Training Hikes – Exploring Our Hood and Beyond

I love to hike.  Getting mentally lost on a trail is one of my favorite ways to recharge, exercise, and just generally feel alive.  A few years ago, my favorite hiking buddies fled La-La Land for Portlandia and my hiking slagged off quite a bit.

With them gone, I still hiked a bit, but not nearly as much as before.  The bulk of it that I did do, however, was with my friend Sylvie.  This gave us a chance to chat and catch up while doing something healthy.  And last year, a mutual friend started a Ladies Who Hike and Brunch Group on Facebook, which brought us even more opportunities to get out there into the local wilds.

This hikes were for fun, though.  And they didn’t involve really pushing ourselves.  For a while we had a no waterfall, no hike rule.  Again, fun and certainly scenic, but not what we needed to be able to pull off a 15-20 mile day like we might need to on the John Muir Trail.

Enter our training plan.  It’s begun loosely, recognizing that we regularly go up to 5 miles at a leisurely pace.  Now we needed to push that 5 miles to a brisk pace and build from there.  Luckily, the Santa Monica Mountains and Angeles Forest are filled with all kinds of trails very close-by!  Not so luckily, it’s been a really hot October.

Our first hike official training hike was to Will Rogers State Park.  It was supposed to rain and we texted back and forth quite a bit trying to decide whether or not it was worth abandoning our warm covers for the chance of a damp and dreary hike.  The hike won out, and we were glad to have gone.  The downside of this trail is that the loop to Inspiration Point is only two miles, so you really need to do one of the trails that connects to other parks to get any distance, or you need to do the loop multiple times.  We did the loop twice and parked down the hill to make sure we got some decent distance in, but we knew that the next hike needed to push beyond.

So for our next hike, we decided on Mandeville Canyon in the hills of Brentwood.  I always forget that there’s more to Brentwood than the Brentwood Country Mart (sweet rose creamery ice cream = yum).  So up we drove to Brentwood.  And up and up and up we went almost to the end of Mandeville Canyon Road, where we pulled over and parked on Garden Land Road (not Garden Lane Road as the directions list), and headed up a trail managed my the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.  Note: there is limited parking on this small residential street.

There are a number of places to enter the trail, but we chose the trailhead at the end of Garden Land Road, quickly heading up Westridge DWP Access Road towards San Vicente Peak.  The trail has a nice upward slope, gaining 500 feet of elevation in a little less than 1.5 miles.  It then joins Westride Fire Road, or West Mandeville Fire Road (according to the official trail map).  Once the trails join, heading to the right you quickly reach the summit and San Vicente Mountain Park.

At the Park, there are clean, maintained restrooms and water fountains, a covered picnic area, and an old military watch tower left over from the Cold War Days.  You can go to the top of the tower and take 360 degree photos from the ocean to the Valley, downtown, and beyond.  It was really lovely.  There’s also some plaques and informational signage telling the military history of the site, which was a really interesting and unexpected treat.

We did have some confusion finding the next chunk of trail to connect with in order to make the loop.  There seem to be trails going off in many directions from the Park.  The one we wanted that connects to the unpaved portion of Mulholland Drive is actually paved and branches off right between the restrooms and the tower.  It took us a bit of figuring, and an unfortunate conversation, to make sure we were on the right track.

This portion of the loop is a dirt road with vehicles.  And it’s dirty and dusty, but it does have lovely views of the Valley.  After hiking along this slowly sloping portion of the loop, we came to a parking area with a few trails branching.  Again there was a moment of confusion as we tried to make sure we had the correct trail to the right.  It’s the right immediately after the parking area and up the hill that connects to the return branch of the loop – Canyonback Trail.

This portion is really nice in that it breaks apart and comes together, one branch with a very even slope, and the other some more challenging pieces.  At the third rejoinder, there is a branch that is Hollyhock Fire Road – the trail that took us back the the car.  Well, almost all the way back.  This one ends a few blocks further down the canyon, which requires walking back up through the neighborhood to get back to the car.

Overall, the 5-miles loop trail is dusty, very sunny and exposed most of the way.  This made for a very hot, grimy day in temperatures inching towards 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  In addition, there are many bicyclists recklessly flying along the trails, and both a large number of dog-walkers and evidence of dogs along the trails.  (Seriously, you hiked the bag and the dog in, can’t you hike the bag of dog waste out?  Who do you think is going to do that for you?!  Be a responsible dog owner and pick up after your pet! End of rant.)  Sylvie and I felt glad that we had gotten out on the trail and hiked despite the heat.

If I did this trail again, I might bring lunch for picnicking up at the Park.  Overall, this was a nice hike, with great views, and some decent incline on the way up.  Next time, we need a bit more distance and a bit more altitude gain.

When the road is long and dusty – looking down Canyonback trail from the top.


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