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Hiking Mission Point, videocam in hand

I discovered this trail about four years ago when my former middle school staged its annual big run on the route that leads to Mission Point, although everyone calls it Mission Peak. The locals also call this hike Three Trees, because a grove of trees stands just below the summit. It’s an optical illusion, because there are actually four trees up there but depending on where you are standing, it can look like two or three.

At the start of the hike, there’s an immense willow tree and small trees. As you go up the dirt path -- it’s actually a well-maintained fire road -- it gets steeper and steeper even though it is flatter in the middle. In late spring, the hills are covered with California poppies and lupine and mustard, and in winter, it is lusciously green and somewhat grassy. After you pass the namesake trees that are about a quarter-mile from the top, it gets steeper again. You won’t see much wildlife, mostly birds and bunnies.

The views from the top are spectacular. You can see all of the San Fernando Valley, downtown and -- on clear days -- Catalina Island and Ventura Harbor. To the north, you can spot Lake Castaic and to the east, Mt. Baldy covered in snow during the winter. If you go up in time to catch the sunset, the sun sometimes strikes downtown Los Angeles buildings just the right way and they look as if they are on fire. It’s breathtaking.

At the top, there’s a little stone monument with a plaque that says the trail is dedicated to Mario A. De Campos. He was a physician and active hiker who loved the local mountains. I am working on a film about Three Trees for my high school film class, and I might focus on the man behind the plaque that has intrigued me.

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The particulars

Where: Hike to Mission Point in the Santa Susana Mountains begins on a trailhead off Neon Way in Granada Hills.

What: Five-mile round-trip hike has an elevation gain of 1,325 feet. The trail follows a fire road that meanders along the northeastern rim of the San Fernando Valley.

How: Take the 118 Freeway, exit at Balboa Boulevard and head north, turn left on Jolette Avenue, left on Doric Street and right on Neon Way.

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Back story: Mission Point, at 2,771 feet, is the highest of three peaks in the San Fernando Valley on the Sierra Club’s Great Lower Peaks List, a compilation of about 75 climbable Southern California peaks that are less than 5,000 feet in elevation. (The two other Valley points are Simi Peak and Rocky Peak.)


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