May 28th     –     Hondo Canyon to Topanga Lookout

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Ten hikers arrived on a cool overcast morning at the trailhead located 0.4 mile northwest of “downtown” Topanga along Old Topanga Canyon Road where the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s “Backbone Trail” crosses the road. As we began our hike up the steep north-facing mountain slope we crossed a dry streambed and soon passed through pretty meadows filled with dry yellow grasses and dotted with oak trees and interesting rock formations.

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Next we reached a wonderful pink gorge on the right (west) side of the trail where a small waterfall is sometimes visible (but not today). As we continued upward through chaparral, there were glimpses of the pink-colored sedimentary rock formations/cliffs (the Sespe Formation) that form the west side of the canyon. We then entered a dense forest comprised mostly of oak and bay laurel trees; the trail was also adorned with ferns, moss-covered rocks, and lots of very healthy poison oak. After negotiating a long series of heavily shaded switchbacks through the forest we neared Saddle Peak Road. However, we headed west on a lovely trail that paralleled the road; it was adorned with a variety of blooming wildflowers. Upon reaching the old Topanga Tower Motorway we left the Backbone Trail and headed north to the end of the road where there was once a fire lookout tower. After a lunch/rest break we retraced our steps and returned home having completed a 10.9-mile hike with 2,350′ of elevation

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May 14th     –     Triunfo Lookout, Canyon View Trail, Grotto Trail

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13 hikers carpooled to the day-use-parking area (1,631′) below the Circle X Ranger Station on Yerba Buena Road in the Santa Monica Mountains and dropped off a shuttle vehicle; we then carpooled to the Sandstone Peak Trail parking lot (2,066′) on Yerba Buena Road near Triunfo Pass (2,100′) in the Santa Monica Mountains on a cool overcast spring morning.

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We began PART ONE one of our two-part hike downhill on the Canyon View Trail which lived up to its name and there were many wildflowers along the trail. After hiking 1.5 miles we reached the junction with the Grotto Trail as it headed downstream for about a mile along the West Fork of the Arroyo Sequit, enjoying the canyon views including stunning rock formations and a variety of beautiful wildflowers. After climbing carefully over some large boulders filling the streambed we reached The Grotto (1,215′) where some water was pooled but there was no waterfall due to the continuing drought. We took a lunch/rest break and then followed the Grotto Trail up to our shuttle vehicle which we used to retrieve our other vehicles. We then carpooled a few miles north/northeast to the dirt parking area along Yerba Buena Road where we began PART TWO of our hike. We started hiking along the dirt Yellow Hill Fire Road; soon the path was bordered by a stunning seemingly never-ending display of blooming sticky monkey flower. Reaching a fork in the trail we turned left and followed the abandoned access road up to the ruins of the Triunfo Lookout (2,658′) from which there were breathtaking views in all directions, though the view over the ocean was obscured. We returned to the Yellow Hill Fire Road and followed it a short distance down to the SMMRA Backbone Trail which we followed eastward to a short unmarked connector trail which led us back to our vehicles. We then returned home having completed a 6.5 mile hike with about 1,300′ of elevation gain/loss.

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May 8th     –     Fish Canyon Narrows

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Despite forecasts of possible rain and thunderstorms, 15 hikers braved the elements for this unique hike. Fortunately the only rain we encountered fell as we were driving to the starting point of our hike at the gate at the east “end” of Templin Highway north of Castaic Lake. It was a cloudy day with pleasant temperatures during the entire hike. We began by descending northeast along the closed paved road to a concrete bridge at the mouth of Cienega Canyon [which is quite overgrown]. Passing by and continuing southward as the road turned to dirt we soon veered left (eastward) onto the abandoned easy-to-follow Warm Springs-Fish Canyon Truck Trail which passed through a narrow gorge and was bordered by a variety of beautiful blooming wildflowers; after several paved creek crossings we reached the abandoned Cienega Campground (nearly three miles from our starting point). We immediately left the Truck Trail and headed north along a lovely shaded single-track trail for about a mile to “Pianobox” [an old mining claim] where there’s a campsite. The single-track trail ended as we entered the Fish Canyon Narrows and we found ourselves rock hopping, pushing through brush, and crisscrossing the creek to follow stretches of “use” trail for the next mile or so. The stream was flowing and provided a musical accompaniment as we hiked carefully through the narrow canyon bordered by very scenic reddish hundred-foot rock walls and populated with oaks and alders. We eventually reached the Rogers Trail Camp in a small oak-shaded clearing on an oak- and sycamore-shaded bench. After we took a much-needed lunch-and-rest break we returned the way we came and returned home having completed an 11 mile hike with 1,000′ of elevation gain/loss, a hike described in 2009 by Los Angeles Magazine as the best hike in Los Angeles!