April 30th – Towsley Canyon
11 hikers (plus one dog) met at the “Ed Davis Park at Towsley Canyon” section of the 4,000-acre Santa Clarita Woodlands Park on a pleasant spring morning. We began hiking along a dirt road toward the Sonia Thompson Nature Center, crossing Towsley Creek on a concrete bridge. Soon we began a counterclockwise hike on the Towsley View Loop Trail. After passing through The Narrows section of Towsley Gorge, the trail began rising via switchbacks along the shaded eastern slope of the canyon. The verdant north-facing slopes of the Santa Susana Mountains rose steeply to the south. The single-track trail passed through sage scrub, stands of California walnut and bay laurel trees, and scattered oak trees as we made our way to the 2,450′ high point on the trail from which much of the Santa Clarita Valley could be seen. The hillsides were adorned by many blooming wildflowers which begged to be photographed. The trail then began dropping into shady Wiley Canyon which we followed downstream to a junction with the Canyon View Loop Trail which rose along the northern flank of the mountain before descending to the Sonia Thompson Nature Center. After a brief respite we were led on our first hike along a portion of the new Elder Loop Trail in the nearby Rivendale Park and Open Space which led us back to our vehicles. We returned home having completed a very pleasant 7.5 mile hike with over 1,600′ of elevation gain/loss.
April 24th – Horn Canyon to Pines Trail Camp
13 hikers met at the Horn Canyon trailhead adjacent to the Thacher School a few miles east of downtown Ojai on a nice spring morning. As our hike began, the trail rose gradually upward to the north along a dirt road flanked by wildflowers. The route soon became a shady trail that followed a pleasant creek (with water in it!) as it continued up toward the Nordhoff Ridge; there was an amazing array of lovely wildflowers adorning the path. After several easy stream crossings, the trail began to rise inexorably via switchbacks toward our destination and we were rewarded with great views of the Ojai Valley and onward to the ocean and Santa Cruz Island plus a view of a slice of Lake Casitas – and more beautiful wildflowers! Eventually we reached the Pines Trail Camp which provided cool breezes and some shade although most of the pine trees have been cut down or are dead but still standing [camping is no longer permitted in this campground]. After resting and eating lunch we returned the way we came, again admiring the beauty of the trail. We reached our vehicles and returned home having completed a somewhat demanding 5.5-mile hike with 1,845′ of elevation gain/loss, planning to return again next year.
April 9th – Canyon View Trail, Grotto Trail, and Circle X Ranch
3 hikers traveled to the Sandstone Peak Trail trailhead parking lot (2,066′) on Yerba Buena Road near Triunfo Pass (2,100′) in the Santa Monica Mountains on an overcast spring morning with a forecast of rain. There were a handful of vehicles in the parking lot, but no other outdoor enthusiasts were visible. Local visibility was good as we began hiking down the Canyon View Trail toward the ocean. The foliage glistened with water droplets from the overnight rain, but the trail footing was good. The canyon/mountain views were emerald green and the trail was bordered with lots of blooming wildflowers. Upon reaching the junction with the Grotto Trail, we followed it as it headed downstream along the West Fork of the Arroyo Sequit, enjoying the canyon views including stunning rock formations and more wildflowers. Eventually reaching The Grotto (1,215′), we decided not to climb over the wet and slippery giant boulders that blocked further exploration. As we began to retrace our route upstream, the promised rain began to fall, but we were prepared for it and enjoyed the rare opportunity to hike in it, especially in such a beautiful area. When we reached the junction with the Canyon View Trail, we decided to take the left fork and hike up to the Circle X Ranch ranger station and then uphill along Yerba Buena Road to our parked vehicle. We encountered no other hikers during our hike and only three vehicles along Yerba Buena Road. After leaving our wet outer garments/packs in the trunk of the car, we returned to Simi Valley having completed a 4.8-mile hike with about 900′ of elevation gain/loss.
April 2nd – Nordhoff Peak Lookout Tower via the Pratt Trail
12 hikers met at the Pratt Trail trailhead near the north end of Signal Street in Ojai (just northwest of the Stewart Canyon Debris Basin) on a pleasant spring morning. As our hike began, the trail rose through a shady woodland with a smattering of wildflowers and lots of wild cucumber plants. After a mile the trail reached a plateau above the canyon with great views of the Ojai Valley. Eventually we reached a junction with the Cozy Dell Road where we encountered a group of yoga practitioners who were enjoying the nice day. The Pratt Trail then continued unrelentingly upward toward Nordhoff Peak, providing increasingly scenic views all the way to Lake Casitas and the Channel Islands. Wildflowers continued to adorn the trail and there was a surprising abundance of shade which helped us endure the rising temperature. Around noon several members of our group reached Nordhoff Ridge Road where we could see the lookout tower a mile to the east. A temporary physical ailment experienced by a member of our group caused us to return slowly to our vehicles. We then returned home having completed a hike of over 10 miles with an elevation gain/loss of over 3,000′.