19 March 2011

Las Virgenes and Cheeseboro Canyons

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Locate the trailhead.

I was thinking to go up to Fish Canyon and see the waterfall again and had decided on doing it the easy way with the shuttle running, but at the last minute decided to do an easy hike somewhere I'd never been. Since I hadn't printed out the rudimentary map found on the Calabasa city site, I ended up having to do it by memory. There are none available and wasn't even one posted on the information board at the start.

The day was heavily overcast and the weatherman was threatening rain, so I tossed in the rain gear. Although this is a canyon, the surrounding area is so flat, it is not a flash flood danger. In fact, Cheeseboro is more of a fold between rolling hills and doesn't even have anything flowing down it.

I parked at the end of Las Virgenes and at the edge of Los Angeles county, then walked into Ventura county and wild spaces. I took the trail somewhat along the creek and soon got a big whiff of sulfur. There could be a hot spring somewhere, or just a vent. Jackrabbits jumped out of my way as I came to a crossing. The large traffic seemed to be bikers and horseback riders, so the crossings tended to turn into wide fords deepened by passing even though the stream was just a trickle. A muddy path led along the edges to an area where the water was still quite narrow, usually.

Trail, trees, and low rolling hills.
Most of the trail is fire roads, so plenty of room for horse, bike, and hiker traffic. The hills are shallow rolling things and the trees few.

Long dead tree along the road.
I can see right through this tree!

A trail went off to the right and I stayed left since I knew there would be one of those to go to another popular entrance. There are supposed to be some caves off in that direction. There seem to be some small ones developing here as well.

small caves forming in th hillside
Some small caves in the hillside, but mostly just hillside.


rusting pieces left from some past use
This area was used as a film set for a large number of films as the Ahmanson Ranch, which may be the source of random fencing, these rusted pieces of iron, and a rather extensive sprinkler system or it's just the former caretakers.

Big oaks out on the hillside with bright new leaves.
Big oaks could be found occasionally. They were often decorated with the light green of new leaves.

Some trees along the creek, sketched.
Already lunchtime, I stopped for some grub and showed off some of those light green leaves in a sketch.

A pair of riders came in from a second trail to the right. I let them pass, then decided to explore upwards. The hills were getting a little more rugged, it seemed. A small trail marked deeply with horse hooves and nothing else went up the hill past oaks and an oozing of water. I climbed up to find a great view surrounded by many sorts of chirping birds. I also found where someone had disposed of their horse. Probably not legal, the scavengers ate well that week.

The twists and turns of another oak.
An oak up the hill, full of holes and twists and turns.

clouds above
High, thick overcast stuff and a few clouds lower to provide texture. The view up the hill.

Hills with rocks at the top to help them stay tall.
To the north, the hills start to be strengthened with rocks so they are taller and more rugged looking.

bones of horse
Although, finding that view also found me near the bones of a horse.

hills to the south
The hills to the south have a softer look about them.

Back on the regular trail, I continued north. The trail got more rugged too as it went up and down over a harder piece of ground steeply. It got ready to go up another and I noticed a small but well used trail off to the left. I took this trail. It paralleled the road for some way, but stayed lower and had more crossings although there was nothing here to cross. Eventually I lost track of the other road I'd been expecting it to reconnect with. A low branch hinted this wasn't really the normal route as it would knock equestrians off their horses. The dirt was marked entirely with bicycle tires.

This trail turned up a canyon, though it stayed low most the time. Eventually it started climbing and seemed to grow quite quickly into the climb which must have signaled the main road coming back but I didn't notice the other route. From there, it climbed up onto the ridge, then went up and down a bit while crossing it as it was very wide here. Multiple spots seemed like they could be the top.

Rockyness on the ridge and the power lines coming in.
At the top and a little down the other side, probably, rocks poke out all over the place and so do a few power line poles.

Rock broken in many places in a grid, but still in the ground.
Some rock still part of the land, broken up into a grid pattern.

sketch of wires and rocks
At the westward "top", I stopped for more food, because I hadn't really eaten much, and more sketching.

Shortly, I came to a crossroad. I could go back along the ridge line or continue on to the other canyon that was my goal for the moment. I was fairly certain another trail or two would come back up this way, so went further to Cheeseboro Canyon. A well faded sign seemed to say "authorized vehicles only" and stated that any vehicles would be seized. Maybe it was a problem when film crews were here, but now there was only a narrow trail which oddly went around where a gate may have once been although that was much longer and the area was quite flat.

Sign along the ridge trail.
A choice needs to be made, but at least there's a sign to help you make it. This was the first sign that did more than say where I was and indicate there was a trail here.

last look at the ridge
Another look at the ridge, and a last look.

another sort of cave
If it does start raining, this looks like cave looks like tight but good shelter.

At the bottom, there was a new choice. Head further over to Liberty Canyon, apparently along Palo Comado Canyon or head down Cheeseboro. I headed up Palo Comado a short way. That trail was wide, but seemed less than a fire road. I cam back generally along a second route as it makes a little loop there and then headed down Cheeseboro. There was as yet no indication that this was a canyon. Eventually, there was a bit of a ditch, often with pools in it, but nothing was flowing even though the trail was still wet from rain overnight.

another sign
Another sign to direct without being quite as informative as strictly desired.

closeup-ish of lavander flowers on a bush
It is getting to be spring, so there are flowers popping out here and there.

Some of the canyon.
A piece of Cheeseboro Canyon with similar white rocks to those that were visible on the other side at one segment.

As I came to the next trail, it turned out to be going in the wrong direction. It had been a bit longer than the previous sign described and looking at the map again afterward, there should have been a spot to go back up to the ridge along the way. Even though these trails seem well traveled, I saw no indication of it as I went. The trail did take a random and needless bypass of a section that had started to erode, but that was to the left and so wouldn't have caused the trail to be missed. It also passed a sign stating "Sulphur Springs" next to a well or something but not a whiff of sulfur in the air.

I asked some passing bikers and they said there was a way over further along. One route to it started by some picnic tables and anther was signed. They made a point that I should go left when the road split, perhaps they were unsure if the road was along there. This was a service road, according to the sign on the other side. Some buried pipelines would have given a perfectly serviceable route to the top and it looked like the second one had been used as such, but I didn't really want to do that just yet. Further along there really were picnic tables and beyond that a second junction with the same road, this time signed.

trees in what almost passes as a creek bed at the bottom of the canyon
The service road gives a nice view from up on the hill. The hills are getting soft again.

even softer hills and some development of some kind
The hills get even softer to the south here. Very gently rolling things seem to be all there is in that direction. Some sort of development also seems to be here.

another tree sketch
When I came past the picnic benches again, I sat for some more grub and a fresh sketch of one of the trees along the edge with a huge spread and canyons in its bark. The sun came out about the time I started bringing welcome warmth.

The trail from either place did connect quickly with the trail along the ridge. At the top, it wasn't very clear where one should go from the signs. The front of one sign seemed to say that one direction would get me back in a short distance while the other side pointed down the ridge and had a longer distance. I headed up the ridge to see what I could see. I climbed up to the local peak and down the other side while it still wasn't any bit steep. A utility spur went along the top as the main road got steeper. I took this for a good view of the area and the interface between the wilder lands and the city enclaves.

the view back into Las Virgenes canyon with houses at the edge
Looking back from a little way up the ridge trail, there is a fence to split the two areas from long ago and another sign threatening to take unauthorized vehicles. Far below is Las Virgenes Canyon, now in sunlight, and houses at the edge of it.

ridge to the north
Looking off north, there's a few hills before this gets rugged looking. There's also a big tank of some sort.

hills rolling into the distance
One last look into Cheeseboro Canyon, and a look into Liberty Canyon beyond, and into more besides. The hills just keep going.

I turned back and follows the ridge back. It looked like a determined human could easily find a way through the grasses, still wet in spite of the sun and the winds at the top, to get back to the entrance, but I didn't feel the need. I followed the ridge route back to the trail down and took it. This part was somewhat steep and my knees had gotten tired from the long walk. I took it easy as I went. The sky clouded up again and the light began to fade with sunset. I got down to the trail I'd started on and turned south to leave the preserve. A steam crossing, many jackrabbit sightings, and a whiff of sulfur brought me back to the entrance. The only thing to lock the place at sunset was a fence latch, the gate was probably not closed in years.





©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 20 March 2011

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