Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hiking Ventura County #9 - The Grotto

I really liked this hike. It was a short hike - only 2.6 miles by my GPS - but the final destination - The Grotto - was awesome. The trail starts at the Circle X Ranch ranger station in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Now, this is what I call a Down-Up hike. The trailhead is higher in elevation than the turnaround point. I prefer Up-Down hikes because, even though down can be hard on the knees and feet, it uses a lot less energy so you have all your energy to get to the destination and you need less energy getting back to the trailhead. A Down-Up trail usually ends up with me running out of steam before I get back to the car. Fortunately, as I said, this was a short trail and had no problem getting back up to the top.

The trail took you down into a canyon to a creek which had a trickle of water in it. Then the trail turned rocky and I started rock hopping. The rocks got bigger and bigger until 'boulder' was too small of a word to describe them. These rocks, the size of an average family room, were jumbled between the sharp and rather narrow walls of the canyon. I came across a log and I thought about walking across it but the thought of the wife chewing me out for doing such a risky and stupid thing made me reconsider.

As I rock hopped, I heard the sound of water. I make my way to a hole between the boulders and looked down 10 to 20 feet to a pool of water. You could heard small waterfalls and water dripping. The amount of water was impressive when you think of how little water was in the creek. I had to get down there so I made my way further down until I was able to see the pool. It was not reachable as the gap between the stones was too narrow. I was a little disappointed but that evaporated after I saw what was next.

I moved further down the rock path and I came across a really cool cavern. The cavern was shallow and roughly 'U' shaped. I made my way to one of the entrances and saw the dripping water. A large three trunked tree was growing over the cavern and its roots were dangling down from the roof. Water ran down the roots and fell like rain into the pool below. I made my way to the other entrance of the cave. The wall slanted into the water and I was able to skootch on my butt until I could get a better view inside the cave. There was a spot of light on the water from a small hole in the roof (I later found the hole near the tree trunk). I got a clear view of the roots and the small waterfall that fed water into the pool. I also saw a first for me in California - a toad ... or maybe a frog. There were a couple sunning themselves on the slanted wall. While I had seen plenty of lizards, this was the first toad/frog that I had seen here.

I continued down the little further but decided that I should head back. It was getting warm and the way back up the trail was going to be hot and sweaty. I got back to the car and decided to drive Yerba Buena Road to see where it lead. Yerba Buena road is a winding mountain road lined by rocky mountains, horse ranches, and beautiful views. A very nice drive. Every time I drive one of the roads through the Santa Monica Mountains, I am always surprised at what I find there. I forget that there is so much nature so close to civilization. On the way to the PCH I drove into a valley. In the valley I saw a strange sight - three huge dish antenna. I have no idea what they are. Probably something harmless like cable TV or something.

I really liked the hike. I felt good when I got home. I may have to go back if we get more rain. I imagine it would be spectacular with more water in the creek. A few more pictures here.

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