Hot Weather on the Three Points Loop

Approaching Waterman Meadow on the Three Points - Mt. Waterman Trail.
Approaching Waterman Meadow on the Three Points Loop around Mt. Waterman.

When Angeles Crest Highway opened between Upper Big Tujunga Road and Islip Saddle last Fall, I jumped on the chance to do the Three Points loop around Mt. Waterman. When in good condition and with good weather, the 20+ mile loop is one of my favorites. That day, the trail conditions could have been better.

Twin Peaks from the Three Points - Mt. Waterman Trail, about 1.5 miles from Three Points. (thumbnail)
Twin Peaks from the Three Points – Mt. Waterman Trail, about 1.5 miles from Three Points.

Turn the clock forward to this Spring, and once again, road closures were limiting access to Three Points. Angeles Crest Highway was still closed between Red Box and Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, and the alternate route — Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road — was “Only Open To Contractors, Residents, & Emergency Vehicles.” Recently, the Los Angeles County Road Closures website updated the status of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to “Access Limited, Expect Delays.”

An easy-to-follow stretch of the Three Points - Mt. Waterman Trail. (thumbnail)
An easy-to-follow stretch of the Three Points – Mt. Waterman Trail.

Excited to get back on the Three Points Loop, on Sunday I found myself motoring up Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, headed for the Three Points Trailhead. There were no problems or delays getting to Angeles Crest Highway, and I pulled into the Three Points parking lot at about 6:30 a.m.

Beardtongue penstemon accommodates the bulbous shape of its pollinator -- bumblebees. (thumbnail)
Beardtongue penstemon accommodates the bulbous shape of its pollinator — bumblebees.

Having done the Three Points Loop many times and in a variety of conditions, I didn’t think much about the difficulties on the loop in November. Like others that relish the outdoors, my brain is very good at shaping memories so as to emphasize the positive and downplay — or outright ignore — the negative.

I’d checked the weather — a Heat Advisory had been issued for the San Gabriel Mountains, and there was a chance of thunderstorms from a dissipating tropical storm. A key part of the loop, Cooper Canyon, has a rep for being hot. Much of the PCT on that stretch is on sparsely-forested, south-facing slopes. My thought was that maybe there would be enough clouds to take the edge off the heat.

Downed trees across the PCT in Cooper Canyon. (thumbnail)
Downed trees across the PCT in Cooper Canyon.

Nope! The in the sun temperature in Cooper Canyon was around 100 degrees. The good news was Buckhorn Campground was open and my favorite water faucet had plenty of water. Plus, the creek in Cooper Canyon was running, so I could cool off and supplement my water.

The trail conditions were virtually identical to those last November, but with heat added. The Three Points — Mt. Waterman Trail was a bit overgrown, and there were many downed trees across the trail. In November there was a particularly inconvenient tree blocking the PCT on the north side of the creek, just west of the Burkhart Trail junction, and it was still there today.

Postcard clouds belie the hot weather on the PCT in Cooper Canyon. (thumbnail)
Postcard clouds belie the hot weather on the PCT in Cooper Canyon.

There seemed to be more Poodle-dog bush than back in November, or maybe it was easier to spot because it was blooming. The big winner among the multitude of wildflowers was beardtongue penstemon, which was blooming profusely on some of the slopes burned in the Bobcat Fire. Other wildflowers I saw along the trail included bigleaf lupine, little paintbrush, scarlet monkeyflower, narrow-leaved lotus, golden yarrow, gilia, wallflower, and red columbine.

Because of the trail conditions, heat, and altitude, the Three Points Loop today was more difficult than the 50K I ran two weeks ago!

This high resolution, photorealistic, 3-D terrain view shows the Three Points Loop (yellow) along with a couple of options (red). The side trip to the summit of Mt. Waterman adds about 1.75 miles to the run.

Some related posts:
Three Points Loop Following the Reopening of Angeles Crest Highway
Cool Weather, Old Trees, Grape Soda Lupine and a Restored Trail
Three Points Loop Adventure – July 2020

Yellow Valley Lupine in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (Ahmanson Ranch)

Yellow valley lupine (Lupinus microcarpus) in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (Ahmanson Ranch)
Valley lupine

An unusual amount of annual precipitation not only increases plant populations and growth, it can spawn the growth of plants not usually seen in an area.

On a recent run at Ahmanson, a glimpse of bright yellow along the trail caught my eye. I stopped to take a look and was surprised to find it was a yellow lupine — a variety of valley lupine (Lupinus microcarpus) not usually seen at Ahmanson Ranch.

Radially symmetric whorls of valley lupine flowers. (thumbnail)
Radially symmetric whorls of valley lupine flowers. Click for larger image.

The last two Rain Years have been exceptionally wet in the Los Angeles area. The result at Ahmanson Ranch has been pronounced, with two seasons of growth, out-of-season wildflowers, and unusually large populations of Spring wildflowers. It’s Summer, and upper Las Virgenes Creek still has flowing water.

Valley lupine is native to California, but in this case may be an escapee from a garden, its seed having hitch-hiked a ride to Ahmanson Ranch.

Some related posts:
Ahmanson Ranch and Las Virgenes Creek After Six Days of Rain
East Las Virgenes Canyon After a Seventh Day of Rain
A Second Spring at Ahmanson Ranch
Looking For Local Impacts of Tropical Storm Hilary

Cool Temps, Soggy Shoes, and Fast Times at the Malibu Canyon Trail Races

One of many stream crossings during the Malibu Canyon Trail Races
One of many stream crossings

In my experience, there are several things you can count on when running in a KHRaces event — a challenging, well-marked course, well-placed and supplied aid stations with helpful volunteers, reliable timing, good food at the finish line, and plenty of portable toilets at the start. That was certainly the case for the 2024 Malibu Canyon Trail Races in Point Mugu State Park.

The 100K, 50M, 50K, and 30K courses used many of the same trails as those in the Ray Miller Trail Races — including the hallmark start and finish on the Ray Miller Trail. The courses were out and back — which means you get to say hi to everyone in your race and be astonished by the speed of the faster runners.

Cloudy, Cool and Humid Weather
Running into the clouds on the Ray Miller Trail, early in the Malibu Canyon 50K. (thumbnail)
Into the clouds on the Ray Miller Trail.

Ten days before the race computer weather models were predicting the possibility of hot weather, but as race day approached the marine layer prevailed, and on June 8th the weather — though a little humid — was cool and cloudy throughout the day. Here are temps and other data on race day from an SCE weather station near the 50K turnaround near the Danielson Multi-Use area.

A few hours into the race, some runners looked like they had been in a rainstorm. For once, I was well-hydrated at the end of a race!

Water Crossings and Wildflowers

The wettest back-to-back rain years (measured at Los Angeles) in 100+ years had a tangible effect on the race, resulting in numerous get-your-feet-wet creek crossings and stunning displays of wildflowers.

Some runners were determined to keep their shoes dry, but most got their feet wet at least a couple of times. Having run with wet shoes most of the Winter, I surrendered to having wet socks and shoes early in the race. Just about every time my socks and shoes started to feel somewhat dry, another crossing would soak them.

I lost count of the stream crossings on the 50K course, but using Google Earth imagery from May 2023, it looks like there were around 12 (times two) crossings in Sycamore Canyon, plus a few more in Wood Canyon.

A stunning yellow mariposa lily along the Guadalasca Trail in Point Mugu State Park. (thumbnail)

My hands were wet most of the race and the only wildflower photo I took was of a striking yellow mariposa lily along the Guadalasca Trail. During a training run on the course in May, I took this photo of wildflowers along the Wood Canyon Vista Trail (Backbone Trail). That was a sunny day!

Fantastic Volunteers

In many ways, volunteers make the race, assisting and encouraging runners in any way they can.

Phenomenal Performances

With the cool weather, there were some very fast times. Scott Traer crushed the 50M in 7:07:43, and Osvaldo Cerda flew through the 50K in 3:52:17! Paul Sinclair successfully defended last year’s first-place finish in the 100K with a time of 10:22:31. In the 100K, Angela Avina was the top woman and placed third overall with a time of 11:08:20. Zac Campbell and Jess Illg were the top man and woman in the 30K.

Wrap-up

My run went about as well as any 50K I’ve done. I had no issues during the race and felt good at the finish line and afterward.

Runners don’t expect a course to be exactly 50K — 31.1 miles — and the distance varies from race to race. The longest “50K” I’ve run was nearly 35 miles long and the shortest about 29 miles. My track for this race was just over 32 miles.

Here is an interactive, 3-D terrain view of my GPS track from the Malibu Canyon 50k. The initial view is zoomed in on the Guadalasca section of the course, but the view is easily changed using the control on the upper right.

All the results can be found on Ultrasignup. PAKSIT PHOTOS did a fantastic job covering the race. Their photos can be found here.

Many thanks to Keira Henninger and KHRaces, all the runners, and especially the volunteers for an excellent race!