My prep hike started late in the day, due to a busy Friday at work and a typical long commute through Los Angeles traffic. The destination was Malibu’s Point Mugu State Park and it’s scenic 11.75 mile La Jolla Canyon Loop Trail. I finally hit the trail and was met immediately with a steady 1,000 foot climb over the first 2.5 miles. The ascent was quick but no problem because of the beautiful PCH views along the way. Ever half-mile I turned the corner of a switchback for another amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and gust of crisp sea air in my face. The west coast has its treasures, and I’ll definitely miss this part of LA when we move back east.
There were a few hikers along the way at first, but after about an hour I was alone on the trail. Sure, it’s 65 degrees and overcast … but it’s a Friday in January! I just think to myself that more people should really be out here enjoying these mountains.
After another 3 miles hiking the ridge line, the trail dropped into the valley, where I arrived at the campsite. It was empty and it was only 5pm so I decided to go exploring. The campsite had a privy and 8 small individual sites – each with a picnic table, bear box, and clearing for a small tent. And I mean small, anything bigger than a 2 person tent probably won’t fit. Each site is about 50 feet apart, but the brush overgrowth makes it tough to find them all, requiring some bushwhacking skills. The bathroom has TP, so someone must maintain this site, though clearly they don’t do much trail maintenance. Also, it looks like a fire devastated all the trees here, making my hammock setup difficult. Just when I’m ready to give up and settle for the ground, I finally find a site with 2 dead trees big enough to hold up my weight. Huzzah! … but unfortunately another big tree has collapsed on the picnic table, engulfing the entire eating area. Oh well, I’m the only one here, so I set up my hammock and then wander over to another site to eat dinner. I don’t think there is much wildlife here to be concerned with, but I like the idea of eating 50 ft from my bed as a good general practice anyway.
The view here at night is incredible. It’s like being at the bottom of a giant rocky bowl. Mountains surround me on all sides, and although the highway is only 5 miles away … I watch the sunset paint the sky a rainbow of colors amidst near silence.
The only downside is how early the sun and its heat disappeared. By 6:30, I have nothing to do, and it’s getting cold fast! I do my standard nighttime routine (wash up, change clothes, check for ticks, hang up gear), then spend the next 3 hours wrapped up in my quilt in my hammock bed. To kill time I read up on tomorrow’s itinerary, write this post, and read until I think it’s late enough to fall asleep.
Around 10:30, just as I fell asleep, I hear a group or hikers setting up camp. I have no idea how they hiked in so late, and even though they are loud, I appreciate the security of other people nearby.
The next morning I’m up at 8:30 with nothing but sun and blue skies to greet me. It’s going to be a beautiful day to hike out. After a quick breakfast (note to self, I’m not liking these instant grits so that will have to go from the resupply boxes), I pack up and hit the trail around 9:30. The day’s hike goes through the valley, then straight up to Magu Peak and down through the canyon/riverbed.
The hike up the bowl is easy, then the view of the ocean is back. It. Is. Breathtaking. The ocean waves crash up against the PCH and a small naval base. Then it’s up up up. The picture below is from Magu Peak, which took a a grueling 1000 foot elevation gain in just 900 feet. There are lots of people up here taking pictures at the flag pole, so I do too. I’m definitely not in mountain shape, as that climb winded me for more than it should. So after a short break, I climb back down and head out to finish the last part of the loop.
Remember that hike overview I linked to earlier? Well it must be very old, because it got two things very wrong. First, the La Jolla creek and Falls, the supposed highlight of this trip, are bone dry. Not even muddy. Dry dry dry. I’m long out of water and really thirsty, so this last section is tough. Oh, and second? THE TRAIL IS CLOSED! This final 2 mile section of the loop trail was devastated by storms and was closed off … in 2015. I don’t have a choice, as the only other trail is a 10 mile re-route back up the canyon. And, again, no water.
So I apologize to the State Park gods, cross the barricade, and head down the canyon. After a half-mile I hit a section destroyed by erosion and rockslides. This is why they closed the trail, as a storm knocked out the ridge path, and now the only way down is some very steep and slippery drops. I carefully make my way back down to the trailhead, cross another VERY OBVIOUS barrier at the parking lot (oops), and call it a day.
Overall, my hike was great and gear test went flawless. Only a few small tweaks to consider, mostly to food and stuff sack organization. The real learning bough, I need a lot more mountain hiking prep. I have one more overnight planned (the most difficult of these winter trips) up SoCal’s infamous Mt. Baldy next month. So that should really test me. Hello Neiman!