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.
Here are a few photos from the run. Click for a larger image:
The sign read “Middle Green Gulch Trail” but didn’t indicate if the trail went to Muir Beach. I was on the Coyote Ridge Trail and about 12 miles into a running adventure that had started in the Marina District of San Francisco, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and then entered the runner’s Wonderland of the Marin Headlands.
My destination was the Bootjack parking area in Mt. Tamalpais State Park. There are many ways to run to Bootjack from San Francisco, but the game I had decided to play was to pick up the Miwok 100K course at the juncture of the Coastal and SCA Trails and run the course in reverse to Pan Toll. From Pan Toll Bootjack was just a few minutes away.
It had gone well so far. The bridge and bay had been spectacular in the broken clouds and early morning light. There had been a bit of a headwind running along Crissy Field, but once across the bridge the wind and temperature had moderated and the weather had become nearly ideal for trail running.
The Coastal, SCA and Alta Trails had been well-signed, so it had been straightforward to get to the the Alta-Bobcat Trail junction. This nefarious juncture is marked with a skull and crossbones on the Miwok 100K map. Here I’d briefly tried to follow the Miwok course in reverse, but bailed and used the more obvious Bobcat Trail to get to the Marincello Trail. Back on route, it had been an enjoyable mile and a half descent to Tennessee Valley.
After chugging up the Miwok Trail from Tennessee Valley, I’d stopped at an unmarked trail and was trying to determine if the single-track was the “Miwok Connector.” I’d only been pondering the question for a minute when some runners happened by and confirmed that it was.
That had been about 20 minutes ago. Now I was trying to get down to Muir Beach and still trying to do the Miwok course in reverse. In my somewhat hastily created cheat-sheet the trail I needed to descend was labeled the “? Trail” which wasn’t a big help. It became one of those, “I’ll just run down to that next corner, where I can get a better view” kind of descents. Corner followed corner, and I soon found myself most of the way down the trail and still up-canyon from Muir Beach.
What was worrisome was that there was a farm in the canyon and it looked like I would have to run through the farm to get to Muir Beach. The trail had to go to a trailhead somewhere. Hopefully somewhere without snarling dogs and shotguns.
I needn’t have worried, I was on the correct route. The farm was Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, a Buddhist practice center. The forest service-style trail sign on the farm’s gate, and some fresh mountain bike tracks, suggested it was OK to pass through, and I was soon on my way to Muir Beach.
At Muir Beach I wandered around a bit and happened on a Western States 100 runner who gave me directions to the Redwood Creek Trail and also where I could get some water if I needed it. The Redwood Creek Trail was lush, green, and somewhat overgrown, but easy to follow. The stinging nettle mixed in with poison oak ensured that I would pay attention to the plants along the trail.
The Redwood Creek Trail ends at Muir Woods Road near the bottom of the Deer Park Fire Road. The fire road (and Dipsea Trail) border Muir Woods National Monument and cross through the northwest corner of the monument near the top of the climb to Pan Toll. Whether going up or down, or on or off the Dipsea Trail, it is outstanding running through a classic redwood forest.
At Pan Toll I crossed the Panoramic Hwy, picked up the Matt Davis Trail and was soon sitting in the sun at the Bootjack parking area.
Even with a wind shell and multiple layers the gusts of wind were sharp-edged and penetrating. The weather was spectacular, but it was very windy and very cold.
My run on the PCT had started at Islip Saddle in the San Gabriel Mountains. At 8:00 am the temperature at 6593′ had been about 35 degrees. The north wind funneling through the saddle had roared through the pines, buffeting their stout limbs and telling me to put on every scrap of warm clothing I had in my pack.
The broad canyon of the South Fork seemed to act as a wind tunnel — drawing the wind from the high desert into and over the crest. Even with a gloved hand it took only a couple of minutes before my camera became too cold to hold.
I was on my way to Mt. Baden-Powell and nearly up to Mt. Hawkins. With every stride up the mountain the temperature had dropped. Father Frost had frozen the landscape and me along with it.
Had it really been just a week ago when I had broiled in 90+ degree temps on the south-facing sections of trail on the Leona Divide 50M course?
Well, maybe not Shangri-La, but a Lost World kind of morning on the Calabasas Peak fire road segment of the Secret Trail.
Calabasas Peak fire road traverses the rock formations on the left, descending to Stunt Road. At Stunt the route continues up the Stunt High Trail to the Backbone Trail. Here you can do an optional out and back to Saddle Peak, shrouded in clouds in this photo, or turn west on the Backbone Trail and continue mostly downhill to Piuma Road near Malibu Canyon Road. Malibu Canyon is in the distance on the right in the photo.
Although we are still experiencing a record-breaking drought, this rain season did provide a little short term relief to plants and wildlife. Compared to last year rainfall is up 27% at Los Angeles, 39% at Santa Barbara, 57% at LAX and 63% at Camarillo/Oxnard according to NWS data.
The increase in rainy season precipitation dramatically increased plant growth, the abundance of wildflowers, and temporarily increased the availability of key resources to wildlife.
Another thing it seems to have increased is the number of rattlesnakes. Over the past two years I have seen maybe two rattlesnakes total on my runs in the Santa Monica Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, and in the Big Bear area and on San Gorgonio Mountain. In the Ahmanson Ranch – Cheeseboro area I’ve seen none.
With the increase in rainfall this season that has changed. The title photo was taken on the Leona Divide 50/50 course March 28. That day I encountered two rattlesnakes and talked to a runner that had seen three on the course the previous weekend. From March 26 to April 2 I encountered rattlesnakes on three out of four runs. Two of those were at Ahmanson and it seemed everyone I talked to on the trail was seeing rattlesnakes.
There has also been an increase in the number of encounters with non-venomous snakes as well. I’ve seen a number of gopher snakes and a California striped racer. Friends have mentioned seeing a ring-necked snake and California kingsnake.
Since the weather has cooled I haven’t encountered any rattlesnakes, but have seen their tracks. When I run, especially on single-track trails, my snake radar is on and I’m definitely on the lookout for the hard-to-see beasts.
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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).
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.
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.
Following last year’s drought-induced hiatus goldfields are once again blooming in profusion on Lasky Mesa. The little yellow “belly flowers” tend to grow in low spots and along paths where rain water pools.
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.
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.
Instability associated with an upper low resulted in some pop-up showers and thunderstorms today.
As I ran up the Chumash Trail on the east side of the Simi Valley I kept a close eye on a cell that developed near Ladyface in the Agoura Hills. That cell didn’t track as much to the east as I thought it might, but other cells were developing to the east and south of Rocky Peak and Santa Susana Pass area and at one point I heard the rumble of thunder.
As it worked out, I only had a few sprinkles on the run, but drove home in the rain!
California peony (Paeonia californica) on an east-facing slope along the Garapito Trail in Topanga State Park. From Saturday’s trail run to Trippet Ranch from the End of Reseda (Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park).