Category Archives: photography

Deer Encounters

Mule deer near Trippet Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains

Mule deer are common in the Santa Monica Mountains. I see them most frequently in Topanga State Park, near Trippet Ranch, and in Malibu Creek State Park.

This video snapshot is of a recent encounter with three mule deer while running down East Topanga Fire Road to Trippet Ranch.

My intent was to try and walk past without scaring them. One doe did not run, but the youngster and its companion were more skittish and didn’t quite know how to react.

In some situations a bolting deer can be a real problem. Two friends running in Topanga State Park rounded a corner and were suddenly confronted with a spooked buck running toward them. There was a steep hill on one side and a cliff on the other. In the narrow confines the buck collided with one of the runners, hitting his shoulder and knocking him to the ground. All things considered he was very lucky. The bucks head was up, so the collision only resulted in a sore shoulder and some trail rash.

Some related posts: Trippet Ranch Mule Deer, Musch Trail Mule Deer

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Crest and Clouds

Crest and clouds on the Pacific Crest Trail at 8900' near Mt. Burnham.

Crest and clouds on the Pacific Crest Trail at 8900′ near Mt. Burnham in the San Gabriel Mountains. From Saturday’s 30 mile training run on the PCT and AC100 course.

Cirrocumulus undulatus clouds above the San Gabriel Mountains. June 18, 2016.
Cirrocumulus undulatus clouds

Temps were a bit more manageable on Saturday than Sunday. Saturday the Big Pines RAWS (6964′) recorded a high of 79°F with an “in the sun” temperature of around 101°F. Sunday the Big Pines high was 89°F with a sizzling “in the sun” temperature of about 109°F.

In addition to the air temperature many Remote Automated Weather Stations (RAWS) report the fuel temperature. The air temperature is the temperature inside a ventilated, sun-shielded enclosure approximately 6 ft. off the ground. The fuel temperature is the temperature of a pine dowel in full sun near the ground. The fuel temperature is a good indicator of the much higher temperature runners and hikers can experience in exposed areas facing the sun.

Some related posts: Postcard Weather on the Pacific Crest Trail, What’s the Current Weather on the AC100 Course?

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Crissy Field – Fort Point – Land’s End – Golden Gate Park Loop

Monterey pines in Land's End Park

What do a hilly marathon, a pair of cygnets, and a herd of bison have in common?

Why, of course, a run in San Francisco.

Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Promenade
Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Promenade

Brett wanted to check out some of the hills on the San Francisco Marathon course and show me more San Francisco sights. The result was a 14 mile loop that began in the Marina District and visited Crissy Field, the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point, Land’s End Park, Sutro Heights Park and Golden Gate Park.

The Palace of Fine Art swanskeep a close eye on their brood. June 4, 2016.
Blanche, Blue Boy and their cygnets

The run started with a visit to the Palace of Fine Arts to check on Blanche’s and Blue Boy’s new brood. Nature isn’t always nice, so it was good to see the remaining two cygnets are doing well.

One of two lion statues at the entrance to Sutro Heights Park.
Sutro Heights Park Lion

Most of the run between the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park was on the California Coastal Trail. Near Sea Cliff we left the marathon course and continued on the Coastal Trail to Land’s End Park and Sutro Heights Park, eventually entering Golden Gate Park on its northwest corner at 47th Avenue.

Bison in Golden Gate Park
Bison in Golden Gate Park

Larger than New York’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park’s many attractions draw millions of visitors each year. That one of those attractions is a golf course isn’t particularly surprising. And you might expect a major city park to have a botanical garden, aquarium and a museum. But would you expect a park in San Francisco to host a herd of bison? I know when I put on my running shoes this morning I wasn’t thinking, “Hope we see some buffalo!”

Bison have been present in Golden Gate Park since the 1890s. According to this Huffington Post article by Fiona Ma the herd was repopulated in 2011 and, “The City and County of San Francisco would excitedly welcome 6 more urban bison members.”

The title photo is a black and white image of Monterey pines along the Land’s End Trail.

Some related posts: San Francisco Sights Trail Run, Golden Gate Bridge Run, Miwok Wanderings

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Postcard Weather on the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Baden-Powell from the PCT on Blue Ridge

In recent weeks it seems just about every weekend the mountains have had postcard running weather.

Today’s run was on a higher elevation section of the Pacific Crest Trail and Angeles Crest 100 course. To shorten the shuttle, but still enjoy the great views up on Blue Ridge, we parked at Inspiration Point and started the day with a six mile (round trip) out and back run to near Blue Ridge Campground.

After the out and back run and a quick stop at the car, we continued west on the northbound PCT to Vincent Gap, then up to the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell, down to Islip Saddle, up and over the shoulder of Mt. Williamson and then down to Eagles Roost.

PCTA volunteer Ray Drasher has been hard at work again, clearing fallen trees from the trail on Blue Ridge, Lytle Ridge and between Mt. Hawkins and Islip Saddle; and PCTA trail maintenance sage Pete Fish and another volunteer took care of the two trees on the west side of Williamson. Thanks!

During the run the following question came up — What is the highest elevation reached by the PCT in Southern California? It had to be either on San Jacinto Peak or Mt. Baden-Powell. I knew the high point of the PCT on Baden-Powell was around 9200′, but couldn’t recall the max elevation of the PCT on San Jacinto. We asked a through-hiker and he said about 9000′.

When I got home I checked the elevations using USGS National Map 1/3 arc second digital elevation model data. According to this data the high point of the PCT in Southern California is 9230′, at the junction of the PCT and Mt. Baden-Powell summit trail. The max elevation of the PCT on San Jacinto Peak is 9045′, near the junction of the PCT and Wellman Divide Trail.

The title photo is Mt. Baden-Powell from the PCT east of Inspiration Point.

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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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