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Running Away

Trails at Sycamore Canyon Campground are a good place to exercise in peaceful setting.

July 05, 1998|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tired of running in areas where the traffic noise makes it hard to hear yourself breathe?

Where cement sidewalks and asphalt streets leave your lower back and knees feeling pounded?

Where you're constantly on the lookout for motorists who never see runners crossing, no matter how visible?

Then going on a run from Sycamore Canyon Campground in Pt. Mugu State Park might be a good idea.

The campground, five miles south of the Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station on the east side of Pacific Coast Highway, can be a lengthy drive for many. But the peace and serenity that come from running on the numerous nearby trails is well worth the effort to get there.

"It's just so nice to run up there," said Pete Weinerth, the boys' track and field coach at Rio Mesa High. "It's got a nice main trail and there are so many different trails that you can cut off to."

The main trail, Big Sycamore Canyon trail, is a relatively flat fire road that bisects a canyon with peaks between 1,200-1,400 feet in the distance.

The trail is dirt for the first 5 or 5 1/2 miles from the campground before turning into an asphalt road that runs the final 2 1/2 miles to the western edge of Newbury Park.

Big Sycamore Canyon is the trail to use if you're still working your way into shape or looking for a relatively easy run. But it will require crossing an El Nino-spawned stream every half-mile or so for the next couple of months.

The stream will no doubt subside soon, but for the time being you'd have to be Carl Lewis to jump over it without getting your feet wet.

If you're looking for a more challenging run or one with more variety, there are numerous points along Big Sycamore Canyon where trails go into the hills.

The Overlook trail is one of those.

It starts on the north side of Big Sycamore Canyon about a half-mile from the campground and quickly goes up.

The trail's steepness will increaseyour heart rate, but it won't be long until you can see the Pacific Ocean to your left and a vast wilderness area of chaparral-type vegetation to your right.

The trail continues upward away from the coast until you find yourself on a relatively flat trail that looks out toward an array of peaks covered with patches of yellow, purple and red flowers intermixed with the greenery.

Rabbits scurry across the road from time to time at this point on the trail and lizards and stink bugs frequently cross the trails wherever you are.

Birds are the most spectacular and seemingly numerous form of wildlife in the park.

They dart or flutter about on the frequent ocean breezes and even when they disappear from sight, they never seem to be out of earshot.

If there are any drawbacks to running from the campground, it's the $6 parking fee, but you can avoid that by parking alongside Pacific Coast Highway and running to the campground, a short distance away.

"There just aren't that many places left where you can go run on a trail for an hour or an hour and a half without running laps around some place," Weinerth said. "But Sycamore Canyon is one of those places."

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