Sycamore Canyon
Saturday, January 31, 2009

It is said that the map is not the territory.  It should be noted that trail markers are not necessarily the territory, either.

Recently I was pleased to learn that there is a trail that leads from the Ridge Fire Road, where I often hike, down to Sycamore Canyon, which I've never visited.  I looked it up on Google Maps (in retrospect, not the best source for hiking information), and it appeared as though you could do a nice loop from Hellman Trail, east along Sycamore Canyon, around the Rose Hills Pagoda, to link you back with Skyline Drive — about 6 miles round trip (see map).  That was the plan.  With the map committed to memory, I set out to explore the territory.

It was a beautiful day.  I had very nice views of Catalina Island, downtown L.A., and I could even see the Hollywood sign.  I got a close-up look at a turkey vulture circling just overhead; easily mistaken for a hawk, they're neat-looking even if they are vultures.

So I found the trail that led down to Sycamore Canyon, and decended the many switchbacks to a nice little creek.  Just after crossing the creek, I arrived at a large clearing, which I believed to be the Sycamore Canyon Trail.  I was expecting a "T" intersection; however, there was a sign at the juncture that said that the trail goes south (the direction from which I had just come), and west, toward Workman Mill Road.  But not east.  I walked to east side of the clearing, and didn't immediately see a trail, but on closer investigation I found a narrow path heading the direction I wanted to go.

The trail was quite beautiful.  It was shady and pleasant, with cool breezes wafting through the ravine.  After a couple miles, however, the trail came to an abrupt end with a sign that read "Park Boundary".  There was no sign of the pagoda.  Exploring the area revealed no trails leading east from that point.


Dead End.  No loop for you!!

Disappointed, I headed back, thinking first of all, that I should try finding the trail from the other direction, and secondly, that it's probably time I learn how to use that GPS device that Thomas gave me.  When I got back to the park entrance, I checked out the map (I suppose I should have done that first), and found that I wasn't on Sycamore Canyon Trail at all.  I was on the Dark Canyon Trail.  According to this map, the Sycamore Canyon Trail doesn't go east from that point; only west.

When I got home, I pulled up Google Maps again and took a closer look.  I can see now where the fabled Sycamore Canyon Road diverges from the Dark Canyon Trail (pictured left).  I never saw any path branching off to my left, but perhaps I just overlooked it.  I'm not 100% convinced that that path is truly there; I think I may try approaching it from the other direction to see what I can find.

I also found this map on the web; Dark Canyon isn't listed, but you can see that the Sycamore Canyon Trail leads west to Workman Mill Road.  Sycamore Canyon is very pretty, by the way; I walked west along the trail for a bit before doubling back to Dark Canyon.

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a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know Your name will trust in You,
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proclaim among the nations what He has done.
For He who avenges blood remembers;
He does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.
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