03 November 2015

Happy Camp Canyon


I have wondered if the areas south of 126 could be hiked. Many areas certainly look like they would allow some rambling. Well, there is at least one area called Happy Camp Canyon Park. It sounds mildly menacing somehow. I am planning to do a loop and the park has a canyon trail and a ridge trail that connect toward the far side, so that is easy to do. I want to do the ridge first, which should be on a trail off to the right. Not finding a map near the parking, I head off on the best trail off to the right I can find, which cuts across the local golf course. This must be a perfectly okay place to walk since it elicits no reaction whatsoever from the course with someone playing every hole. Horse prints are along the route traveling in the other direction, and none of the golfs seem to have a horse as their golf cart. This soon connects with the trail from the eastern parking area and satisfies my irrational need to be on a trail heading off to the right to satisfy plans, but does not seem to be climbing up onto the ridge as expected.

kiosk at trail start
At the western trailhead of Happy Camp Canyon Park with the golf course below and the ridge with a trail behind it.

road runner
The least skittish road runner I have come across, but still ready to scamper.

It takes a while to get past the golf course and I am still in the canyon when I finish. The trail loops around to rejoin the other and other trails climb the canyon to the other side. Things are just not as expected until I get to a second kiosk that does have a small, faded local area map in the corner. The loop is actually a bit of a lollipop that splits just ahead to climb the ridge to the right or continue along the canyon bottom to the left. Now I can finally start climbing up the ridge.

east trail/road
The east trail curving around to meet the west trail.

kiosk and gate below
Climbing up to the ridge looking back to the kiosk and gate just before the trail splits. Other trails climb the other side of the canyon.

The climb up the ridge is at an easy grade and not really all that long. This land does not seem able to hold large hills it is so soft. Still, the views open up greatly as I climb, especially to the south. Simi Valley is spread out there, surrounded by higher mountains.

easy going road
Climbing along easy going fire road.

Simi Valley
Not so high up above the green of the golf course and the sprawl of the city.

Happy Camp Canyon
On the other side, Happy Camp Canyon.

Once up on the ridge, the hiking gets even easier. Most ridges I have been on undulate quite a bit and it can be some of the toughest hiking. This ridge does very little climbing and dropping. But there is still climb and the views open up a bit more as I go. I cannot help but notice the small but persistent rain shadow in the next valley.

highway 23 through the mountains
Reservoirs and freeways to the south.

road along the ridge
Up on the ridge and following the easy track along the top.

rain shadow
A rain shadow out over highway 126.

purple blooms
The spattering of quick rains seem to have woken up one flowering bush.

More and more mountains beyond the other side of the canyon come into view. Many peaks stand out, most out of bounds as part of the condor sanctuary. I pick out one that seems likely to be Whiteacre, one in particular that I would like to climb. It is far and and presents quite a different visual from this direction. Behind me, the shapes of islands can be seen against the bright ocean. I also watch the rain shadow that seems to still be hanging in the next valley, but moving.

far side
The park, the wilderness behind it, and the more park like higher peaks behind that.

dim shapes on the ocean
The outline of islands out in the ocean.

The rain shadow is getting closer and then the cold rain starts falling. It quickly becomes soaking and then starts to sting too. Hail too. I have a windbreaker, so pull it out quickly and put it on. It all passes quickly and as it is down to a light rain again, a couple mountain bikers pedal by. The second warns me that hail awaits on the next hill, apparently not aware that it has already passed. It takes a greater percentage of attention devoted to the trail when riding a bike, after all. I continue to watch the rain shadow as it speeds into the mountains to the south. As I think about the other things that come with the same conditions that bring on hail and that it is nice they were not included, I see a shock of light followed by a roll of thunder. It was only biding its time a little bit longer.

ridge line road
Looking back along the road as the mountain bikes make their way down it and the last of the rain cloud hangs overhead.

oil derriks
Unequivocal evidence that I am in the middle of oil country as the rain shadow speeds southeast.

There is a small, unmarked trail heading down to the canyon just before the track takes on one last climb. Just past the top of the next small peak, there is a gate to block any further progress. Some few have continued along the side of the fence, but I am not out for that much exploration today. A few more clashes of thunder from the south provide what little soundtrack there is.

Happy Camp Canyon
Happy Camp Canyon is bright with sunshine once again.

rain marching southeast
While the rain heads for the Santa Monica Mountains.

There was no other trail to go down into the canyon, so I go back to the unmarked one and start down it. It is only small where it is in a wide saddle. As it starts to be cut into the hillside, it is clear this is also an old fire road. The wide track gives plenty of room for extensive erosion to happen while there is still a trail surface next to it. The hills seem to be little more than hardened mud. This part of the road is steep and I quickly find myself down in the bottom of the canyon.

two picnic tables
A couple picnic tables among the oaks.

The bottom of the canyon is scattered with oaks and the trappings of old ranches. Some of the oaks have not done well in the drought. A couple picnic tables have been provided at this far end of the canyon trail and are disturbingly close to one oak that has collapsed after so many dry years. I guess it is safe now that half the tree is down.

a few oaks
Oaks below the ridge I was just walking along.

An eroded piece of the hills that make up the low ridge.

oaks climbing hills
More oaks that climb up a low arm of the hills.

The track along the canyon bottom is even flatter than the easy roll of the track along the ridge, as expected. It does climb a few feet sometimes and drop a few feet to cross the wash at the bottom at other points. A few roads lead off to the north side ridge where power lines stalk their way between distant houses. None of the intersections is marked in any way.

side canyon
A little way up a side canyon along one road.

colors on the clouds
Crossing the wash on the wide track in the canyon.

grassy hills
Looking back over the grassy hills around the canyon.

Returning to the second kiosk, I have completed my loop. I make my way back toward parking on a somewhat more direct route than the one I came in on. The track climbs again and there are more roads and trails leading higher, should I like more climb. It is tempting after such an easy hike, but I stick to the lower route to finish once again at the first kiosk.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 18 Nov 2015

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