Category Archives: trails

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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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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Races, Ravens and Running in Rocky Peak Park

Simi Valley with Boney Mountain in the distance

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!

Rocky Peak Road
Rocky Peak Road

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.”

Greening hills along the Chumash Trail
Greening hills along the Chumash 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.

Overlook near Rocky Peak
Overlook near Rocky Peak

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.

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Canyon View

Cheeseboro Ridge Trail, Cheeseboro Canyon and Sheep Corral Trail

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.

Some related posts: Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Backcountry, Upper Las Virgenes Canyon – Cheeseboro Ridge Loop, Scenic Route to Simi Peak

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Should Los Angeles Have Had More El Nino Rain?

Cirrus clouds

Originally posted January 7, 2016 and rewritten to reflect the current rainfall totals for Downtown Los Angeles. Rain season totals have been updated as of March 31.

Based on 1981-2010 climate normals Downtown Los Angeles (USC) receives, on average, 1.04 inches of rain in November, 2.33 inches of rain in December, and 3. 12 inches in January. This past November Los Angeles recorded only 0.01 inch of rain, and in December only 0.57 inch. January rainfall was a few hundredths above normal at 3.17 inches.

The 2015-16 El Nino is one of the three strongest El Ninos in the past 65 years; the other two were 1982-83 and 1997-98. How does the amount of rain we’ve had so far this rainfall year compare to the other two? Is this El Nino failing to produce the expected amount of rainfall in Los Angeles?

On January 7, when this post  was originally written, the rain year totals were in the same ballpark for the date as during the 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Ninos. That is no longer the case, and Los Angeles rainfall totals are falling far behind those other big El Ninos.

As of January 31 Downtown Los Angeles (USC) has recorded only 6.97 inches of rain for this rain year, which is 0.47 inch below normal. At this point during the 1982-83 El Nino Los Angeles had already recorded 12.98 inches of rain, and in the 1997-98 El Nino 9.15 inches. (See updates below.)

The good news is that the Sierra snowpack is above average. That helps with the water supply, but not so much with naturally-occurring local groundwater and other drought impacts in Southern California. It does help that the Los Angeles rain year total is nearly normal, but I’m still waiting to see running water in upper Las Virgenes Creek.

Remarkably, as of this morning, the medium range models are forecasting dry weather to predominate over the next 10 days or so and both the GFS and ECMWF show a mega-ridge of high pressure developing over the West Coast this weekend.  We’ll see!

Update:

As of March 31 Downtown Los Angeles (USC) has recorded only 9.36 inches of rain for 2015-16 rain year, which is 68.5% of normal. At this point during the 1982-83 El Nino Los Angeles had already recorded 25.72 inches of rain, and in the 1997-98 El Nino 26.89 inches. All the data for the April 1 Sierra Snow Course Measurements are not available yet, but it looks like the snowpack will be around 85% of normal. In 1983 the weighted statewide average snowpack was 227% of normal and in 1998 it was 158% of normal.

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You Can’t See Far in a Cloud

Clouds along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains near Sandstone Peak

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.

But then something unusual happened. A lower deck of clouds formed in the Conejo Valley, and then expanded upward, enveloping me as I worked up Boney’s Western Ridge. It wasn’t a whiteout, but in places the visibility was reduced to about twenty feet.

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.

I remained immersed in cloud all the way up the Western Ridge, past Tri Peaks and over to Sandstone Peak, and didn’t climb above them until near the summit of Sandstone Peak.

A few photos from the climb and run are below. Click an image for more info and to display the image full-size.

Related post: Increasing Clouds

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