I wasn’t able to join our little group when they walked the last segment of the Backbone Trail on Saturday November 3, 2012, because I’ve been “feeling poorly”, but it gives me much pleasure to tell you that one of my hiking buddies offered to do a guest post of the hike for my blog.
Please welcome Edith de Guzman, as the very first guest blogger to Wondering Rose. Edith and her husband Jolly have camped extensively around the south-western United States, and recently traveled in Australia and New Zealand, and are both brilliant photographers. I hope this will be the first of many guest blogs from them.
GUEST POST by Edith de Guzman.
Photos by E. and J. de Guzman.
The eighth and final segment of the Backbone Trail starts at Trippet Ranch in Topanga State Park and meanders twelve miles to Will Rogers State Historic Park.
The day we hiked it was an unusually warm Saturday in November, with clear skies and highs in the upper 80s.
At Trippet Ranch, historic ranch buildings are still in use and horses have their own special drinking fountains, which fill a shallow bowl with water when a horse pushes against a lever. Pretty clever!
Of all the segments, this one was among the most ecosystem-diverse, traversing through grasslands, chaparral, oak woodlands and riparian areas. Ours is a semi-arid Mediterranean climate, with moderate rainfall from late fall to spring, and little to no rainfall the rest of the year. We had a long dry summer this year, and the grasslands on the trail were a crispy golden-yellow. With some good winter rains, they’ll turn into a vibrant blanket of green by early spring.
Despite being just a few miles from one of the world’s most metropolitan areas, we are lucky to have public lands agencies with a history of fighting for land preservation. When we started with the first segment all those months ago, we were in a part of Ventura County as far as we would find ourselves from development. All along the nearly 70 miles we hiked, we have been rewarded with gorgeous vistas like this one (above). But as we’ve moved east with each segment, we’ve gotten closer and closer to dense parts of Los Angeles County and housing developments have crept in – eliciting even more appreciation from our group for the land preservation efforts that have made this trail possible. If you look closely you can see the city skyline on the far left of the photo (under a blanket of smog).
Many parts of the trail were under a reddish tint created by thousands of dried buckwheat flowers. It’s a bit hard to see, but the buckwheat shrubs are covered in a native parasitic plant called California dodder, which usually appears as bright orange mass of strings – like a kid emptied a spray can of silly string all over the place. This late in the hot, dry season, the buckwheat had no moisture to offer and even the dodder was dry, starved of nutrients it couldn’t get from its host plant.
At one point we saw a freshly cut tree greeting the trail with this beautiful cross-section a recorded past.
When we came upon this ornate tree trunk we forgot to look up and find any leaves in an attempt to identify the tree species.
A few yards from the trail, we came upon this freshly picked-on bird skeleton, feathers strewn every which way. It was quite large — the spine was probably about a foot long — and the best guess our tracker-hiker-friend had was that it belonged to a turkey vulture.
Further along the hike, we traversed a ridge above Rustic Canyon and spotted a few of the relics of a Nazi-sympathizer compound that operated from the 1930s until the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (when a federal government raid put an end to it). From our vantage point, we saw a large water tank, two sets of never-ending concrete staircases leading deep into the canyon, a barn and an ornate gate leading into the compound.
The site is a dark and fascinating piece of LA’s history, and if you too are intrigued, you might want to visit the site to learn more.
After our 12-mile adventure, our group enjoyed a few minutes of rest on the grassy polo field at Will Rogers State Historic Park before heading back to Topanga to retrieve our other car and enjoy some ice cream. And then we took our dusty hiking boots off.
My posts on the previous segments of the Backbone Trail