After not finding a single geocache in May, and really needing to get out on the trail, I posted a note on the SFV Geocachers Facebook page looking for a hike on Saturday, June 14th. I got one response, James, aka gerfmeister, wanted to hike the Hondo Canyon to Trippet Ranch segment of the Backbone Trail in his quest to complete the Spinal Tap Challenge. While I only needed a few caches on this trail, it’s one of my favorite sections of the BBT, I needed a hike, and James needed some BBT caching, so it was a deal. We met up on the road outside of Trippet Ranch for the car bridge. James’ dad, Chris, joined us and we drove to the trailhead near the intersection of Stunt Road and Saddle Peak Road. As we drove up the hill, we broke out of marine layer and into the sun. As we started down the trail, I thought that we had the shade of the canyon when we didn’t need it and wouldn’t have any shade at the end of the hike when the marine layer would have burned off and we could use the shade. Oh well, that’s how it usually goes.
I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few wildflower blooms this late in the year. We didn’t have much rain this winter, and the rain that we did get was late. I suppose that might be a reason for the late bloom. Hondo Canyon is a steep-walled canyon that runs mostly east and west. Because of that, the south side of the canyon is very shady and cooler than many of the other Santa Monica canyons. We saw lots of ferns, but the predominant plant was my old friend poison oak.
Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum)
Indian Pink (Silene laciniata)
It wasn’t all poison oak. We did get to see some nice wildflowers, too. I don’t remember ever seeing Indian Pink.
This was my fourth trip through Hondo Canyon. The first time was in 2007 when I was hiking the Backbone Trail for the first time. Once Spinal Tap was published, I had to go back and pick up the caches that I either missed the first time or the caches that had been placed since 2007. Once I finished the Challenge, I came back again for some of the newer caches. And, today, I had 6 BBT caches to find. James needed them all. He hiked out in front and would stop when we got to a cache. He would find it or we would look together. If I could remember where I had found it, I’d give him some help. Chris was also helpful in spotting some of the harder hides. I wasn’t paying much attention to when the next cache was coming up because James was so focused on it. When we got to Mossy Rocks, I realized that we had walked right by Foo in the Rain, so we turned around and went back up the hill. When we arrived at the GZ, I spotted the cache, took a step towards it, and the ground disappeared from under my boot. Down I went–luckily only about 3 or 4 feet and only getting a minor scratch on my leg.
We had a great time going down the canyon. We met lots of hikers–almost all women–hiking the uphill direction. Hondo was a popular destination today. After finding Powder Horn Ranch, James and Chris when looking for Paleolith’s Farewell Cache, while I continued on to Hip Eponymous Foo. They DFNed Paleolith’s Farewell Cache–too much poison oak–while I took a break in the shade.
Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum)
The Backbone Trail crosses Old Topanga, then goes up and over a ridge before dropping down to Topanga Blvd. Once you cross Topanga, it’s up the hill toward Trippet Ranch. Of the entire hike, Dead Horse Trail is my least favorite part. There are lots of “stairs” built with railroad ties–not my favorite way to hike. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting tired at the end of the trail, or if the trail just isn’t as nice as Hondo Canyon, but it’s just something that you have to do to get back to the cars. I am probably being too harsh with my assessment of Dead Horse. As you can see from the photo above, it does have some nice views.
I had a great hike today. I made a couple of new friends–James and Chris were good hiking companions–and hopefully avoided the poison oak. The hike was 7.2 miles and took 6 hours 20 minutes. We were hiking for 2 hours 40 minutes–the non-walking time was spent looking for our little treasures in the bushes.