Laguna Peak
La Jolla Peak P900
Red Mountain P1K
Rincon Mountain P1K

Mon, Mar 24, 2014
Etymology
Red Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3

Continued...

My daughter's volleyball tournament in LA wrapped up a bit earlier than expected on Monday, leaving me with much of the afternoon. I left downtown and headed north and west on the 101 (in SoCal, highway numbers are always preceeded by "the", unlike the rest of the country). I was heading to Ventura County where I had some prominence summits in mind. One was an FAA site, two were on private property, and a bonus fourth summit was a USN communications site - there was some risk involved in the afternoon plans.

Laguna Peak / La Jolla Peak

These two summits are located on the western boundary of Pt. Mugu State Park at the far west end of the Santa Monica Mountains. There is a paved road leading to the summit of Laguna Peak, but it is off-limits to non-military personnel. A little-used road continues from Laguna to La Jolla Peak, site of an FAA VOR station, an omnidirectional beacon used in civilian aircraft navigation. 25 years ago when I used to fly single engine planes, I'd use these beacons to fix my position and help navigate up and down the state. Now I was making a habit of visiting these sites on foot. Rather than use the road which would leave me exposed to easy observation, I used the Chumash TH at the state park to approach from within the park by a slightly more circuitous route. A fire had swept over the area in the past few years leaving the hillsides scorched and making cross-country travel rather easy. Where I left the Chumash Trail as it went over a saddle with Mugu Peak, I turned left and headed up the barren slopes. A use trail leading up this ridgeline towards Laguna Peak was evident even with the brush burned away. The flora was beginning its recovery, sprouting new shoots from the base of the burned brush and cactus. Some flowers even managed to flourish in this ashen environment. A boundary fence that followed the ridge was now mostly fallen and of little use. Climbing higher, a layer of coastal fog enshrouded much of the higher reaches, obscuring what would otherwise be fine views of the Pacific to the south. This was not the day to get views. Atop Laguna Peak I found a modern Navy tracking station, not the disused Cold War relic I'd hoped for. The area was surrounded by three fences, the outermost one rather formidable. As I neared the fence and the benchmarks marking the Navy property, I heard a loud alarm buzzer go off from somewhere inside. Did they have motion sensors on the periphery, I wondered? They did not. The buzzer was incidental to my approach, used to warn personnel inside that the giant antenna was about to start moving. It arced about 30 degrees from its initial upright position to settle into a new direction before going quiet again. Clearly I would not be trying to reach the highpoint of Laguna today.

The higher summit along the ridge is La Jolla Peak, and it was to this I next headed, following the old, little-used road that I found running atop the ridgeline. I hiked along for about half an hour to reach the VOR station installed at the leveled summit. Locating an actual highpoint would be somewhat futile, but I wandered around the periphery until I found the 1964 benchmark. Unlike the Navy installation, the security at the FAA site is minimal, consisting of a simply wooden fence whose only real capability was to keep cows out. I dropped south off the La Jolla summit into La Jolla Valley and back into the state park. There I picked up a trail and followed it back to the saddle with Mugu Peak and then back down to Highway 1 where I'd started.

Red Mountain

Red Mtn is a P1K located in the coastal range between Lake Casitas and the Pacific Ocean northwest of Ventura. At least half of the surrounding land is managed by county, state or federal officials according to some maps, but getting to the summit seems to be difficult no matter how one attempts it due to private property concerns. I chose to use an all-private route from the north starting from Casitas Vista Rd (which used to be Casitas Pass Rd back in the day before Casitas Dam & Reservoir were built across roadway). The land on this side of the mountain is part of a private ranch that has no permanent buildings along an old paved road that reaches to the Red Mtn summit ridge. I hiked the road starting at 5p in the hopes that any owners or visitors would have vacated the property by that time. I was happy to see not a soul during the hike. Poison oak is found pretty much everywhere in the area so cross-country travel would be ill-advised for anyone susceptible to the nasty stuff. There is some road maintenance equipment found in a clearing near the start, an equestrian corral and pasture a bit further up the road, and a picnic/recreation site located several miles further up. Lake Casitas can be seen from various points along the road during the ascent. I took an hour to reach the end of the private ranch whereupon I entered onto property owned by yet others. But by now I was less than ten minutes from the summit and far from most domiciles and vehicles. The summit ridge is home to a number of communications installations but none festooned the highpoint itself. That was reserved for a small rocky outcrop that might be almost class 3 if someone had not taken the time to create some steps and line the edge with a safety rope. The summit features a benchmark (mislabeled "READ") but no register. It has a cozy perch to sit and take in the views. Coastal fog covered the Pacific and most of the coast to a height of about 1,800ft. This left Rincon Mtn to the west as a small island in the fog in the late afternoon sunshine. With some jogging the return took less than 45 minutes and I was once again happy to not have any encounters traveling through the ranch.

Rincon Mountain

I normally would have called it a day at this point and start work on finding a place to spend the night, but I wanted to get nearby Rincon Mtn done before heading off on a long drive to the northern part of Santa Barbara County. Since it was also on private property I thought it best to do at night or very early in the morning. There was no moon to be had this evening, but I decided to do it as a night hike anyway - that would leave me free to grab dinner in Santa Barbara on my way through. I drove back out to SR33, then north to Ojai where I picked up SR150 heading west. The sun had set before I got over East Casitas Pass and it was nearly dark before I'd found a place to get me off the road and near to the gated dirt road I'd identified on the north side of Rincon. Though there are numerous homes along both sides of SR150 in this area, there were none along the dirt road I took leading to the mountain. The road was well-traveled only for the first half mile where it went to a work site where it appears someone was in the process of installing a vineyard, orchard or other agricultural business (of the strictly legal variety). The hilly ground was cleared, heavily bulldozed and awaiting further work. I passed by a small collection of construction trucks on my way through, but all was quiet at this time, now nearly dark. Past this site is another gate onto adjacent property, the road looking as though it hasn't been used in a long time. Though not overgrown with brush, there were no tire tracks to suggest recent usage. This put me at ease as I used a headlamp to negotiate the remaining two miles to the summit. I didn't mind the chill of the fog as I climbed through the damp layer of cloud, the road steep and demanding. This would have been much tougher had I started early in the morning, but since I had gotten a late start I still had plenty of reserves. A shadow moving slowly about six feet from me startled me out of complacency. It seemed too slow for a rabbit or coyote. Shining my headlamp at it, I caught only a glimpse through the fog of the white stripe down the black fur, realizing it was a skunk. One of these days I'm going to get too close to one of these nocturnal carnivores and get blasted. I waited until it had disappeared off the road and into the brush before continuing, but for the rest of the outing I was cautiously looking out for more of the same.

The summit of Rincon is crowned with a complex of antennae, generators and technician shacks, surrounded by fences. The fences are not difficult to surmount, but there didn't seem to be any higher ground within the fenced areas, the summit having been nicely bulldozed. At the north end of the large summit area are concrete footings of what appears to have been a lookout tower. Nothing remained of the structure besides these pads. I was just above the fog layer and given a brilliant display of the stars in the night sky, but the beach communities below on two sides were little more than a faint, hazy glow through the fog. I retraced my steps down the same route to finish up the night around 9p. I would be up for several more hours as I drove out to US101 and Santa Barbara, got dinner at Jack-in-the-Box off State St, then drove up to San Marcos Pass along SR154 where I found a nice spot off Camino Cielo to spend the night. Too late to watch movies, I curled up in the back of the van for a good night's sleep...

Continued...


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