klondikejoe (klondikejoe) wrote,

Thru-Hiking the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains

Matt and I just finished hiking the 67.5 miles of the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains in SoCal.


The trail traverses the length of the mountain range from Point Mugu to Will Rogers State Park crossing various roads, valleys, and L.A. communities along the way.  We started off at 1:00pm on Friday May 22, 2009 being dropped off at the western trailhead  - Ray Miller trailhead.  Hiked 15 miles up to Sandstone Peak and camped right under the summit stopping at about 8:00pm the first evening.  The views atop the highest peak in the mountain range are breathtaking with the ocean to the south, Santa Ynez mountains to the west, San Gabriels to the east, and the Tehachapis to the north.

Saturday we were up at 6:30 to a fog-filled sky, broke camp and headed down the ridge at 7:30 am hiking from Sandstone Peak 25 miles to Malibu Canyon State Park.  We crossed many smaller parks in the NPS and State Park system and lots of roads and other trails.  Thursday night before the hike we stashed 2 gallons of water on Yerba Buena Road and Lindero Canyon Road but could not find the first cache.  So we trudged on and took some water from a hose at a private residence.  Few hikers, mountains bikers, runners in this area made for great solitude hiking.  The day the was hot and the vegetation thick on the trail but we had no problem finding the trail markers though we heard some parts of the trail were hard to find.  There are still two sections on the trail without official easements but we pressed on across private property.  Made camp overlooking Malibu Canyon at 8:00pm.   The night was starry and dry.

Sunday we were attempting to finish the the rest of the trail to Will Rogers, requiring us to hike almost 30 miles to trail's end. With sore and aching feet and blisters we were hard pressed to warm up and get going.  But we did and were on the trail by 6:30am, first descending steeply to Malibu Canyon Road and then climbing steeply yet again towards Saddle Peak.  At one point we took a wrong turn and ended up on a road along which we hiked up the grade until we met the trailhead again. This is the only time we missed the trail and had to hike on paved roads for some distance - all due to incorrect trail markers - Yes, your tax dollars worthlessly spent on wrong markers.  Whoever attempts this trail should note that the NPS trail website is worthless, so are all the mile markers and distances.  Use your good judgement for route finding and don't rely on the government to show you the correct path - Issh!

We ascended Saddle Ridge by 11am and began a long descent towards Topanga Canyon through Hondo Canyon.  Hikers beware.  This is poison oak country!  Dry and shady, the Canyon gave us some relief as we dropped from over 2500' elevation down to 800'.  Along the way we saw more and more hikers as we got closer to Old Topanga Canyon Road where cars were parked all along the trailhead.  A lady along the trail claiming to know the area so well that she spent her youth in the Topanga hills fighting for women's lib and the sexual revolution told us that there was no thru-trail to Trippet Ranch on Topanga Road.  I, with a geographer's gut feeling and keen sense of direction, of course found the trail - ahh....  right across the road!  Trust my instinct and listen less to people that say "I know".

We got to Topanga State Park at 1pm, broke for lunch and headed back up to 2100' to the Temescal Peak and the last stretch of trail to the end.  Blistered and and aching I sped up the trail and felt like a king until I stopped, relaxed, let my muscles cool and tighten and when Matt caught up I couldn't move an inch for now I was stuck in my standing position barely able to lift a foot, let alone move a foot.  The next and last 7 miles down the ridge were so painful I kept going in and out of delirium barely able to stand and using my trekking poles from falling over or spraining my ankles.  7pm saw us at the bottom and at trail's end but beaten. blistered, and with heat exhaustion we begged with a 20$ bill some bystanders to drive us the several miles back to my place only a few miles away as neither of us had any morsel strength left to walk nor crawl.  

The trail over, we look at the experience as an attempt to push ourselves beyond reasonable limits to overcome pain, both physical and mental, and come out knowing that anything is possible if put to the task at hand.

We met good people on the trail who gave us direction, smiles, and accolades for what we were attempting to accomplish.  We succeeded!

Pix:  picasaweb.google.com/klondikejoe/BackboneTrailMay22242009
Tags: backbone trail, bbt, santa monica mountains

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