Category Archives: nature

Running to Ray Miller

Mountain bikers enjoying the view of Boney Mountain from Overlook Fire Road in Pt. Mugu State Park.

The Ray Miller Trailhead in Pt. Mugu State Park marks the western end of the Backbone Trail, a 68-mile scenic trail along the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains. The Ray Miller Trail’s long, winding descent into La Jolla Canyon is a favorite of runners and hikers, and a fitting end to those traversing the BBT from east to west.

My run this morning was to the Ray Miller Trailhead (and back) from Satwiwa, starting at the Wendy Drive trailhead in Newbury Park. The Wendy Drive Trailhead is very popular and is the starting point for many good runs, hikes and rides. To get an idea of the route options, see the detailed trail maps on the Pt. Mugu State Park page of VenturaCountryTrails.org.

Today I was looking to do a longer run, so didn’t take the usual route. On the way down Big Sycamore Canyon, I skipped the turns at Wood Canyon (Hell Hill), Wood Canyon Vista Trail (BBT) and Fireline Trail and at Overlook Fire Road, some eight miles into the run, finally headed uphill.

View of the Pacific, Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island from the Ray Miller Trail
View of the Pacific, Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island from the Ray Miller Trail.

The top of the Ray Miller Trail is a stout 2.5 -mile climb from the bottom of Overlook Fire Road. Along the way there were excellent views of Sycamore Canyon, Serrano Valley and Boney Mountain.

About a half-mile down the Ray Miller Trail there is a popular overlook of the coast. The day was clear and there were stunning views of the Pacific and the Channel Islands. Brushed by whispers of wind, the cerulean blue Pacific filled my view for much of the descent to the parking lot.

It was an odd feeling to run down to the parking lot with runners who were cheerfully finishing their morning run, knowing that I had many more miles to go. After a quick stop at the water spigot, I turned, and sighed, and took the first steps back up the hill and toward Satwiwa.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Related post: Ray Miller Training Run

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Cool Running in the Simi Hills

Cool running at Ahmanson Ranch in the Simi Hills.

For the last couple of days of January, all of February, and the first third of March, the temperature at Downtown Los Angeles (USC) and many other Los Angeles area locations did not reach 70 °F!

Will have to think of days like today when it’s 100 degrees and I’m picking foxtails out of my socks and shoes!

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After the Woolsey Fire and a Lot of Rain: Upper Las Virgenes Creek

Upper Las Virgenes Creek on March 7, 2019, following the Woolsey Fire and frequent Winter rain.

It’s not often we get to hear the burble and gurgle of Las Virgenes Creek in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. Last Winter it didn’t run at all.

There were two crossings of the creek on my run today. My shoes were already wet from running on wet trails, so I didn’t worry about keeping my shoes dry.

Here’s a video snapshot of the creek on Vimeo. It’s carrying a bit more sediment than normal, as a result of the Woolsey Fire.

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Rainbow Along the Garapito Trail

Rainbow Along the Garapito Trail

There sure have been a lot of raindrops and rainbows lately. It seems like every run I do my shoes get muddy — and there are even creeks to cross!

Last year on this date, Downtown Los Angeles (USC) had recorded only 2.55 inches of rain since July 1. This year we’ve received 16.69 inches, and as I’m sure you’ve heard, there’s more on the way.

It may seem like a long time since Los Angeles has been this wet, but actually it’s only been a couple of years. Year before last we’d received 18.5 inches of rain by this date. We need about 1.81 inches of rain from this week’s system to catch up.

Recognize this section of the Garapito Trail? See the large embankment along the right side of the trail? In 2005, during the second wettest Rain Year in LA on record, the hillside slumped around 12′. The trail is on top of the section that dropped.

During the 2004-2005 Rain Year Downtown Los Angeles recorded 37.25 inches of rain!

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Warrior’s Plume Along the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail

Warrior's plume (Pedicularis densiflora) along the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail, one of the areas burned in the November 2018 Woolsey Fire.

Warrior’s plume (Pedicularis densiflora) along the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail, one of the areas burned in the November 2018 Woolsey Fire.

With this rain season’s abundant rainfall, displays of wildflowers will be more extensive than usual and of greater variety — both inside and outside the Woolsey Fire burn area.

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A Raven Story

The Flying Raven, Ex Libris for The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe,1875, Édouard Manet, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Flying Raven, Ex Libris for The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe,1875, Édouard Manet, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Nearly to the top of the Beast, I was thinking how scraggly the valley oak at the top of the hill looked when my thoughts were interrupted by the cacophonous cawing of a raven perched in that tree. For the purpose of this story, let’s call him (or her) Ed.

That Ed would be in an oak tree, clamoring away, wasn’t so unusual. Ravens are loquacious birds that always seem to have something to say. As I crested the hill I mimicked his vocalizations, and in so many words, we exchanged greetings.

I ran past the oak, expecting Ed to quiet down, but the exclamations continued behind me. After a few seconds Ed flew past, toward the trailless center of Lasky Mesa — caw, cawing all the way.

I expected that would be the last I would see of Ed, and thought how unusual his behavior had been. His pronouncements were very persistent and seemed very urgent.

I continued to run on the dirt road on the south side of the mesa. As I ran, I watched Ed flying above the grass and brush about 70 yards to my left. His flying was a little erratic and he continued to caw. Crazy bird…

As I watched, Ed turned and started flying toward me. At first I thought, “Interesting.” He was some distance away and I thought surely he would turn. But he continued to fly directly at me, ranting all the way.

I stopped running. Ed had not changed course and was making a beeline for me. He was flying lower than usual, and I began to wonder if I should be concerned. Was this bird OK?

Spellbound, I watched the bird’s intentioned approach and was astonished when Ed swooped past me and deftly landed on a “Restoration Area” sign three or four feet from where I was standing.

Ravens are BIG birds, and I started to talk to this one like it was a black lab.

“What’s wrong big guy?”

“What are you trying to tell me?”

The raven watched me, repeatedly cawing, cawing, cawing. Clearly he was concerned; clearly he was trying to tell me something. I just did not understand.

In a rush of feathers, Ed took flight. He crossed the road, flew back over the brush ahead of me and to my left, and swooped low to the ground.

And that’s when the coyote burst from the brush in front of me and scurried across the road, Ed in chase.

I shook my head and grinned. Ed had been trying to tell me there was a predator nearby!

It’s common for birds and other animals to sound an alert or even pester a predator, but Ed had behaved more like a devoted dog worried about his friend.

Animals often have stories to tell, we just have to listen.

Related post: Hawk, Bobcat and Rabbit

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