From the top of the hill, the blue-sky view extended all the way to Saddle Peak and the Pacific. The gray-green chaparral was brittle and dry, and the grasslands sun-bleached. Rain was in the forecast, but for months, little had fallen. It was the day after Christmas, and I was near the northern border of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. Fourteen years ago, nearly to the day, I had run to the same hill. That rain year had also been dry, and the area had looked much the same.
Today’s run had started at dawn at the Victory Trailhead. It had been cold in the canyons for the first few miles — in the low 30s — but eventually temps had warmed. I had run west in East Las Virgenes Canyon, taken a connector trail to Las Virgenes Canyon, and then run north on the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon fire road past Bell Canyon to “windmill hill.”
The hill is labeled with an elevation of 2124′ on the 1967 Calabasas topo map. The top of an old windmill has been placed on its summit. The windmill wasn’t there in 2006, and I wondered if it was from the infamous Runkle Canyon well. From the top of windmill hill I could see the high point of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, a quarter-mile or so to the northeast.
Located at its northeastern corner, the point with the highest elevation in the Preserve is a hilltop that’s just south of “hill 2160” on the Calabasas quad. Marked by a prominent pine tree, hill 2160 is on Santa Susana Field Laboratory property. It overlooks an area of the SSFL where a partial meltdown of an experimental reactor occurred in 1959.
Leaving windmill hill behind, I ran east down the hill, and then north along the fire road toward Albertson Mtwy. I was still debating whether to do the side trip to the Preserve’s high point. There was no path or trail to the high point, and the upper part of the slope was thick with brush. After running past the hill and nearly to Albertson Mtwy, curiosity finally got the better of me. I turned around and ran back to a place on the fire road where I could access the high point.
There is a survey marker on the high point labeled “N.A.A.V. INC. L.S. 2379 1953.” This is where the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, SSFL and Runkle Ranch properties meet. According to 3DEP Lidar data, the elevation of the high point is about 2162′.
The side trip to the high point and back took about 20 minutes. After returning to the fire road, I continued down to the junction with Albertson Mtwy, turned left, and followed it west to a junction with an Edison powerline service road. This road meanders south through a rugged canyon, and then climbs up and over a prominent ridge with some spectacular sandstone rock formations.
After topping out on the ridge, the service road descends to the junction of the Sheep Corral and Cheeseboro Ridge Trails. Today, I followed the Cheeseboro Ridge Trail south to the Las Virgenes – Cheeseboro connector. Once back in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon, I retraced my route from earlier in the day back to the Victory Trailhead.
Here is an interactive, Cesium 3D terrain view of most of the 20-mile route. The bushwhack to the Preserve high point and an exploration of the Norway Trail aren’t shown.