Category Archives: nature|wildflowers

Tall Grasses, Wet Trails

Water droplets on grass near Temescal Peak

When I emerged from Garapito Canyon my shoes, socks, shorts and shirt were soaking wet. A group of hikers were nearby and one asked if it rained while I was down in the canyon. It hadn’t, but it might as well have.

Our wetter than normal rain season has produced a lush crop of annual grasses — some as tall as waist high — that have overgrown sections of many local trails.

Water droplets from overnight rain on the feathery styles of Chaparral Clematis
Water droplets on the feathery styles of Chaparral Clematis.

Overnight, light rain had coated every blade of grass and every leaf and limb of brush along the Garapito Trail with water droplets. Running through the wet grass was like passing through the wet brushes of a refrigerated car wash.

I happened to be wearing Gortex-lined running shoes, which was laughable considering the amount of water that had run down my legs and into the shoes. They were just as wet as if I had waded through a creek. Well-fitting gaiters might have helped, and at least would have kept the foxtails out of my saturated socks.

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Wishbone Bush Along the Backbone Trail

Wishbone bush (Mirabilis californica) along the Old Boney Trail segment of the Backbone Trail

Wishbone bush (Mirabilis californica) likes full sun and is usually one of the first plants to bloom as Winter days slowly start to lengthen.
This plant is along the Old Boney Trail segment of the Backbone Trail near the Blue Canyon junction.

The plant’s name refers to its forked stems.

From Saturday’s out and back run to the Chamberlain Trail from Wendy Drive.

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Milkmaids Along the Serrano Canyon Trail

Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) along the Serrano Canyon Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park.

Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) are among the first flowers to bloom in the Santa Monica Mountains in the early Winter. The plant prefers the the coast live oak understory, and the four-petaled white blossoms stand out brightly in the shade of the trees.

These are along the Serrano Canyon Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park. This photo was taken February 4, 2017, but milkmaids were blooming on this trail as early as January 1, 2017.

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Some Color on a Cloudy Day

Padre's shooting star (Primula clevelandii, formerly Dodecatheon clevelandii) along the Old Boney Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park. March 19, 2016.

A few wildflower photos from a recent run to Serrano Valley and La Jolla Valley in Pt. Mugu State Park.

The title photo is Padre’s shooting star (Primula clevelandii, formerly Dodecatheon clevelandii) along the Old Boney Trail. Click an image below for more info and to display the image full-size.

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Go Figure

Santa Ynez Canyon Trail. Santa Monica Mountains.

OK, the last few miles of last Saturday’s long run were a bit of a struggle. But the run was also a bit strenuous, so I tried not to read too much into it. The following morning I was up early enjoying the Winter green along the Garapito Trail. That run went well enough, but the weekend left me wondering if my revised training plan was going to work.

The plan for today was to do around 26 miles, but the question was what kind of 26 miles and where? After debating several options I finally settled on a run from Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park at “the end of Reseda.” The route would merge the Will Rogers – Temescal Canyon loop with the Trailer Canyon – Santa Ynez Canyon – Trippet Ranch loop. The term “loop” is used loosely here, just meaning that the run starts and ends in the same place, but isn’t an out & back.

I’d done the loop a couple of years ago and my recollection was that it was around 26 miles with an elevation gain of something over 5000′. It’s a good run to do self-supported since water is usually available at Will Rogers, Temescal Canyon and Trippet Ranch. It can be brutal on a hot day, but that’s true of most lower altitude runs in Southern California.

Rain-soaked prickly phlox (Linanthus californicus)
Rain-soaked Prickly Phlox

Hot temps were not going to be my problem today. Mostly cloudy skies were forecast with very light rain in the morning. The heavier rain was supposed to hold off until around midnight. It had already rained a little when I left for the trailhead, but conditions were supposed to improve during the middle of the day.

Running up to the Hub I had no clue how the run was going to go. I usually don’t until 2-3 hours into a long run. At around two hours I was at Will Rogers and feeling pretty good. At three hours I was nearing the “waterfall” in Temescal Canyon and at four making the turn left down Trailer Canyon.

Cloud-shrouded Green Peak on Temescal Ridge Trail fire road.
Green Peak on Temescal Ridge

Usually the decision to turn down Trailer Canyon is a painful one. You’ve done all that work to get up to Green Peak on Temescal Ridge and now you’re going to run down Trailer Canyon and give it all away? Today, for some reason, losing all that elevation and then having to gain it back again wasn’t a big deal — it was just another part of the course.

The run continued to be uncomplicated until near the rock slabs in Santa Ynez Canyon, when I decided to check the mileage on my Garmin. 20.2 miles… Hmm, that seems a little long… Is it only six miles back to Reseda? I don’t think so…

Thriving poison Oak along the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail.
Poison oak on the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail

I still had over a mile to the Trippet Rnach parking lot and from there my usual route back to Reseda on the Musch, Garapito and Bent Arrow Trails would be around 7 miles. I briefly debated shortening the route. The thing is, despite last week’s issues, I felt good and the run was going well. The conditions were perfect, so why not run the route as planned?

As things turned out today’s run was 5 miles longer than last Saturday’s and had about the same elevation gain. Somehow that translated into a 30 minute faster run than last week and legs that weren’t stiff or crampy.

What changed from last week to this week? If only I could figure that out!

Some related posts: Will Rogers – Temescal Loop, Chilly Los Angeles, Clouds, Canyons and Wildflowers, Garapito Trail Runs

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Inspiration

The day before the Angeles Crest 100, after checking in for the race in Wrightwood, I drove over to Inspiration Point to have lunch, go for a short hike, and enjoy being in the mountains. The day was exceptional.

Click an image for more info and to display the image full-size.

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Over Boney Mountain to Sandstone Peak and Serrano Valley

Volcanic rocks along the western escarpment of Boney MOuntain

While running in the Marin Headlands last weekend it occurred to me that it had been at least a couple of months since I’d done a a run in Pt. Mugu State Park. In addition to following the recovery of the area since the May 2013 Springs Fire, I’ve been surveying the effects of the December 2014 flash floods in Sycamore Canyon and its tributaries and hadn’t yet looked to see what happened in Serrano Canyon.

When doing a run in Pt. Mugu State Park I almost always start at the Wendy Drive trailhead. I’ve run from that trailhead to Serrano Valley and Canyon a couple of ways. Both routes connect by way of Satwiwa and Danielson Road to the Old Boney Trail. One follows the Old Boney Trail all the way to the Serrano Valley/Canyon Trail. The other climbs up and over Boney Mountain, eventually connecting to the Backbone Trail, and then descends the Chamberlain Trail and rejoins the Old Boney Trail about a mile east of the Serrano Valley/Canyon Trail.

Today’s run was a variation of option B. After climbing Boney Mountain to Tri Peaks, I ran over to Sandstone Peak using the Tri Peaks and Backbone Trails. Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, Two Foxes Trail and Upper Sycamore Trail were used to get back to Satwiwa and the Wendy Drive trailhead from Serrano Canyon.

Some related posts: Pt. Mugu State Park Debris Flows and Flash Floods, Just Me and the Meadowlarks, After the Springs Fire: A Run Through Pt. Mugu State Park

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If It Looks Like a Hummingbird and Flies Like a Hummingbird…

hummingbird moth feeding on spreading larkspur

I was on the way back from Mugu Peak and about four hours into my run. I’d stopped at an exposure of Miocene age shale along the Upper Sycamore Trail. The gray-brown rubble is home to an intensely blue-purple wildflower called spreading larkspur (Delphinium patens ssp. hepaticoideum).


Click for animation
I’d just snapped a series of bracketed exposures of one patch of the flowers when suddenly there was the bumblebee-on-steroids buzzing of a hummingbird in front of me.

At least I thought it was a hummingbird. It sounded like a hummingbird and was about the right size. Its blurred wings were shaped like a hummingbird’s. It flew with the precision of a hummingbird, darting from flower to flower, deftly feeding on each blossom’s nectar using its oddly shaped beak.


Click for larger image
But it wasn’t a hummingbird — it was a hummingbird moth — a white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata). I’d read about hummingbird moths, but to have one suddenly appear and start feeding on a larkspur plant I happened to be photographing was extraordinary.

Apparently the problem of feeding on the high-energy nectar in certain types of flowers is sufficiently definitive as to have produced a very similar evolutionary solution in wildly different organisms.

The sphinx moth is described as flying like a hummingbird, but which lineage produced this elegant solution first? It may have been the moth! A trace fossil of a sphinx moth found in Early Eocene Asencio Formation of Uruguay appears to predate the earliest known Oligocene fossils of hummingbird-like birds! In any case it appears that both hovering moths and birds co-evolved with the flowering plants on which they feed and pollinate.

Related post: Hummingbird Stories

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Ahmanson 12K Preview

East Las Virgenes Canyon, Ahmanson Ranch

Race director Nancy Shura-Dervin picked a great year, and as it looks now, a great weekend for the inaugural running of the Ahmanson 12K Trails event.

The hills are lush and green; wildflowers are in bloom; valley oaks are sprouting fresh green leaves; and it’s looking like race day may be one of those “gotta run” kind of days.



According to today’s NWS forecast the area will see dry and warmer weather beginning Tuesday and continuing through race day. While there could be a remnant puddle here or there, four days will be plenty of time for the dirt roads to (mostly) dry out. The Cheeseboro RAWS automated weather station can be used to get an idea of the current weather in the vicinity of the race course.

Over the past 10 years I’ve logged approximately 6000 miles at Ahmanson Ranch (now Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve) and the loop Nancy has selected for the course is a variation of a favorite.



Here’s a Google Earth overview of the 12K course and a preliminary elevation-corrected profile generated in SportTracks. The course is about 7.4 miles long with an elevation gain of about 740 feet. (Note: The loop is run in the clockwise direction.)



Lasky Mesa has long been used to shoot movies, television, commercials, music videos, and even Internet games. Its wildland character and expansive views bely its urban location. For a few weeks one summer the Mission Impossible III bridge was a Lasky Mesa landmark. The aesthetically-shaped valley oak at the west end of Lasky Mesa is a favorite of production companies and I’ve spotted it in more than one commercial.

The Ahmanson 12K should be an outstanding event on an excellent course in conditions we haven’t seen at Ahmanson in several years.

For more information and photos see the Trail Run Events web site and the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve web site.

Some related posts: 10th Anniversary of the Acquisition of Ahmanson Ranch, Coyote Tag, It Was So Muddy That…, Ahmanson Ranch Trail Runs

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