Saturday, May 26, 2007

Hiking Ventura County #18: M*A*S*H Film Site - Malibu Creek State Park

Due to my upcoming trip to Rhode Island, I rearranged my hikes slightly. This week I did a hike in Malibu Creek State Park. The park used to be owned by 20th Century Fox and several movies were filmed here. I knew this was going to be a challenge and I expected crowds due the Memorial Day weekend so I arrived early to beat the crowds. I started the hike around 8:30 AM. I thought this was going to be a challenge because I was planning to find three hard geocaches - two 4 stars and one 5 star.

The first half was easy. The trail starts as a dirt road. Along this road I completed my first multi-cache ("
Watch out for the fire-breathing troll!"). A multi-cache has multiple containers - one container has the coordinates for the next which has the coordinates for the next, etc. In the last container I swapped the Balloon #2 geocoin I had with a Green 12 Days of Caching geocoin.

To my delight, the dirt road narrowed to a single hiking path shaded by trees. The hike follows Malibu Creek and passes by Century Lake. After the lake it rounds a bend where the path is shaded by oaks and other trees. Along the trail I saw my first large animal - Bambi and her mother. I didn't manage to get a picture unfortunately. You could also hear the hammering of a Woodpecker.


My turnaround point was the set of M*A*S*H. You can see where the helicopter pad was and there is an old rusty jeep and ambulance at the site. It was really cool. There was a geocache located nearby ("MASH Cache"). A geocacher posted a really neat picture from the cache site. I sat at a picnic table, ate a snack and drank some water while thinking that it looked a lot like Korea here - HA! - The M*A*S*H theme song running through my head. I tried to take a picture of a humongous bumble bee.

I left the MASH site and took the Lost Cabin Trail. As I walked the trail I heard a helicopter in the distance - could have sworn I heard Radar yelling "Incoming Wounded!" At the end of this trail there was another cache ("
Judy's Cabin"). The hider had built a Lincoln Log cabin to cover the cache - very clever.

As I was walking this trail I was keeping an eye on the butte along the trail. I was hoping to locate a wash or a game trail that would lead me up the side of the butte where I thought there was another cache. . On the way back I followed what looked like a trail and I eventually found what, on a good day, may be called a game trail. I headed up and started bushwhacking my way up the butte. The going was slow and calling this a trail would not be completely accurate. I had to stop every now and then to allow my heart to slow back to normal. By the time I reached the top I was pooped. I checked my GPS hoping to see that I was near one of the caches ("
Bat Cave", "Malibu Macro", and "Malibu Micro"). Unfortunately, I was on the wrong butte. Darn. I had hoped there would be some way to get to the other buttes but there wasn't a butte bridge in sight.

I located a game trail going down the other side of the butte and I headed down. I learned a couple things about game trails on this hike. The first is game rarely goes where you want to go. In this case, the trails led away from the caches. The second is that game is generally short. While the trail was fairly obvious, brush grew over the game trail baring my way. Most game, being short like coyotes, would have no problem going under the tangled branches. Since I am not short, I had to wrestle with the brush all the way down. I followed what I thought was a trail heading down to the creek. As I made my way slowly down the butte, I was convinced that I would die the death of a thousand cuts. The bush became more tangle and the trees more sharp. There were parts where I slid down the butte on my butt. I made it to the creek - actually a tributary that feeds run off into Malibu Creek. I followed the almost dry tributary until I reached the main creek.


The creek is more like a river - there is a lot of water and there are fish swimming. I decided to follow the creek back to the Century Lake Dam. I started rock/boulder hoping along the creek. Then the rocks ended. On either side of the very wide river were sheer rock walls. I did not have the energy to hike back so I decided to wade around this part of the river - How deep could it be? I took off my shoes and socks and put my fanny pack and camera over my shoulder so they would stay dry. I was amazed how fast it got to my waist. I lifted my fanny pack and shoes over my head as the water came up to my chest. Then one more step and ... I couldn't feel the bottom. I'm a pretty good swimmer but you try to swim with a walking stick attached to one hand and your fanny pack and shoes in the other. I made it around the rock and back to dry land. Everything was wet. My shoes. My socks. My clothes. My hat. My fanny pack. My camera. Me.

I continued up the river and, after climbing a boulder, the dam came into view. It looked cool with algae and sea plants growing where the water ran over the dam. I pulled out the camera and slid the lens cover over and ... nothing. The camera was dead. CRAP! Water got into the camera. I've been meaning to buy a new camera just not yet. Sigh.


I climbed up the rocks and onto the dam. There was a geocache nearby ("
Malibu Redwoods"). After the cache I was planning to cross the dam but that turned out not to be an option. Once there had been a bridge crossing the dam but not anymore. I followed the Forest Trail along the century lake back towards the M*A*S*H site. There were ducks and other water fowl in the lake. I made it back to the main trail and headed for my last cache of this hike ("Malibu Creek A.K.A. Heffers' Ghost"). After finding the cache, I headed for Rock Pool where several movie scenes were filmed including Planet Of The Apes and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Of course, along the way, there were several great picture taking opportunities that were missed forever.

I really liked this hike even though my butte climbs and river wading experiences were grueling. It sucks about the camera. Amazingly, the tick count on this hike was only one. After all the bushwhacking I did I expected to be covered in hundreds. I sprayed myself with 40% DEET which was stronger then the other stuff I was using (25%) - maybe that helped. My total hike was 7.04 miles and my climb was about 600 ft. Pictures can be found here.

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