Running down the Mountain

S and T at the trail head

S and T at the trail head

We decided to step up to the next level in our hiking training and do Sandstone Peak, aka Mt Allen.  At 3,111 feet, Sandstone Peak is the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.  It also has 1,000 feet of elevation gain on the 1.5 mile trail up, which would be good practice in our altitude training.

Sign Post for Sandstone Peak

Sign Post for Sandstone Peak

So, we got up early on a Sunday morning.  Sylvie was recovering from birthday dinner for her husband, while I was a little slow from a cookout for my Portland friends who’d been in town for the weekend.  Both of us were feeling our excesses of the night before.  And, silly me, I’d chosen to bike to the cookout over in Culver City on a route that felt like it really was steeply uphill both ways.

Both my hammies and quads were reminding me of the ride as I walked over to Sylvie’s, and the entire ride up to Yerba Buena Road on the far side of Malibu.  The road itself is on the far north of LA County, with parts tickling Ventura County’s edge.  The turn for the Yerba Buena, which would take us up to the trailhead for Sandstone Peak, was right past Neptune’s Net, so Sylvie and I were excited to reward ourselves there after our hike.

About a mile past Circle X Ranch, a primitive parking lot is tucked off on the left.  There’s no water, but there is a composting toilet and trash containers.  After we parked and made use of the facilities, we checkout the trail map.  We decided to do the 6.25 mile trail loop, with the steep portion at the start of the hike on the way to the peak, and the remainder of the trail oscillating its way down.

So, here’s the part where I tell you that I have asthma and it doesn’t matter how great of shape I am in, I have to go slow on the uphill.  Even when I was 16 and in phenomenal shape, I could never go quickly up.  My lungs set my pace, and when I push them I pay.  I am usually pretty okay with this, but right now I am not in great shape, which is why we’re doing the training hikes, and I hadn’t done any hikes that really drove home my limitations in quite some time.  Sylvie, however, is a runner, and can go fast.  I really felt like I was holding her back on the ascent.  This is something I am really going to have to work on coming to terms with so that I don’t let it throw me off my game mentally.

As we were reaching the crest of the trail, we came upon another pair of hikers, a mom and daughter it turned out, and they showed us where the trail breaks off to reach the top of Sandstone Peak.  If they hadn’t shown us, I am not sure we would have seen the splinter trail.  This suspicion was reinforced when Sylvie and I returned to re-do this trail a few weeks later, we found a different splinter trail that was far more perilous – you’re essentially climbing up smooth rock.

We reached the top in under and hour, and, in the rolling marine layer, the view of the surrounding mountains and valleys was lovely.  When we returned on a cloudless day, the view was stunning and reached out over the ocean to some of the Northern Channel Islands.  There’s a plaque and a GPS marker at the top, as well as a log book to sign.  I couldn’t think of anything creative to write or draw, so if you go find my entry please don’t judge me too harshly – I blame the lack of oxygen to my brain.

Sweaty T at the Top

Sweaty T at the Top

As we started down from the top, we got a tiny bit of cell service during which my very-pregnant sister called to say that she thought her water had broken and she was headed to the hospital.  Needless to say, we made it the rest of the 4.5 miles down the loop in record time.

Some things my panicked brain registered on the way down:

  • Great view of rock climbers on a hill face across one of the valleys the trail takes you down.
  • Really a lush and lovely trail for as dry as it’s been.  Maybe due to the marine layer adding moisture to this area?
  • A very cool large split rock can distract you from the trail branch.  If you start to follow the fake trail, the big key is all the poison oak.  When you find yourself worried that it’s going to touch you while you are safely on the trail: turn back.  You’ve gone the wrong way.
  • Beautiful rock vistas all around!
  • This is really a three liter of water trail.  Two just doesn’t quite cut it without accepting that a headache is my future.

The second time we did the trail, there was no marine layer, and it was HOT.  The trail is more exposed than I had initially thought.  That marine layer makes such as difference in keeping you cool and feeling insulated on the trail.

The second time, we also attempted the Tri Peaks Trail, which adds another mile plus to the length of the loop.  Well, we did more than attempt it.  About .2 miles from the top, we lost the trail.  The trail kind of peters out amongst the boulders and you aren’t really sure that you’re still on it.  Normally, both of us would’ve been up for the adventure of trying to locate it and making our way to the peak, but the day of our second hike was Halloween.  We both had Halloween plans that evening that tempered our adventuresome spirit.  But, we’ve definitely decided that we love this trail as a training spot, so I’m sure we’ll be back to locate the pesky trail to the top sometime soon!

Halloween Hike View

Halloween Hike View

Final note: we never did get our Neptune’s Net reward, and our rushing down the mountain was for naught!  My nephew chose to wait another week before making his appearance, and that day’s excitement was all a false alarm.

Info on Sandstone Peak and the trail (but doing the loop in the opposite direction).

Site where we found the hike.

Official Map from NPS.

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