Our Thanksgiving hike took us along the Yearling Trail and the Deer Leg Trail, both on the old ranch operated by Ronald Reagan in his Death Valley days. We chose it because the LA Times hiking trails guide book, Days Hikes Around Los Angeles, described it as “level,” but the guide book either fibbed, or used the special California defininition of the word “level,” i.e. “not level.” See how the ground slants up out of the right side of the picture? Well, the Deer Leg Trail veers up that grade and grows steeper as it climbs up a 400 foot hill. At some points it was steep enough for some pitying soul to have built stone steps into the trail. Still, it was shady and if the enclosing riparian growth blocked most views it was cool (literally) and it smelled spicy like pepper and sage.
The rest of the trail wasn’t so great. The Yearling Trail was more of a runoff than a trail. Untended, deeply rutted and rock strewn it required nimble stepping to avoid twisted ankles. What rankled most was the promise in the LA Times guidebook of a “duck pond.” The map even showed a cute little silhouette of a duck enjoying the pond. Our eager hearts braved the tennis ball sized rocks in the path just to see the duck in the pond. But those hearts sank upon seeing the stark truth: No pond and no duck; only a weed-choked declivity and mocking crows.
The LA Times guidebook was nearer the mark with its description of the first part of the trail, the “unpaved Yearling Road, lined with stately eucalyptus trees.” In fact, the road is paved, but the eucalyptus trees are there and stately as advertised. They’re the best feature of the otherwise bleak trail with their shedding outer bark, gleaming white inner bark, and aromatic slender leaves.
These trees, I assert confidently, are the “gum trees” that merry, merry Kookaburra sits in laughing according to the Australian song, unless I am very much mistaken, in which case they are not.
Well, we got our exercise, I suppose, and certainly our sinuses were cleared by the airborne oils of the stately eucalyptuses, but no return trip is on the agenda. Compared to the mind-blowing hikes elsewhere in these hills and vales the Yearling and Deer Leg trails are kind of shabby. Also duckless.
UPDATE: I just found this web page among the many put up by California Department of Parks and Recreation that suggests an explanation for the present sorry state of the Reagan Ranch portion of Malibu Creek State Park: it’s in transition; they’re raising money to convert it into the Ronald Reagan Equestrian Campground at Malibu Creek State Park.