Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hiking Las Virgenes


Swale Grass

Gnarled Trees

The Las Virgenes was a hallucinatory dream caused by a hot sun and extended for endless miles incorporating all of those elements and more. I picked the wrong time of day to go (afternoon) and mucked around for many miles in amazing yet monotonous landscape.

I knew I was in for something unlike any other hike I had been on before when the huge arch signalling the trailhead greeted me at the end of Victory Blvd off the 101.

The goal was like always, doing loop trails and seeing the sights. LV has multiple loop trails going all over but   I stuck the main trail heading West then tracking South then back North to the Mesa of weirdness.

The trail was like many trails that I have trod here in SoCal, fireroad almost too a fault.

Blessedly, the trail is flat, there is an elevation gain/loss of about 250 feet in any direction, however when you get to mile 8 like I did, 250 up is the last thing you want to do, but mesas must be climbed and the only way is up, but more on that later.

There are plenty of other trails you can take in the LV. The hillsides are littered with herd trails that humanity and coyotes have trodded and eaten on (mostly bunnies from the looks of it).

Sure you could take these trails and definitely cut through and around some hills but there are signs everywhere warning against such actions

and given the "prohibited zones" on the map I stuck to the main trails and you probably should as well.

After awhile, the swale grass and amazing hillsides

blend together but there is a method to the trail madness. This area of Cali is part of the old Spanish trail system and the wooden posts mark the way as you get around the area.

A few words of warning, some of the trails which loop around the main loops are not marked soooo make sure you have the map and when it doubt bear left. This is especially true when you stagger up to the mesa. In order to do the loop back to the parking lot, you will have to go all the way to what looks like private property,

and THEN bear left. (On a major side note, the mesa was WEIRD, definintely not like other mesas I have visited, this one is a lot of brown swale grass with roads and helicopter landing strips and then you have to make your way around the private property. STILL beautiful views from up there but the mesa itself needs a bit of a makeover.)

Also many of the herd trails which go off to who-knows-where have posts but no signs

so unless you feel like being adopted by a band of coyotes, learning their rough but loving ways, then you probably should stick to the main trails.

I learned this lesson the hard way as I got lost not once but TWICE as various paths which I am sure are fine and will get you generally where you need to go but they are not the "correct" paths. Just bear left, ignore posts with no signs and follow the green (more on that below).

The park is also a bit strange because there are numerous gas lines running throughout thus leading to random sewers popping up in strange places.

That is not to say the vistas aren't anything less than California nice

and grass, there is grass!

This grass actually helps you get around (not in the way YOU think hippy!) because if you are in the middle of the park and not sure which way to go, just follow the green in the sea of brown South, as the green is due to a creek and as long as your are following the creek you are good to go.

The park gives you a lot of the same but the same can be beautiful and intriguing, just don't do this sucker in the Summer or your face will melt as you trudge up to the weirdo mesa.

This map, despite my getting lost is really a great, a must have on the trail: http://www.lamountains.com/maps/ahmanson_map.pdf


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