell. Not long after that we spotted four or five turkey vultures standing in the trail (dirt road) we were following. They flew into nearby trees (see attached photo) as we approached and we soon spotted what little was left of the carcass of a horse not far from the trail/road. We continued northward and soon began noticing lots of poorly (or not) maintained structures (mostly on the west side of the trail/road) as well as lots of trash; it was reminiscent of the nearby 250-or-more-acre “Fishback Properties/Liberty Ranch” immediately west of Ybarra Canyon. NOTE: If you’d like to read about Wayne Fishback and his “Liberty Ranch,” here’s the web link: https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-chatsworth-dump-20180531-story.html. A while later we heard a rooster and then saw two friendly dogs near the trail/road; there were no other signs of life. We decided to turn around and return to Devil Canyon, which we did. NOTE: We encountered no fences or “no trespassing” signs in Ybarra Canyon. However, the upper part of the canyon is depressing to see; it’s “development” is a travesty. We headed back “downstream” in Devil Canyon and returned to our vehicles having hiked about 5.7 miles with 650’ of elevation gain/loss on a nice morning for hiking.

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August 4th – Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park Counterclockwise Loop

7 hikers met at 6:45 AM in the dirt parking area along Lilac Lane at the upper end of the Chatsworth portion of the Stagecoach Trail in the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park on a pleasant summer morning (which promised to heat up as the day progressed). We began our hike by heading northeast into the park via the Mattingly Trail which we followed to the Upper Meadow Trail which led us to a rocky overlook of Chatsworth Park South and the surrounding area. We then followed a short connector-trail northward to “Five Points” and a short fairly steep trail leading up to a hilltop viewpoint with a 360-degree view in all directions.Returning to Five Points we continued following the Mattingly Trail to the northeast to the Williams Trail which led downhill toward the Spahn Ranch [there’s little to see there now] and the El Camino Nuevo Trail which headed west and connected to the Sanchez Trail which we followed to the paved Santa Susana Pass Road (SSPR). A short distance westward along SSPR brought us to the northern end of a nameless dirt trail that we followed southward to our vehicles.

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Our route provided us with many picturesque views (mountains, rock formations, etc.), but the landscape was “bone dry” due to the ongoing drought. Nevertheless there was a surprising amount of shade during the hike (thanks in large part to our early start). Somewhat unusual, we encountered no other hikers or bicyclists (and no blooming plants) during our hike. Still it was a pleasant outing, particularly the opportunity to spend time with friends as we continue to transition from the Covid-19 pandemic’s “shelter-in-place” gloom.

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July

July 28th – Chivo Canyon to the Narrows to the Buckhorn Trail to the Cappocchi Trail Lollipop Loop

9 hikers met at 7:00 AM at the “trailhead” on Cottonwood Drive in the Wild Horse Canyon development on a pleasant summer morning for our first group hike since the Covid-19 “lockdown” in March, 2020. After we “dropped” into Chivo Canyon, we hiked northward along a single-track “use” trail and then the old Chivo Canyon (dirt) Road to its junction with the Buckhorn Trail (named by Joe Beautz after finding a set of deer antlers), passing a couple of large oil seeps along the way.

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The impact of the ongoing drought was obvious in the canyon bottom and its sides as nearly everything was “dry as a bone.” We decided to continue up the canyon to its “Narrows.” When we crossed the “swamp” there was a little water and several nearby bush mallow plants were displaying pink buds. There is still a fence blocking access to the “Narrows,” so we returned to the lower end of the Buckhorn Trail and followed it up to the Marr Ranch Road atop the eastern ridge of Chivo Canyon where we had views of the surrounding mountains and canyons. We then headed south along the Marr Ranch Road to its junction (“Four Points”) with the Cappocchi Trail (also named by Joe Beautz after a spray painting on a rusty water tank) which connects with the Chivo Canyon Road below. This connector trail was somewhat overgrown. After descending into Chivo Canyon once more we returned southward to where our hike started. The morning had warmed up considerably by the time we completed our 6-mile hike with about 1,100’ of elevation gain/loss. We spotted a mule deer, a couple of rabbits, and a few lizards during the hike.

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