Hiking Topanga State Park for SMMHA Caches

January 31, 2014


After visiting my mother in West Los Angeles this morning, I decided to return to Simi Valley by way of finding some Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure caches.  I did it with 3 separate hikes.

Hike #1 was to find Reservoir Dog.  OLdweeb gave me some help with finding a close trailhead at the end of Chautauqua. I hiked up to the top of the ridge and then kept going on the very well maintained trail until I realized that it wasn’t leading to the cache. Turned around and returned to the ridge, followed it south right to the cache. My coords were off by 45 feet, but I found the cache before reaching the projected GZ.

Hike #2 was to find Lion’s View.  I began this hike at the Paseo Miramar trailhead at the end of Paseo Miramar Street.   There isn’t any parking at the trailhead. You need to park on the street downhill.   NOTE: If there is a Red Flag Warning, don’t bother coming up here. All the streets are posted No Parking–Tow Away during Red Flag warnings.

For finding Lion’s View, I recommend passing by the cache and approaching it from the north. It’s easier and quicker than going UP the direct approach.

Hike #3 was to find The Pit Stop.   I walked by this cache in December, realized the mistake about 1000 feet later, and decided not to go back to get it. Once home, I realized that it was a SMMHA cache and that I would need to return to get it.

The cache’s abbreviated name on my GPS is “The Pit.” I thought that the cache would be located in a depression. How wrong I was! It’s located UP on the top. The description mentions 2 ways to the cache. I took the direct approach–straight UP the ridge from the north. That requires some climbing. I decided that it was OK for going up, but I didn’t want to return that way. The safer and easier approach is from the south.


I usually completely forget while I’m hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains that they are located in the middle of a major urban city.  Every once in a while, we get a cityscape view like this one, that reminds us where we are.


I love the views of Santa Monica Bay from the Santa Monica Mountains.  I grew up in West Los Angeles and spent plenty of time on the beaches shown above.  While I didn’t take a photo of it, Catalina Island was showing off today.



I’m not sure if the scant amount of rain that we got this week made any difference, but it was nice to finally see some wildflowers blooming.  I hope it is just the beginning.

reservoir dog 140131Hike #1 Track and Profile–Reservoir Dog

lions view 140131Hike #2 Track and Profile–Lion’s View

pit stop 140131Hike #3 Track and Profile–The Pit Stop

The 3 hikes totaled just over 9 miles, with 2281 feet of elevation gain, with 7 total cache finds, 3 of which were SMMHA caches.


More SMMHA Caching

January 29, 2014


Today, I knocked off 6 more required geocaches needed for the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure.  I did it with 4 separate hikes.  The first hike was along the Brookview Trail in Thousand Oaks.  The goal was to find 3 caches–Mojave Green, Hardware Cache, and Panorama View.  I found all 3 and 5 other caches along the trail.  Panorama View was a bit of a challenge.  The cache requires you to find the location of the find by using a satellite view of the area.  I was able to get the coords within 45 feet of the cache, but it still took me a while to locate the cache.

P1010952A View to the East, showing Ladyface, another SMMHA-required Cache

Hike #2 had only one cache–Mustang Cache.  It wasn’t a park-and-grab, but I was able to drive quite close before walking up the hill to the cache.  The track at the bottom of the post has a problem with the trail profile, but this was a short walk.  I was able to hike back from the cache in about 7 minutes.  When I found the cache, an ammo can, I thought of how many of these old caches were hidden in ammo boxes.  That’s often the way it was done back in the “good ole days.”

P1010955The Binford Cache, Out in the Open

Hike #3 was another short one–short, but STEEP.  Little Toy Box is located above a Calabasas neighborhood.  I thought I was looking for another ammo box, the original cache container.  Once I realized that the ammo box had bit the dust during a brush fire and had been replaced by something much smaller, I was able to quickly locate the much littler toy box.

Hike #4 began just around the corner from High #3.  I began the hike from the parking lot of the De Anza Park on the Talepop Trail.  Talepop was the name of a Chumash village that was located in this area and the Talepop Cache was my SMMHA target. The hike began with a DNF at Before the State Property, the second of the day.  I enjoyed hiking this trail.  Too bad that it is more than completely dried.  This time of the year we are usually hiking through green hills, not gray.  I’m sure that I’ll be back to get the other caches along this trail.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it on velvety green hills.   I was able to find Before the State Property on the way out.  EcuaDeb verified that I looked in the right place.  The cache was just in a spot that couldn’t be seen or felt.

I’m enjoying going after these older caches–all hiking caches.  I’m about done with urban caching.  Just don’t need to look under any more light pole skirts.  Returning to geocaching’s roots has been good for my soul.

140129aTrack for Hike #1

140129bTrack for Hike #2, with Profile Glitch

140129cTrack for Hike #3, Up the Hill to Little Toy Box

140129dTrack for the Final Hike of the Day, #4

Santa Monica Mountains History Adventure

January 21, 2014


I’ve been concentrating my geocaching efforts on completing The SuMMit Challenge.  With only one most peak to go (it’s scheduled for February 8th), I can back off summit climbing for a while.  (But not really.)

After taking care of some business in West Los Angeles, I decided to stop by Twist-Top Cache in an attempt to find a few more caches for the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure challenge.  I’ve driven by this cache way too many times, but nearby parking is non-existent, so I’ve always kept on driving.  Today, I parked on Amalfi near Don’t Worry We’re Bushing and walked down Sunset Blvd to the cache.  After dodging a few cars speeding around the bends of Sunset, I hiked up the trail behind the bus stop.  After only a few minutes, I left the trail and walked the final 100 feet to the cache.  The cache was in full view and the logbook was quickly signed.  I returned to Sunset by a more direct path.  There is an old dirt road/path covered deeply in leaves just east of the cache that descends the slope back to the bus stop.  If you need this cache, I would recommend this path.  It’s direct and eliminates the short bushwhack to the cache.  Then it was back up Sunset to the car.

The next cache on the schedule was The Pit Stop.  When I hiked to -Parker Mesa Overlook- in December, I walked right passed this cache because it wasn’t loaded in my GPS because of technical problem.  When I got home, I realized that it was required for the SMMHA and knew I needed to go back.  I decided to park near Another Topanga State Park.  Parking is limited to a car or two at this location.  The issue wasn’t finding parking, but a large “Don’t Enter” sign, citing Extreme Fire Danger.  While I knew the Park was open, I didn’t want to risk getting cited for entering through a posted gate.  I drove to the “Free Parking” along the street, only to find it completely filled with cars.   The Pit Stop would have to wait for another day.


Geocache target #3 was Cloud City, a cache located above the Stunt Road/Cold Creek parking area. I’ve driven by the Calabasas Peak Motorway entrance many times, but it was usually after a hike and I was more interested in getting home than on hiking UP that hill.  So up I went.  I thought these steep hikes up fire roads were on hold for a while.  Nope, the walk to the cache is just short of a mile, with a 500-ft climb.

I walked right passed Calabasas Peak Motorway on my way up, but figured that I’d get it on the way down.  Marziboo was a quick grab, then I found the interesting Camo’d Bison in the Bush before heading up the “trail” to Cloud City.  The photo above is of Calabasas Peak.  I’d been there just 2 weeks earlier to find LPS – Calabasas Peak for the SuMMit Challenge.  It looks a bit different from the south.  You can also see the ridge to the east that leads to another SuMMit Challenge peak–Topanga Lookout.  The “trail” up that ridge isn’t for solo hikers; it follows the knife-edge of the ridge.  A bit to iffy for me hiking alone.

P1010948The Home of the Missing Cloud City cache

Cloud City is supposed to be an easily-found large geocache.  It hadn’t been found for almost a year and the last cachers to log it mentioned that it had been chewed on by some critters.  After too long of a search, I decided that the cache was MIA.  I found a great place to hide a large cache, but it was empty.  However, I did find lots of pieces of shattered plastic.  A once-upon-a-time geocache?

I hid a replacement cache and headed back to the truck.  Of course, on the way down, I completely forgot about Calabasas Peak Motorway and walked right by it again.

Once I got home, I posted a Note about the MIA cache and wrote its owner.  Digomind hasn’t checked in to GC.com since 2011 and hasn’t found a cache since 2006.  I’m guessing the cache isn’t the only thing MIA.  After posting the Note, I got an e-mail from paleolith, the CO of the SMMHA.  He directed me to one of the photos taken of the hiding spot that verified that I was in the right place and that the cache really is missing.


Because of the current 2-year drought, the predominant color in the Santa Monica Mountains is gray.  Brown disappeared a while ago.  It was nice to see a bit of color.  I love the shade of red displayed by the manzanita.

January and February are usually the months with get rain in this area.  No rain yet and no rain predicted for the foreseeable  future.  If you know a good rain dance or two, you might consider doing a few rain-making-moves soon.  It would be nice to finally see some nice wildflower blooms instead of just more gray.

Mesa Peak

January 18, 2014


Hiking to Mesa Peak from PCH was this week’s effort in my quest to collect the required caches for The SuMMit ChallengeRCKen and LAEd suggested that I make this a one-way trip from Corral Canyon and the BBT to take advantage of going downhill almost all the way.  That was a good idea, but I wasn’t able to work out the car bridge, so up the hill I went.  It was more like UP, UP, UP the hill I went.  The UP-and-back trip was 5.5 miles, with about a 1600-ft climb.  If there was a good thing about that climb was that it was almost all up.  I only lost the elevation that I gained once and it wasn’t that much of an elevation loss.

I got a much later start than I normally do  — I hit the trail (road, actually) at 10 AM.  It was sunny and warm, no breeze at all, and did I mention it was steep uphill.  The hike is on a well-maintained fire road.  Besides the at-times steep slope of the road, it is also often slanted crossways.  That can be hard on the ankles.

From the trailhead not too far above PCH to my turnaround point at GI Blues, I found 14 caches.  Many of them are Elvis-themed.  There are several other caches along this road above GI Blues, but, because of the late start, as soon as I got the required cache, I turned around and headed for home.

This trail must have a very good supporter with the Santa Monica Mountains chamber of commerce.  I met 2 groups of hikers that wanted to know where the waterfalls and shady groves of trees were located.  Both groups saw beautiful photos of both waterfalls and trees on the Internet.  I didn’t see either.  Forget the fact that it has forgotten how to rain in southern California, I’m not sure where water would fall along this road.  As for trees, there are a few oaks toward the top, but nothing that would draw any attention.


The best views for me were behind me on the way up–the Pacific coastline and some great views of Catalina Island.  On the way down, smoke from the fire in Azusa/Glendora had blown out to sea and completely obscured the view of Catalina.

mesa peakNorth is located at the left

The hike up took 2 hours 15 minutes and yielded 13 geocaches.  The return trip down took 60 minutes, with 1 geocache.  I got what I came for (the SuMMit cache), some good exercise, and a slight sunburn.

If you want a good climb, this is the trail for you.  If you are doing the SuMMit cache and also hiking the BBT, I recommend getting the Mesa Peak caches from the BBT.

Only one more summit to finish the Challenge–TriPeaks.  That will be in a few weeks.


January 11, 2014


Ladyface Mountain has been on my list of geocaching things to do for quite a while.  Gods Eye View is the cache that is located near the top and is the oldest active geocache in Los Angeles County.  It is required for the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure challenge and the newly published The SuMMit Challenge.  It was because of the SuMMit Challenge that I hiked it today.


Ladyface is located near the intersection of Kanan Road and the 101.  It rises to an elevation of over 2000 feet.  The trail is mostly steep–sometimes a trail, usually something less than a trail.  I have friends that claim hiking Ladyface is the toughest hike they have ever done.  So that’s what we had to look forward today.


It was a perfect morning for hiking.  The day started on the cool side, but was sunny and there wasn’t any wind.  The hiking group was a good one, too:  EcuaDeb, her husband and their daughter; chaosmanor and his wife; and me.  We parked near Ladyface Northeast Ridge Trailhead and started up the trail along the ridge.


This hike lived up to its reputation.  It’s a tough, steep hike.  However, the views are worth the effort.


Here is some photographic evidence that I made it to the top.  It was a bit hazy, but I was well satisfied with it.  A couple of days ago, the area was foggy.  No fog today–just some very nice views.


I signed the Gods Eye View log with something along the lines of “Now I only have to get down.”  It was a good prediction–while the trail up is challenging, the way down is really difficult.  Not the entire trail, but 2 major pitches that require your full attention.  A few photos of our descent follow.  It’s very difficult to see how steep the “trail” is, but you can get the idea.







It was a good day of hiking.  We found all the caches that we went after–15–and found the oldest active cache in LA County.

ladyface 140111

Here is today’s hiking track, showing the caches that we found.  We found every cache along the track.  However, there are additional caches west of the Ladyface summit that we didn’t get.  If you are a hard core cacher and need to find every cache in the area, plan on taking some extra time to follow the ridge west for 6 or 8 more geocaches.  I decided a long time along that I don’t need to find every cache.  It makes for a simpler life.

ladyface profile 140111

Here is the trail profile.  You can get an idea of the trail’s steep slope.  It shows that it’s 1 mile to the top and a little longer on the return.  I think the accuracy is off because of the steep trail, but that’s just a guess.  If the distance is correct, it was the longest 2.16 miles that I have ever hiked.

I recommend the hike, but only if you are ready for the steep ascent and descent, as well as being willing to do some rock scrambling and some climbing, both up and down.

Reaching for the SuMMit

January 6, 2014


The SuMMit Challenge was published by fastflyer on 11/19/2013. When I learned of this challenge, it intrigued me right away.  The challenge requires finding a cache near (.2 miles) 24 of the named peaks in the Santa Monica Mountains.

A quick review of the peaks showed that I had 16 of the required peaks.  16 down, 8 to go.  I’ve been working on the summits.  Today, I found 2 more (Calabasas Peak and Topanga Overlook) and also found and signed the final cache.  I still need TriPeaks, Ladyface, and Mesa Peak.  Hopefully, I will be able to finish in 3 weeks or so.

Panorama Calabasas Peak


Today’s adventure began at the trailhead for the Secret Trail at  Secret Trail Head.   It was a DNF–not a good start for the day.  This was my first time on this trail and I enjoyed it very much.  The goal was to find CALABASAS MOTORWAY – BACK IN THE BRUSH and/or LPS – Calabasas Peak.  I found Back in the Brush quickly, but had a very difficult time with LPS – Calabasas Peak.  I only needed one, but it was nice to get both into the Found column.


Next up was Topanga Overlook.  I had been on this trail before..  I was in the area working on some BBT caches and had some extra time, but not enough to go all the way to the Overlook.  Today, it was time to go to the Overlook and find at least 1 of the 3 qualifying caches.  I found Fee Fi Foo Fum right away, which was a good thing because I think Topanga Lookout, or … ladybug, ladybug fly away is MIA and I really didn’t want to go down the hill for Raven’s Roost.  The walk to the Overlook is about 1 mile–first hiking up, so you can then go down, then up, then down.  The return, of course, is the reverse.  I’m not sure why this area is a favorite of taggers, but there is graffiti on the road, the rocks, the walls, and the concrete platform that is the GZ for Topanga Lookout, or … ladybug, ladybug fly away.  On my return to my truck, I spoke with a volunteer Arson Watcher.  He parked his car at the trailhead and watches for suspicious behavior.  The idea is that if the arsonist knows that someone is watching, it might deter his behavior.

I finished the day’s adventure with a hike to The SuMMit Challenge’s final.  I parked at the intersection of Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road. OLdweeb suggested that I might want to try the approach from the Bark Park.  Since I have already been above the Bark Park, I decided to start from the south.


The trail parallels Las Virgenes Road for a while before turning east and climbing.  The vegetation is beyond dry.  It was dry a year ago; now it is crispy.  The last time that I was in this area, the hills were a lush green.  Not today.  I did see a lot of deer tracks.  Also coyote scat full of rabbit fur.  I guess the animals are doing OK on the dry grasses.

When I got to The SuMMit Challenge’s final, I decided to take OLdweeb’s advice and return via the Bark Park.  The distance is shorter and the trail had some caches where returning the way I came would have just been backtracking.  I called my wife and arranged for a shuttle back to my truck.  Then I got hiking and found 7 caches on the way out.

I  enjoyed the full day of hiking.  It was nice to spend the day on the trail.  I’m also looking forward to finishing the SuMMit Challenge.

calabasas peak 140106

Calabasas Peak track–North to the left–3.8 miles in-and-out, 1400 ft gain/loss.

topanga overlook 140106

Topanga Overlook track–North to the left–2.0 miles in-and-out–540 ft gain/loss

summit final

The SuMMit Final–North to the left–5.4 miles south-to-north–1850 ft gain/1700 ft loss