20 Hikers Complete Backbone Trail Trek 2010

Story by Jerry Mitcham
Photos* by Jerry Mitcham and Brian Gravelle

A total of twenty hikers participated in the 9th annual Backbone Trail Trek over a seven-day period, May 1 - 8, 2010 in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. They hiked 65 miles from Point Mugu State Park to Will Rogers State Historic Park.

A staff of six full-time volunteers conducted the hike and several additional, part-time volunteers prepared evening meals.

The initial rendezvous and first night's camp took place on a balmy evening at the Thornhill–Broome State Beach in Point Mugu State Park. It seemed appropriate to spend our first night on the beach. In the following days, we would often have breathtaking views of the ocean, but would not again reach the waters edge. On our first day, we spent an enjoyable evening around the campfire renewing old friendships and creating new ones. The comradery was lubricated by several bottles of wine donated by one of the repeat hikers, who is also a part time wine maker. Several of this year's participants were repeating the experience from years past. Lee Thompson of Long Beach, Calif. was on his 6th trek; Shari Shepherd of Santa Barbara was a four-time veteran; Aurellio Albaisa of Woodland Hills was on his third trek and there were also two, 2nd time trekkers.

Sunday, May 2nd, the hike began at the western terminus of the Backbone Trail in La Jolla Canyon, beginning our 65 miles trek to the eastern terminus in Will Rogers State Historic Park. Participants hiked nine to ten miles each day with a total, cumulative elevation change of over eleven thousand feet. Each evening, trekkers gathered around the camp kitchen for hors d'oeuvre and favorite drinks while discussing the day's sights and adventures. Monday was the largest daily elevation gain of the week, when we ascended 3,000 feet to Sandstone Peak, highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. Wednesday, May 5th, we accomplished one of the longer hikes of the week and were rewarded in camp with a magnificent "Cinco de Mayo" Mexican dinner. One of the highlights of the trek occurred on Thursday evening at Malibu Creek State Park, when BBQ master Frank Padilla brought his mobile smoker to camp and prepared a wonderful meal of smoked tri-tip. Friday evening after dinner, hikers were awarded with certificates and trail patches recognizing their 65-mile accomplishment. The trek concluded on Saturday, May 8th as the somewhat tired but proud hikers marched into Will Rogers State Historic Park.

Several of the out-of-area hikers expressed surprise and delight at the diversity of the Santa Monica Mountains. As a result of this year's spring rain pattern, we were treated to an abundance of wildflowers; hiker-leader Dave Edwards counted a total of 142 blooming species during the week. The weather during the week was near perfect with cool hiking days and balmy evenings.

This year's success is attributed to having twenty cheerful and congenial hikers supported by several dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. Many are looking forward to Backbone Trail Trek 2011.

*See full set of photos from the 2010 Trek on Flickr.