Cheseboro Canyon, 21 Miles

Cheeseboro Canyon is located in the northernmost section of the Santa Monica Mountains Nation Recreational Area. Before the ranchers moved in, the Chumash Indians lived in the canyons. The canyons are said to be full of deer, bobcats, coyotes, and rabbits, (and I saw a lot of the latter two). Cheeseboro Canyon also has the largest concentration of birds-of-prey nesting areas in the U.S. outside of Alaska. The canyons are full of owls and hawks. There’s also the what might be the largest southerly stand of Valley Oak trees (the largest oak native to the United States). There are also lots of lizards, rattlesnakes and mountain bikers, although I am sure most of the latter live in other parts of the valley.

Saturday’s run was a hilly 16 miler through Griffith Park, along the bridle trails and then up to the Hollywood Sign and back down via Hogback Ridge. It was a very urban day out on the trails on Saturday: lots of Armenian gangsters on hikes, in their special I-don’t-know-what-kind-of-gear-that-is-but-I-think-it-might-be-hiphop. I’m on the search for the prfect shoes, but they have already found them: they have fat laces, black on one shoe, white on the other, and they are not tied. Hiking is obviously very serious business when you are a gangster, so they were scowling and looking appropriately menacing and thug like. I’m sure the wildlife was frightened. Down on the bridle trails were lots of very happy black and hispanic kids on horseback, unsure of what to do but having a great time.

Sunday’s plan was to treat myself to a new run out at Cheesebro Canyon, for an easy-ish 13 miles of what I expected would be gentle hills. I got the first half of the run right, but the way back became a series of wrong turns. Instead of an out-and-back through the canyon, I turned too soon and came back along the western side. There was a long and rather beautiful stretch of single-track through grass that I didn’t remember from the trip out. As I passed a ranch I wondered how I’d missed seeing that earlier. The return to the valley seemed to be taking longer than I thought, but I attributed that to being tired, even though my garmin clearly indicated I’d run longer and further coming back than I had going out, even though I was maintaining a steady pace. Once I got to the a part of the valley I recognized, I was happy because I reckoned I only had 4 miles left before I was back at the car. In fact, I was about a half mile from the parking lot. Completely unclear as to where I was, I took a wrong turn and ran through the valley a second time, following my original route out. I remember thinking it odd that certain sights were on my right where they’d been on the trip out. Surely on the return they should be on the left. I was completely confused when I reached the top of the valley for the second time. Another wrong turn took me up a sharp ridge. About a mile up I knew for certain I was lost. I studied my map, determined I was on the western ridge, and that I needed to turn left at the first trail I found. Luckily I ran into a kid on a mountain bike and persuaded him to take out his earbuds and talk to me. I asked him to show me where we were on my map. We were on the eastern ridge, not the western, and had I taken the next left (wherever it might be) I’d’ve ended up hopelessly lost. He said a couple more miles up and down hills and I’d find a trail taking me back into the valley, which was increasingly far below. The wind was kicking in. My legs were exhausted but I was getting a bit anxious to get back down to the valley, so I pushed it. My Garmin had me at 18 miles, and I still had a ways to go. I passed a water tower. My map showed another half mile before the turn. It was all downhill. I coasted into the valley with about half a mile left before I reached the car.

Beautiful run. Many more changes in terrain than usual (my accidental additions contribute to this). Harsh desert, rocky single track, fireroads, dirt paths, forest, chaparral, savannah… One rattlesnake, two coyotes, and lots of bunnies. I guess it is bunny season. This made for a 38 mile weekend, with about 5,000 ft of climbing.

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