When I was six years old, my parents took me and my sisters to Tasmania. We travelled with another family around the island in a big blue Toyota Tarago and I distinctly remember the extremely fraught nerves of my mother and her friend as we wheeled around a series of incredibly narrow roads circling very, very steep cliffs. To this day, my mother re-enacts with great flourish the moment when they realised that her friend’s husband was falling asleep at the wheel during this perilous journey. This memory returned to me for the first time in years as I crawled around the narrow road leading from Beverly Hills toward the north reservoir of Franklin Canyon Park. Seriously, the speed limit in this part of the park is 15 mph for a reason – you cannot see around most corners and the road is seriously narrow, grading badly off towards a steep cliff face. Such are the perils if you want to make your way to the Ranch Trail south of the northern reservoir.
I’m going to be honest – I chose this hike on the promise of turtles... and other wildlife living in and around the reservoir, but namely the turtles. At the base of the Ranch trail, with my thighs burning as I climbed stairs too steep for Andre the Giant to travail without breaking a sweat, I hoped the turtles would be worth it. Of course, I could have walked straight up the paved road that runs from the small southern car park to the reservoir….but I didn’t. The Ranch trail is narrow and if you take a wrong step, it’s an uncomfortable fall down a steep hill face. I don’t usually take my phone on a hike but this one time I did and as I thought about the perils of slipping and tumbling down into a tree-lined ravine, I was glad that it was tucked into the back of my leggings…. Until I realised that I had absolutely no reception. I wondered briefly if I’d told anyone where I was going…
Reaching the reservoir, I examined the posters at the entrance of the trail circling the water which boasted mountain lions, opossums, eagles, owls, etc, etc. I quickly lost my obsession with turtles – I wanted to see a pocket gopher. A POCKET GOPHER!! Alas, as I traipsed around the reservoir, there were no gophers to be seen, although I did sight a number of burrows that looked pocket gopher size. Apart from some ducks and the odd pocket mouse dashing across the trail, I failed to see any of the more exciting promised wildlife. Despite this, the northern reservoir at Franklin is very pretty and it’s a nice easy circle around if you want to go for a quick jaunt or are organised enough to bring a picnic (there are plenty of benches and tables).
There are other trails including the full Chapparal trail, but it was far too hot for further activity. Another plus for “lake” loop is that it is largely shaded, so you’re not directly under the sun too often unlike a number of Los Angeles hikes.
It’s not an easy hike to get to, but I will go back. I will most definitely take a picnic lunch, and I will expect turtles. Lots and lots of turtles.