Category Archives: wildfire

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

During the later stages of the Woolsey Fire one of the big questions was how far west in the Santa Monica Mountains would it burn. Would it consume Pt. Mugu State Park only five years after the Springs Fire ravaged the area?

The answer to that question became far less clear following the big flare-up in the Sandstone Peak – Boney Mountain area on November 13, and the subsequent advance of the fire into the eastern part of Pt. Mugu State Park.

The Woolsey Fire was fully contained on November 21. A bit of good news in the midst of a whole lot of bad was that fire maps showed the north side of Boney Mountain and most of Pt. Mugu State Park had been spared. That’s what today’s outing was about — checking if the conditions on the ground on the north side of Boney Mountain and in Pt. Mugu State Park matched up to fire maps and data.

First up was the climb of Boney Mountain’s Western Ridge (Mountaineer’s Route) from Wendy Drive. Except for a little spillover along the crest at the top of the ridge, it was a relief to find that the Western Ridge route and its companion route, the Cabin Trail, were essentially unburned. Both of these routes are used to reach the popular high point along the crest marked 2701′ on the 7.5 minute USGS topo. I enjoy climbing up the Western Ridge and descending the Cabin Trail, so it was good to know that option is still available.

While the north side of Boney Mountain didn’t burn, it was a different story to the south of the crest. The drainage between the top of the Western Ridge and Tri Peaks, and beyond, was badly burned. The last time this area burned was in the 1993 Green Meadows Fire, so the fuel load had been relatively high. From what I could see, the burn severity was generally on the high side of mid-range, but with patches of unburned, low, and more severely burned terrain.

In Pt. Mugu State Park aggressive firefighting and the effects of the 2013 Springs Fire generally — but not entirely — restricted the Woolsey Fire to areas that were not burned in 2013. Much of the Chamberlain Trail did not burn in 2013, and the Woolsey Fire followed this swath of 25-year-old growth westward, burning nearly all of the Chamberlain Trail, as well as the steep slopes to the north of the trail. About half of the large bowl forming Boney Mountain’s western escarpment was burned. As was the case after the Springs Fire, Blue Canyon could once again be at risk from flash floods and debris flows, should a heavy or extended rain event occur.

The westernmost tongue of the Woolsey Fire, near Blue Canyon, reached to within 0.5 mile of the Big Sycamore Canyon Road. For the most part, the fire was held east of the Old Boney Trail. There were several fire retardant drops along this front and the Old Boney Trail was cut into a firebreak/access route. It looked like the dozers came in from Serrano Road. It boggles the mind to think of the logistics required to move firefighting personnel and equipment into wildland areas.

The west side of Serrano Valley and Serrano Canyon turned out to be OK, although you could see where the fire had burned part of the valley and the southwest slopes of Boney Mountain.

Running north on Sycamore Canyon Road, other than the tracks of heavy equipment, there was little to suggest the extent of the devastation to the east. My route back to Satwiwa and Wendy Drive included the Two Foxes Trail, and Upper Sycamore Trail. Except for the Chamberlain Trail, a segment of the Old Boney Trail, and part of the Blue Canyon Trail, other trails and roads in Pt. Mugu State Park appeared to be unaffected by the fire.

Here are a few photos taken along the way. Some additional photos were added from a December 22 run on the Old Boney Trail.

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After the Woolsey Fire: Ladyface from the Backbone Trail

Ladyface, a peak in Agoura Hills, stands above a sea of fog filling the low areas of Malibu Creek State Park.

Ladyface, a popular peak in Agoura Hills, stands above a sea of fog filling the low-lying areas of Malibu Creek State Park.

The photograph is from a section of the Backbone Trail near Saddle Peak. None of the Backbone Trail EAST of Malibu Canyon was burned in the Woolsey Fire.

Here is a 18 second video panorama of the scene.

Related posts: Woolsey Fire Map with Perimeter and Selected Trails, Woolsey Fire Preliminary Burn Severity and Selected TrailsFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Woolsey Fire Dozer Line Near Calabasas Peak

Woolsey Fire Dozier Line Near Calabasas Peak

The Woolsey Fire’s eastward progress through the Santa Monica Mountains was stopped a little less than two miles west of this dozer line along Calabasas Peak Mtwy fire road.

The ridge along this fire road and up to Topanga Lookout more or less divides the Santa Monica Mountains range in half.

Related posts: Woolsey Fire Map with Perimeter and Selected Trails, Woolsey Fire Preliminary Burn Severity and Selected TrailsFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Woolsey Fire Preliminary Burn Severity and Selected Trails

Google Earth image of a preliminary burn severity map for the Woolsey Fire from NASA Earth Observatory with selected trails added.

The Google Earth image above shows a preliminary burn severity map for the Woolsey Fire from NASA Earth Observatory, as posted by NASA’s Rehabilitation Capability Convergence for Ecosystem Recovery (RECOVER) web site on November 15, 2018. Here is a larger version of the map.

The initial burn severity estimate is based on a Burned Area Reflectance Classification (BARC) derived from satellite data before and after the fire. In the map above the burn severity classes are high (red), moderate (orange) and low (yellow). Note that areas within the fire perimeter that are not included in these classes may still have burned. Also note the fire was still burning when this assessment was made.

GPS tracks of the Backbone Trail and some other trails in the region have been added. Trail and placename locations should be considered approximate.

Related post: Woolsey Fire Map with Perimeter and Selected TrailsFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Woolsey Fire Map with Perimeter and Selected Trails

2018 Woolsey Fire Map with Perimeter and Selected Trails

The Google Earth image above shows a recent perimeter for the 2018 Woolsey Fire along with GPS tracks of the Backbone Trail and some other trails in the region. The Hill Fire perimeter and 2013 Springs Fire perimeter (purple area) are also shown. Trail and placename locations should be considered approximate. Here is a larger version of the map.

The perimeter was was downloaded from GEOMAC and timestamped November 18, 2018 at 5:59 a.m. If the timestamp of the perimeter of the displayed map doesn’t match, try refreshing/reloading this page. The perimeter has been refined and the acreage is a slightly less than previously specified.

As of November 21, 2018 6:11 p.m., the Cal Fire Incident Page for the Woolsey Fire indicated that the fire had burned 96,949 acres and was 100% contained. The fire started on November 8, 2018 2:24 p.m.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

After the Station Fire: Back to Bear Canyon

Bigcone Douglas-fir burned in the 2009 Station Fire. September 1, 2018.

It’s been nine years since the Station Fire burned 160,577 acres in Angeles National Forest. The Red Box – Bear Canyon – Gabrielino loop is a long time favorite adventure run that I’ve enjoyed doing many years before and after that 2009 fire.

The loop was the first I did when the area reopened in May 2011. The trails were in poor shape — overgrown and damaged from flash floods. The notorious fire-follower Poodle-dog bush had flourished in the wake of the fire and was particularly bad along the Gabrielino Trail between Switzer’s and Red Box. Thinking I was “immune” to the plant, I brazenly plowed through it, and as a result spent several inflamed nights trying to sleep in a reclining chair.

Each year Bear Canyon and upper Arroyo Seco recover a little more. Poodle-dog bush is in decline and in many areas nearing the end of its life-cycle. The chaparral, bay trees and oaks are all recovering; and the bigcone Douglas-firs that survived the fire have become more fully-foliaged.

Bear Canyon from the upper Bear Canyon Trail.
Bear Canyon from the upper Bear Canyon Trail. Click for larger image.

This year Bear Canyon was a little drier than last. The creek was a trickle, disappearing in the sand in some areas and creating small pools in others. The path in the upper part of the canyon, above Bear Canyon Camp, was better defined, but still tricky to follow in some spots.

With the dry conditions, most of the poison oak had already turned red. It was easy to spot, but difficult to avoid. The “stinging nettle” creek crossing higher in the canyon wasn’t as overgrown as last year, but I still managed to brush against a plant or two.

Bear Canyon ends at Arroyo Seco, downstream of Switzer Falls. After turning upstream on the Bear Canyon Trail, I hadn’t run far when I encountered a couple of mountain bikers. They asked me, “is this the trail to JPL?”

This wasn’t the first time that I’d encountered misplaced riders or hikers on this section of trail. Some get misplaced looking for the falls and others mistakenly follow the Bear Canyon Trail down into Arroyo Seco instead of continuing high in the canyon on the Gabrielino Trail. Because of the completion of the restoration of the Gabrielino Trail there were a few more riders on the trail than usual.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Some related posts: Bear Canyon Loop: If the Poison Oak Doesn’t Get You, the Stinging Nettle Will; After the Station Fire: Red Box – Bear Canyon – Gabrieleno Loop; After the Station Fire: Contact Dermatitis from Turricula parryi – Poodle-dog BushFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather