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?
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…
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
Been enjoying the views from Rocky Peak Road a lot this past month. That’s Simi Valley, with Boney Mountain in the distance. On a clear day the view extends to the Channel Islands.
That viewpoint is at about mile 4.5 of the Bandit 50K/30K/15K and there are many other superb views along the way. This year, as a result of the L.A. Marathon date change, the Bandit races were moved from President’s Day weekend to January 30. El Nino or not, we had near perfect running weather for the event. Thanks to Randy, Sarita & crew and all the volunteers for all the work putting together the eight edition of the Bandit Ultra Trail Run!
The Tuesday following Bandit I’d run farther than planned, so on Wednesday the plan had been to drive over to Simi Valley and do a short recovery run/hike up the Chumash Trail. As I parked on Flanagan Drive, it occurred to me it would be a good day to see if the linkup from the Chumash trailhead to the Hummingbird trailhead was once again possible. The 9.3 mile Hummingbird-Chumash loop used to be a favorite, but because of construction I had not done the loop since 2010. An out and back to check out the first couple of miles of the loop would be the perfect recovery run!
I was happy to discover the trails east of Chumash Park and behind the cemetery had not changed. Construction of the extension of Mt. Sinai Drive appears to be mostly complete, but residential construction along the street is ongoing. The work day was ending, so running the quarter-mile stretch of Mt. Sinai Drive to get to Kuehner didn’t seem to be an issue.
Once on Kuehner my thought was, “What now?” The run was going to be too short if I turned around, so I decided to go just “15 minutes up the Hummingbird Trail.”
Right… I soon found myself most of the way up the trail and estimating what time I needed to get to the top of Hummingbird in order to make it to the Chumash Trail and complete the loop before dark. I’m sure my pace was not too far off what it had been in the 50K, just a few days before. At some point an official trail is supposed to link the bottom of the Chumash and Hummingbird Trails, and I hope that is in the not too distant future.
The single track trails in Rocky Peak Park — and even Rocky Peak Road — tend to be technical. It’s excellent training and I try to run there at least once a week. A run I’ve been doing frequently is an out and back from the Chumash trailhead to an airy overlook near Rocky Peak. (This run also passes the point on Rocky Peak Road where the title photo was taken.) Today, as I approached the overlook I saw that it was occupied by a pair of large ravens.
Often seen in pairs, ravens are perceptive, intelligent birds. Depending on the situation, they can be somewhat tolerant of humans. Sometimes it is possible to pass within a few feet of them and not make them fly. They really don’t want to waste the energy if they don’t have to.
As I worked up the path to the overlook I could see that the birds were watching me intently and trying to decide if I posed a threat. Knowing they are curious birds, I clucked my tongue in an attempt to mimic one of their more simple calls. Perhaps they were perplexed by the garbled raven-talk coming from the troublesome, large, bipedal, wingless creature. In any case they didn’t fly and continued to watch me. As “politely” as I could, I moved up and about four feet to their left, sharing the high point. For seconds I stood by them on the overlook, enjoying the view.
I’d flown a hang glider from a point such as this and understood why it was so special to the birds. With care, I turned away from them and walked down an alternate path. Slowly turning my head, I could see they had not flown.
Cheeseboro Canyon is the prominent canyon on the left of the photo. The dirt road is the Cheeseboro Ridge Trail — a power line service road. The Sheep Corral Trail follows the flat-ish terrain in the little valley. It links the Cheeseboro Ridge Trail to the top of the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail about a quarter-mile to the west (right) at Shepherds’ Flat.
There are innumerable trail runs, hikes and rides that pass through here. Here’s a NPS map of the Cheeseboro/Palo Comado area trails (PDF). On this cool, mid-January day I was doing the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon – Cheeseboro Ridge Loop.
For the most part the upper layer of clouds had been above Boney Mountain. Thin wisps of cloud had clung to the ridges in a couple of places, but the ceiling looked like it was going to remain above the peak.
Fog changes the mood and character of a place, particularly a place where airy views and an expansive mindset are the norm. Thoughts turn inward and perceptions more narrowly focused. The big picture becomes entirely virtual.
Earlier in the week the area had been drenched by more than two inches of rain. It had been damp overnight and water filled the profusion of irregular pockets covering the volcanic rock. The rock was plastered with a patchwork of bright green moss and gray-green lichen. Saturated with water, the moss was slippery as ice. I climbed with extra care, especially on the steeper sections.
Where soil collected on tiered steps, obovate leaves of shooting-star and other annuals sprouted, presaging a show of the purple and yellow wildflowers. Chalk liveforever relished the moisture, its drought-scarred leaves rehydrating and recovering.
Higher on the ridge the intricate green foliage of red shanks, still recovering from the 2013 Springs Fire, was heavily-beaded with water. Brushing against it was like being sprayed with ice-cold water.
The last couple of days I’d been checking the weather models to try and get an idea of when the cold front might reach Pt. Mugu State Park. Projections ranged from around 10:00 AM to about 1:00 PM.
A group of us were doing an annual end of the year trail run and scramble over Boney Mountain to the Backbone Trail, and then returning by various routes to the Wendy Drive trailhead. Along the way there are great views of the Boney Mountain Wilderness, Channel Islands, Conejo Valley and Ventura Mountains, but you can’t see very far from inside of a cloud.
It turned out clouds would not be a problem. At least not the first half of the day. When I pulled into the parking area at Wendy Drive the front was little more than a white smudge on the western horizon. The sky was clear and it remained clear the entire time we worked up Boney’s Western Ridge. Everyone enjoyed scrambling up the gullies and rocks to the top of the mountain and then over to Tri Peaks.
We’d reached Tri Peaks about 40 minutes ago. From there I’d run over to Sandstone Peak, the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains. From this panoramic vantage point I could see the front was still well to the west, near Santa Barbara. This gave me some time. I was prepared for rain, but didn’t want to miss the wonderful scenery running down the Chamberlain Trail, over to Serrano Valley, and through Serrano Canyon.
Over the remainder of the run I watched as cirrus clouds ahead of the front gradually muted the sun, mid-level clouds began to develop over the peaks, and the wind became more gusty and fitful. Later in the run the clouds started to lower and thicken and the temperature dropped. Eventually it began to smell like rain.
As I crested the hill on Danielson Road I felt a cold drop of rain on my arm and then another on the back of a leg. Clouds covered the sky, and to the west showers draped the ridges and filled the canyons. The front and I were racing the last mile to the trailhead, and I knew who had won.