Los Angeles

IN THIS PARKLAND-POOR metropolis, it's easy to forget that escape is only a freeway away. The green Santa Monica Mountains to the northwest roll into khaki beaches. Eastward lie the San Bernardino Mountains, and to the west is the blue Pacific. So don't let the city limits limit you.

Sep 1, 2002
Outside Magazine
The Adrenaline Rush

IMAGINE AN HOURLONG glide across the Pacific, powered by a 200-pound thresher shark. That's the goal on Coastal Kayak Fishing's one-day thresher-shark clinics in Malibu, open to experienced kayak anglers hoping to reel in the big one ($85; 818-345-5824; www.kayakfishing.com). Co-owner Dennis Spike advocates catch-and-release and careful hook removal to protect the feisty, long-tailed carnivores.

SoCal's big, blue backyard: surfing C Street, Ventura

LEAVE THE OFFICE EARLY on Friday and drive up California 1 to Leo Carrillo State Park, 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica. Drop your camping gear (tent sites, $12; 805-488-5223, www.parks.ca.gov) and go directly to the beach. Surf until the sun sets. Rent boards at Zuma Jay's ($20 per day; 310-456-8044) in Malibu.

No time for pancakes—you're on the road by 8 a.m. on Saturday. Drive five miles to Point Mugu State Park (parking, $3; 818-880-0350, www.parks.ca.gov) for a mountain-bike ride on the six-mile Overlook Trail. Two hours later you're back on California 1, continuing north 15 miles to Oxnard. From there, head north on U.S. 101 and east on California 33 to Ojai, and check into the Emerald Iguana Inn (doubles, $105-$165, including breakfast; 805-646-5277, www.emeraldiguana.com), an artsy enclave with eight cottages. Don't get sidetracked by the pepper-tree- shaded Jacuzzi. Dump your bags, unload your bike, and cycle scenic California 150 seven miles to Lake Casitas Recreation Area (805-649-2233). Rent a kayak from Lake Casitas Marina ($12.50 per hour; 805-649-2043) for a leisurely paddle. Cycle back to the Emerald Iguana. Soak in the Jacuzzi.

Sunday, drive north on California 33 about 20 miles to Sespe Gorge in Los Padres National Forest (entry fee, $5; 805-968-6640, www.r5.fs.fed.us/lospadres/). Climb the cracks on the 300-foot granite face until your fingers cramp. Then drive back through Ojai to Ventura, about 35 miles, for a surf at the "C Street" beach (board rentals, $15 at Ventura Surf Shop, 805-643-1062). Take the coast route home, stopping at Point Dume State Beach (310-457-8143) to hike the two-mile Point Dume Bluff Trail. Take your time getting back to the car; the weekend's a goner.

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL took 70 years to complete. By those standards, the California Coastal Trail is way ahead of schedule. For 20 years, coastal-access advocates have been building a path that parallels California's 1,200-mile coastline, starting at Borderfield State Park south of San Diego and ending at Pelican Bay State Beach, Oregon. Hikers can further the cause by becoming volunteer mappers, using GPS units and cameras to pinpoint gaps in the trail. For information, contact Coastwalk at 800-550-6854 or www.coastwalk.org.

BEST PLACE TO CONVERT anyone who thinks they hate L.A.: Malibu's Charmlee Wilderness Park (parking, $3; 310-457-7247). The fact that this 590-acre reserve sees so little foot and bike traffic is one of L.A.'s greatest mysteries. A narrow 3.1-mile path from the visitor center spits you onto an ocean overlook with views of the Channel Islands.

BY THE TIME you reach Gold Mountain Manor (doubles, $125-$225, including breakfast; 800-509-2604, www.goldmountainmanor.com), a 1928 log-cabin inn on the north side of pine-rimmed Big Bear Lake, two hours east of Los Angeles, the transformation from cranky commuter to mellow mountain dweller should be complete. Any remaining stress can be treated with the owner's homemade milk bath dissolved in a claw-foot tub. Wrap yourself in a plush robe and doze off next to the in-room fireplace. Wake to a candle-lit breakfast of banana fritters and strawberry crepes. Then hike it off on a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, which passes through the San Bernardino National Forest in the inn's backyard.