Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Grotto and Sandstone Peak

Yesterday my friend Andrew and I went hiking up in the Santa Monica Mountains. I have to say that these were two of the best hikes I have ever been on. We had initially planned to go on two hikes in separate areas but once we reached our first hike we knew that we'd be spending the day there. Base camp was the Circle X Ranch, at the foot of Boney Mountain.

Our first hike took us from the Circle X Ranch down the Grotto trail. The trail was basically a descent into a ravine where we met up with a dry (in places) creek bed.

We were reminded early on that the area was rattlesnake territory and that we should proceed with caution.

As we continued down the canyon, water started showing up in the creek until there were pools of standing water. After reaching the creek we began to hit these very large house-sized boulders that had presumably fallen from the top of the hill. These boulders constituted the namesake for this hike, a magnificent grotto which featured a couple of small waterfalls and a crystal-clear pool. It seemed straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean or Tom Sawyer - I was expecting to see a treasure chest overflowing with golden coins, Pieces of Eight, and jewels!

After spending some time in the grotto, we decided to push further down the ravine to see if there were any more surprises - and we weren't let down. Not far down the creek and after another session of boulder-hopping we made it to a second grotto; not as breathtaking as the first but very cool nevertheless.

We explored a bit further but found nothing exciting, so we decided to head back up to the ranch. Instead of driving to our second spot, however, we elected to trek to the top of Sandstone Peak, which had been looming over us all afternoon. Sandstone Peak is the highest point in Santa Monica Mountains at 3111' [and not an easy hike].

The view was incredible from up there. It was so inspiring, in fact, that we decided to hike the entire loop around the mountains.

By the end of the hike both of my calf muscles and both quadriceps were cramping up pretty badly and I felt like I had been hit by a bus. I guess that is my body telling me that I'm out of shape. Despite the exhaustion, this day had produced two of the most rewarding hikes I have ever been on and I very much look forward to going back.

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