If you absolutely must hike up a mountain in the Santa Monicas, California, you would do well to choose one of the trails — yes, you get some choice — that wind their rocky ways to the summit of Sandstone Peak, the high est point in that friendly chain.
A well-adjusted altimeter placed on the very tip-top of the ancient upthrust would give you a reading of 3,111 feet above the briny, the very briny which, from that vantage, you may see glittering only a few miles distant.
From the trailhead on Yerba Buena Road I took the direct route to the top — eschewing the scenic but more roundabout Mishe Mokwa Trail — which meant huffing up almost 1,100 feet through sweet-smelling chaparrel and over boulders that had no particular odor. The endgame — the bit that takes you to the very top — required enlisting arms and knees.
But you don’t want to skip that last little scramble no matter how you feel about tumbling to your death, because awaiting you at the top is Mr. Allen himself.
Before the White Man came the mountain was known as Mt. Allen. Now it answers only to “Sandstone Peak.” Still, when the Boy Scouts of America poured their concrete marker on the top back in 1965 (even while the Beatles were performing in Shea Stadium in New York) they decided to keep to the old ways and they reverted to the Chumash name.
In the marker there is a metal drawer. Within the drawer is a little book. Inside that book you will find my name and this date.
You may want to write your own name in that book. Okay. Clicking on the word at the end of this sentence will sweep you away to one of many fine websites that will direct you to the trail: EXCELSIOR.
Before returning to the main trail — sliding on your bottom if you are wise — you may want to take a moment to look in any of the 360 degrees of the compass available for your inspection. Here is one thing you will see:
UPDATE: If you are interested in reading a serious description of this trail — one post of many on a first-rate hiking weblog — check out Casey Schreiner’s Modern Hiker at this address: http://www.modernhiker.com/2006/12/18/mishe-mokwa-trail-to-tri-peaks-and-sandstone-peak/