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
I became intrigued by that nasty old icon of the sixties (Manson, I mean) and picked up a copy of Helter Skelter, the trend-setting true crime book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.
Still in the midst of the reading experience, I won’t go on about it here. I only bring it up because when I studied the maps in the hair-raising book I was amazed to realize I more or less know where all these sites of long-ago murder and nuttiness are. In fact, when I parked by the trailhead of the Rocky Peak Trail I had been only a stone’s throw from the location of the infamous Spahn Ranch were Mr. Manson and his “Family” tripped, immersed themselves in the Beatles’ “White Album” and laid their goofy plans for igniting the race war Mr. Manson eagerly expected.
Today after marching up and down Rocky Peak Trail, we headed east on the Santa Susana Pass Road and stopped just short of Topanga Canyon Road to take the picture you see above: As lovely and peaceful a spot as you could imagine. Whatever satanic evil that goofus Manson dreamt he embodied in ’69 has washed away over the ensuing forty years.
John Muir, that loveable old preservationist, hiked up and down the mountains and valleys of California — maybe these very hills, for all I know — all the while preaching about the spiritual and uplifting value of Nature. That the awesome beauty of this particular spot seems never to have penetrated the rancid hearts of Manson and his hippie pack argues against Mr. Muir’s charming 19th century belief in the healing power of Nature. On the other hand, his Outdoorsy Romanticism does seem vindicated by the way forty years of Nature’s changing seasons, cleansing rains and fresh growth have purified the place of Manson’s cornball diabolism.