Category Archives: wildfire

Wildflowers, a Waterfall, and Recovering from the Woolsey Fire

The Chamberlain segment of the Backbone Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park.

The sun had not yet risen and the poppies along Danielson Road were still tightly furled against the morning’s chill. The purl of Upper Sycamore Creek resonated in the canyon below — a wonderful tone that in recent years has too often been squelched by drought.

I was running to the Old Boney Trail and the start of the ridge that follows along Boney Mountain’s western escarpment to the massif’s huge summit plateau. Several of the Santa Monica Mountains highest peaks are on this plateau, including the range’s highest peak, Sandstone Peak.

In December I’d climbed this route to check the impact of the Woolsey Fire on the area. From the top of the ridge I’d been disheartened by what I saw. Tri Peaks and Sandstone Peak and much of the top of the Boney Mountain massif were a blackened, barren mess.

Now, three months later, I was headed back to Boney Mountain and would continue to Sandstone Peak for the first time since the fire.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Related post: After the Woolsey Fire: Boney Mountain and Pt. Mugu State Park

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After the Woolsey Fire: Malibu Creek State Park March 2019

Malibu Creek State Park following the Woolsey Fire and heavy Winter rains.

Parked in a turnout on Mulholland Hwy, I finished putting on sunscreen and then pushed the Start/Stop button on my watch to dial in the GPS and pair my HRM. Outside, it was a chilly 43 degrees. Sunrise was nearing and the strengthening March sun was forecast to push temps well into the 70s.

In the aftermath of Woolsey Fire, I’d returned to Malibu Creek State Park to see the wildflowers; gauge the response of the creek to heavy Winter rains; check on the health of the redwoods along the Forest Trail, and assess the ongoing recovery of the burned chaparral.

Today’s run of the Bulldog Loop would be a follow-up to two runs in the park in December 2018, which found a fire-ravaged landscape just beginning the long process of recovery.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Some related posts: After the Woolsey Fire: Bulldog Loop, After the Woolsey Fire: Malibu Creek State Park Redwoods, M*A*S*H Site and Bulldog Climb

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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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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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After the Woolsey Fire: Trail Work with the SMMTC on the Chamberlain Trail

Trail runners assisting the SMMTC in trail work on the Chamberlain Trail segment of the Backbone Trail.

The trail work schedule of the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Council (SMMTC) is impressive to say the least. According to their Trail Work Statistics page, in 2018 the SMMTC was responsible for over 4,300 person-hours of work related to “establishing, preserving and maintaining the public trail system throughout the Santa Monica Mountains and adjacent areas.”

Members of the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Council (SMMTC) approaching the junction of the Old Boney and Chamberlain Trails.
Some of the SMMTC crew approaching the junction of the Old Boney and Chamberlain Trails.

Saturday, 27 trail runners assisted the SMMTC in trail work on the Chamberlain Trail segment of the Backbone Trail. The trail runners were organized by Backbone Trail Utra race director Mike Epler, who recently joined the board of the SMMTC. Ultra race director Keira Henninger volunteered and also encouraged runners to participate.

The Chamberlain Trail took a hard hit from the Woolsey Fire and subsequent rains. Under the direction of SMMTC crew members, runners restored washed out and rutted sections of trail and removed burned limbs, rocks and other debris. The trail was restored from its junction with the Old Boney Trail up to Chamberlain Rock. In preparation for future trail work, hundreds of limbs were removed from the trail up to its junction with the Tri Peaks Trail.

Many runners ran to the Chamberlain Trail, did the trail work, and then ran back. This was a good way to get in a good long run and contribute to the restoration of the trails damaged in the Woolsey Fire.

Additional photos and info are available on the SMMTC Facebook Page and web site.

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Run to the Cheeseboro Remote Automated Weather Station

Cheeseboro Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS)

This afternoon’s run was to the Cheeseboro Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS). The station is perched on the ridge between Las Virgenes Canyon and Cheeseboro Canyon, along the Cheeseboro Ridge power line service road.

It is about 5 miles from the Victory Trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (formerly Ahmanson Ranch) and one of many good runs from that trailhead into the Cheeseboro – Palo Comado Canyon area.

California poppies in Las Virgenes Canyon
California poppies in Las Virgenes Canyon

Runs in the Ahmanson Ranch area are especially scenic at the moment. Above average rainfall has produced lush green growth in the oak grasslands following the Woolsey Fire. Many of the oaks are beginning to sprout new leaves and poppies and other wildflowers are beginning to bloom. Today there was a nice show of poppies in Las Virgenes Canyon at the connector leading to Cheeseboro Ridge and Cheeseboro Canyon.

Operated by the BLM and NPS the Cheeseboro RAWS (CEEC1) has been in service since September 1995. The station was in the area burned by the 2005 Topanga and 2018 Woolsey Fires and was active throughout each event.

Following are some of the extremes recorded by the station:

• Highest average hourly temperature was 115 °F on July 7, 2018.
• Lowest average hourly temperature was 32 °F on December 12, 1998.
• Maximum average hourly wind speed was 37 mph on October 22, 2007.
• Maximum wind gust was 92 mph on January 6, 2003.
• Maximum daily precipitation was 5.01 inches on February 12, 2003.

So far this rain year (July 1 to June 30), 15.67 inches of rain has been recorded by the station.

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