17 Hikers Complete Backbone Trail Trek 2009

Story by Jerry Mitcham
Photos* by Marc Birenbaum, Warren Yeend and Jerry Mitcham

A total of seventeen hikers participated in the 8th annual Backbone Trail Trek (BBT) over a seven-day period, May 2-9, 2009 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 part-time volunteers prepared evening meals.

The Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council and Coastwalk joined forces again this year to plan and execute BBT Trek 2009. As in years past, this was a dynamic and effective team, resulting in a highly successful event.

This years' initial rendezvous and first night's camp took place at the Thornhill Broome State Beach in Point Mugu State Park. Spending the first night on the beach was a new twist and added another memory to the overall BBT experience. The next day, the hike began at the western terminus of the Backbone Trail in La Jolla Canyon and ended 65 miles later at 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 chuck wagon for hors d'oeuvres and favorite drinks while discussing the day's adventures.

Several of this year's participants were repeating the experience from years past. Lee Thompson of Long Beach, California was on his 5th trek. At the first evening's camp, Lee presented us with the product of one of his other hobbies wine making. Several bottles of his excellent Syrah wine facilitated a cheerful camaraderie, which carried over to the following day's hike. Shari Shepherd of Santa Barbara was a three-time veteran. Shari never seemed to tire of hiking, and she hiked other nearby trails in the evenings while everyone else was relaxing. It was estimated that she did a total of 86 miles during the week. There were also four second-time trekkers. Two-year veteran, Zan' Blendell of Santa Monica, thrilled us with a headstand on the Chicken Ridge Bridge. Everyone was especially impressed by first time trekker, Laurrie Webb of Pomona, California, who chose the Backbone Trek as her 50th birthday gift. We all felt privileged that she chose to spend this special day with us on the Backbone Trail.

Several of the out-of-area hikers expressed surprise and delight at the diversity of the Santa Monica Mountains. The group was treated with an abundance of wildflowers; hike-leader Burt Elliott counted a total of 157 blooming species during the week. First time trekker Richard Armerding of Newbury Park, California, an avid birder, sighted (or heard) 43 bird species during the week. The weather cooperated most days with low overcast, making for cool hiking. Of course, there were a couple of typical Santa Monica Mountains scorchers too, the worse of which hit us on Wednesday's hike on the fully exposed, Mesa Peak Motorway. Everyone was overjoyed when our thoughtful van drivers met us with plenty of cool drinks.

One of the highlights of the trek occurred on Tuesday evening, with an all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner at the popular Calamigos Ranch. The fabulous meal was accompanied with a show of "Yaqui magic" by Frank Padilla, Jr. The Trek concluded on Saturday, May 9th as the somewhat tired but proud hikers marched into Will Rogers State Historic Park.

This year's success is attributed to having seventeen cheerful and congenial hikers supported by several dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. Many are looking forward to Backbone Trail Trek 2010.

*See more photos from the Trek on Flickr.