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.