Homer's Travels: Hiking Ventura County #48: La Jolla Natural Preserve

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hiking Ventura County #48: La Jolla Natural Preserve

I'd planned to do this hike with GeekHiker but, due to issues beyond my control, I could not reschedule the hike for Saturday when we could have done it together. I still needed to hike so on Thursday I hit the trail. I needed to hike mostly to keep my mind off of what was going to happen on Friday. The hike turned out to be a good distraction.

The hike began at the Chumash trailhead across highway 1 from the Construction Battalion's (The Sea Bees) firing range. The trail immediately starts climbing up a sharp ridge. The trail climbs 838 feet in 0.64 miles. I have heard people refer to this part of the trail as 'The Elevator.' I see why. It is a grueling climb. The mosquitoes didn't help either. I probably lost a pint of blood on the way up to the top.

I reached the top of the ridge where there is a trail junction. To the left is the Mugu Peak trail that skirts around the 'base' of Mugu Peak. Straight ahead takes you between Mugu Peak and some other peak that I don't know the name. I went straight, following the Chumash Trail over this saddle, and down into La Jolla Valley. As I crested the saddle I saw an amazing green valley, shrouded with light haze, glowing in the early morning sunshine.

I followed the trail down into the valley. The grass was long and covered in dew. This got me wondering so I stopped and looked down and ... flicked off three ticks. I hadn't seen a tick since last summer but thinking back to last year, this was when the ticks began coming out in force. As I walked down the trail, I would stop every 500 - 1000 feet and flick off a few more. All in all I guess I flicked off at least a dozen ticks. None got on me though.

The valley has several creeks crossing it. Most of them were dry but every one was lined with lush green growth and tall oaks and sycamores. I like this part. I like trees. My first geocache on this hike, "Hangin' in La Jolla" was hanging on an oak tree next to the trail.

There are very few reminders of the modern world along this trail. The support antenna and the thrum-thrumming of airplane and helicopter engines from nearby Point Mugu Naval Air Station (now part of Naval Base Ventura County) were the only things that reminded me of the outside world. They faded into the background as I walked along.

I continued on the trail. I kept seeing something out of the corner of my eye but it kept vanishing when I tried to see what it was. After a couple more glimpses I realized that whatever it was, it was on the brim of my hat. An inch worm. Well, actually a half inch worm was inching it's way along the brim of my hat and every now and then it would poke over the edge where I could see it. It got flicked off like the ticks.

Soon afterwards the Chumash trail merges with the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail. This portion of the trail is a wide grassy dirt road. This was also where I stopped finding ticks. Thank you Cheezus!

The trail crosses a wood plank bridge and becomes the La Jolla Fire Road. One thing I like about this series of trails is that all the junctions are clearly marked. Along the road I passed four signed junctions and the La Jolla Walk-In Camp. At about 3 miles you reach a four way intersection. To the right is the Overlook Fire Road. I walked part of this road last year.

I continued straight through the intersection on the North Overlook Fire Road. The road drops rapidly. This was a big difference from the valley trail which went up and down but in a much more gradual way. This road drops fast. At the bottom you reach another signed intersection. This is the Deer Camp Junction. To the right is the Wood Canyon trail and Sycamore Canyon. To the left is the Wood Canyon Fire Road. There is a picnic table and a porta-potty here. I looked for, but failed to find, a geocache at this intersection. I think the cache has gone missing.

I took a left and followed the Wood Canyon Fire Road for a short distance. The road is flanked by oaks ands sycamores and is really nice. On the left I come to the signed Guadalasca trail and I followed the sign. I located the "Trail's End" cache near the junction. I dropped of the Beanie Bear TB here to help inspire other geocachers to come this deep into the valley.

The Guadalasca trail starts climbing back up. It passes through forests, meadows, and switchbacks that go in and out of the shade. It was about 11:00 by now and the sun was pretty hot. I decided to keep going to the top of the trail before I stopped for lunch. This part of the hike was pretty tough. Not as bad as The Elevator but it was a lot warmer and I already had 5 miles under my belt and I was getting a little pooped. I was plodding along sort of like a zombie when a 4 - 5 foot snake jumped out of the brush and zoomed across the trail just a foot or two from my feet. I think I almost jumped out of my skin. That was one of the signs, for me, that spring was approaching as the snakes and the lizards, which I hadn't seen for several months, started to reappear along the trail.

The Guadalasca trail ends at the end of the Guadalasca Fire Road. At the junction there is a nice splash of shade and some rocks that someone had stacked to make a couple low, footstool height chairs. I turned right and followed a narrow, weathered trail to an old rusty gate a hundred feet down the trail. There I found a cache, "Slegal's Secret Skyline Stash". From the cache site you could see the city of Camarillo in the distance and the campus of Cal State Channel Islands (Formerly the location of the Camarillo State Mental Hospital and said to be haunted). I walked back to the rock stools and shade and sat down to eat my lunch and rest. My orange tasted especially good today. Looking at my GPS, I saw that I was near the halfway point of the hike.

The Guadalasca Fire Road heads up a little more before turning a corner into a breeze. At the corner the road started to head back down and the breeze was a cool ocean breeze. The sweat dried up quickly and the hike became easier. The fire road takes you back to the four way intersection. I turned right and took the La Jolla Fire Road to the junction of the La Jolla Canton Trail and turned left. I'd been on the trail before but it looked different. It was so much greener and everything looked alive. I found the "Why Before The Y?" cache along this trail.

I followed the La Jolla Canyon trail until I reached the junction with the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail. This trail would take be back west towards Mugu Peak. From this trail I could see my next trail, Mugu Peak trail, going up the ridge as I approached. I noticed a bright orange patch half way up the trail. "Looks like flowers", I mutter to myself. The junction with the trail is signed. I crossed a small creek, this time with water, before the trail headed up. I found another geocache, "Take a Break", near the bottom of the trail.

I climbed and climbed and there it was a stretch of trail lined with bright orange California poppies. Another sign of spring. These poppies, along with several other blooming wildflowers, really brightened up the trail. A real spirit lifter.

Along the Mugu Peak trail I located three more caches, "See The Beach", "Tr...Oops I placed another one", and "Support Our Troop-er!". At this point I had to decide to either go up and over Mugu Peak or go around the 'base'. I took inventory and I decided that I just didn't have the umph to go up and over. Fortunately I have already been up to the peak on an earlier hike back in 2003 (I near passed out of heat stroke back then - I didn't have nearly as much water as I should have. This time I was more prepared).

I looked for and did not find a cache along the 'base' of the peak. I wasn't the first not to find it. I reached the junction with the Chumash trail and headed back down The Elevator. It is as tough going down as it is going up. I didn't fall but the trail sure tried to suck me down. I managed to find two more caches, "Sea Bees [can do view]" and "Welcome", on the way down to the car.

It was a good, long hike. I was on the trail for about eight and a half hours. The hike ended up being 12.7 miles with about 1,200 feet of vertical. I found 10 geocaches. The flowers were blooming. I was distracted from the crap that was coming to a head the next day. My legs and feet are still sore two days later. Yep, it was a good hike. Pictures can be found here.

I haven't decided if I'm going to hike next Thursday. My next scheduled hike, Chorro Grande, is about 12 miles with 3,000 feet of vertical. I am not sure if I should do such a strenuous hike right before I sit in a car and drive five hours to San Francisco. Oh well, I have a few days to think about it.


  1. Fabulous story! And great photos! It will be another four weeks before we have to worry about the ticks.

    Like you, my wife and I try to find the place where we can't hear any modern noises. Pretty difficult. We used to explore caves, Pretty quiet there.
    The Northwoods Geocats

  2. Norm: Thanks. It was a good hike. Last year the Ticks were crazy. This year I am prepared with some serious DEET.

  3. Oh, yeah, sure, fine. Just go on the hike. Two days before the heavy winds. Take pretty pictures. Make me insanely jealous. Fine. Be that way.

    j/k - I gotta get out there before the green goes away.

  4. GH: HA! You would've enjoyed it. Sorry I couldn't reschedule but my weekend was messed up. We'll get together - I'm sure of it.