Mishe Mokwa Regeneration Trail – how life is reborn

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Mishe Mokwa Regeneration trail - how life is reborn
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The Mishe Mokwa Regeneration Trail reminds us how quickly nature resettles the land after a natural disaster. This trail in the Santa Monica Mountains is normally dry and covered with a limited array of sagebrush and scrub. This area went through a devastating fire the previous year and was charred to a crisp.

But nature quickly fights back and rejuvenates the countryside. Many of the native plants require the heat of fire in order for their seeds to germinate. These plants are called Pyrophytes. The flower bloom on the trail was spectacular. White plants blooming that may have not been seen for decades, their seeds hidden in the soil patiently waiting for a fire to release them.

Santa Monica Mountain State Park

The trail is located in the Santa Monica Mountains, now designated as a state park. The mountains were once beneath the ocean, and it’s possible to find the occasional sea fossil embedded in the rock. The mountains separate parts of Los Angeles and Ventura from the Pacific Ocean. The east and west sides have somewhat different climates. There are frequent fogs and cloud cover moderating temperatures on the ocean side. On the east side it’s much drier.

In the 1940’s when there were highly paid stars and land was cheap, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby liked to take long drives. They would buy any piece of land that looked like a potential golf course. Decades later the value of land appreciated to the point where simply paying taxes on it would be ruinous. As a result Hope gave much of the land over to the state in order to create the park.

The area is still popular with the rich and famous. Malibu and adjacent areas near the park have largely replaced Beverley Hills for the nouveau-riche. They often have their own vineyards, though the terroir of shale and slate produces a wine more redolent of Oildale than Bourdeaux.

The Mishe Mokwa Trail

The Mishe Mokwa trail is part of a network of trails criss-crossing the park. The main route is the Backbone trail. This path traverses the entire park from south to north.

The Mishe Mokwa trail starts with a smooth and gently ascent which soon narrows and becomes rockier. There are sections that require a bit of boulder-hopping.

Narrow folds in the mountains crossing the trail become steeply rushing seasonal creeks after rainfalls. The trail follows high on the west side of a steep box canyon canyon. the opposite side of the canyon is near-vertical, and is a popular spot for rock climbers. The cliffs of the canyon also reflect echos perfectly, and the spot is marked on the map as Echo Cliff.

Just beyond the cliff is Balanced Rock (Cartographers are not particularly imaginative at naming things) set precariously on top.  The closed nature of the canyon seems to have provided some degree of protection from invasive non-native plants observable in some other sections of the park.

The path to Split Rock

After passing Echo Point, the trail descends rapidly. We rounded a corner where there was a stand of oak trees. Here were a large group of Painted Lady butterflies. The recent heavy rains had contributed to an unusually large migration.

The end point of our hike was Split Rock, another cleverly named natural feature. The massive rectangular rock is split neatly into three sections. A nearby picnic table shaded by oaks provides a perfect spot for refreshment before returning the way we came.

Balanced Rock

Long Fellow and the Song of Hiawatha

You maybe wondering why the above sub-heading appears in a mountain trail blog. Well I was intrigued with the trail name of Mishe Mokwa. I thought at first it might be a first nation phrase, but there was no evidence on the web.

Instead the only reference comes in the famous Long Fellow poem Song of Hiawatha. In the section entitled The Four Winds, Longfellow tells the story of how Mudjekeewis killed Mishe Mokwa  

Thus was slain the Mishe-Mokwa,
He the Great Bear of the mountains,
He the terror of the nations.
  “Honor be to Mudjekeewis!”
With a shout exclaimed the people,
“Honor be to Mudjekeewis!
Henceforth he shall be the West-Wind,
And hereafter and forever
Shall he hold supreme dominion
Over all the winds of heaven.
Call him no more Mudjekeewis,
Call him Kabeyun, the West-Wind!”

Perhaps cartographers sometimes use their imagination

What Next?

If you enjoyed Mishe Mokwa Regeneration Trail you can find other walks in the USA at Find a walk USA.

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