17 September 2017

Cave of Munits and Castle Peak

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

El Escorpion Park

Click for map.

I expected it to be a little warm today, but there is a thick, grey blanket overhead keeping things cool. Victory Trailhead is not the closest to the cave and is the only one with a parking fee, but it comes with some signs and picnic tables and a truly disgusting bathroom. It claims to be open sunrise to sunset and has sufficient gating to make it difficult to pass should those get closed. I was able to save the $3 by parking along the nearby street which probably added a quarter mile to the start. Most seem to do this while some go ahead and pay the minor fee.

picnic tables and signs
The very well used Victory Trailhead.

Starting off, there are a lot of trails to choose from, but only one heading north toward the cave. I turn right to follow it up a short way and then down a long and gentle path. There are many small use trails off to the side going up canyons or ridges. The cave comes into view quickly as the largest of numerous vertical dark spaces in the rocks further north.

wide and easy trail north
Following wide trail at the edge of the open space, so some of the views are not entirely open and free of industry. Castle Peak is at the right.

higher peak
A new, higher hill comes into view in the distance as trails climb the nearby ridges.

tall cave entry in the side of the mountain ahead
The cave comes into view, tall, dark, and mysterious.

Continuing in a northerly direction, there is another junction of trails. It is not hard to pick the one going toward the cave. Somehow, while there was hardly anyone on the trails before, there is suddenly a crowd all going my way now. A couple small groups are already there and a large family outing seems to be coming up behind me. The overhanging clouds are managing a very light mist.

many holes in the rocks, generally very tall and thin
Approaching the caves.

it is nature, it is unlikely to have symbolism
Below the cave opening.

changing viewpoint of the hills around
Looking around at the surrounding hills from the bottom of the cave opening.

I wait a while for the numerous kids to pass, figuring that it will be a more pleasant experience if I give them the time to climb through first. There is another little group behind them. It really is a climb up into the cave and through it, requiring handholds and footholds along the way. My long abused camera gets a couple more hard knocks on the way up. There is plenty of room to move even with a pack on.

large opening near chimney
The last group as they ponder the spaces within the rock.

back chamber lit by a chimney
A chimney lights up the back part of the cave, but there is one more large room behind it.

ridges along the cave sides
Looking back out the entry point.

The cave is carved out of a conglomerate rock and quite large for the area. It offers many handholds that rip ever so slightly at the skin. It closes in a little then opens up into a large chimney area. Behind that is another large room that narrows down to nothing. A small chimney may be developing in it, too, but for now it is just a higher spot in the ceiling. There is a clear and well used path continuing upward out the chimney. I poke around a bit and then follow it to the top.

carved rocks at the top
Many openings drop down into the chimney. Another is set up with climbing anchors.

slot between rocks
Looking out at those hills again.

Trail continues steeply up to the ridge above and I follow it. At the top, it continues along to the right to the highest rock outcrop above the cave. Except for the outcrop itself, the ridge like track is easy to walk.

municipal view
The walled in Bell Creek on its way to become the walled in LA River.

conglomerate rock pointing up
The high point for the day.

Trails lead down to Castle Peak further down the ridge. These follow a little smarter route avoiding little outcrops and bumps along the way. Again, it is a piece of conglomerate, so handholds to climb up it are plentiful but painful.

Bell Creek
The headwaters of the LA River again.

a bit of the ridge and all those hils
Looking back along the south side of the ridge.

Oat Mountain is out there somewhere
It is actually a bit more mountainous to the north.

I head back the way I came, then continue westward into the less touched hills of the old movie ranch. Somewhere out there, "Gone with the Wind" was filmed along with many others. There are a couple trails along the north side of the ridge line. I just take one that will go out that way (west) a bit before turning south ending up on the one closer to the ridge.

Castle Peak
A better look at Castle Peak, now with a new occupant at the top.

more conglomerate outcrops
Another outcrop of conglomerate rock on the far side of a little canyon.

My trail starts to turn east, so I take a lesser trail along an old bit of road west instead. It turns out to be lesser because the old road is completely eroded away toward the end and difficult to get down the last few feet.

ridge with the cave
Looking back up at the ridge above with its outcrops of conglomerate rock.

With a little work, I connect up with a main east-west trail and head west again. This comes to another hill and splits up, so I choose the south route along a canyon. This trail looks official enough at first, but then it starts to seem unmaintained. After that, there are a couple spots that seem unbuilt as it hops steeply up the side to avoid growth down the center. Following that, the trail seems to just give up on the canyon altogether and climb steeply up the west side. I really seem to be choosing these trails badly.

oak against the clearing sky
A lone oak stands in the grass beside the trail.

Up at the top, there is definitely an official trail. It even has a bicyclist and a few walkers on it. The hills stretch for miles to the south and west under a clearing sky.

oak dotted brown hills
Lots more oaks out there in those brown hills.

Up here, navigation is easy south and then east back to the original trailhead. There are a couple different ways and I do manage to take the one that is less direct and maybe less interesting. I still get there.

old building complex beside trailhead
Back to the trailhead beside an old and somewhat dilapidated mansion of some sort.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 23 September 2017

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