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Trekking the stony highlands

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Once I went on a horseback-riding trip across the Highlands of Scotland, and the Rocky Peak hike always reminds me of it. There's a tiny lake there — it's not much bigger than a pond, really — that takes me back to those days and a certain loch.

I like this hike because it's close to my home in Northridge and I can go by myself and feel pretty safe. There are always a lot of people and mountain bikers on the long, wide trail. I like solitude, so I have to overtake people. I prefer not hearing voices — it just ruins it.

It's a tough hike. You have to be ready for the uphill climb. There's only one resting place, but otherwise it's up, up, up. At the top, you can climb around all of these boulders, and you can see the Simi and San Fernando valleys. Near the peak, there are also some caves that look like cliff dwellings.

At the top, it can get pretty windy. One day I thought, "If I'm not careful, I'm going to get blown off these rocks." Along the way, you see a lot of little birds. Once I was looking at a little yellow bird and a hawk snapped up that bird so fast that before I could even think about it, I had seen a bird killing. Once I saw five hawks. Sometimes I take a break less than a quarter of the way up at a rock I've nicknamed "the gorilla hand" because that's what it looks like. The last time I stopped there, the surrounding terrain had been burned from the recent fires. It's still a nice hike, but the green stuff is gone and it's pretty black.

But the boulders, caves and sandstone formations are still quite impressive. And it will be green again come spring.

The particulars Where: Rocky Peak Trail is in Rocky Peak Park at the top of the Santa Susana Pass on the east side of Simi Valley.

What: Rocky Peak is about 2 1/2 miles from the trailhead. With an elevation of 2,714 feet, Rocky Peak is the highest point in the Santa Susana Mountains. The trail can be steep, and there is an elevation gain of 1,100 feet.

How: Take the 118 Freeway, exit at Rocky Peak Road. The trailhead is immediately north. Overflow parking is across the freeway along Santa Susana Pass Road.

Back story: The rock formations on the slopes of the Santa Susanas served as backdrops for many western movies and TV shows filmed at Corriganville, a western-themed ranch built in the 1930s that once stretched all the way to Rocky Peak. When construction began on the 118 Freeway in the 1960s, the Rocky Peak area was separated from Corriganville.

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