With no meaningful rain in the the last four years, whatever color was in the oak leaves had drained away along with the water table, leaving wooded views so muted that you really began to wonder: just how much more will this landscape be able to stand?
Then it started raining again. Really raining. And things began to get green again. You could finally see difference. Our hike through the Kahn Ranch confirmed what we could see in the distance: The green is back.
This one was Susie’s idea. She’s been talking about going out to the Kahn Ranch for at least a year, but I was a little put off by the need for a permit, which was kinda stupid on my part, as it took about 2 minutes to apply online and we had our permit the next morning.
We left the ranch and drove back into the village, heading down Esqualine Road to the trailhead at the end of Hitchcock Canyon Road. This narrow road winds through a canyon crowded with homes and it makes sense to limit access to the park, otherwise you’d have too many cars on too little road to keep it safe, let alone quiet.
We started our visit on a short trail to the Fern Falls. As the name implies, it’s a short, fern-lined path through a damp ravine which helped us believe that maybe all the rain was finally making a difference.
We then backtracked a bit and started our climb out of the damp little canyons on the Hitchcock Loop. We crossed the first bridge we came to and took the short cut across the Manzanita trial. As you work your way uphill, the forest cover gives way to a kind of open scrub that just a few short weeks ago was a thicket of fire fuel fully capable of burning through a few thousand acres in just a few hours.
With a couple of switchbacks and some modest grades we eventually ended up about 1100 feet above the parking lot. The views kept getting better, and it was gratifying to see the hillsides a little green again. There are still pockets of tan color, which are oaks that didn’t survive the prolonged dry conditions of the last few years.
Being a loop, I think we made the better choice by starting this trail from the Fern Falls side, as the trip back down was on grades that might have been a bigger challenge going uphill on. As I’m always saying when hiking around here, it’s lungs on the way up and knees on the way down.
The Kahn Ranch is adjacent to the southern boundary of the Garland Ranch system of trails, so you could use this trailhead as a starting point for as many miles as you care to hike in a day.
And while many of these trails are variations on the same theme, you’ll find that each has its own charms, challenges and photo ops that seeking them out worth the effort.
Getting the permit isn’t that big of a deal either :)
Kid Factor: (+) Bring ’em. It’s a great walk in the woods much like what you’ll find at the rest of Garland Ranch. (-) The usual: In summer, bring the drinks along and watch for poison oak.
Fitness Factor: If you’re a trail runner, this could be a lot of fun. Otherwise I’d say the 3-flight rule is in effect: If 3 flights of stairs gives you pause, you might not want to make the whole loop. But go as far as you want because any section of the trails are a pleasant experience.
Photo Factor: Big vistas, wooded groves and I suspect there will be a nice array of wildflowers after March or April through most of the summer. It’s not astonishing, but there are good pictures anywhere if you want to work at it.