Monday, May 27, 2013

Cheeseboro Canyon, 21 April 2013

Cheeseboro Canyon
Cheeseboro Canyon Trail, out and back
9 miles
800 feet of elevation gain
4 hours
Chelsea Beck, Kurt Mueller, Virgil Mueller-Beck, Mona, and Corrina Peipon

From the Chesebro Road exit off of the 101 freeway in Old Agoura, it's only a couple of turns before the road narrows and a long, lazy curve in the country road leads to the Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyon Park entrance. A small parking lot with timber fencing marks the entrance to the park.

At just seven weeks old, this was Virgil's first hike, so we stopped to take a few commemorative pictures before heading up the trail.

It was only about 7:30am, but the sun was already warm. Looking out to the north, the rolling ochre hills reminded me of Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World. Along the wide, dusty trail, cottonwoods and live oaks give the place a shady, secret feeling, especially where a dry stream bed crosses the trail. I imagined what it must have been like when it was all ranch land out there and thought about the children of the pioneers running through the grass and hiding under old trees at the western edge of the young country.

At a fork in the old dirt road, we followed the signs for Cheeseboro Canyon, Cheeseboro Ridge, and Palo Comado Canyon. It wasn't long after we turned off toward the Palo Comado trail before the landscape changed dramatically. The haunted expanse of savannah that seemed made for ambling narrowed to a desert canyon, brown and red dust and scree and rocks peppered with chaparral. The path began a slow, shallow incline. Without shade now, the unseasonable morning heat made our feet heavy.

At the top of the trail, we arrived at a junction that leads west and east to more trails in the park. While we deliberated over which way to go, Virgil awoke with a little cry. As long as Chelsea kept walking, he slept soundly in his sling. It was only when we stopped to have a drink of water or a look at the map that he fussed a bit. Chelsea nursed him as we walked, and so many people we passed remarked on what an unusual and pleasant surprise it was to see such a little baby on the trail.

We decided to walk back the way we came and headed down the hill. On the way up, we'd had the park mostly to ourselves, but as we walked back to the trailhead, we encountered more and more cyclists. Cheeseboro and Palo Comado canyons are first on the list of the most popular mountain biking areas in the Santa Monica Mountains, and this proved out time and again as we stepped aside to let packs of cyclists through. Back where we started, the parking lot was now filled with cars and trucks with bicycle racks, and we noted that this lovely trail is best used on foot very early in the morning, before the mountain bikers get their start for the day. Hot and covered in dust, we parted ways, weaving our way back to the freeway and into the city.

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