East CanyonThis hike starts out at about 1400 elevation and over a couple of miles climbs to 2700, the ridge of the Santa Susanna Mountains. This is one of the transverse (east-west) ranges in southern California. The San Gabriels peter out and the Santa Susannas begin right at Newhall pass. The highest peak of the range is Oat Mountain (3500 ft.), the major barrier between the San Fernando Valley and the Santa Clara River Valley.

It is an amazing thing to have a hike in such country sandwiched between the millions of Los Angeles and the 200 thousand of Santa Clarita. The Santa Clarita Woodlands Park and the Michael Antonavich Open Space were created to block the massive population from expanding into this last refuge of the urban wild.

There are coyotes. There are scads of deer. There are occaisional bears. There are rare cougars.

On this unusual day in early October, it was cool and cloudy with a slight chance of rain. Perfect for a hike with a bit of elevation change in it.

In the distance, you can hear the gunfire in the Oak Tree Gun Club. The sound of gunfire and I get along well. I suspect the animals don’t care either. That club has been there since 1973 and I have no problem with it. After all, I’ve only been here since 1978.

From the top one gets spectacular views of urban areas to the north and the south. You are several degrees cooler and above much of the smog here. There is often a significant sea breeze, even 20 straight-line miles from the ocean. The steepness of the hike discourages the gang bangers and dilettantes. The still-in-use sections of the various gravel roads are popular with bicyclists. There are occaisional vehicles up here to maintain the antenna farms and a few private inholdings so many of the roads are maintained if gated off to unauthorized vehicles.

It is a steep range, if not a high one. Without that range, no doubt the urban sprawl of the

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There are three different species of oak here

SFV would have spread nonstop from the SFV all the way to the top of the current city of Santa Clarita and along the river valley in both directions. On some sheltered northern sections, we have small forests of Douglas Fir that have hung on since the end of the last Ice Age. The southern slopes are oak savannahs covered mostly with wild oats.

In the late 1920 -30s, there was a plan to build a motorway from Newhall (SW Santa Clarita today) up and over the length of the Santa Susannas and down to connect with the current northern end of Topanga Canyon Road. It would be called the Saugus to the Sea Road.

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Some lemonade berries are ready for harvest.

Its purpose was as a scenic byway and not a commuter road. Gravel roads were cut but the route never became a reality.

The idea still floated around for quite a while. Eventually, it became obvious that the roads thru the Newhall Pass were unable to adequately carry traffic north out of the SFV. (It still isn’t today) Running a road over the Santa Susannas seemed to logical thing to do. In 1980, Gov. Jerry Brown killed a whole bunch of road projects, declaring the end to the “Era of Growth”. This put the kibosh on a lot of proposed roads in my area, including Saugus to the Sea and Templin Highway.

Now the various roads in the Santa Susannas and the Templin route are gated off and many are decaying into overgrown footrails.