Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council 2018 Backbone Trek


by Carol Miller

Santa Monica Mountains Backbone Trail

“The Backbone Trail, now designated as a National Recreation Trail, traverses the length of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It follows ridges and canyons crossing chaparral-covered hillsides, oak woodlands, creeks and valleys,“ says the write up on the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council web page encouraging us to come on their supported thru hike of the 67 miles of the Backbone Trail which connects the west to the east end. This trek was the dream of a great leader and one I had the pleasure to know and hike with, Milt McAuley. Thanks Milt! Our trip started at the west end at the Ray Miller Trailhead in LaJolla Canyon.

What a trip it was! The Trails Council’s crew and leaders made all the logistics of a supported hike look easy and fun. Kudos to all of you.

The beauty of rock spires, meadows, ocean views and the over 144 blooming flowers we saw during the week kept us going. The participants came in all ages ranging from those in their 20’s to a few in their late 70’s (the oldest being 79.)  It was a great group to hike with, cheerful, funny, helpful and encouraging.

It was not an easy week. Our daily hikes were about 10 miles a day with elevation gains from 500 feet to 3,000 feet. Take my word for it, the 3,000 foot gain day was a bear as it was hot, hot, hot and included one angry rattlesmake. Don’t remember any day having only a 500 foot gain.

A quote from the trails council’s web site: “Keep in mind, each day’s hike is rated moderate to strenuous and a 10 mile hike every day may have a cumulative effect on one’s physical condition, increasing the difficulty as the hike progresses day to day.” You can say that again! By Thursday, the fifth day of hiking, and the last day of significant gain going up to Saddle Peak was hard on another hot day. We all pushed ahead, planting one foot in front of the other, enjoying the vistas and the naked man on the trail. Yes, you read that right. He was dressed by the time I got up there, oh well! At the top, we were rewarded with a cool breeze with ocean and valley views.

The last two days were easier and a lot cooler. We even experienced fog and drizzle at the start of days six and seven. What a welcome relief. Where was that coolness during the long, steep days?

On the last day, we were energized and looking forward to going home to loved ones so we hiked faster, laughing and enjoying the last few hours together. It was a trip to remember with a group to remember. A quote from one of our fearless leaders sums it up “A good time was had by all.”

To get further information about this hike and to sign up for next year, here’s the link

Hope to see you on the trails!

Carol Miller is a retired teacher, avid hiker and an associate editor of Citizens Journal.

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