Get Out of Town
Feeling Wild, Staying Close
May, 2022 - Issue #210

Getting out of town during spring is difficult for us. With four kids in four different sports, if we're traveling, it's to a race or a meet. And when we're home, someone always needs a ride to practice.
But spring is when the surrounding mountains are at their prettiest, so even a simple afternoon drive feels like a real get-away. The vibrant greenery and sprouting wildflowers transform our familiar surroundings into some place almost unrecognizable while also delivering a much-needed mental reset.
I felt myself exhale as we headed north on Lake Hughes Road, winding away from Castaic Lake. It was a perfect spring afternoon, bright and breezy with panoramic views wherever you looked. Wind rippled through the vibrant green grass carpeting the hillside. Strands of lupine marched up the steep slopes.
As we entered the canyon past the lake, the road followed the curves of Fish Creek below. Leafing willows growing along the banks waved at us in the breeze. Splashes of yellow, orange and purple flowers flashed by as we drove.
Further along, a wide pull out on the right signaled the start of Forest Route 6N24, also known as Ruby Clearwater Road. Its 8 miles of dirt road connects Lake Hughes Road on the west with San Francisquito Canyon Road to the east.
We descended into the bottom of the canyon, splashed across the creek and under the canopy of streamside greenery. I rolled down the windows and the smell of spring rushed through the truck. There was no single identifiable scent, just a perfume of buds and blooms springing to life.
Within the first mile, the road and creek are seemingly intertwined, crisscrossing each other multiple times. There are several places where you can pull over for a creekside picnic, which is something of a novelty in Southern California.
The water wasn't deep, but a couple of the approaches were steep and rutted, making me appreciate the truck's full-time four-wheel-drive.
I alternated between gawking at the scenery and keeping an eye out for drivers coming the other way on the narrow road. The customary brown monochrome of our mountains was alive with varying shades of green.
"Further along, a wide pull out on the right signaled the start of Forest Route 6N24, also known as Ruby Clearwater Road.
Its 8 MILES OF DIRT ROAD connects Lake Hughes Road on the west with San Francisquito Canyon Road to the east."
Not everyone was taken with the scenery like me. In the backseat, my two teenage daughters took turns snapping selfies with the puppy, who seemed oblivious to the bouncing and jostling as we bumped along.
We followed the road east, climbing out of the canyon bottom and eventually reaching a crest where we could see down into San Francisquito Canyon. The white pipeline of the aqueduct was easily visible in the distance. The trail dropped elevation again, bringing us back to the bottom of the canyon where we splashed across the creek a few more times before reaching the pavement of San Francisquito Canyon Road.
From there, the road leads south all the way back to Copper Hill Drive. But this afternoon, the journey was the destination. So, we turned instead on Dry Gulch Road, a more scenic alternative to reach Lake Hughes Road.
Paved just a couple years ago, it still retains the rough charm of a less-traveled path. Narrow, winding and sometimes steep, it forces you to drive more slowly, a pace that gives you the chance to admire the surrounding hills and the seasonal spectacle of wildflowers.
Before long, we were back on Lake Hughes Road and taking in views of the lake. A steady wind gave its otherwise smooth surface the appearance of hammered metal.
I glanced at the clock on the dash. We'd been out less than two hours, including our pre-departure stops for snacks and gas. A short drive, but long enough to find what we went looking for.
NOTE: Forest Route 6N24 - aka Ruby Clearwater Road - is a dirt road that is not suitable for all vehicles.
Drive it only in a vehicle equipped for off-road driving and if you have the skills to do so. Cell service is limited or non-existent.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic, which still offers plenty of wilderness if you know where to look.
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