26 May 2015

Mugu Peak

Point Mugu State Park

I thought it might be time to wander down highway 1 a little again, and settled on a very little bit indeed in going for Mugu Peak. A postage stamp of dirt across from a guard tower on the naval base is the parking lot for the Chumash Trail and my starting point. It is nearly full of cars and people are moving in groups, often 4 or 5 strong, up and down the steep trail. The two year old burn on the hillsides still looks fresh in some places. A sign at the bottom warns me that a trail I want to take is closed below where I will hike it.

parking lot, highway, naval base, and Anacapa
This parking lot seems to be constantly almost full. Past the naval base guard tower, there is the shadowy Anacapa Island.

The climb is quite steep, but the footing is usually pretty good. Tiny wiggles try to make the climb a little less steep. It almost works. The trail finds a little valley of sorts and a little more room to climb as it works toward the saddle above. It is not so steep until one last surge toward the top.

so burned
A little less steep.

La Jolla Valley
Climbing to the saddle gives a first look into La Jolla Valley on the other side.

There are green patches in the valley below, but it is mostly brown. Half the people are turning to take more steep trail up the side of Mugu Peak. Most the rest are following a less steep official trail that circles around to the eastern side to climb. One group continues on into the valley while I take a faint trail to higher ground in the other direction to a lookout point at the edge of the park.

Mugu Peak
An initially steep trail up to the top of Mugu Peak.

They are easy to miss at first, but as I get away from the crowd and find myself paying more attention to the land around me, I find flowers. Puffs of yellow and white and little things of purple. At first, there seems to be only the burned remains of cactus, but new leaves are growing and they are starting to flower. Tall Mariposa lilies stand with yellow centers and pink fringes.

pink and orange bud on a largely burned cactus
Yes, cactus does burn. It is funny how vicious yet showy they are.

Div. of Beaches and Parks No. 2 L. S. 2685
Marker between the park and the Santa Monica National Recreation Area.

estuary and naval base
Below, the naval base surrounds the estuary at the mouth of Calleguas Creek.

Mariposa lily
Mariposa lilies in the process of turning into seed.

Heading back to the saddle, there is yet another group passing to go to the peak. Turning north, the trail has many fewer fresh footprints. Stopping by the lookout let the group that made the freshest ones get far ahead of me. Down in the valley, there are new flowers among the drying grass, which itself is curious. For most of it, just a little green remains at the very bottom of the plant.

clump of nearly dried grass
Just a little green left at the base of the thick clumps of wide grass.

white petals with outide purple lines
Tall composites lined in purple reach high above the dying grass.

yellow splotches in gold fields
Mostly it is still puffs of yellow.

The valley is quiet except for insects and a very few birds. Sometimes I think I hear someone chattering behind me, but look to find only distant sticks continuing their march up and down the peak. There is a buzz almost like an alarm, and the dish on a western hill has tilted toward a satellite for some naval base communication. A couple minutes later, it turns back to the sky directly overhead. The vast field is broken up by lines of oaks along the seasonal creeks. They would be welcome shade if not for the heavy overcast overhead.

oaks before a trail climbing to a saddle
Looking back toward the peak past some of those oaks.

La Jolla Valley
La Jolla Valley.

The campground is among some burned out oaks. The remains of the old tables have been left, but there are also some new tables with lock boxes suitable for keeping rodents out of food.

fire damaged table
One table with a large burned hole. It is doing much better than the one next it that only has benches remaining.

Continuing along, there are a couple more cutoff trails before getting to the La Jolla Canyon Trail. This one must have been considered more important to the park because it has large signs with mileages to mark the junction. Following it, I am surprised to find water. Stagnant and green on top, it does not seem to attract many more birds than the dry areas. There are Mariposa lilies again, but this time they are a deep yellow.

road into the valley
The trail has turned to road, time to get off.

green and flat makes a pond
A pond held in by an earthen dam.

deep yellow lilies among other flowers
A few of the deep yellow Mariposa lilies.

A wooden fence has been constructed across the trail where it is closed, so the turn is hard to miss. My trail snakes around across the canyon and back into the very lowest portion of the valley before crossing that too and starting to climb the peak. I can see the huge washout in the trail in the canyon as I go. There is a peek at beach along the way, then more and more as it climbs around to the south side of the hills.

La Jolla Canyon
Looking back up La Jolla Canyon.

lower La Jolla Valley
The lower portion of La Jolla Valley.

beach beside the mountains
Thornhill Broome Beach below. A use trail along this ridge may provide access to the trailhead otherwise closed in this direction.

The ocean washing onto rocks below is now part of the sounds. There are more footprints on this part of the trail and I even find a solo backpacker finishing his trip. Coming to the official route up the peak, I am again meeting people every few minutes. The peak itself is marked with a huge flag and has a heavy duty tool box to hold the register. I wonder how many hundred people have been up it today, but the register is full and many pass it without signing.

overlooking the valley from near the top
Taking another look over La Jolla Valley from near the top.

blooming cactus
The cactus flowers up here are opening up.

flag in the wind
The flag flutters in the wind at the top of Mugu Peak.

I head down the trail on the west side. There are more of the pink and yellow Mariposa lilies on the east slope of the peak, more yellow ones on the west side, but they do not seem to mix. The trail is only steep in places, so not so bad. At the bottom, the lot is still almost full. I get the feeling this is its permanent state.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 June 2015

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