Peak 2,270ft P300

Thu, Nov 23, 2017

With: Jackie Burd
Cheryl Macaraeg

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


Before the ritualistic gorging that is Thanksgiving, my wife and daughter joined me for a short hike in the Simi Hills near my sister's house in the western San Fernando Valley. The temperature was already almost 90F when we were to start late in the morning, so it was purposely designed to be short, about a mile each way. My goal was an unnamed summit with almost over 450ft of prominence that lies on Southern California Edison property. Pioneer Pass is located at the top of Box Canyon, about 10min from where we were staying, making for a short drive around the Chatsworth Reservoir (which hasn't seen water since I was a kid living near here 50 years ago), and up past Woolsey Canyon Rd, the main entrance to SSFL (Santa Susana Field Laboratory). This research facility a few miles up the road in the hills, originally owned by Rocketdyne, was the site of liquid-fuel rocket testing and experimental nuclear reactors. I remember hearing the roar of the Apollo engines being tested when I was a kid. I knew nothing of the 10 reactors operating there that suffered at least four serious accidents between 1959 and 1972, one of which is reported to have released more than 450 times the radioactive material as did Three Mile Island. With horrendously lacking oversight, the grounds of the facility were contaminated to such an extent that the EPA eventually was brought in to halt the dangerous and illegal burning of chemically and radioactively contaminated materials in 1994. Through a series of consolidations among defense contractors, the site is now owned by Boeing but the facility was decommissioned in 2006. The site will likely never be cleared of contamination. All of this about two miles from where I spent my childhood in Canoga Park. Good times.

A dirt SCE powerline road runs southwest from Pioneer Pass, just below the crest of the riddeline whose highpoint is Peak 2,270ft. A heavy steel gate at the start is unsigned, difficult for vehicles to breach but easy for foot traffic. We hiked up the road about a mile until just below the summit where the road tops out before dropping into Bell Canyon, a gated community next door. The last 1/10mi was steep cross-country up a modestly brushy slope, so my wife declined while Jackie and I forged ahead. We found a whole bevy of abandoned construction trucks just on the other side of the crest, a forlorn collection that looks to have been forgotten for decades. We scrambled to the highest rock with a cool overlook of the San Fernando Valley to the east and the Simi Valley to the northwest. We wandered through the maze of dead-end roads on which the equipment had been parked, looking for an easier descent back to the powerline road. We tried multiple places but none seemed to lead back to the side we had come up from. Eventually we found a sketchy bit of rock and brush to descend, adding a few scratches to the collection Jackie had acquired on her legs over the past few days. You'd think she'd know better than to wear shorts when hiking with Dad. Silly girl. Mom had texted us that she was starting down and we almost (but not quite) caught up with her at the end. Hot and sweating more than a two mile hike should, we cranked the AC and drove back to sis's house for showers. Time for the feasting to begin...


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