Hiking L.A.

Blogged: August 1, 2006

Mishe Mokwa

Hiked: July 29, 2006

Last Friday, as I was wrapping up my day at work, my dad appeared in my instant messenger contacts list. As we started chatting away, he asked me if BF and I were planning on hiking the next day. Rather than try and summarize the conversation, here it is for your enjoyment. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

dad: when are you going hiking, Sat or Sun?
iwriteplays: Sat, probably
dad: only you and BF going?
iwriteplays: maybe EVG, too
dad: what time?
iwriteplays: he's "EVG" on the blog
iwriteplays: don't know -- probably sometime after noon, 'cause of flute choir
dad: I am toying with the idea of joining you. It is quite a drive but I would get to see you
iwriteplays: it could be fun
iwriteplays: you're more than welcome
iwriteplays: you can sleep on the futon
dad: thank you. I don't want to push my way into a group of young ones, though
iwriteplays: nah, it's fine
iwriteplays: plus, EVG's 30
iwriteplays: he's getting up there :)
dad: that IS old
iwriteplays: haha
dad: How'bout I think about it a bit, talk on the phone tonight. It would be nice to see you.
iwriteplays: yeah, definitely
dad: it looks like the weather will be OK
iwriteplays: good
dad: 83 deg high, 20% precip, Winds SW 5 - 10
iwriteplays: nice
iwriteplays: perfect
dad: OK, so if it is OK with you young ones, I will join you.

I hope that gives you a little insight into the inner workings of our brains. That, right there, is a candid conversation between father and daughter. Uncensored, unscripted, unrestrained.

Probably uninteresting, too. Moving right along...

It turns out EVG was feeling "lethargic" and decided not to join us on our hike, but dad followed through with his plan. He drove 3.5 hours and met us at the Sandstone Peak trailhead at Circle X Ranch. I had picked this particular 6-mile loop specifically because I wanted a change of scenery. Our previous hikes had all been in the San Gabriel mountains, which are beautiful and great, but this time I wanted to see the ocean. Give me the Pacific, I said! BF and dad agreed to indulge me, and they blindly agreed to the hike.

BF was starting to question my judgment as we drove along to meet up with dad. The trailhead is high up in the Santa Monica mountains, just north of Malibu. We took the 101 to Westlake Village where we then took a succession of incredibly windy roads south towards Circle X Ranch. When I say windy, I mean a 15-mile-per-hour, braking-then-accelerating-then-braking-again type of road. It was just plain gorgeous, but it was also making BF and me carsick.

We arrived at the trail just before the situation got critical. Dad had been punctual---unlike me---so he was waiting for us when we pulled into the parking lot. To keep himself busy, he took a picture of the trailhead:


And then he took a picture of his Toyota Prius at the trailhead:


I'm glad we arrived when we did, because he was quickly running out of photographic subjects.

And so we started hiking. The plan was to take the Mishe Mokwa trail to Split Rock, keep going to the Backbone Trail, which would take us to Inspiration Point and Sandstone Peak and then back to the parking lot.

I'm proud to report that we only lost the trail once. But more on that later.

I have to say that this trail was enjoyable from the beginning to the end. Or from the beginning to the beginning, I should say, since it is a loop. The entire length of the trail provides beautiful views of the surrounding wilderness and encroaching suburbs. Here's such a view, taken near the beginning of the trail:


As you walk along, you get progressively closer to these rocks, known as the Echo Cliffs:


Somehow, we never thought of testing whether they actually echo. I guess that's something to save for next time. Also, just next to the Echo Cliffs, a monstrous rock balanced on another rock comes into view. Curiously, this is called "Balanced Rock":


The first major landmark on the hike is Split Rock. One of my hiking books told me it was a tradition for hikers to walk through the split in the rock. Peering through the crack, BF and I noted a large number of cobwebs straddling the width of the split. We made dad go through first:


Once we had all walked through Split Rock, we took a little spur to get a better look at Balanced Rock. While there, BF noticed a strange plant with white powder all over it. He was fascinated, and documented it for posterity:


We noticed a few of these further on down the trail, all of them covered with the same white powder. Their origins remain a mystery to BF, dad, and me. Between the three of us, we have an M.D. and two master's degrees, but botany clearly wasn't in our curriculum.

We made our way down the Mishe Mokwa trail until we hit the Backbone trail junction. We turned left and continued on to Inspiration point. Inspiration point afforded us these lovely views:



See those clouds? Well, according to a jogger who ran past us, this was the "marine layer" coming in. I knew about this so-called marine layer, but I rarely saw it in East L.A. What this really meant was that I probably wouldn't get to see the ocean. So much for my views of the Pacific. After taking a break and eating some Clif bars, we headed back down the Backbone trail towards Sandstone Peak.

I'd like to stop here and apologize for the bland description of these portions of the trail. The plain truth is that the majority of this hike was uneventful. We had beautiful views and didn't lose the trail. Well, that's not entirely true. Let me explain.

To arrive at the top of Sandstone Peak, you have to take a short spur off the Backbone trail. Because Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica mountains, it is understandable that this spur is steep and a bit rocky. When we arrived at the top of the peak, we signed the register (where I plugged the Hiking L.A. blog, thank you very much), and took a few pictures of the insidious marine layer rolling in:


Here is the plaque on the peak. Apparently there's some sort of miscommunication about what the peak is actually called:


Mt. Allen, Sandstone Peak, tomatoes, tomatahs... it's all good.

Since the "trail" to the peak was mostly composed of rock, it wasn't so easy to follow. As we headed down the trail, BF kept saying that he didn't recognize where we were going. Dad and I disagreed. We had definitely come up this way. Definitely.

When we got back down to the Backbone trail, we took a right and continued on our way. For some reason, BF just wouldn't let it go. He claimed we had gone over a few pieces of lumber on the way up and never passed them on the way down. His version of events started to ring a bell. Dad was won over, and suddenly I remembered what BF was talking about. He was right. We took a non-trail back to the bottom. That would explain all the parts where we were scrambling over rock.

Regardless, we had ended up back on the right trail and made our way safely back to our cars. The missed trail wasn't a big deal, but it was the closest thing to a misadventure we had.

Back at the cars, BF and dad took the Prius back and I drove home listening to "Memoirs of a Geisha" on audiobook. By the way, I wouldn't recommend it. Listen to Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides instead.

We got home, showered, ate a huge meal at El Compadre, went home and fell asleep. Dad slept on the futon, as planned. We had breakfast the next morning before shipping him back home. Thus ends the tale of Mishe Mokwa.


At 10:16 AM, Blogger tom said...

Hey, you might be interested in Two-Heel Drive, the hiking blog I keep at http://tommangan.net/twoheeldrive

I also have a couple years' worth of writeups & pix from California hikes at http://tommangan.net -- they're done much like yours so I figured you might appreciate a fellow-traveler's take on things.

I'm also in the word trade, though on the dreaded editing end of things.

Keep hiking and I'll post a links to your site when I get a chance.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger jen said...

I love the communique between you and your dad about how old EVG is. I was chortling away until I remembered that EVG and I are the same age.

Looked like a good hike too!

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent photos. You've pumped me up with them because I'm hitting this trail tomorrow. - Wildbill


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