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It's been said that the number of people on a wilderness trail diminishes in proportion to the square of the distance and the cube of the elevation gain from the nearest road. Perhaps that explains why only about one in every hundred visitors to Malibu Creek State Park bothers to check out the dead-end Lost Cabin Trail.

In truth, when you reach the end (about three miles out), there's no "there" there -- just a trickling brook, a line of willows and oaks, lots of fragrant chaparral on the hillsides, plus the overarching dome of the blue sky. (The cabin, if there ever was one, seems to be truly lost.) This placid scene, however, lies in the heart of the 1900-acre Kaslow Natural Preserve, an area of the Santa Monica Mountains being managed for research and low-level public use. The Kaslow (meaning golden eagle in the language used by the Chumash Indians) preserve harbors mountain lions, golden eagles, and a rare native plant -- the Santa Susana tarweed.

Begin at the state park's main entrance, off Highway N-1 (Las Virgenes/Malibu Creek Road), 0.2 mile south of Mulholland Highway. Walk west on the main trail, known as Crags Road. At a summit just above Century Lake (1.2 miles) keep going west on the road. On the right is the marine sedimentary Calabasas Formation, consisting of light-colored, friable rocks roughly 15 million years old. On the left is the north wall of the Goat Buttes, which consist of the erosion-resistant Conejo Volcanics, also about 15 million years old. Ahead on the Lost Cabin Trail you'll get a look at the south side of the buttes, which features a weird assortment of pockmarked outcrops and boulders.

At 1.7 miles you come to a bridge over Malibu Creek. Just ahead, the Forest Trail goes left, providing access to Century Lake's south shore -- a possible side trip. From the Forest Trail intersection, follow Crags Road another 0.6 mile, to where an old bulldozed road goes left up along a draw. This is the Lost Cabin Trail, formerly an access road for sites used in the filming of the M*A*S*H television series. The main M*A*S*H site, dismantled upon the conclusion of filming in 1982, is marked by a sign along Crags Road. Little remains of the site of the fictional 4077th tent hospital other than an old burned-out jeep amid the encroaching brush.

Follow the Lost Cabin Trail up to a divide and then down to the bank of Lost Cabin Creek, a small tributary of Malibu Creek. At the trail's end a sign advises you to go no farther. Downstream, the trickling creek tumbles over a precipice to join Malibu Creek in the gorge between Century Lake and the Rock Pool.

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