12 April 2009

Rustic Canyon

Will Rogers and Topanga State Parks

Locate the trailhead.

I was tasked with finding a hike again for the day. This one should be "about three miles" which meant six miles total. I found one that was six miles where most of that was a loop going out of Will Rogers State Park. It seems to be a popular place for Easter with egg hunts adding to the usual soccer game traffic. The games we saw looked like they're probably a city league rather than a bunch of kids. We poked our heads into the barn and outside of it are buried a couple of ol' Will's favorite ponies, one for polo and one for roping. The old polo fields were today's soccer fields.

Then we hiked up the loop to the local Inspiration point. We hadn't figured out which trail we were coming back along so thought going up that it didn't matter which way we took that loop. Turned out if we'd looked more carefully we'd have seen the arrow on the edge saying "to Rustic Canyon" and would have known better. We did the loop the easy way which was the wrong way according to the trip write-up we were going by. We found our way onto the Backbone trail which actually makes a third route back to the parking lot through the middle but we headed further out and into Topanga State Park.

The trail followed up along the ridge for some good views as promised except that the air was a little thick. There was a bridge and soon the top of a peak and then, a quarter mile more or so, the unsigned trail heading down sometimes at a rather breakneck pace and we were happy not to be coming up it. At the bottom was a rather ramshackle old house enthusiastically fenced at one point and in only slightly better shape than the road down to it (which was impassible by vehicle). We turned up the trail for the "better part" of the hike. The stream was dry even though I'd heard water coming down something while hiking down. We got to the Boy Scout camp at the end of the trail and ate lunch. They say the trail doesn't go through but there's supposed to be a fire road out the other side and someone clearly can drive it.

Sketch of the archery range at the Boy Scout camp.
At the end of the trail, or so the sign would have you believe, is a Boy Scout camp. Next to this archery range is a shooting range. The air was loud with birdsong while the camp was quite abandoned.

We came back down the canyon. After the first building, we found the stream had water. There were many buildings along the way of varying ages and sorts. One was clearly a barn, but others looked quite strange. The trail kept finding bits of old road to travel along but then the road went back up the hillside (I think, I went the other way) and the trail left it for good, becoming even narrower. It was even smaller then. Eventually it came to a dam of odd concrete with a waterfall going down it. Looking down it, we found the water had built up a chute covered in moss. It was actually quite surprisingly beautiful and was the moment I really wished I'd remembered to bring the camera.

The trail crossed the stream to find a good way down the dam and from there on it crossed the stream quite freely. The canyon narrowed down a lot and this was the most beautiful part to me. It also became rather challenging to pass. At one time, I found myself totally unable to find a spot to step that didn't leave me slipping into the water. Eventually close examination found a way that wasn't as covered in loose gravel as all the other ways. Another time I found myself with a great need to hold onto something to get by most easily and everything to grab was poison oak. I made it past getting no closer than an inch, which was right in front of my face. Overall, the poison oak wasn't as bad as one might expect.

The canyon got narrower and narrower. It finally opened up again, a little, as the trail took off up the side with a sign saying "Will Rogers thata way". Just before the end of the canyon, we ran into four kids coming up the other way. The only others we saw in the canyon were walking a dog on the easier part where old roads often can be found. Many many people were going up to Inspiration point (or coming back down) and quite a few were going up to the peak just past the bridge, but none came our way.

©2009 Valerie Norton
Posted 23 May 2009

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