Starting at the Wendy Drive Trailhead, I’d crossed Satwiwa, run down Danielson Road, rock-hopped across Upper Sycamore Creek, and picked up the Old Boney Trail. The condition of the Old Boney Trail between Danielson Road and the Fossil Trail junction was better than expected. Maybe the trail was going to be in good shape after all.
Wrong! Once I passed the turnoff to the Fossil Trail, the vegetation closed in. In places it was so thick I couldn’t see the trail at my feet, much less a few yards ahead. All I could do is smile and work my way through it. Everything was overgrown — bushes, grasses, wildflowers. And everything was wet with dew. A hundred yards past the Fossil Trail, I was soaked from head to toe.
I tried to see the positive. It was an amazing display of the effect of a wet rainy season. Without trail work and use, it wouldn’t take long for the trail to be completely consumed.
The Old Boney Trail continued to be a tangle of chaparral for about two miles — until I reached the Backbone Trail at Blue Canyon. At that point, it becomes part of the Backbone Trail system, and I was relieved to see that some work had recently been done on the trail.
As I worked up the Backbone Trail toward the Chamberlain Trail junction, I recalled other times I’d run to Serrano Valley using Old Boney. What would the condition of the trail be beyond this point? I’d been on that part of the Old Boney Trail following a wet rain season and knew how overgrown it could be. Some refer to that section of trail as “tick alley.”
But when I got to the junction, surprise, surprise, the Old Boney Trail had been trimmed. More than two miles of trail were groomed. It was good all the way to the Serrano Valley Trail and partway into Serrano Valley. The trail in Serrano Valley was a little overgrown, but NOTHING like the Old Boney Trail between the Fossil and Backbone Trails.
Part of the fun of doing this route is all the stream crossings in Serrano Canyon — what is it 13 or 14? Today, most of these could be done without getting your shoes wet — especially if you have poles. I didn’t have poles, and my shoes and socks were already wet, so I didn’t worry about keeping them dry. Some sections of the Serrano Canyon Trail were also overgrown, but not bad. However, there was a lot of poison oak, some of which wasn’t avoidable.
After getting a drink of water at the faucet at the junction of the Serrano Canyon Trail and Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, I headed up-canyon. Almost immediately, the fire road crossed Big Sycamore Canyon Creek. I did this first crossing without getting my shoes wet, but nine more crossings followed, and most resulted in soaked shoes. The water crossings and wildflowers helped distract me from the five mile run up Sycamore Canyon to the Upper Sycamore Trail.
Getting off Sycamore Canyon Road and onto the Upper Sycamore Trail was a relief. Whatever run I do from Wendy Drive, I always finish it via this trail. The trail gets enough use that it was in good shape. This time all the creek crossings could easily be rock-hopped.
After doing a climbing /trail running combo in Pt. Mugu State Park last Sunday, I headed back to Wendy Drive this morning to do a trail run to Mugu Peak and back.
The plan was to get in a long run (20 miles) with fewer “get your feet wet” stream crossings, and also check out the conditions on several trails I hadn’t done this year.
So much for keeping the feet dry! The temp was in the mid-30s when I turned off Big Sycamore Canyon fire road and onto Wood Canyon fire road. The main creek draining Sycamore Canyon cuts across the fire road here, and there was no way I was going to get across it without wading. Some smaller stream crossings followed, ending with Wood Canyon Creek.
Several trails/roads converge at the top of Hell Hill, and I turned right onto the fire road that leads to the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail. I like to do Mugu Peak as part of a counterclockwise loop that combines segments of the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail and Mugu Peak Trails.
Long stretches of the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail between the walk-in camp and Mugu Peak were sopping wet. I’ll be curious to see how quickly it dries out, but today (April 2) it was really, really wet.
Mugu Peak was pretty much as it always is on this side — busy and steep. The steepness of the “Direct” trail helped wring the water from my Ultraglides and Injinji socks. By the time I reached the top, my feet were only damp.
Mugu Peak is VERY popular, and there are almost always a few people taking in the wide-ranging views from the summit. Most do the short, steep hike from PCH on the Chumash Trail. A few start at the Ray Miller Trailhead — or like I was doing today — the long route from Wendy Drive.
Although I usually climb the peak, two other options are worthwhile: the loop around the ocean-facing side of Mugu Peak and
the loop around La Jolla Valley.
The wildflowers along the Mugu Peak Trail and La Jolla Loop Trail were fantastic. California poppies were plentiful on the south-facing slopes. The vibrance of the bright orange poppies could not have been better accentuated than by purple lupine. Yellow bush sunflower, royal blue phacelia, and rich red paintbrush also decorated the trail.
I followed my usual route on the way back to Wendy — returning to the Hub, descending Hell Hill, retracing my steps in Wood Canyon, then following the Two Foxes single-track trail north to a short connector to Sycamore Canyon Road. This is near the Danielson Multi-Use Area. Once on Sycamore Canyon Road, the route back was the same as last week — up 1.8 miles of paved road and then onto the Upper Sycamore Trail. After that, up Danielson Road and across Satwiwa to the Wendy Drive trailhead.
The morning was beautiful and sunny. It hadn’t rained for two days, and except for a few contrails, the sky was nearly cloudless.
Earlier in the morning, I’d climbed the Western Ridge of Boney Mountain, then worked my way over Tri Peaks to the Backbone Trail. I’d been on cruise control running down the Chamberlain/Backbone Trail, enjoying the pleasant weather and wide-ranging views.
Passing a gap in the ridge, I was surprised to see a person on the hillside, a few yards below the trail. It was an odd place to be.
The person was partially hidden by grass and brush, and all I could see was their head and shoulders. They were wearing an odd helmet and were busy working on something that looked like a pack. I didn’t see a mountain bike.
None of it made sense. Was it someone doing the Backbone Trail? Had they slept there overnight? What was with the helmet? Reaching the end of the Chamberlain Trail, I turned right on the Old Boney Trail and continued the descent toward Blue Canyon.
Partway down, I heard the clap-clap-clap of helicopter blades approaching the canyon, and that’s when it all fell into place. The mysterious person along the Chamberlain Trail was a SAR crew member.
The helicopter was yellow, probably from the Ventura County Sheriff Search and Rescue Aviation/Medical Team. I’ve seen them in the area a number of times doing exercises.
This wasn’t the first time I’d seen something strange from the Chamberlain Trail. A few years ago, I’d noticed an odd-looking object below the Chamberlain and Old Boney Trails junction. It turned out to be a rescue manikin strapped onto a litter. Practice makes perfect, and exercises help ensure the safety and success of demanding SAR operations.
Farther down the Backbone Trail, there was a striking display of California poppies and bush sunflowers on the hillside above the junction of the Backbone and Old Boney Trails. After photographing the poppies, I returned to the Backbone Trail and entered Blue Canyon. To this point, I’d managed to keep my shoes and socks dry. But that was going to end.
I’d done a similar route in January, partly to see the condition of the Chamberlain, Blue Canyon, and Upper Sycamore Trails. That was the case again today. In the two months since the January run, nearby Circle X has recorded over 13 inches of rain. Not surprisingly, that has resulted in more water in the streams, more wildflowers along the trails, and a bit more eroded and rougher trails.
I like splashing through streams as much as anyone does, but today I wanted to try and keep my shoes and socks dry. This Winter that’s been surprisingly hard to do.
Weekdays, I often run from the Victory trailhead at Ahmanson Ranch over to Las Virgenes Canyon and back. But it had rained in the Los Angeles area for four days straight. There was just no question that Ahmanson was going to be wet and muddy, and Las Virgenes Creek would be too wide to jump. I’d have to wade the creek crossings — again.
That’s why this afternoon, I was doing an out-and-back run on Rocky Peak Road from the 118 Frwy trailhead. As a result of the area’s sandstone geology, Rocky Peak Road is usually a pretty good place to run during periods of wet weather. For one thing, there are no creeks to cross. Plus, the rocky and sandy road doesn’t have many areas of “glob on your shoes” mud. It also has excellent views of the San Fernando and Simi Valleys and surrounding mountains.
My turnaround point today was the top of the Chumash Trail, which is a little less than four miles from the Rocky Peak trailhead. I sometimes continue past the Chumash Trail another mile to Fossil Point.
Today, there was one short, muddy stretch that could be mostly avoided and a few large mud puddles I could walk around. At the end of the run I didn’t have to switch shoes to drive home!
The view from Parker Mesa Overlook was the uniform gray of the inside of a cloud. I was about 30 minutes too early, and the low clouds hadn’t cleared. The Pacific Ocean was out there somewhere.
Even so, the run from the Top of Reseda to the Overlook had been excellent. The hills and canyons were painted in a muted palette of sun and shadow. Purple-pink prickly phlox brightened the roadside, and the “Beech-nut Gum” scent of Bigpod Ceoanthus filled the air.
Fire Road #30, Eagle Springs Fire Road, and East Topanga Fire Road had all been cleared of the sluffs and slides that resulted from January’s rainstorms. Overnight, there had been a little drizzle, but the fire roads hadn’t been muddy at all.
Rather than just retracing my steps, on the way back to the Top of Reseda I opted to do the Musch and Garapito Trails. I had run the Garapito Trail in mid-January but hadn’t been on the Musch Trail since the January deluge.
The Trippet Ranch parking lot had been packed, and several groups appeared to be on their way to Eagle Rock via the Musch Trail. Overall, the trail weathered the storms reasonably well, but one badly eroded section and a couple other spots will need some work.
While it still had some issues, use of the Garapito Trail had moderated its condition since the last time I was on it. Some brush that had blocked the trail had been removed, and paths were evolving through the collapsed sections of trail. However, some extra care was still required in some spots.
The Bent Arrow Trail was closed, necessitating a return to dirt Mulholland on Fire Road #30, following the same route as had been used at the beginning of the run.