Will Rodgers State Park is just off Sunset Boulevard, a few miles from the Pacific. A dazzling ocean view, a gigantic polo field and hundreds of grassy acres nearby make WRSP a local treasure. Lucky for hikers and mountain bikers, a popular trail climbs out of the park and wends into the verdant Santa Monica Mountains.
The entire range is criss-crossed with hundreds of miles of fire roads and single tracks, but owing to the long distances (20-50 mile rides are routine for mt. bikers), and lack of technical terrain, the area offers little for a Muni rider save leg busting fitness runs. There are a few exceptions, and the Rustic Canyon Loop is one of them. Morgan (thats Dr. Cable to you), Don, Jamey and I got a late start - and paid for it.
The three uphill miles chugging out of the park are bad-ass steep in parts and it was hotter than hell. I was nursing a middling hangover but Jamey had a really bad one and he still hammered out most of the uphill. But he’s only 26. After nearly blowing a gasket, we finished the uphill, huddled in a patch of shade and panted like dogs, then dropped onto the steep single track that rockets down off the main trail and into Rustic Canyon, half a mile below.
Don and I had ridden this challenging trail once before and never saw a soul. This time we ran into a scad of mountain bikers and had the bizarre experience of watching every biker walking all the technical sections (several are 100+ yards long) while we rode the whole shebang. This is probably one of the very few places where a muni has the advantage over a mt. bike: steep, super loose, narrow, ledgy, and full of baby head rocks. Hundreds of big wooden railroad ties were laid in decades ago but the trail hasn’t been maintained in many years and the erosion makes for sketchy riding in spots. The presence of rusty metal posts in the middle of several steep crux sections was not encouraging.
Once down in Rustic Canyon the flora is so lush it’s impossible to believe you’re in Los Angeles County. A thin single track parallels a little creek and it feels like you’re pedaling through Borneo.
Years ago (40s) the area was accessible by a high road, since vastly overgrown, that cuts across the far side of the canyon. In the bottom, several impressive structures were designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built for a Nazi sympathizer named Herr Schmidt who ran a kind of self-contained and self-sustaining Stalag full of twenty or so like-minded kooks. Remains of the old structures litter the bottom of the jungled canyon and the wildest of them all is one of the longest sets of stairs I’ve ever seen, basically unused for fifty years and running straight up the far canyon wall. We hiked up the eighth of a mile or so that runs vertically up to the old high road, then carries on for another quarter mile to the top of the ridge and another road. That’s one hell of a lot of stairs and it’s incredible to think of the back-breaking labor involved in building basically a six-hundred yard (my guess) set of concrete stairs down a mountainside in the middle of nowhere. Just the last section, spilling down into the canyon, has to be the Mother of all stair sets and I got a couple pics of Jamey riding it. Down below the canyon pinches ten yards across and you have to hike a boulder-strewn streambed half a mile to exit back into the Park.
This is not so much a ride as a mini-expedition. It took us three and a half hours but the novelty of the terrain and the exciting DH run into the canyon made the effort well worth it. Pics to follow if Don can figure out how to load them - I’ve never figured that out yet.