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The Backbone Trail

January 2020

After graduation, Anthony and I decided to meet up in Santa Monica for a weekend romp on the Backbone Trail — a sixty-eight mile route running along the Santa Monica mountain range. I was visiting my folks down in LA, and Anthony had a few days to kill before starting the California Condor trail (he also, coincidentally, needed a ride to the trailhead at Lake Piru…), so logistically, the trip was fairly easy to pull off.

The only logistical hitch was finding a place to sleep on trail. The stuffy neighborhoods surrounding the trail aren’t too keen on people thru-hiking, as evidenced by there not being any good way to legally pull off an overnight trip on-route. So we may or may not have just found some nice bushes to sleep under for our night out on trail. Beyond this, my sketchy looking van seemed a touch out of place parked in front of multi-million dollar homes, and though I was legally allowed to park there, I still had my doubts that folks might not appreciate the eye sore in front of their homes.

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A mix of singletrack and fireroad made for good variety

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Sunset

All that aside, the hiking was beautiful. It was surprisingly green and quite mountainous for being so close to the ocean. We saw plenty of day hikers, but unsurprisingly, no other thru-hikers. Our buddy Noe joined us for the second day, and contributed some water to the cause, saving us from a forty mile carry. Speaking of water, we rambled into a “conservation corps” looking for water around mile fifty, which turned out to be a euphemism for a prison. We filled up our water right before the warden came out and told us we were smack in the middle of an active prison yard riddled with “dangerous felons”. He was stern and scary, as any good warden should be, but surprisingly good-spirited, and bade us good luck on our journey, which was certain to end well with all the water we got, the warden’s well wishes, and only a dozen or so miles left.

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Heading down to Point Mugu

We ended out near Point Mugu, which was quite the scenic finish to the route. Ending a trip on the ocean is always particularly striking, as you can’t go any further, you’re at land’s end. I can only imagine the feeling scales at least linearly with trip distance. Perhaps a coast-to-coast trip is in order. After soaking in the views, we hitched back to the cars. Noe got the world’s fastest hitch; about five seconds after sticking his thumb out, a Sunday driver in a BMW convertible picked him up — maybe I should retract my former statement about the community’s stuffiness. On top of that my car bore no tickets or angry notes, and wasn’t towed. I suppose the neighborhood might be filled with thru-hikers and vintage mini-van aficionados after all.

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Land's end