Saturday, April 17, 2010

Latigo Canyon-Castro Crest aka "Meth Lab Motorway"

Hike: Backbone Trail (Latigo Canyon Rd. to Castro Crest to Meth Lab City)

The Inspiration: Our maniacal urge to complete the Backbone Trail in its entirety, segment by segment

Highest Altitude: 2,250'? Who the eff knows!

Trip Mileage: 5.0...ish

Total 2010 Mileage: 51.2*

I met my outdoor nemesis and it is the segment of the Backbone Trail that begins at Castro Crest and winds down to Corral Canyon Road.

Please allow me to explain.

Caffeinated, Rebecca and I flew down the 101 last weekend, excitedly heading for the junction of the Backbone Trail and Latigo Canyon Road. According to the P-circle on our handy waterproof Tom Harrison map, we were looking for a real parking area. Something defined. Maybe signed.

Or maybe not. Maybe we turned around TWICE in two very inopportune, barely two-lane-width areas on Latigo Canyon Road, me cursing in a progressively more audible way, Rebecca gritting her teeth in a progressively more audible way, totally unable to locate said Harrison Map P-circled parking lot.

Several curses, teeth grinds, and less-geographically-challenged cyclists later, we found said P-circle, parked, and fired ourselves back up. The Backbone Trail! WE'RE GONNA DO IT! RARRRRRR!

We found ourselves down in a lush, green canyon of sorts, rife with purple-y, pink-y wildflowers, split by a trickling stream. Despite hopping off-trail a few times to avoid being flattened by several maniacal cyclists, we were having a damn swell time. We LOVED the Backbone Trail!

Several cyclist-dodgings and a small bit of climb later, we emerged on a fire road in the Castro Crest section of the Santa Monicas. One option was to go left, which according to two dog-walking know-it-alls was a bad idea, since there was a private gate a half mile up.

We shrugged. It did not matter. The Only Thing That Mattered Was Continuing On The Illustrious Backbone Trail, Full Of Wildflowery Beauty And Lush Green Fantasyland.

We turned right on the fire road. At a fork, the dog-walking know-it-alls ascended the road to the right. We descended to the left, on the well-marked Backbone Trail, dodged a few more cyclists, and took in the epic valley view. One of us might have said "I love this trail."

One of us might have regretted that a short time later.

Continuing our descent, we suddenly found ourselves faced with what can only be described as a tightly-knit thicket of bramble crap. I said something about how the recent rains must have stimulated some growth in the area, wondered for a moment how all of the renegade cyclists must have a hard time navigating this area, and then plowed right through, logic be damned.

Ow. Yowch! Grrr. Ouch!...pfffft.

"Hm, do you think this is really the right way?" one of us might have voiced.

"Yeah, of course. I mean, we followed the Backbone Trail sign,right?" one of us might have responded.

Once we fought our way through the mess, we faced a conundrum. To the far left was a dry riverbed of sorts, just right of that was a grassy bump, and then a fork in the fire road. We consulted our handy Tom Harrison map. Then I made the fateful decision to follow the left fork of the fire road, in the hopes that it was the Backbone Trail, and we would end up at the far end, Victorious!!!

But I was wrong. So. Totally. Wrong. We suddenly found ourselves stomping our feet and wading through knee-deep weedy grasses, making our best attempt at scaring off lurking snakes. We consulted the trusty Tom Harrison a few more times. We stopped and took a photo of a tennis ball jammed into a dead bush. We skirted fallen trees. And we think we stumbled upon some meth labs.

We were most definitely NOT on the Backbone Trail. We came to a high spot and broke out ole Tommy H. We used our compass. We knew North, South, East, and West. But we weren't on the map. Tommy was of no use. We were in the wilds.

We were also probably not too far from this.

We considered the possibility that someone from the sure-to-be meth labs might come out and shoot us. We finally turned around.

Curious as to how our spidey senses, T-Harr, and the official Backbone Trail signage could have pointed us towards certain death on the Santa Monica Mountains Illicit Drug Trail, we retraced our steps and considered the options we first encountered when we emerged from the scratchy thicket:

1) Dry riverbed - NOPE. This was not the Backbone Trail. This was a dry damn riverbed that suddenly fell deeper into the canyon.

2) Grassy bumpy thing - MAYBE? I ran up and scouted the area. I thought I saw a trail. Maybe. Well, definitely. But whether or not it came from here...I do not know.


4) Right fork - Aw, the hell with it. Let's go home.

We WILL return, Backbone Trail. We will find you, and we will triumph. TRIUMPH, I SAY!!!

* Yes, the milage jumped quite a bit between the last posted hike and this entry. That is because I've been a hike-posting slacker, and in the interim, Rebecca and I have completed jaunts down into Hondo Canyon, around the Temescal Canyon Loop, and over to Eaton Canyon Falls, which maybe I'll write about if I'm not completely sidetracked by the 5 seasons of Lost my co-worker recently bequeathed me.

What Would Ed Do?

Ed would have turned around at the first sign of off-trail bushwhacking and/or possible meth lab activity. However, please allow us to redeem some points here because Ed would be proud that we not only used a map and compass together, but used them correctly together.


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