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GREAT HIKES: Westridge Nights:

Last Wednesday’s night hike from the top of Westridge was an invigorating reminder of what is so perfect about night hiking in our local Santa Monica Mountains, and what an under utilized asset is available to all of us. First, a word about the Westridge Trail: drive Sunset Boulevard to Mandeville Canyon and then take the first left onto Westridge Road. Just keep going up into the hills and you’ll ultimately discover a jewel of a trailhead, recently refurbished with its own convenient parking lot.Westridge is one of several access routes that serve as a sort of “hub” to a variety of hikes. Half-way up you can detour via Baylis to Queensferry Drive and explore several trail options into Sullivan Canyon to the West. From the top of Westridge , you have a slew of choices. The most popular is to turn left and simply follow the wide fire road as it winds its way up and around the hills toward Mulholland. Or, you can take a sharp downhill side trail that we call Wirebreak Two, and crash down the scree to the Sullivan Canyon floor. There are also a variety of ridge routes above the fire road that you can explore, for the spectacular views or just for fun.Now, about last Wednesday: it was cold and clear – and lonely up there. Clear is good, the cold was only bothersome for a few minutes, and then with a little exercise, we were oblivious to the chill. The lonely part was odd: there was absolutely no one else around. The parking lot was empty, not a dog walker, hiker or biker in sight. Thousands of acres of pristine open space for our one small group alone. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, a little solitude is good for the soul. There is an eerie quietness that I thoroughly enjoy and feel guilty about at the same time.I separated from the group to take one last bump on the way back. It’s a fooler of a ridge with a wide and broad slope just before the final bend to the trailhead. A cool breeze whipped through the hills and the loudest sounds were my footsteps and own breathing. Coyotes howled some distance away and a far-off helicopter hinted at the world of technology over the mountain. The fooler part was that the ridge slope invites you up and then deposits you on an overlook with no elegant way to descend to the parking lot below. Some folks try to walk down the cement culvert and others use their hands and wrangle their way down. I do a semi-controlled slide called the “put my butt on one heel and extend the other leg” technique, which probably has a better mountaineering name.If you haven’t sampled Westridge I urge you to put it high on your list for local hikes. Go there even just to admire the beautifully done entrance – or commit even a few minutes to walk around the first curve and you’ll be hooked for the futureFearless readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes should call Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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