Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Point Mugu State Park - November 2010

Last year I tried to check out the monarch butterfly overwintering sites in Big Sur right after Christmas, but because I got sick we didn't quite make it.

This year I'm not going to be able to make a trip up there so I thought I'd check some of the smaller overwintering roosts that I'd heard about in Point Mugu State Park. Here's where we were:


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This trail description says:

"one of the best places in Southern California to observe the arriving monarchs is the campground in Big Sycamore Canyon at Point Mugu State Park. . . Sycamore Canyon Trail takes you through a peaceful wooded canyon, where a multitude of monarchs dwell".

It also advised us to "Ask park rangers where the monarchs cluster in large numbers."

I managed to wrangle 6 people to come with me for this so I really hoped we'd see some monarchs, but they were nowhere in sight. We saw one flying around near the campsites and another as we were heading into the canyon, but we couldn't follow them because they flew off the trail. Also, when we saw a ranger and asked he had no idea what we were talking about!

Still, it was a beautiful day and I'd never been to Point Mugu so it was great to explore a bit.

We parked in the campground area (make sure to bring $12 cash for parking - no ranger was there to make change or take a card) and walked towards the mountains till we reached a gate. The trail started on the other side of the gate with this sign:



Since we were looking for monarchs we walked slowly looking up at the sycamore trees. We stayed in Sycamore Canyon Trail (the main trail which is really more like a road, many mountain bikers here) until we got to Serrano Canyon Trail which branched off to the right after we had been walking for about a mile. We decided to explore this trail since we weren't having any luck with monarchs on the main trail.


Serrano Canyon Trail was my favorite part of the hike. It was a smaller trail with more different kinds of plants and trees and it crossed over the creek (dry at this time of year) a few times. Also, as we followed it to a more open area the rock formations were really interesting and it was pretty aromatic with what smelled like licorice, sage and thyme or rosemary.


these two photos are of purple sage (Salvia leucophylla)


not sure what this is - a wood rat nest? It was 5 foot tall or so

After about half a mile we turned back to the main trail and took that farther into the canyon another half mile or so. Then we turned back and walked the way we had come back to the campground. The sun was about to set and we didn't want to get stuck out there. On our way back we spent a few minutes on Overlook Fire Road which went west towards the center of the canyon. I think we hiked about 4 miles total.

We also saw this bees (?) nest shaped like a heart:

Then we walked across the street to Sycamore Cove beach and watched a beautiful sunset.

There are so many trails here I really want to go back and explore a bit more. Stay tuned for that.

Click here for more photos from this location.

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