Category Archives: photography

Shortcut Self-Supported 50K

Canyon of the West Fork San Gabriel River

The “Shortcut 50K” is a 31 mile loop that starts and ends at Shortcut Saddle on Hwy 2. It’s a good AC100 training run because it covers about 21 miles of the Angeles Crest 100 course, doesn’t require a shuttle, and normally has water at key points along the way.

Chantry Flat from the Upper Winter Creek Trail
Chantry Flat from the Upper Winter Creek Trail

After following the AC100 course from Shortcut Saddle to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road via Chantry Flat, the 50K follows the Mt. Wilson Trail (including a short stretch of the Toll Road) to the top of Mt. Wilson. From the parking lot on Mt. Wilson a nondescript trail is normally used to connect to the Kenyon Devore Trail, which is followed down to West Fork. From West Fork the Silver Moccasin Trail is taken back up to Shortcut Saddle.

All the trails that make up the loop can be seen in Google Maps. There is usually water available at Chantry Flat and a spigot in the Mt. Wilson parking lot. There is also water running from a pipe at West Fork, just below the last switchback, on the right side of the trail. It’s been used as a water source for years, but treat it to be sure. There are cafes at Chantry Flat and Mt. Wilson.

Restored Silver Moccasin Trail above West Fork
Silver Moccasin Trail above West Fork

Last year the lower part of the Silver Moccasin Trail was a bushwhack, but thanks to Mt. Disappointment 50K/50M RD Gary Hilliard and crew, the trail has been restored.

On today’s run some sections of the connector trail between the Mt. Wilson parking lot and the Kenyon Devore Trail were difficult to follow because of work to remove debris piles created during the Station Fire. Until the work is completed, it would probably be easier to follow Mt. Wilson Road a short distance down to the top of the Kenyon Devore Trail.

Canyon Liveforever along the Gabrieleno Trail
Canyon Liveforever along the Gabrieleno Trail

Descending the Kenyon Devore Trail today I was reminded just how quickly a fun run in the mountains can become something else. I was about halfway down the trail when I rounded a corner and saw a huge tree had fallen across the trail. I was at that point in a long run where I had no desire whatsoever to clamber over a tree.

I muttered out loud, “What the heck!” then was relieved to see the big tree could be easily bypassed on the left. As I rounded the tree, there was a sudden commotion, accompanied by the sound of breaking branches and the disconcerting sight of large bear disappearing into the bushes just a few feet away.

Apparently the bear had been walking up the trail and had not heard me running down the trail. Fortunately it did hear my exclamation, and that was just enough of warning to avoid a potentially serious confrontation.

Related post: Shortcut – Chantry – Mt. Wilson Loop

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After the Station Fire: Pine Seedling Along the Mt. Waterman Trail

Pine seedling along the Mt. Waterman Trail

It’s been more than six and a half years since the devastating Station Fire burned 160,577 acres in Angeles National Forest.

The pine seedling above is on the Three Points – Mt. Waterman trail (10W04) in an area burned by the Station Fire. It’s 3.5 miles from Three Points and at an elevation of about 7000′. It’s about three years old.

How long will the seedling have to grow to replace the mature trees lost in the fire?

Jeffrey pine on the Mt. Waterman Trail burned in the 2009 Station Fire
Jeffrey pine burned in the 2009 Station Fire

A couple more miles up the trail, near the Twin Peaks Trail junction, is a Jeffrey pine burned by the Station Fire and then cut by fire fighters. The tree is representative of the mature trees in this area of the forest. An inexact, but conservative, count of its growth rings is in the neighborhood of 325.

So the burned tree was a seedling sometime around 1690. If the seedling survives the drought, increasing temperatures, subsequent fires and droughts, and other maladies that can befall a tree, it will reach the age of the burned tree around 2340.

Here’s hoping that it does, and that the forests will be as enjoyable then as they are now…

Some related posts: Lemon Lily Along the Mt. Waterman Trail, After the Station Fire: Three Points – Mt. Waterman Loop, Three Points Loop Plus Mt. Waterman

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What’s the Current Weather on the AC100 Course?

Pacific Crest Trail on Kratka Ridge in the San Gabriel Mountains

A couple of weekends ago we had cool weather for a 28 mile Angeles Crest 100 training run from Islip Saddle to Chilao Flat. It was a bit windy and chilly at Islip Saddle, but once we were up and over the shoulder of Mt. Williamson the wind settled down and the weather for the remainder of the run was near perfect.

This was the second of four supported AC100 training runs, each covering a different section of the course. These organized runs account for just a tiny fraction of the total mileage a runner does to prepare for this event, and much of the mileage is done on the AC100 course.

Where is the AC100 course? Incorporating segments of iconic trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail, Silver Moccasin Trail and Gabrielino Trail, the AC100 starts in the mountain community of Wrightwood, California and ends in Altadena near JPL, traversing a large part of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Mountain weather — even Los Angeles County mountain weather — can be extremely varied and changeable. At about mile 18 the AC100 course reaches an elevation of more than 9,200′, near the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell. On the same day temperatures on the course can differ by 50 degrees or more. One section can be inundated by a flash flood while another is bone dry. During a Spring training run it might be 100 in the sun at Echo Mountain, while it is snowing on Baden-Powell.

Annotated Mt. Wilson Towercam Image
Annotated Mt. Wilson Towercam Image

The Mt. Wilson Towercam is usually pointed in the direction of the Angeles high country. When it is, it provides a great overview of about two-thirds of the AC100 course. The view extends from the top of the Acorn Trail at about mile 4 (in the distance on the far right), along the crest past Mt. Baden-Powell, Throop Peak, Twin Peaks and Waterman Mountain to Three Points at about mile 43. Chilao is hidden from view, but the Charlton Flat area and a section of Edison Road is visible on the left. Newcomb Saddle, at about mile 68, is on the lower right. Here’s an annotated Towercam image that shows the approximate location of these features.

Bill Westphal’s Altadena Weather & Webcam gives a lower elevation view of the San Gabriels, near the AC100 Finish. The view is NE toward the Sunset Ridge Trail and Mt. Lowe Road, around mile 93 or 94. The course goes from the right of the photo to the left, but is mostly hidden from view.

If you are willing to jump through some Java security hoops the Mountain Hardware Live Interactive Cam in Wrightwood is a couple blocks from the AC100 Start. It has views of downtown Wrightwood, Wright Mountain, the Heath Canyon landslide, Blue Ridge and several other locations. I temporarily enabled Java and followed the troubleshooting info linked on the web cam page. I’ve been able to get it to work on a desktop system using Firefox or Internet Explorer. Note that enabling Java and adding non-secure URLs to the Java exceptions list decreases the security of your computer.

Following are several Remote Automated Weather Stations (RAWS) and Weather Underground Personal Weather Stations (PWS) along or near the AC100 course, in order from Start to Finish.

It is important to note that the air temperature given by RAWS stations is the temperature inside a sun-shielded, ventilated enclosure 4-8 feet off the ground. Basically it’s the temperature in light shade. The temperature in full sun can be 15°F higher. I’ve found the “Fuel Temperature” to be a better gage of how hellish it’s going to be on exposed areas of trail. (The Fuel Temperature is the temperature of a ponderosa pine dowel in direct sun.)

Wrightwood KCAWRIGH7 PWS (5996′) – Approximately 0.25 mile W of Start. Was 55°F at 5 a.m. for 2015 AC100.

Wrightwood KCAWRIGH9 PWS (6000′) – Approximately 0.6 mile SE of Start. Was 59°F at 5 a.m. for 2015 AC100.

Big Pines BPNC1 RAWS (6964′) – Off Hwy 2 near Mountain High Ski Area. Top of Mt. Baden-Powell can be 12+ degrees cooler and much more windy. Was 64°F at 6:54 a.m. for 2015 AC100. Fuel temp at 11:54 a.m. was 92°F.

Mountain High Ski Area Base & Top Conditions – Approximate elevation of Base is 7000′ and top is 8000′. Compare Base temp to Big Pines temp.

Chilao CHOC1 RAWS (5450′) – Approximately 1.25 miles WNW of Chilao aid. Fuel temp at 1:53 pm was 95°F for 2015 AC100. Air temp at 6:53 pm was 79°F.

Clear Creek CEKC1 RAWS (3000′) – Approximately 6.8 miles W of Shortcut Aid (~4793′). Was 71°F at 8:54 p.m. for 2015 AC100.

Mt. Wilson MWSC1 (5710′) – Approximately 1.5 miles NW of and 780′ above the top of Mt. Wilson Toll Road (~4930′). Compare to KCAMOUNT12 WU 5655′ and JPL 5600′. Was 69°F at midnight for 2015 AC100.

Henninger Flats HNGC1 RAWS (2800′) – Approximately 0.8 miles WSW of Idlehour Aid (~3168′). Marine layer can increase humidity on this section of the course. Was 69-70°F from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. for 2015 AC100. Fuel temp was 89°F by 11a.m.

Altadena KCAALTAD18 PWS (1214′) – Approximately 0.6 miles S of Finish. For 2015 AC100 temp ranged from 66°F at 2 a.m. to 63°F at sunrise. Temp was 79°F at 9 a.m., 82°F at 11 a.m., and 86°F at 1 p.m. Humidity was high with dew point about 70°F.

Altadena KCAALTAD41 PWS (1348′) – Approximately 0.4 miles NW of Finish.

It’s not on the AC100 course, but the Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts Web Cams and Weather can be useful for estimating mountain temps and for Baldy area training runs. The weather conditions are for the Notch at 7800′. 24 hour plots of temperature, wind, and barometric pressure are also available.

Related post: The Ups and Downs of the Angeles Crest 100 Mile Run

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Alpaca and Old Man of the Andes

Alpaca along a trail in the Peruvian Andes

This photograph of an alpaca was taken at about 15,000′, running down from Palomani Pass (16,600 ft.) on a Circuit of Mt. Ausangate (20,905 ft.) organized by Andes Adventures. It was part of a large herd grazing on the mountainside.

We did the circuit in July, which is mid-Winter in the Southern Hemisphere. The alpaca’s thick coat protects it from the harsh, alpine conditions. Temps were relatively moderate when we were there, but still dropped to 0°F overnight.

Evidence suggests the alpaca was domesticated 6000-7000 years ago and bred for its fiber and meat. It is intriguing how much the alpaca’s coat looks like the clumps of cacti growing on the hillside. From a distance an alpaca would be difficult to distinguish from the plants, however this doesn’t appear to be an adaptation. Genetic analysis suggests the alpaca is descended from the vicuña, which has different coloration. The cactus is a species of Oreocereus, commonly called “old man of the Andes.”

Like Llamas, alpacas are camelids, though some claim they are related to Ewoks.

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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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The Malibu Creek State Park Redwoods Are Dying

Century Lake, Malibu Creek State Park. March 26, 2016.

Illuminated by a just-risen sun, Goat Buttes reflected sharply on the lake’s surface. Ducks squabbled near some reeds and a bullfrog’s resonant croaking filled the canyon.

Part way through the Bulldog Loop, I’d paused for a moment at Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park to enjoy the tranquility of the early morning. I snapped a photo and then noticed something very disturbing. The hundred year old coast redwoods across the lake looked brown.

Dying coast redwoods at Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park. March 26, 2016.
Dying coast redwoods at Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park

I tried to convince myself it was just the golden hue of the warm morning light, but it wasn’t. From Crags Road I could see at least one tree appeared to be dead, and most of the others were highly-stressed, if not dying. A detour to the other side of the lake on the Forest Trail confirmed the bleak situation.

Dead coast redwood at Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park. March 26, 2016.
Dead coast redwood at Century Lake

Although coast redwoods have been planted in several areas of Southern California, they do not occur naturally here. The southernmost stand of naturally-occurring coast redwoods is about 200 miles north of Malibu Creek State Park in the Southern Redwood Botanical Area of Las Padres National Forest.

Redwoods have widespread, but shallow, root systems. Drought and warming temperatures are a worst case scenario for these trees, with the upper layer of soil being moisture-starved and baked.

The redwoods appeared to be healthy in June 2011, August 2012, and January 2013. This photo was taken December 13, 2014 and may show the first hint of discolored and thinning foliage. On May 1, 2015 — just 4 1/2 months later — Google Earth imagery clearly shows several discolored trees.

This coast redwood along the Forest Trail shows some foliage discoloration, but is in better shape than the trees closer to Century Lake.
This redwood is in better condition than those along the shore of Century Lake.

Ironically the redwoods closest to the lake appear to be the most severely affected. This tree away from the lake on the Forest Trail appears to be in better shape, but it too is showing signs of stress.

Malibu Creek State Park isn’t the only locale in Southern California where redwoods are dying. According to this May 2015 San Gabriel Valley Tribune article, 15 redwoods were removed from Verdugo Park in Glendale, and redwoods in other areas of Southern California have also been affected.

Browning foliage of a coast redwood along Century Lake in Malibu Creek State Park.
Browning foliage of a coast redwood in Malibu Creek State Park

As mentioned in an earlier post, the 2004 article “What’s up with the redwoods?” by James Downer, discusses a dramatic decline in coast redwoods planted in Ventura County and describes some of the problems that can affect this tree.

Drought and climate impacts are not limited to redwoods in Southern California. Endemic redwoods, particularly those in the southern extent of their range have also been significantly impacted.

Some related posts: Malibu Creek State Park Coast Redwoods, Reeds and Redwoods, Coast Redwoods Along the Forest Trail

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Running to Serrano and La Jolla Valleys from Wendy Drive

Serrano Valley in Pt. Mugu State Park

Illuminated by the rising sun and partially enveloped in cloud, Boney Mountain’s Western Ridge looked so inviting I thought about abandoning my planned run and climbing the ridge instead.

Boney Mountain's Western Ridge from the Old Boney Trail
Boney Mountain’s Western Ridge from the Old Boney Trail

Pt. Mugu State Park is a great place for long, self-supported trail runs. The scenery is superb, the trails are generally in good condition, and water is usually available in several locations.

Today’s run took me to two of the most scenic areas in the Park — Serrano Valley and La Jolla Valley. This PDF map from LAMountains.com shows many of the trails in the area. The Wendy Drive trailhead is in the upper right corner of the map. La Jolla Valley is marked and Serrano Valley is near the “PARK” in the label “POINT MUGU STATE PARK.”

The marine layer kept the temperature cool for most of the run, but the sun finally broke through as I ran up Sycamore Canyon on the Two Foxes trail, on the way back to the Wendy Drive trailhead.

Although much of the run was overcast, a good selection of wildflowers added some bright color to the cloudy day.

Some related posts: Serrano Valley, La Jolla Valley

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It’s Raining Mountain Lion Tracks!

Mountain lion tracks on Temescal Ridge Fire Road #30, north of the Hub. March 12, 2016.

Like dust reveals a sunbeam, rain reveals the presence of our elusive Santa Monica Mountains mountain lions.

I first noticed the tracks on Temescal Ridge Fire Road #30 more than a half-mile below the Hub (running from the end of Reseda) and then followed them past the Hub on Fire Road #30 to it’s junction with the Backbone Trail. After a short detour up Temescal Peak (no tracks), I returned to Fire Road #30 and followed the lion’s tracks back to the Hub, then down Eagle Springs Fire Road to Eagle Springs and past the fire road’s junction with the Musch Trail.

It looked like the tracks were made sometime between yesterday evening, after the rain, and early this morning.

The total distance I was able to follow the tracks was around three miles. Although I had to turn around a little past the Musch Trail, I’d guess the lion was headed down to Trippet Ranch.

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Arroyo Seco Sedimentation

Sedimentation on Arroyo Seco upstream of Bear Creek

Since kayaking Arroyo Seco with Gary Gunder during the 1997-1998 El Nino, I’ve enjoyed revisiting the many drops and falls along Arroyo Seco when running in the area.

When we did the Bear Canyon loop a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed to see many of Arroyo Seco’s stream features were nearly filled in with sediment. This image comparison shows a drop below Switzer Falls in March 2012 and in March 2016.

Arroyo Seco Sediment 2012 vs 2016.
Arroyo Seco Sediment 2012 vs 2016. Click for larger image.

Doing a little sleuthing using Yelp reviews of Switzer Falls, it looks like the creek had low sediment levels in early January 2014, but was heavily silted in mid-March 2014. Based on this, it appears that the initial sedimentation event occurred during the  storms of February 26 – March 2, 2014, when nearby Opids Camp recorded 10.95 inches of rain.

The origin of the 2009 Station Fire was in the Arroyo Seco watershed and it was one of the most severely impacted. A question that comes to mind is why did the Arroyo Seco drainage produce such a high rate of stream sedimentation in the February-March 2014 rain event, but not in the very high flows of February 2010 and December 2010, and the moderately high flows of March 2011?

Some of the factors likely include vegetative cover, rainfall rate, recent rainfall history, the soil’s hydrophobicity, the soil support provided by degrading root systems, the magnitude of the peak flow and the shape of the stream discharge curve. Our multi-year drought has been an amplifying factor, further reducing vegetative cover and soil support.

For more information regarding the history of the Arroyo Seco watershed and plans for its rehabilitation see the Arroyo Seco Foundation web site.

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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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Bear Canyon Loop Plus Strawberry Peak

San Gabriel Mountains from Strawberry Peak

I stepped on top of the waist-high rock and with some effort pressed upward. It felt like my leg was going to blow apart at the seams. We were hiking up a steep section of Strawberry Peak, and were about a mile from the summit. I’d done Strawberry from Red Box innumerable times, but my legs had never felt like this.

Trail runners — and all of us that love the outdoors — are very good at finding ways to spend a little extra time outside. The first half of the day Skye and I had done the Bear Canyon loop and now we were climbing Strawberry Peak.

Bear Canyon from above Tom Sloan Saddle
Bear Canyon

On its own the Red Box – Bear Canyon – Gabrielino loop is a demanding run. Because the canyon has been subject to numerous flash floods the Bear Creek Trail is a mix of classic mountain trail and segments of “use trail” through washouts and flood debris. Add in the elevation gain going from Red Box to Mt. Disappointment and from Switzer Falls back up to Red Box and you’ve got an adventurous run.

Skye running on a nice section of the Bear Canyon Trail near Arroyo Seco.
Bear Creek Trail near Arroyo Seco

About halfway through the canyon is Bear Canyon Trail Camp. Perched on a bench above the creek this idyllic camp was spared by the 2009 Station Fire. Because of the camp’s popularity the section of trail between Bear Camp and Arroyo Seco sees the most use and generally is in better condition than the section between Tom Sloan Saddle and Bear Camp.

The 16 mile loop we did today is the shortest that goes through Bear Canyon. The loop can be extended by linking in the Valley Forge Trail or circuit around Strawberry Peak, or doing what we did today — the out and back to the summit of Strawberry Peak.

Some related posts: Red Box – Bear Canyon – Gabrielino Loop Revisited, Red Box – Bear Canyon – Gabrielino Loop, Red Box – Bear Canyon Loop, Strawberry – Bear Canyon Loop

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