December 31st – Las Llajas Trail to the Shovel

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Despite the possibility of rain, seventeen hikers met at the Las Llajas Canyon trailhead on Evening Sky Drive in Simi Valley on a cool last-day-of-the-year morning.  We began our hike under low-hanging cloud cover 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 creek three times (there was actually some water at each crossing thanks to recent rain). 

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We then followed a “use” trail (the remnants of an old mining road) as we climbed up the eastern slope of the mountain atop which we usually have panoramic views of the surrounding area including parts of Chivo Canyon, Las Llajas Canyon, the Santa Susana Mountains, Simi Valley, and the San Fernando Valley.  Eventually we reached our goal, the site of a coquina (a soft whitish limestone formed of broken shells and corals cemented together and used for building) mining operation.  Various mining equipment artifacts are strewn about near the mining site, most notably a 1920 crawler-propelled P&H Model 206 shovel.  Unfortunately, the cloud cover severely limited the usual panoramic views.  After taking a break, we retraced our route and returned to our vehicles having completed a pleasant 6.3-mile hike with 1,100’ of elevation gain/loss.

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December 24th – Sage Ranch Loop

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4 hikers arrived at the parking lot in Sage Ranch Park in the Simi Hills on a chilly-but-pleasant early-winter morning under a clear blue sky.  The 625-acre park is located just north of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) (aka Rocketdyne/Boeing) at an elevation of 2,000’.  It is chock-full of world-class sandstone rock formations and has lots of picnic tables shaded by large oak trees. 

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Shortly after we began our hike, we were rewarded with gorgeous views of Simi Valley and the snow-covered Topa Topa mountains (and others) to the northwest.  Our route was bordered by lots of bright green grass and the foliage glistened with raindrops from the recent much-needed rain.  We took advantage of the opportunity to explore a variety of interesting new-to-us trails that branched off the main loop trail.  After hiking for a while we climbed up on Sandstone Ridge, a long, steep rock formation rising alongside the trail on the west side; it afforded us with excellent views of the once-bustling SSFL (many of the structures have been removed from the property as the cleanup effort continues).  All-too-soon, we completed our invigorating holiday stroll (4.5 miles with 850’ of elevation gain/loss).

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December 10th – Tierra Rejada Park Exploratory Hike

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16 hikers met at Stargaze Park in Simi Valley on a chilly, foggy late autumn morning.  After assembling and preparing for very light drizzle, we headed north to the trailhead entrance into Tierra Rejada “Park.”  We immediately noticed some heavy equipment being used to grade a portion of the hillside on the west (uphill) side of the recently restriped asphalt path that is apparently an extension of the bike trail that runs along the Arroyo Simi [the reason for the grading was not evident]. 

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When we reached the eastern end of an Edison Road we headed uphill to the west along it, stopping briefly for a group photo. Visibility was severely limited due to the dense fog but the chilly temperature made our upward climb easier than the usual hot sunny weather we’ve experienced during this hike in the past.  Surprisingly there was lots of bright green grass on the hillsides.  Eventually we headed south and then climbed west along an abandoned ridge road that would usually have afforded 360-degree views of the surrounding area, but the fog was still fairly dense.  After taking a break at our turnaround point on another high ridge to the northwest, we mostly retraced our steps with the notable exception that near the end of the hike we followed an access road adjacent to the Arroyo Simi where we heard the plant-choked stream flowing and actually saw a miniature water cascade at one point.  By the time we reached our vehicles the fog had lifted considerably and we had completed a relatively pleasant 7.7-mile hike with 1,600’ of elevation gain on a rain-free morning.

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December 2nd – Christmas Holiday Party Potluck

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Ursula Christie again welcomed us into her beautifully decorated home for our annual potluck holiday party.  A wide variety of foodstuffs accumulated on the tables as a steady stream of “Trail Blazers” arrived to partake in the festivities.  The participants quickly took advantage of the rare opportunity to spend non-hiking time with “old” friends  – some of whom they had not seen since last year’s party – as small conversational groups formed and re-formed to trade news of each other’s recent activities and discuss plans for futures activities. 

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Soon the various culinary delights could no longer be ignored and we began sampling the plentiful delicacies.  As usual, everyone looked even better than usual (hiking gear) in their holiday dress.  After a sit-down dinner (during which it was impossible not to overeat!), we continued hobnobbing before taking our leave with holiday well wishes and promises to see one another soon.  Not surprisingly, we had been unable to devour all of the food that the guests had brought so there were some delightful “leftovers” to take home, such as slices of a delicious chocolate cake.  We are all grateful for this wonderful opportunity to spend time with good friends, especially Ursula, who is truly one-of-a-kind!

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