Silence and serenity are scarce commodities in this congested metropolis. But since 1974, when it was created by act of the Legislature, the Backbone Trail has provided a large measure of both for hikers and equestrians.
The 65-mile pathway along the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains links Will Rogers State Park in the Pacific Palisades with Point Magu State Park in Ventura County. Mostly, anyway. A five-mile gap remains in the trail between the Circle X Ranch in Ventura County and Decker Road. The folks at the Mountains Conservancy Foundation, which raises private funds to acquire and maintain trail property, would like to close that gap. Toward that end, on Thursday they will kick off festivities for the foundation's fourth Backbone Trail Month. The annual commemoration, including guided hikes for all ages and levels of physical ability, is designed to spotlight the natural splendors along the trail as well as to generate a renewed commitment to raising funds for its completion.
The foundation's executive director, Ruth Kilday, knows those attractions well, including unique animal and plant life, fossils and spectacular vistas. To ease the stress of her father's protracted illness and subsequent death, Kilday decided to hike from one end to the other in 1989 but could find no accurate maps or signs. The trail has been much improved since then, as a result of her efforts and those of the Mountains Conservancy and federal and state parks officials.