What you see here is the photo I took at the summit of Rocky Peak. At 2,750 feet, this rugged promontory, well-deserving its petrological title, is the third highest point in the Santa Susana Mountains which form part of the northern boundary of Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley.
If you want to enjoy the same vistas I gazed out upon from this lofty aerie — once, by the way, part of the vast real estate holdings of entertainer Bob Hope — your desire can easily be satisfied. All you need is a stout trek pole, sturdy boots, a boonie cap with a chin strap, three water bottles, two chicken sandwiches, a backpack full of Cuties™ mandarin oranges, an iPod loaded with I, Sniper, a Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter, a smartphone equipped with GPS, a camera for bringing back the proof of having reached the summit and the iron determination to plod wearily up thousands of feet of not-too-step yet all-too-steep much-fissured fire road.
My little guidebook calls the Rocky Peak Road an easy hike. So it is. Easy to take exit 32 off the Ronald Reagan Freeway. Easy to park in the turnout located to the south on Santa Ana Pass Road. Easy to cross north on the bridge over the Freeway to reach the trailhead.
After that less easy: an hour and half of glute-stressing climbing, followed — after a chicken sandwich break en plein air during which you can admire the view of the Pacific far to the west — by a wobbly-legged descent of similar duration. But not too demanding, even considering the cold, unceasing, buffeting wind way up top which may possibly slap you so silly that you, too, forget to snap the evidentiary photo celebrating your conquest.
Half-way twixt summit and trailhead — at the juncture of the Rocky Peak Road and the Hummybird Trail – a thoughtful park ranger has installed a restful bench.
Posted in Exploration, Hiking, L.A., Reading, Thillers
Tagged Hiking, I Sniper, Rocky Peak, Rocky Peak Road, Rocky Peak Trail, Santa Susana Mountains, Stephen Hunter
The brush fires whipped up by the Santa Ana winds in mid-October were visible all the way across the valley here in the foothills of the Santa Monicas. One night my daughter and I drove north across the Valley to get a closer look at the spreading conflagration — the Porter Ranch fire had replicated as the Sesnon fire — which outlined the black ridges in orange light.
Today, as I hiked the Chumash Trail up the flank of Rocky Peak in that range, I saw a bit of what those orange flames left behind. Everywhere blackened shrubs made the hillside look like ink drawings. All of the trail markers were burnt to charcoal, some so badly the carved letters were no longer readable. If it hadn’t been for the profusion of new growth fostered by the recent weeks of rain I would have been looking for the fissure in which to toss the One Ring of Power.
It’s a neat trail, the Chumash is. The proud ancient people would be proud it bears their proud name proudly. It took me up 1,100 feet over 2.5 miles for a total altitude of over 2,400 feet above the wetsuited surfboarders and it left me a staggering cripple as I crawled back into my car at trail’s end after almost three hours of cultivating some textbook blisters.
Why did I do this to myself? “Because it’s giggly fun!” as Sir Edmund Hillary (often misquoted) once said in regards to some other peak. But mostly because the last few days of cold weather had capped the mountains with snow. In my little Midwest heart I yearned to make a snow ball.
The Susanas (north of the Valley) weren’t so dramatically snow-capped as the much grander Gabriels (north and east of the Valley). In fact, the mantle of white on the sun-facing slopes, though glittering in the morning, had melted away by the time I had hoisted myself up above the snow-line. Ah, but in the cold, shadowed north faces, enough snow remained for me to fulfill my cherished dream with some left over.