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Updated May 11
Available Reviews
Circle X Ranch
Topanga State Park
Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Leo Carrillo State Park
Malibu Creek State Park
Date of Review

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         What a crazy Spring it has been. We are mostly moved back in after the evacuation during the fire but things are still a bit disorganized. Beyond that everyone has been working on the fire so a lot of our regular business has been put on hold. Safety concerns keep the trails in and near the burn area closed. Although the fire is now contained that is not the same thing as the much more significant "controlled" status. Many areas will remain closed even after that until safety and environmental issues can be fully assessed. Here at Circle X Ranch all of the trails west and north of Yerba Buena are closed and over near Rancho Sierra Vista everything is closed. I'm itching to get out there myself but even Park staff can only enter the burn with a fire escort. Don't forget that this is not only about your safety, but also that the environment is very fragile right now. It may look like just some burned-out moonscape but how it recovers next year will depend on how we treat it now. Thoughtless footprints through the burn (so very tempting now that everything is wide open and in plain view) can have a negative impact that will last for years. My "tread lightly" solution has always been to look at things, even things close by, with a pair of binoculars. I always buy my binocs with close-focusing characteristics so I can get a close-up view of flowers even when only a few feet off trail. They are a little more expensive than the typical pair but they have helped me avoid needlessly trampling things for years. Not only that they significantly reduce my risk of exposure to things like poison oak, ticks, and rattlesnakes by keeping me on-trail.
         I have notes for several flower reports I made before the fire but they seem moot now. As you probably know things remain excruciatingly dry. That said you can find flowers but you will need to use your "Summer" flower hunting skills to find them. The clarkias and other late season flowers are doing OK in some locations but a lot of reliable sites look pretty barren. Other plants we typically expect to still be blooming have prematurely withered. I've noticed that many plants that did flower this year did not have enough resources left over to produce seeds. For example, it appears we've essentially lost the entire shooting star seed crop at many locations. Here at CXR we did the piece of the backbone trail south of Yerba Buena a couple weeks ago and it had some sparse but nice displays on it (that trail is open at CXR.) There are other sheltered trails worth exploring. Let us all know what else you have been seeing.  ‑ ed.

Circle X Ranch
The Grotto Trail (with a couple of side spurs)
         I was expecting a paucity of flowers due to our lack of rain but found this hike to be very rewarding. Star lilies were the star of the hike, we saw more than a hundred of them in bloom. Leaving the group campground we saw canyon sunflowers, blue dicks, morning glory and greenbark ceanothus which seemed to be at the very end of its blooming. The stream was completely dry at the first and second stream crossing. Going uphill to the meadow there is a rocky seep that is always rewarding with spring flowers. Today there were blue larkspur and Chinese houses. Further along there were blooming black sage, woolly blue curls and popcorn flower and the first of the many star lilies. In the meadow there were several Catalina mariposa lilies as well as vetch, blue eyed grass and sticky monkey flower. Descending through the chaparral there were blooming chamise, Southern tauschia, purple nightshade, wishbone flower, mustard evening primrose and virgin's bower. Along the trail at the bottom of the canyon we saw California everlasting, hedge nettle, wild cucumber, peony, sweet pea, meadow nemophila and hummingbird sage. On the way to the grotto we stopped and watched newts in several pools. On our return we took a side trip to the old Happy Hollow campground which was carpeted in dove lupine with patches of johnny-jump-ups and common fiddleneck and a hillside of padres shooting stars. Also on our return we went a ways on the Canyon View Trail where we saw hundreds of yellow monkey flowers along with twining snapdragon, chia, caterpillar phacelia, globe gillia and collarless poppies.  ‑ Dorothy Steinicke

Topanga State Park
Sullivan Canyon Fire Road
         The paved road serves Camp Josepho, and there is a ridge trail with many wildflowers. About a mile in, you reach a large area that burned last September, extending uphill from the road and down the opposite side of the ridge. Last month there were many Wild Cucumber vines, most in flower, sprawled over the discolored ground. Now they are producing many of their spiny seed pods, which are just beginning to fade from their bright green. Some are brown and splitting, producing their large, light brown seeds. The fire killed many of the ceanothus within the burn area. Mountain Mahogany, Sumac, Chamise, Elderberry and Coast Live Oak are all sprouting from the stumps, except where the fire was hottest and the plants were evidently killed. If you walk up through the burn area, the trail following the ridge provides many wildflowers: Blue Dicks, Lupine, Phacelia (Giant and Wooly), Popcorn Flower, Twining Snapdragon, Star Lily, Shiny Lomatium, Bush and Canyon Sunflower. Once the ridge trail rejoins the road, and continuing north, you’ll see Pacific Sanicle, Fuschia-Flowering Gooseberry, more Sunflowers, Poison Oak, and when nearly to the point where the road goes downhill into the Scout Camp, there is a beautiful Virgin’s Bower (Clematis). Following the road back, when a few hundred yards beyond the burned area is a Bush Poppy (Dendromicon rigida.) There are more flowers blooming along the ridge trail than on the road itself. Be careful; bicycles use this trail also, and it is very narrow and severely eroded in places from the heavy bicycle traffic. At some points, you will be walking in a trench 2-3 feet deep. It's a great opportunity to see plants regenerating after a brush fire.  ‑ Carol Mathews

Upper Zuma/Trancas Canyons
Backbone Trail: Kanan Dume to about half way to Encinal Canyon
         There were far more flowers than we expected and here is the list: marsh parsley, common eucrypta, common bedstraw, blue larkspur, hedge nettle, fiesta flower, fig wort, black sage, Spanish broom, vervain, sticky monkey, scarlet pimpernel, caterpillar phacelia, small flowered popcorn, prickly lettuce, annual malacothrix, black mustard, deer weed, sweet yellow clover, yucca, Mexican elderberry, California everlasting, canyon sunflower, heart-leaved penstemon, bush lupine, large-flowered phacelia, elegant clarkia, Hummingbird sage, blue dicks, miners lettuce, skullcap, Indian warrior, poison oak, woodland stars, California blackberry, Pacific sanicle, one globe lily with more coming, blue-eyed grass, silver puffs, lemonade berry, small evening primrose, southern tauchia, and checker bloom.  ‑ John & Barbara Goldthwait

Leo Carrillo
Ridgeline Trail
         Last Tuesday I hiked the trail from Leo Carrillo toward Nicholas Flat and in contrast to the above report on Upper Zuma/Trancas Canyons there was almost nothing. Many blooms were truncated or never came at all. Only a few purple sage plants, for example, had any blooms and most had none at all. It was as though that area had gotten even less rain than other areas. Some plants had started to bloom but there was not enough moisture with them to complete blooming.  ‑ John Goldthwait

Malibu Creek State Park
Phantom Trail
         I used the signed trailhead on Mulholland Hwy for the Phantom Trail. Along the first 1/8 of a mile I found nice displays of Purple Nightshade, Eucrypta, Bush Sunflower, White Popcorn Flower, Indian Paintbrush, and Greenbark Ceanothus. There were also a few Sticky Phacelia . For the next half a mile there is not much happening till you start to get to the top of the ridge. There, I found more Popcorn Flower, Indian Paintbrush, Bush Sunflower, and some Owls Clover. Going on, there is a fork in the trail with the main trail bypassing the ridge, and a trail continuing up the ridge. On the main trail, there are Fiesta Flowers, Fiddlenecks, Ceanothus, and California Peony. On the ridge trail there are some California Poppies on the lower north facing slopes of the first two summits that you come to. The second one has the best display of Poppies, with some Red Maids mixed in. A nice loop can be made by combining the two trails.  ‑ Jim Garafalo

Contact Information:

Santa Monica Mountains NRA
401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

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