HIKE 04: Temescal to Will Rogers with Will Rogers loop

We took some time to regain our bearings and decided to jump back in with a familiar trail that we knew we could handle.

The Temescal Canyon gateway trail is a popular workout loop in Pacific Palisades.  It's a taut 3 miles with an impressive 1,000 foot fast climb.  And it's usually very crowded with a random mix of trail runners, day camp groups, and over dressed elderly Asians. (I have no explanation for that last demographic that has been well represented every single time I've been on this trail.)  This has been our go-to spot for a 90 minute exercise hike for the last year and a half.  But 3 miles is just a biiiiiiiit too much of a step back for our goals, so we opted for something a little more involved.

Spur trails from the canyon loop connect to a network of trails that lead to the backbone and into Topanga State Park.  But most of that is in bright sun--not the best plan for our bounce back hike.  Instead we opted for a less busy trail that connects Temescal to Will Rogers.  It's a fairly short four-mile out-and-back hike with a ridge to climb each way.  Looking for a bit more than 4 miles, we added the mile-long fire road path within Will Rogers State Park.  In total, it was about 6 miles from car door to car door.  Not terribly challenging to help sooth any anxieties, but still more than a walk in the park to help transition into future hikes.

The weather was unseasonably cool for April--high 60s at most--as we set off from our car past cabins that could easily be a set piece for an 80s horror movie. (and maybe they were.) We veered away from the crowds on the popular route and started climbing the stairs that make a gradual climb up the valley's edge.  It had rained earlier in the week so the trail was on the verge of overgrowth, but not so much that we needed to turn back.

On the way up we passed one couple with a pair of off-leash dogs. We always see a few on this trail.  And they're almost always off-leash even though it's not technically allowed.  If we ever actually get a dog ourselves, I'm sure we'll be back up here with the pooch often. 

Once the trail switches back a few times climbing through shady vegetation, we crested the canyon ridge for fantastic ocean view across the Palisades.  On this day, it happened to be foggy and hazy.  On a clear day you can see a view that extends from distant snowcaps to Downtown LA to Hermosa, Palos Verdes and Catalina. We continued along the bright ridgeline, passing a water storage structure, before decending back down into another valley.

The trail narrows a bit for the switchbacks down--a bit steeper and more condensed than the earlier climb. Eventually we dropped into a lush, cool valley that I recall holding its green color even in the dry months of late summer.  On this morning it was almost jungle-like.

We followed a dry stream-bed until the trail made a run along the back fences of a few million-dollar houses on the ridge above that sat on properties extending all the way to the canyon floor--the last of which had a decent sized stable in the back.  A group of workers were clearing bush from a hillside behind a different house. The groaning of their gas-powers machines broke up the sound of birds we had heard up til that point. With fire an ever-present danger, their work is essential. But looking at the overgrowth surrounding both neighboring houses, I wondered if the effort was futile--or if a neighbor feud was in the works over this issue.

The trail crosses a cul de sac with no reason to exist and continues up another hill, passing a few houses, before emptying into a field on the edge of Will Rogers State Park.  Unlike the our walk to this point, Will Rogers is sunny, pristine, bright, landscaped and structured.  The central focus of the park is a polo field and the historic ranch home of the actor who originally lived here. Horses are everywhere and there's a gorgeous sloping lawn that's always filled with picnicking families, couples and friends.  We wouldn't be bothering with any of that.

Instead we walked the leisurely loop along a wide gravel fire road to Inspiration Point at the apex of the park.  It's a bit of a climb, but nothing intense.  At the top, we took in the panoramic view and reflected on where we go from here.

As we started the walk back out of Will Rogers, a family warned us of a snake on the trail a mile ahead...we never saw it. (And they didn't say rattle, so we're pros when it comes to snakes now anyway!)   And about halfway we heard what was undoubtedly a swarm of bees but wisely didn't stick around below to investigate.

In the end, it wasn't exceptionally challenging and the weather was far more friendly than anything we can expect ahead, but it was exactly what we needed--an adrenaline boost in the ass to get us over our little speed bump in the Los Padres National Forest.

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