Friday, February 02, 2007

Hiking Ventura County #1 - Sage Ranch Park

OK, today was a beautiful day to start my hiking. I drove to nearby Simi Valley and did the Sage Ranch Park Loop. The park is studded with sandstone boulders and outcrops that can be quite amazing. The loop is 2.6 miles long but I managed to stretch it out to 3.9 miles - I have no idea how. I don't think I made any wrong turns. I am ashamed to say that this short hike wiped me out. That's why I started with a short hike. I guess walking five miles on the beach is easier than walking four miles on hard ground. I think the sand provides more cushion - my knees were killing me on the downhill sections. Any way, since my new interest in hiking was inspired by geocaching, I decided to do seven caches along or within the loop trail:

  1. "On The Rocks" : This cache was located on an outcropping of sandstone and the views from the stone was awesome. This was an easy find. As I examined the cache contents a coast guard helicopter flew overhead - I waved. I decided not to exchange treasures and I just signed the log. On the top of the rock there was a white 'X' painted on the stone - not sure why.
  2. "Center Sage" : This one was located near the campgrounds located in the center of the park. Another easy find. After signing the log I decided to not not return the way I came and I headed cross-country bushwhacking style. Not a smart idea. It would have been easier and probably quicker to back track. I worked up a sweat making my way back to the loop trail.
  3. "Turtle Soup" : This cache was named for nearby Turtle Rock. The coordinates were off - 26 ft off - but I was able to find it rather easily. Searching for caches is a two phase process - phase (1): Go to the coordinates and phase (2) Ask yourself: "If I was hiding a cache, where would I hide it?" In this case phase (2) led me straight to the cache. Signed the log and moved on to the next cache.
  4. "Sage Ranch Park" : OK, this is a cool cache. It is located on a high sandstone ridge called ... wait for it ... Sandstone Ridge! The park is on one side and what looks like a ranch is on the other. I'm not sure about that since there is also a Boeing facility over there but I saw Horsies grazing near the bottom of the ridge so it must be a someone's private property. I walked along the ridge a little bit. Found a round depression cut into the stone that is either the location of an old water tank or a landing site for flying saucers - hmmm? Boeing Flying Saucers??? Signed the log and neighed at the horsies.
  5. "Space Mountain" : I nearly tripped over this cache. It wasn't hid very well so it was easy to find. The contents were charred and melted. There is a lot of evidence of recent fire in this park and a couple of the caches were subject to some intense heat. A lot of the plastic items in the caches have indications of some melting. The cache has a space theme because of the Boeing plant next door. Signed the log and sauntered to the next cache.
  6. "Bring Your Lunch" : This one frustrated me a little bit. I looked all over the place. I found a dead owl nearby but no cache. There were plenty of places to hide the cache so I looked all over until I finally sat down at a nearby picnic table and read the cache clues a little closer. Each cache page has an encrypted clue. I decided to decipher this one since I was a little frustrated. The clue said "No Clue Needed." Then it dawned on me and I looked under the picnic table. Attached to the bench, right under where I was sitting, was a small film canister. These are usually called micro-caches because of their small size. I signed the log and headed for the last cache on the loop.
  7. "I'm A Bit Grouchy" : The last cache wasn't too hard to find. I looked in the obvious places a bit before I finally found is a few feet away. I signed the log and then made my way up the hill back to where the car was parked.
I learned (or re-learned) a few things on this hike. First, always take water. I was planning to take water but I realized I had forgotten it after I was on the trail and thirsty - too late. Second, a good walking stick is always handy to have. Some of the lichen of the rocks was slippery and the walking stick I had in the trunk of my car would have helped greatly. Third, no matter how cool it is or how cloudy, you should always bring a hat - mine was in the trunk of my car next to the walking stick.
I was also going to download the GPS track and link to it in Homer's Travels but I set up the GPS wrong (It's been a while since I used it) and I don't have a track - d'oh! Maybe next time.There are more pictures here.

I stopped at In-And-Out Burger in Moorpark on the way home and rehydrated myself. Tomorrow, if my legs feel up to it, I will tackle the Seven Falls trail. It too is a 2.5 mile hike but I plan to lengthen it by doing three geocaches in the area.

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