03 March 2012

Nicholas Flat

Leo Carrillo State Park

Locate the trailhead.

I headed down to celebrate Holi on the beach and while I was along PCH with a few more hours of daylight, I might stop by one of the many state parks in the area and see what it had to offer. I decided to stop at Leo Carrillo, named for the actor who played the Cisco Kid's sidekick (that's what the brochure says), at the very western edge of Malibu and Los Angeles County. It didn't look promising because there's a sign by a trail near the entrance that says it's only 0.6 miles long and otherwise very easy. That doesn't seem like a hike to me. The ranger at the entrance station said there were actually trails from that one that were quite a bit longer going to a pond high above. Parking is $12 in the state park lot or free along the side of the highway, but only legal on the ocean side.

sign for a super easy trail
A sign indicating that beyond is a walk so easy you won't notice you went on it, but not mentioning that a few feet beyond it there's more trails with more interesting destinations and routes.

I changed out of my rather colorful jeans into my hiking pants and took off for the trail. Then decided I really should put my hair up since it's a little warm and wasn't the GPS in that little pack still? So I promptly noticed that I'd left my keys in my other pants also. I foolishly set to fixing it and thus lost an hour of valuable daylight while waiting for AAA. I did get to go down and see a little of the beach and draw (with something not too sensitive to wind as it was blowing very well) and watch the kite boarders making impressive wakes (did I mention there was a bit of wind?) After getting back into my car, I took off for the trail again with my hair off my neck, but no GPS. I noticed quickly but decided that's just the way it would be today. The camera kept okay track of the route through generally southward facing hillsides.

a stone covered bit of sand
Here it is mostly rocks with a few tide pools full of snails. Beyond the rocks with the lifeguard house, it has coves and caves.

a kiteboarder kicks up a big wave as he is pulled along by the strong wind
There were a couple of kiteboarders swishing their way across the water pulled by the strong winds. Another came down the stairs to join them as I sat.

Walking up the trail promising very little for a hike, I quickly found a large informative sign off to the side where a couple more trails started up the hillside. The glass over the trail sign has become so frosted that it is hard to read the paper behind it. I determined that the trail to the left definitely goes where I wanted to go, so I took it. It turns out it doesn't really matter as they both get to the same point a little way up in about the same distance. I quickly came in sight of the first deer of the hike.

deer on the trail looking at me
One deer that was feeding along the trail until hearing some human start up it.

The trail I picked follows along the backside of the campground as it climbs up the hillside. It seemed to be full of people. The views of the ocean and beach and mountains improved with each step up the trail, which is wide and easy and very smooth. It quickly climbs to a saddle where it meets the other route and there is a spur up to a short but prominent peak and viewpoint. In the other direction, the trail continues up the main mass of mountain. I stopped by the little peak then continued up.

not yet high up but many things are visible
From just a little way up you can look down on the campground, entrance station with its flag, the beach and its buildings and even a kite boarder.

from the top of the prominance, there's plenty to see
The view down the coast with a couple islands clearly visible. The kite boarders are still at it, seen as long tails of white on the water.

marker sent in 1948
Marker at the top of the little peak. It was set in 1948.

obscured a bit by the sun being in the view
Santa Cruz and Anacapa in the sun.

mountains with trails, probably
On up the canyon, there's a few mountains and houses on the edge.

The trail continues in a general rise, climbing a few bumps then some more of the mountainside. Higher up, the chaparral is taller but this is only noticeable in that it blocks the views because it is cut so far back from the trail. Suddenly, the general clearing around the trail stops and the trail becomes a tunnel through the tall bushes. As I went through this, the sun was beginning to set. I wanted to watch the sunset, but could see no place to do so. I quickened my pace and eventually came to an unmarked intersection. A trail upwards looked slightly less official but also seemed to follow the general motion of the trail and held the promise of a place to view the islands and sunset. I headed up it and came to the top of another prominence and the hoped for view a little late for the sunset but with a lot of light still left.

sun and islands
Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands in the late part of the day.

on up the canyon
Looking on up the canyon in the dying light.

the end of the clearing as the trail creeps in
I feel a little like this trail is suddenly closing in on me.

red skies over the islands
The last of the day's light playing around the islands.

the surrounding hills
The hills roll away below.

Parks marker set in 1927
The marker at the top, set in 1927.

Heading back down the spur trail to the intersection, I decided to keep going up. The trail continues in a fairly level way with a little dropping. Further spur trails split off, but I did not take any of them. In the darkening gloom, I came upon the first sight of the meadows. The trail drops further to be beside the meadow for a bit, with just a layer of trees between it and the grass. I stepped through to the meadow to see many more deer grazing in the grasses. They ran off to a further spot and watched me for a bit, then decided to come back later. The meadow had been mowed and had a mysterious rusted cylinder with no features save the graffiti around the back.

a lot of grey with a deep blue sky
The meadow in the twilight.

Back at the trail, I continued down it a little way longer to another intersection signed for the various trails. I decided that as it was getting too dark to see anything, I really should head back. Also, I wasn't really sure where the pond was. It wasn't that far further, as it turns out. I fished out my headlamp and started back. The moon was already high in the sky and reflecting with half its face, so I didn't really need the lamp but it was nice to have through the tunnels of the chaparral. At the final intersection, I did not decide to take the other route back since I wouldn't be able to see much from it anyway. The campground below was lively in the Saturday evening, with a little smoke from campfires wafting up to the trail.

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 5 March 2012

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