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Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


Almost invariably, before I begin one of my crazy adventures (Apostle Islands, Smoky Mountains, etc) I am blissfully ignorant of the dangers which lie unforeseen ahead of me. For this expedition, however, I was quite apprehensive of my trip into the jungles of Los Angeles. Am I becoming wiser in my post-college years…or am I just that afraid of hippies? Read on to find out.

The Plan

I would fly into L.A. Christmas night and stay at the cheapest hotel I could find. The next morning I would take a city bus to Santa Monica Pier. From there I would hike along the beach to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and pick up the Backbone Trail for most of my backpacking. The first night I would stay at Musch Camp, followed by Malibu Creek State Park, Circle X Ranch, La Jolla Valley, and finally Leo Carrillo State Park. By then it would be New Year’s Eve when I would hike down the coast to Point Dume, catch another city bus to LAX, and fly back to Chicago. I would land with just enough time to get home, clean up, and celebrate New Year’s. Spoiler: Only about two things went according to plan.

The Trip

I tried writing down slightly more detailed descriptions while actually on the trail, in order to try to record a more compelling account and better capture how I felt at the time. I am not sure whether I accomplished either.

Pre-trip Background trip information
Day 1Christmas traveling
Day 2Hiking out of Los Angeles
Day 3A giant storm
Day 4Surrendering to the elements
Day 5Flying back defeated


This was my first trip where I got to play around with my GPS. The results are in my GPS tracks from the trip.