Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Charmlee Wilderness Park

Charmlee Wilderness Park should probably be re-named “Charming” because it will become a favorite for anyone who visits there. Located at 2577 Encinal Canyon Road in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, California, the woods, fields, and scenic views are sure to delight all hikers.

I had the pleasure to visit this city park (yes, a city park!) on May 19 with my new friends Kim Moore and Emile Fiesler. Both are first-rate naturalists intimately familiar with the flora and fauna of the area. There were plenty of plants and animals to keep me entranced, despite an unusually cool and wet spring this year.

One of the first animals to greet us was a Spotted Towhee. Normally, these birds are busy literally scratching out a living in the leaf litter under shrubs and trees. What a treat to be serenaded. We did see other birds, including the California Towhee, a much more drab cousin to the Spotted Towhee.

Wildflowers were in abundance, especially Bush Monkeyflower, Mimulus aurantiacus. It was the dominant shrub along wooded edges and ridgelines throughout the park. Mimulus of other varieties and colors were also to be found throughout the many parks I visited.

Another wildflower that caught my eye was this Mexican Pink, Silene laciniata. Plants in that genus are also known by the name “catchfly” because their sticky foliage often entangles insects. Apparently this particular species is common on the grassy slopes in coastal scrub habitat.

The East Meadow Trail at Charmlee is a must see if you like scenic views like this:

Hard to beat an ocean overlook on a reasonably clear day.

We hiked up the ridge to the Reservoir, now empty but on this day with a rock art peace symbol decorating its floor, and encountered two hilltopping butterflies. One was likely a Funereal Duskywing, Erynnis funeralis. The other was a magnificent male specimen of the Anise Swallowtail, Papilio zelicaon.

Coming down off the East Meadow Trail takes you through the Oak Groves on your way back to the parking area. The woodland offers pleasant relief after walking the hot, dry, open meadows. The flora and fauna are substantially different, too (stay tuned for an upcoming post on wildflowers of Charmlee).

As we pulled our car out of the parking space, we happened to notice a Calilfornia Whiptail lizard, Aspidoscelis tigris stejnegeri, break cover at the edge of the parking lot. The car idled while we debated whether to bother trying to get pictures of this regal reptile. Ultimately, we grabbed our cameras, got out of the vehicle, and approached the lizard ever so slowly. I fully expected the animal to bolt for the next county if I even blinked, but to my amazement it was incredibly tolerant, even allowing close-ups. As Kim put it, that was the “icing on the dessert of the day.”

Charmlee is open 8 AM to sunset, every day. There is a $4.00 parking fee. The modest nature center, not open when we were there, is normally open Saturdays and Sundays, 8 AM to 5 PM.


  1. You make the colors look great there. Envious of that that California whiptail sighting I am a big lizard fan, even more than snakes (no that is NOT a joke). I'm putting this park on my list for my next So. Cal visit.



  2. Thank *you*, Laurel, for the flattering compliments :-)