Backbone Trail 2018. March 26-28, 67 miles, 10,850 ft ascent.
The Backbone Trail (BBT) is a 67 mile trail that connects Will Rogers Park in the south near Santa Monica to Point Magu State Park in the north near Ventura. While an extraordinary amount of coastal mountain land has already been preserved for future generations, the assemblage of smaller land parcels to complete the last few miles of unbroken trail is only recently completed, and the BBT is now designated as a National Recreation Trail. I choose to take the trail in March as there is still a lot of green growth from the recent rains and to avoid the later season heat. I intend a three-day two-night trip and drive around the day before to cache water at three road crossings.
NOTE: Every picture can be clicked to view a larger image.
Day 1: Sunrise on the trail.
Margi accompanies me for the first 11 miles.
It is extraordinary that there is so much preserved land so close to our megalopolis. View of Santa Monica Bay.
The BBT and the many nearby trails and fire roads are usually walked as urban day hikes, and so the usual strange traces of urban hike culture abound.
Notwithstanding several signs, the trail is still poorly marked at critical junctures, and without GPS I surely would have gone astray many times. To this day very few maps accurately depict the entire trail.
I encounter a range of vegetation I did not expect for what is essentially coastal desert land.
"250 dollars for disturbing this mark"- 1933.
This rock is extremely hard underfoot and barely evidences the trail traffic.
A didactic panel claims that some of the larger prominent rocks on the trail were carried here from places as far away as Arizona some 50 million years ago.
A talking creaking tree. Click the arrow icon to play the movie and to hear the curious creaking sound.
Perhaps my favorite photo of the trip. To me it communicates: "Go off and be free, don't think about work today".
Nightfall. I do not camp, for it is not allowed except for a few campsites poorly located for my itinerary, but I do "bivouac" in a few scenic spots.
Day 2, daybreak in Malibu Creek State Park.
I am surprised to find water in several places, but it will probably all dry up within in a week.
Palos Verdes Peninsula is seen on the distant left, and Catalina Island to the right.
Someone is planting vines on a private tract of land.
Schatzi and Betty Weider donated one of the last tracts of land to complete the trail, an act memorialized by this unspeakably ugly monument. Betty is a former bodybuilder and commercial model who married physique entrepreneur Joe Weider and who contributed articles for Muscle and Fitness Magazine.
Day 3: I depart at dawn from a spot overlooking the Thousand Oaks area in order to assure my arrival in time at the end of the day for the celebratory dinner at Malibu Seafood.
I approach the Boney Mountain-Sandstone Peak range.
The Backbone Trail heads directly for Sandstone Peak (3,111 ft), the tallest of the Santa Monica peaks, bypassing the fabulous Mishe Mokwa Trail area seen here to the east.
Ventura and Port Hueneme come into view.
There is more shade cover in the 3,000 ft descent than I expect.
The first sighting of seasonal California poppies is a highly anticipated moment for many Californians.
Absorbed in listening to an audiobook, I am doubly surprised when I nearly walk onto a four-foot rattlesnake sunbasking in middle of the trail. I jump back and quickly fiddle with my iphone in order to take a photo while it scurries off the trail making its loud rattle noises. I count twelve rattles.
In principle I don't mind sharing some trails with bikes, and the bikers I encounter are all considerate and careful, but after a while I tire of looking over my shoulder.
The final push for the Pacific.
My final destination is below at the Ray Miller Trailhead. It appears close but takes more than an hour to reach on the exceptionally long and scenic trail.
Military jets are often seen in the Sierra, but they are here as well, based in the nearby naval station. These two appear to be AWACS planes (Airborne Warning And Control System).
As I draw closer I know that many of these campers below have large ice chests filled with cold beer, adding to my sense of anticipation.
Success! Celebratory dinner at Malibu Seafood.
Information about the BBT: The official pdf is already a bit dated. Additional helpful trip reports can be found here and here. I cached water the day before I left in three places where the Topanga Canyon, Yerba Buena and Kanaan Dune roads intersect the trail. The longest stretch with no water is between the Tapia trailhead and the Danielson Ranch, which is also the highest and possibly the hottest portion of the trail. Although Trippet Ranch offers water, one can also walk a short distance down the Topanga Canyon Road crossing for food. I advise some advance map research and possibly the use of a GPX track as the trail is not well marked. I enjoyed the trip and plan to walk it annually as a spring tune-up.