February 28th     –     Slide Mountain Fire Lookout from Frenchman’s Flat

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6 hikers met at the carpool point on a pleasant late-winter morning. Upon reaching Frenchman’s Flat (2,068′), the starting point of our hike, we were greeted by 7 additional hikers (and two dogs) who joined us for the hike. We began our hike by walking 1.6 miles northward along a nearly flat, all-but-abandoned section of Old Highway 99 (aka Golden State Highway) toward the Pyramid Lake dam. We were greeted by a fierce 20-mph wind blowing directly at us. The old road crossed Piru Creek on a bridge where we heard and saw the small stream flowing in a pretty wooded riparian area. Soon we reached the entrance (2,210′) to Forest Service Road/trail 18W04 which leads up Slide Mountain. The wind abated as we hiked along the steadily rising well-maintained dirt road to a small parking area known as Kermit’s Corner where the “lookout” had parked his truck. At this point FSR 18W04 became a single-track trail since it is no longer being maintained to the top of the mountain. As we continued upward we enjoyed great views of the surrounding area, particularly of Pyramid Lake to the north, and then of the seemingly endless rows of rugged mountainous ridges to the southwest. Eventually we reached our destination, the Slide Mountain Lookout Tower (4,631′) built in 1969; it is now “manned” by volunteers during the “fire season” and is the only remaining active fire lookout in the Angeles National Forest. Saturday’s volunteer, Kevin LaSota, kindly greeted us, shared some history about the lookout, and hosted us for a very interesting tour inside the lookout tower from which there are truly spectacular 360-degree views including Mt. Pinos, Frazier Mountain, Hungry Valley, Pyramid Lake, Santa Clarita, the San Gabriel Mountains, Lake Piru, the Sespe Wilderness, the Santa Clara River Valley, and the Santa Susana Mountains. We retraced our route to Frenchman’s Flat and returned home having completed a pleasant 11.5-mile hike with nearly 3,000′ of elevation gain/loss on a nice day with good visibility.

February 13th     –     Santa Paula Peak

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14 hikers carpooled to the entrance to a private ranch along Highway 126 a few miles west of Fillmore on a cool morning. After passing through a locked gate, we drove north several miles on paved and deeply rutted dirt roads to a parking area at the beginning of the route leading up to Santa Paula Peak (access to this trailhead is by permission/invitation only). After taking group photos, our strenuous hike began easily enough along a dirt road that passed through a beautiful oak woodland with lots of bright green grass. Soon we reached a hard-to-spot junction with the narrow, sloping, neglected trail (USFS 20W16) leading up the mountain. As we climbed steeply upward through chaparral and scrub, we were soon rewarded with great views of Santa Paula Peak (4,957′), nearby mountains, and pretty green mountainsides. The trail on the eastern flank of the mountain rose unrelentingly via switchbacks and provided ever-improving views of the surrounding area including the Santa Clara River Valley. We eventually reached the easy-to-miss spur trail leading to the peak; it presented a triple-threat challenge: it was narrow, steep, and contained a lengthy field of rocks that required extra caution to cross (and some of the needle-sharp yucca plants couldn’t be missed entirely!). However, once we arrived at the peak the 360 degree panoramic views were spectacular, including the San Gabriel Mountains, the Peninsular Ranges, two of the Channel Islands, the Topatopa Mountains, Santa Clarita, and Ojai. We returned to our vehicles the way we came having completed an 8.2-mile hike with 2,827′ of elevation gain/loss on a warm day, grateful for the opportunity to summit a little-visited peak that once hosted a fire lookout tower.

February 6th     –     Franklin Trail to the Los Padres National Forest Boundary

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9 hikers carpooled to Carpinteria on a mild winter morning where we were met by two additional hikers. Our hike began near the Carpinteria High School as the trail began climbing through agricultural property (mostly avacados), dense chaparral, and rock outcroppings. We were soon rewarded with expansive views of the ocean/coastline, the valley floor, a salt marsh, and three of the Channel Islands including Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Santa Rosa Island (vaguely). At the top of the Horton Ranch the single-track trail met the dirt Edison Road which we followed from then on. After stopping briefly at Frank’s Bench, we continued upward, passing through several oak woodlands with bright green grass, ferns, and a few wildflowers. Soon there were excellent views of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north and we were treated to a gentle ocean breeze during the remainder of the hike. We turned back near the boundary of the Los Padres National Forest after hiking a little over 5 miles. Eventually the restored Franklin Trail will again reach East Camino Cielo (aka Divide Peak OHV Road) and will join the Alder Creek Trail which leads down to Jameson Lake/Reservoir to the north. We returned to our vehicles having completed a 10.5-mile hike with nearly 2,400′ of elevation gain/loss.