Century Lake, Malibu Creek State Park

Distance: 4.9 Miles
Elevation Gained: 600′
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 2:15
Critters: A deer and an egret
New Trees: Atlas Cedar, Black Walnut

– Leisurely hike to an old favorite
– Not too hot for a July afternoon

– Forest trail was blocked by a downed tree


I’m up in Agoura visiting my family and some of my friends who still live here. I’m also here to enjoy a little bit of downtime, since lately life has been going at about 80% throttle. One of the things I was itching to do while I was here was to take a hike over to Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park.

While I lived in L.A., Century Lake via the Forest Trail was one of my standby hikes. Often times, I would work at Trader Joe’s from 4am to 12pm. Since I knew that I was likely to take a three hour nap if I went straight home afterward, I would stop by Malibu Creek, which was on the way to my apartment in a roundabout sense, and hike out to this particular spot on the bank of the lake where I could enjoy the ducks splashing around the lake, the lily pads floating in the shade, and the unusual presence of some planted redwood trees, which lend the trail the name “Forest.”

There are a number of planted trees at Malibu Creek S.P., of which the redwoods are the most well-known. Around 1910, the original owners of the land planted a few dozen redwoods along Century Lake, in the shade of the Goat Buttes. The cooler temperature and the added moisture allow these trees to thrive, and one particular tree is nearing 100 feet. Additionally, there are a number of planted Atlas Cedars, native to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, in a grove at the junction to the Rock Pool.

Beyond those planted trees, Malibu Creek is a good place for trees in general. In addition to what has been planted, I spotted valley oak, many magnificent old coast live oaks, black walnut, arroyo willow, Pacific willow, sycamore, California ash, bay, and planted coulter pines. The valley oak is a particular favorite that represents the largest oak tree in America growing at the southern-most end of its range.

I took my time on this hike while savoring the familiar terrain and also thinking about the perspective from which I see the place. Since I frequented this area a year ago, I have moved, gotten engaged, returned to school, begun volunteering at a home for people with chronic mental illness, hiked over 1,000 miles, and climbed my first legitimate mountains. A lot has happened in a brief time, and coming home as well as to Century Lake offers perspective from which I can appreciate a particularly enjoyable leg of the journey.

Life over the last year has been like a prime stretch on a long hike. Suppose you walk for miles and miles up an unreletenting slope, occasionally in heat and sunshine. There maybe hasn’t been that much to look at for a while, and what there has been may have been ignored due to the need to keep plugging away. And then, suddenly, you reach a ridgeline that flattens out. Patches of forest are here and there. Wildflowers grow in profusion along the road. A cool breeze keeps the sweat and thirst at bay. There may be a view of a distant lake, shimmering in the sun. An even, moderate pace is kept so as not to miss a moment. Or, you may have endless vistas of mountains and canyons stretching out before for miles around. The hiking is still pretty strenuous, but the body is well-acclimated and can easily handle the slopes.

That’s life right now for me, and I love it.

Little has changed here. The creek is dry to lack of rain, but that happens sometimes. The valley oaks are still huge, gnarled, and graceful. The Rock Pool is still overcrowded with reckless teenagers. The crowds still thin out after the first real hill. The park still remains a gem in an already beautiful region.

The only thing that wasn’t the same was the huge downed tree on the Forest Trail, which prevented me from going to my customary spot. I tried to work my way around it, but I was blocked by rampant growths of poison oak. My choices were turn back, or spend the next week scratching my skin off. Oh well. I’ve enjoyed this place so much over the years that I won’t resent it for being absent today.

July: 77.1 Miles
Year-to-Date: 831.5 Miles

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