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Today I went on a hike. It was called Chatsworth Peak. We made it to the top but then I got stung by a bee and then I cried and cried and here's some advice. When a bee stings you be calm and take a deep breath. Remember. Thank you for listening. Annie DiGiuseppe. The end.
Long before my eight year-old neice was awake, I was up by the crack of dawn and driving south for the Santa Monica Mtns. I was staying at my sister's place babysitting Annie and her two older sisters while Mom and Dad were out for the weekend. Luckily the oldest is eighteen, so it wasn't imperative that I be at the house the whole time. Their home in the west end of the San Fernando Valley is only a few miles from where I grew up, but it is far from the Sierra and and other high peaks. I'd climbed all the nearby HPS peaks over the past few years, but there are a dozen or so lower LPC peaks. And it was to these I set my sights on.
I was heading to the small town of Calabasas, a well-to-do community in the foothills on the north side of the range. By 6a I had found the Cold Creek TH which I used to access Calabasas Peak. The trail was brush free and easy going for the half hour it took to wind its way up the chaparral-covered hillsides to reach the fire road atop the crest.
The Santa Monica Mtns are a patchwork of county, state, federal, and private lands encompassing the Santa Monica National Recreation Area. As close as they are to millions of folks in the LA area, they are very popular. At the edge of one private tract I found a Notice of Violation on a post, the City of Calabasas citing the landowner for some infraction - just what it was I couldn't tell. Shortly before reaching the summit I entered the SMMC (Santa Monica Mtns Conservancy Zone), a joint effort of three different government agencies. The summit of Calabasas is reached by a short use trail just off the fire road, up a steep hillside and then among the chaparral encircling the top. A rock cairn enclosed a fairly new summit register. The inside cover indicated that other books had been here once, now gone. There was also a survey marker labeled 'DRY CANYON' that was placed in 1950. In addition to views of the San Fernando Valley, there was a fine view of higher Saddle Peak (next on the agenda) to the south and even higher Sandstone Peak (target for the following day) far to the west. The hike to the summit took only 40 minutes and less than 30 minutes for the return.
I then motored south to Stunt Rd and Saddle Peak. I found the Saddle Peak Trail just before Stunt Rd reaches a four-way junction at the crest of the range. There is a paved road just before the TH that leads to a water tank higher up, but the road is marked private and there appears to be an occupied trail parked just below the water tank. The cinderblock foundation is all that remains of a home that once stood here, and spray-painted warnings suggest visitors are not welcome. I followed the trail as it skirts this homesite and the water tank, following it up to first the higher east summit, then to the slightly lower west summit that is adorned with various communication towers. The highpoint and summit benchmark are ensconsed behind a formidible fence that proved only a mild hindrance to a scrambler.
The summit has fine views (if you can ignore the towers) of the Pacific Ocean to the south, from LA to Malibu. Haze and fog obscured much of the coastline this morning. The whole hike took less than an hour, and not long after 9a I was back in the valley.
At this point I figured my day was done. Annie, wise to the Internet and the ways of the web, had been intrigued the night before to find that I had my very own website. Various hikes had featured her sisters and cousins, but there were none for herself. She was determined to go on a hike with me to get her name among the famous. I figured she would have forgotten about it by morning, seeing as Mom declared she cared little for hiking, but she was as determined in the morning when I got back as she'd been the night before. A hike with Annie was needed.
I had to find something very easy, less than a mile and not so much elevation gain. Poking around, I came across Chatsworth Peak only a few miles from her house. I had heard nothing of this peak until now, guessing it must be on private property to garner no attention. It looked like a paved road could get us within the required one mile distance, so with a mental map in my head, we were off.
I didn't pick the best route to reach Santa Susana Pass, but after twenty minutes of horrendously windy roads we found our way to Lilac Ln just west of the pass. The road travels through a mix of upscale and oldscale homes in the rocky Chatsworth Hills, eventually turning into a dirt road marked 'Private', but not gated. I had intended to start the walk from here, but if we could drove further, all the better. We drove about a third of a mile to a junction with more Private Property signs. I pulled over here to park, as the road to the summit was just behind us, off to the side.
The paved road was old, but in good shape leading up to a water tank on the south side of the summit. Annie was quick to declare, "This is easy!" though in fact the road was fairly steep. Her prancing and carefree attitude lasted all of one minute before she fell back in line, and another minute before she needed her first rest. The summit was only 300ft above where we parked and maybe half a mile, so there was no need to hurry. Slow and steady wins the race, and in this case also keeps Annie from turning on me.
Halfway up we came to the water tank and a clearing where the road swithbacks, half a dozen old vehicles and plenty of junk littering the area. It would have been an interesting place to explore had we not found it occupied. A shirtless man about 30 popped his head up and asked with a scowl, "Can I help you?" I pointed to the top and said we were just going to the summit. Having an eight year-old in tow helped allay any fears he may have had, and he went back to his business without giving us another look - though just what his business was we never determined.
Having an encounter with a homeless guy was odd enough, but looking back down to where our car was parked I noticed a collection of half a dozen cars parked just out of view about 100yds past where we'd left the van. An equal number of men were walking about, conversing, and looking like they had some plan of action in mind as they buzzed about the landscape. There was no home, no buildings of any kind, no vegetation save for the harsh native scrub. It looked almost like a drug deal or some other nefarious activity was taking place below us. This wouldn't go over well if Mom knew I was taking Annie into such a local knowingly or otherwise. I kept on eye on them, but didn't bring it to Annie's attention. She had enough on her mind just trying to get to the top.
From the water tank the road turned to dirt and had not been driven on in years judging from the brush growing on it. Despite a mild amount of bushwhacking to get through the sock-attacking thistles and thorny grasses, Annie was a trooper and managed her way to the top. The summit area was broad, much of it bulldozed flat, and there was a great deal of junk everywhere. I have never seen a more trashy summit. There was almost every conceivable type of junk to be found in one pile or another - old appliances, cars, trucks, construction equipment, run down buildings, a tractor, several busses, generators, a trailer, even children's toys. It's possible the trailer was occupied, so I didn't want to spend any time looking around much. We wandered over to what looked like the highest rocks and climbed them, declaring our hike a success. Perhaps a little too soon.
Just as we were leaving the summit, Annie, following just behind, let out a very loud scream. I turned around to see her in a panic and could hear the buzzing of one or more bees. I guessed she might have been stung, but didn't think that was a good place to examine her. I grabbed her and carried her out of the rocks thinking we may have passed too close to a hive. Out of harms way, I examined her neck and removed a bee stinger that was still attached to where the bee had attacked her.
While there was no doubt in my mind, there was considerable doubt in Annie's, though perhaps it was just denial. Rather than shouting, "I got stung by a bee!" she kept repeating, "I DIDN'T get stung by a bee! I DIDN'T!" With no reason to argue, I simply agreed with her. She was done with hiking at this point and wanted to get home to a safe environment. Unfortunately we were still at the summit, though the car was within view. No easy task, I carried her halfway down the mountain until we were past the brushy parts and she could walk on her own. Her high panic had subsided to a much lower level, still crying, but not with the heavy sobs she had started with.
Her denial also waned as we neared the van, finally suggesting, "Maybe I got stung by a LITTLE bee..." As I found later, she had never been stung by a bee before, but Mom had, and she'd had a more severe reaction that didn't fully develop for several days. So Annie was connecting bee stings with visits to the hospital and she wanted no part of it. On the drive home her mood changed to empathy, thinking the bee probably didn't MEAN to sting her. "An accident, perhaps." I collaborated. This empathy eventually moved down a path to one of pure love. "I think the bee was trying to tell me it loved me! But since it couldn't talk, it stung me instead!" I was good with that explanation as well.
Even after we were home and had applied an icepack and the pain had receded to the point where she'd forgotten which side of her neck the bite was on, it was still a point of lively (mostly one-sided) conversation. This much was sure - she'd remember that hike with Uncle Bob for years to come.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Saddle Peak
This page last updated: Tue Nov 1 16:39:24 2016
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