Since the fires last fall, hiking parts of the Santa Clarita Valley can be like going through a Civil War battlefield: You know that there were brave men and women fighting really hard to save the woods and what lies beyond, which is you and me.
This five-mile hike goes up one trail, Weldon Canyon, and down another, East Canyon. You can tell the firefighters struck a line at East Canyon because the tops of some ridgelines were scraped off to become a firebreak. Already a lot of the plowed area has greened over.
My running club heads up Weldon Canyon maybe four times a year. Even though the trail is next to Interstate 5, you almost never see anyone on it. Weldon is the natural place to start instead of East because there's a drinking fountain and facilities. You're just 25 yards from the freeway at the top of the Newhall Pass grade.
The first part of the climb is the worst. It's one continuing switchback, all on fire roads, that lasts for about three-quarters of a mile. It's pretty, with pines and evergreens.
At the ridgeline you come to a T and head right to turn up Weldon Canyon. Look south and you can see most of the San Fernando Valley, the Sepulveda Dam, the freeway and the Sunshine Canyon landfill in all its glory. Through one cut in the mountains, you can see downtown L.A. You won't see it in the summer because of the haze, but right now the views are fantastic.
It's a steady uphill on the ridgeline. Someone planted oak trees, so there's this uniform line of oaks along the fire road. It's really lovely in April and May, after the rains.
About a mile into the ridgeline, there's a red pole and a trail that leads to a bird observation deck that overlooks the entire East Canyon. You can see most of Santa Clarita from there.
In the morning, you may hear a lot of boom, boom, boom on the bird deck. It's less than half a mile from a gun club where folks shoot clay pigeons. Most of the time there's no firing, but even when there is, hawks and crows are still flying. It's peaceful — a nice place to contemplate your existence.
After returning to the fire road, you keep going over dips and valleys, but it's still a constant climb until you come to a distinct T-intersection and an arrow that points the way down on East Canyon Trail. It's a steady and significant descent to the bottom of the canyon. You hike along a stream that flows all year, even in summer, and oaks and evergreens abound.
The particulars Where: Weldon Canyon and East Canyon are in the Santa Susana Mountains in Santa Clarita Valley.
What: A two-hour hike that climbs more than 660 feet up Weldon Canyon, followed by a 1,150-foot descent down East Canyon.
How: From the 5 Freeway north, exit at Calgrove Boulevard; turn left onto the Old Road, then right on Weldon Canyon Road and right on Coltrane Avenue. The entrance to Weldon Canyon, on the left, is about 50 yards up the road. Park on the side of the road. Hikers may want to leave one car at East Canyon to drive back to Weldon after completing the trek.
Back story: The stretch of Route 99 that opened in the 1930s was to be named Foothill Boulevard; instead it was called Weldon Canyon after a retired railroad worker who lived nearby. Now a landfill hovers: The company that owned the 520-acre parcel that includes the canyon offered the land for public use in 2002 in exchange for allowing Sunshine Canyon landfill to expand.