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GREAT HIKES: New Hiking Schedule Begins:

Monday, July 18, kicks off the new season of night-hikes in the local Santa Monica Mountains. With daylight saving time in full bloom, the hikes are really more aptly described as “early evening,” as only the 8-8:30 p.m. return will be in twilight.

Every Monday and Wednesday, at 6:30 p.m., hikers are invited to join the free adventures, including twenty-one different trails, rolling from the west and then inland to the east. Most hikes are suitable for intermediary skills, but a few require some climbing and a willingness to get off the larger, common trails. This is not a formal club, but rather whoever shows up, goes. One of the regulars is usually there to lead the way, but you never know for sure. Wear your boots, bring some water in a fannypack, and be prepared for adventure.

The first hike on the schedule can be one of the most scenic and one of the more difficult, depending on the route taken. We call the hike “Los Liones,” (like a lot of hikes, it only describes where we meet) which offers some of the most diverse terrain. Take Sunset Boulevard to Los Liones, just east of PCH, and continue up to the cul de sac’s dead-end. There are several potential approaches to eventually arrive high up at the spectacular Paseo Overlook, but the decision is only made on the spot — so be prepared for whatever may come.

The next five hikes are all in the Palisades Highlands, and include the always challenging Crack, Wind Caves and Wirebreak, which are perhaps the three most difficult treks of the series.

Next up is Bienvenida (a charming little variation of Temescal Canyon), and then the Temescal Waterfall, followed by Chatauqua, Will Rogers Park and points continuing to the east. The series ends with Franklin Canyon, above Beverly Hills, a little bit of a drive in traffic, but a worthwhile experience.

Over the years, lots of readers have called me about these hikes and I’m always happy to take the calls. The biggest concern seems to be the anxiety about showing up at a trailhead with a bunch of strangers and taking off into the wilds unknown, unsure of the group’s skill level. It’s an understandable concern, and the truth is I do recall sending one hiker back to the trailhead, but that was the sole exception. Generally, it isn’t so much about the difficulty or the pace as opposed to the spirit. The more difficult climbing hike is likely to also be the slowest. Conditioning ends up being the most relevant on the grinding uphills, and many hikers fall behind in a train of different paces. You’ll usually find me walking sweep.

So don’t be too nervous about keeping up, we’ve only lost a few hikers over the years and are still holding out hope that we’ll find them alive and well on a trail somewhere.Fearless readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes should call Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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