Walking in the Footsteps of the Chumash, 19 August 2009
Chumash Trail to La Jolla Valley (near Point Mugu), CA
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According to Milt McAuley of Canoga Park, author of popular trail guides to local mountains, the ancient Chumash foot trails still believed to exist are a closely guarded secret to preserve them and keep souvenir hunters away. "It's our policy not to tell the public where these trails are," said McAuley, who is president of the Ventura County Archaeological Society.

McAuley believes that the Chumash Trail "is the oldest trail in continuous use" in the Santa Monicas, which means it may have come into existence even before the pyramids of Egypt. "We believe the Indians have been in the mountains about 9,000 years," McAuley said. "Most surely for 7,000 years."

However, one exception exists.  There is an ancient trail which leads from the Pacific to La Jolla Valley in Pt. Mugu State Park, used by the Chumash 7000 years ago, believed to be the oldest trail still in continuous use in the Santa Monica Mountains.  I wanted to walk in the footsteps of the Chumash.

But it wouldn't be easy.  From the Pacific to the meadows of La Jolla Valley, it's a 1000 ft. gain in elevation in about half a mile, good and steep.

To my surprise, the half mile climb to 1000 ft. in elevation wasn't that difficult.  I was rewarded with views of the Pacific and the military shooting range on one side, and this gorgeous view of the La Jolla Valley looking north.

The day was extremely overcast, great for hiking, not so great for photos.

I walked through the La Jolla Valley, then turned left on to the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail, walking through six foot tall prairie grass that is native - and now rare - to California.

La Jolla Valley was once dotted with Chumash Villages, but is now part of Pt. Mugu State Park.

Cabrillo explored the area in 1542 and mentioned the village of Muwu, Chumash for beach.  If Mugu, the name of a point, a rock, and a lagoon in the area, is derived from muwu, it may be the oldest recorded name of a California location in existence.


Along the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail.

Prickly pear cactus.

I went off on to another trail.  Didn't know the name.  I found my left brain, wanting to our whereabouts and the trail name, wrestling with my right brain, which wanted to walk and explore at will. 

My right brain won out.

La Jolla Canyon.

Once you enter La Jolla Valley, located in Pt. Mugu State Park, you are free to walk any of the miles and miles of trails.

Heart-shaped cactus.

I ate a chicken-kale-smoked gouda-Miso Mayo sandwich, called Lisa, and circled back to the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail.

Near one of the trails leading to the peak of Pt. Mugu.

The Chumash foot trail in the La Jolla Valley, as the sun finally burned away the inland fog.

I walked northward on a trail that mentioned connecting with the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail in 1.1 miles, walking towards Boney Ridge.  I connected with the Chumash Trail and continued northward.

Boney Ridge in the distance along the 7000 year old Chumash Trail.

I eventually reversed direction, heading south, through the valley and back down to the ocean.

Following in the footsteps of the Chumash, who walked this trail from the Pacific to the valley. 

La Jolla Valley is a protected area, one of the last areas of native California grassland.

This little iguana allowed me to get surprisingly close, as I stooped down to photograph him on the Chumash Trail.

I met up with a 74 year old Asian man from Oxnard.  Six years ago, he met an 86 year old man hiking these trails.  Inspired, he's come back regularly to this steep trail to keep in shape and see the beauty of the Pt. Mugu area.  "This is one of the most beautiful trails in the area," he mused.

We continued down the punishing Chumash Trail.  Although not having any problems going up, my knees complained about the jarring on the way down. 

The lower part of the 7000 year old Chumash Trail, with the shooting range in the distance and the Pacific beyond. 

The little parking area is located about eight and a half miles past the Ventura County line off Pacific Coast Highway.

Walking in the Footsteps of the Chumash
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