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Bridget Crocker Wednesday, 28 December 2011 07:35 TWEET COMMENTS 1

Pregnant Pause - Page 2

Big Backyard

I sit on a flat rock next to the trail and peel a tangerine. Uplifted by salt-scented currents, the hawk cruises Willow Creek canyon. The creek mouth empties out near Nicholas Beach, where the rainbow bridge touched down, guiding the Chumash Indians to the mainland from Limuw, or Santa Cruz Island.

I continue my out-the-front-door run by walking the rest of the way to the lookout. I imagine pregnant Chumash women standing on this knoll, their eyes scanning the water for paddled tomols returning from the islands. I touch the woody branches of a Toyon Bush aflame with red berries (qwe to the Chumash), suddenly craving a recipe for qwe jam.

For me, the trails at Leo Carrillo are a dream; I lace up on the patio and, without driving anywhere, top out at the ridgeline behind my house in under an hour. The downside is having to endure the earnest excitement of our yellow lab, Ruby, as she watches me slide into running clothes, followed by her heartbroken sighs as I leave her behind (she isn't allowed on State Park backcountry trails).

Within the Santa Monica Mountains is a 70,000-acre protected recreation area patched together by federal, state, county and city agencies. Spurred by guilt, I discover an alternative to running at Leo: Charmlee Wilderness Park, a dogs-allowed maze of singletrack owned by the city of Malibu.

Ruby and I load up and wind our way through Encinal Canyon; it takes 10 breezy minutes to reach the 530-acre park. Leashed together, we meander along the nine miles of trails, taking in shimmering views of Zuma Beach and the azure sea below. Enjoying a drive-by salad bar, Ruby grazes on tufts of tender grass shoots poking through last summer's dead stalks. She sniffs for squirrels and rattlers as we run through chaparral and coastal sage scrub, along wide-open grassy meadows and coolly shaded oak woodlands. Our backs to the ocean, we face Boney Mountain Ridge and Sandstone Peak, which at 3111 feet is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. Even though Charmlee is only a half-hour's drive from Los Angeles, it's completely deserted.

Blowin' in the Wind

The next day, again, I can't bear to disappoint Ruby, who's panting happily, silhouetted by the lavender stirrings of dawn. I'd heard of another spot, Circle X Ranch, which encompasses the highest points in the range and is run by the National Park Service. A photographer friend Rebecca Garrett joins us, and we drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to the legendary Neptune's Net at County Line and turn up Yerba Buena in pursuit of dog-friendly trails.

We settle onto a fragment of the Backbone Trail that leads to the top of Sandstone Peak. Totaling 65 miles, the Backbone Trail links Point Mugu (the northernmost tip of the Santa Monica Mountains) to Will Rodgers State Historic Park on the south end. Runners typically take three days to complete the entire ridgeline traverse.

Gusting Santa Ana winds have succeeded in blowing dust and smog particles out to sea, and I glimpse crystalline views of the San Fernando Valley and verdant Oxnard Plain.


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