If there's anything to be said about the Santa Monica Mountains, an area designated by Congress in the 70s as a National Recreation Area and managed by 80 or so National Park Service employees, is that it is an urban park. It's within an hour's drive of millions of people, it bisects the city of Los Angeles and is home to more than 1,200 types of plants.
And within it are various trails that zig-zig, circle and meander throughout the range; its most notable leg is the 65-mile Backbone Trail, which "starts along the remote coast of Ventura County" and abruptly "ends at Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles," to borrow words from journalist Zeke Barlow.
Barlow, in fact, was one of 25 hikers that took to the Backbone Trail over seven days last week during an annual event held by the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council. Not only did he huff it in the sun and up steep grades, he filed a story for his job at the Ventura County Star each night.
The outcome is a great series chronicling of the trek, each day told through a different aspect, such as wildfires, land use politics and geology. His seven stories are here:
Day 1: Hiking the 65-mile Backbone Trail
Day 2: Trekkers discover geologic wonders of Boney Mountain
Day 3: Park needs 2 parcels to complete the Backbone Trail
Day 4: Too many wildfires can change the mountains' ecosystem
Day 5: Plants along Backbone Trail tell the story of Southern California
Day 6: National Recreation Area is an urban park
Day 7: End of the trail