Another One of My Favorite Places in the World: Malibu Canyon

It was five years ago when I blogged nostalgic about my hiking memories in the Sycamore Canyon section of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. At the time of that post, the canyon was still smoldering as firefighters got the last sections of the Springs Fire under control.

Five years later and it has happened again.

As I write this, the Woolsey Fire, which began near the Santa Susana Field Lab nuclear research site, is blazing seemingly out of control in and around what I refer to as Greater Malibu Canyon – the Malibu Creek watershed in the area, the only north-south body of water to flow the entire breadth of the mountain range.

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Top Ten Spooky Places around the World

Do you like haunted houses? Graveyards? Abandoned buildings? Have you ever hiked through a desolate canyon, the only sound being your boots crunching fallen leaves? Would you spend the night on the 13th floor of a hotel? If so, this post is for you.

Think of this top ten list as a work in progress. I hope to have ten more spooky places to write about by next Halloween. Until then, here are my Top Ten Spooky Places:

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Fall Colors – Part One

October has arrived, and the fall colors are just starting to peak in much of the United States. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking in some of what Tennessee has to offer in this regard. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share some of my fall color photo captures from a few other corners of the world.

If you’re curious, these were shot using three different cameras, a Nikon DSLR and two not-quite-pocket-sized Canon Powershot cameras. I typically use “P” mode if the light is cooperating, but will switch to “Manual” for trickier shots, or if I’m using a tripod.

Santa Monica Mountains

Fall colors arrive late in LA, usually around Thanksgiving, and usually peak just before Christmas. You won’t see a lot of orange leaves, but we do have yellows and reds. They don’t overwhelm like I imagine New England’s fall foliage might, but they add nice shadings to a oft-parched landscape.

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The Backbone Trail of Southern California

For this hiking-related entry, I decided to write about an epic, multi-day hike across the spine – or “backbone” – of the mountain range in which I have spent the most time. During the twelve years I lived in Los Angeles, I spent many a weekend day exploring LA and Ventura Counties’ literally hundreds of hiking trails. Three transverse mountain ranges pass through LA, and my favorite trails to hike are in the Santa Monica Mountains. These mountains follow the coast (more east-west than north-south in SoCal), cross the 405 Freeway to comprise the Hollywood Hills, and end at Griffith Park, one of the world’s largest urban green spaces.

SMMNRA sign

The Backbone Trail is a 65-mile hike that takes you from the highlands of star-studded Pacific Palisades, into the hills above Malibu and the canyons beyond, ending at Point Mugu State Park in Ventura County. Along the way, the trail ascends and descends over 11,000 vertical feet, passing through five Mediterranean ecosystems and past geological and cultural treasures. The trail passes two Inspiration Points, at least two split rocks, and is a short scramble from the highest point in the range. Best of all? The highest point is just 3,111 feet above sea level, so cold weather is seldom much of a factor. This is one trail that is actually better when hiking during the fall-winter-spring off-season than during the scorching summer months. Are you ready to give it a try?

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Rebounding Nicely

Almost two months ago I posted about the devastating Springs Fire, which seemingly destroyed much of the western flank of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. You can find my original post here.

I will keep this short. I simply wanted to update any concerned Loyal Readers that – for the most part – the area seems to be rebounding nicely. According to local park rangers, all trails have been reopened, and a volunteer “work weekend” helped put the finishing touches on any trail work projects. This is terrific news, of course, which goes without saying. Even more terrific, however, is the speed with which the debris was cleared, the damage assessed, and the trails rebuilt. Quite a contrast when compared to the Station Fire (July 2009) devastation of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. The burn area was of similar size, but several trail closures are still in affect four years later. (In all fairness, the San Gabriel Wilderness features more rugged terrain.)

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One of My Favorite Places in the World: Sycamore Canyon

I love hiking, wildlife, and natural beauty. As such, I was saddened, ten days or so ago, to learn that one of my favorite places in the world, the western corridor of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, was essentially going up in smoke, as an early-season wildfire – most likely caused by a carelessly-discarded cigarette, the dry Santa Ana Winds, and above-average temperatures – swept through the mountains.

If you don’t know the area of which I speak, the Santa Monica Mountains extend roughly 60 miles from east to west. They bisect Los Angeles in two – the famous Hollywood Hills are actually the Santa Monica Mountains – but most of the range runs along the Pacific Coast, from Santa Monica to Point Mugu, west of Malibu. A 65-mile hiking, biking, and equestrian trail, appropriately-named the Backbone Trail, traverses the most rugged “spine” of the mountains, passing film sites and archaeological ruins en route. The Chumash Indians called these mountains home as far back as 7,000 years ago, and shared the land with mountain lions, bobcats, and red foxes, all of whom roam free.

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