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GREAT HIKES: Day Hiking in the Santa Monicas:

It has been a long time since I took a hike in the heat of the day. I’ve grown accustomed to evening treks, and it hasn’t been especially warm in recent weeks.

Last Sunday morning, however, occasional hiker Marcie Polier Swartz called and asked to go someplace local for a “little hike,” ideally somewhere she’d never been before. Surprisingly, she’d never hiked the “top of Kenter,” a broad and scenic fire road a few miles north of Sunset Boulevard, in the heart of Brentwood.

We met at 1 p.m. and it was HOT up there. We could see the fogged in coastline and overcast skies hovered over all of Santa Monica – but up there it was as blazing as a summer day in the middle of November. I always carry water, but this time I thought: How much water do you need for a short hike on a cool day? I needed it, and I’ll never make that cavalier mistake again!

You know where the Kenter trailhead begins because of the imposing double black gates – one fat tubular one to prevent cars or tanks from passing and another very tall black mesh fence with a small pedestrian gate on the right. It’s not a particularly inviting combination and one only needs to see the newer Westridge Trail entrance to appreciate what a trailhead should look like. (Westridge says: “We’re proud of this great asset.” Kenter says, ” OK, go in here if you have to but we’d really prefer that you didn’t.”)

Nevertheless, we climbed over the barricade and slipped through the gate, heading uphill toward the scenic crest. If you’ve been around as long as I have, you know to look west and check out a glimpse of the newer monster mansions, including the Governor’s digs, just below the road. A few years ago, the development of these mega-pads was a mega- controversy, a prelude to the debate that’s raging now about development and possible closure of the trail further up the road.

  More houses are planned up there and the new homeowners think that the trail should be gated and perhaps restricted.

“They were misled,” Councilman Bill Rosendahl explained at a recent Town hall meeting. He assured the crowd that the trail would remain open, and that the homeowners were incorrect in their perception that the trail could be closed for their privacy.

I’m sure that this is not the end of the dispute, but, for the moment at least, I am grateful to be able to enjoy this great trail.

Marcie and I took the fire road about 45 minutes up, which brought us to the crest and the base of the upper municipal building (there is another about half way up). With a little water, we would have continued to the back entrance of Mountaingate. The hike back is all downhill and “into the view,” which includes a sweeping vista of Santa Monica to downtown LA.

We were the only hikers out there on a Sunday afternoon – a disapponting utilization of this great resource and a puzzlement as to what the upper neighbors are worried about – or perhaps a tribute to the effectiveness of the welcoming gates.

Go hike Kenter –  it’s easy to get to, easy to complete and loaded with rich and satisfying ocean, city and canyon views.Fearless readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes may call Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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