Category Archives: wildflowers

Bigberry Manzanita – A Hummingbird Hotel

Bigberry Manzanita - A Hummingbird Hotel

From a hummingbird perspective, it was the perfect place to spend a cold night.

The big berry manzanita was situated on the spine of a north-south oriented ridge near Topanga Lookout. In that location, a bird might benefit from the warmth of both the setting and rising sun.

In addition, the bush’s thicket of stiff branches afforded some protection from predators, and the multitude of nectar-rich blossoms would provide a badly needed boost of wake-up energy.

The temperature was warmer now, but it had been near freezing at the Cold Canyon trailhead when I started the Topanga Lookout Ridge loop. It had been cold enough that I had jogged the steeper sections of Calabasas Peak fire road, just to ward off the chill.

Humans are funny that way — a small drop in body temperature can be life-threatening. How in the world can a diminutive hummingbird, whose caloric needs require it to feed almost constantly, survive a long, cold Winter night?

Research reveals that hummingbirds accomplish this feat by reducing their body temperature and metabolic rate. This physiological state — called torpor — dramatically reduces their energy requirements.

This particular manzanita apparently receives a lot of 5-star reviews, and at the time I passed, was occupied by several buzzing birds.

From Sunday’s run of the Topanga Lookout Ridge loop.

Related post: Hummingbird Stories

Racing the Weather to High Point (Goat Peak) and Back

High Point (Goat Peak), Santa Monica Bay, and clouds.
High Point (Goat Peak)

The forecast for the Los Angeles area (Saturday, December 10) was for a chance of rain in the afternoon, with rain developing overnight and continuing into Sunday morning. There was also a slight chance of light rain or drizzle in the Santa Monica Mountains in the morning.

It was overcast in the West Valley as I drove to the trailhead, and I wondered if my run would be dank and drizzly. But as I drove up Reseda Blvd. toward Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park, I was surprised to find patches of blue sky overhead.

Sunrise view of Hondo Canyon, Topanga Lookout, and Henry Ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Hondo Canyon, Topanga Lookout, and Henry Ridge from the top of Fire Road 30.

I started the run a little before 7:00 a.m. and headed up the connecting single-track trail to dirt Mulholland and Fire Road 30. Many runs from the Top of Reseda start this way, and I turned onto Fire Road 30 and continued up to the Hub — about 2.5 miles from the trailhead.

For the first couple of miles, I wasn’t sure how long a run I would do or where I was headed. But as I neared the Hub, I had to make a decision. To a large extent, a decision that depended on the weather.

What had been partly cloudy skies had coalesced into a layer of clouds that just touched the top of the highest peaks. I’d been thinking about doing an out-and-back to High Point (Goat Peak), but if the weather continued to deteriorate, the only view I would see from the peak would be the interior of a cloud. I finally decided to give it a go and hope the peak didn’t get socked in with clouds and fog.

Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) along the Backbone Trail
Chaparral currant

Turning left at the Hub onto the Temescal Ridge Fire Road segment of the Backbone Trail, I ran about a half-mile to where the Backbone Trail forks left off the fire road and becomes a single-track trail. This is the popular Rogers Road segment of the Backbone Trail that eventually ends at Will Rogers Historic State Park.

From Temescal Ridge Fire Road, it’s about 4.25 miles on the Backbone Trail to the unsigned junction with the High Point use trail. It’s on the right and easy to miss. The turnoff is about a half-mile before “The Oak Tree” landmark on the Backbone Trail.

The High Point trail is an unofficial, unmaintained path but is usually in decent shape. There are a couple of short, steep, loose sections on the way to the peak. Nothing is signed, and some side paths diverge from the main trail.

Summit of High Point (Goat Peak), with the San Gabriels, Downtown, and West L.A in the background
Summit of High Point (Goat Peak)

When I reached High Point’s summit, the weather was holding but looked more threatening. Even so, the view was excellent. Panning from east to west underneath the ceiling of clouds, the view included the San Gabriels, Downtown, West L.A., the South Bay, Santa Monica, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Santa Monica Bay, and Catalina.

There were a couple of rogue sprinkles on the way back to the Top of Reseda, but the rain held off in the West Valley until late in the day.

Here is an interactive, 3D terrain view of the High Point (Goat Peak) Out and Back from the Top of Reseda. The map can be zoomed, tilted, rotated, and panned using the navigation control on the right. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity.

Some related posts: High Point (Goat Peak) Via the Rivas Ridge Use Trail, Goat Peak and the High Point Trail

After the Bobcat and Station Fires: Three Points Loop Around Mt. Waterman (Slideshow, 3D Terrain Maps)

Mt. Waterman Trail

Most of the time, when I do a trail run in the San Gabriel Mountains, it starts from a trailhead along or near Highway 2 — Angeles Crest Highway.

There are many fine point-to-point and out-and-back runs along Hwy 2, but not very many loops. Of the handful of loops that are currently open and accessible, two start and end at Three Points.

One is the Three Points – Mt. Hillyer Loop and the other is the Three Points Loop around Mt. Waterman. The Three Points – Mt. Hillyer Loop was not affected by the Bobcat Fire and is described in this April 2021 post.

On the other hand, significant parts of the Three Points Loop around Mt. Waterman were burned in Bobcat Fire, and the trails that comprise the loop were closed until April of this year (2022).

A large area on Mt. Waterman was burned by both the Bobcat and Station Fires. This can be seen in this interactive, 3D terrain view of the area. The Bobcat Fire is yellow and the Station Fire is red. Where they overlap near Mt. Waterman is orange.

The Three Points Loop is the loop I do most often in the San Gabriel Mountains. The basic loop, not including the side trip to the summit of Mt. Waterman, is about 20 miles long and has about 4000′ of gain/loss. The terrain and trails are varied and interesting, and Buckhorn Campground is conveniently placed near the halfway point of the course. Water is USUALLY — BUT NOT ALWAYS — available when the campground is open.

Doing the side trip to Mt. Waterman adds about 1.7 miles and 350′ of elevation gain. The side trip to Cooper Canyon Falls is even shorter — only about a quarter-mile.

Fire perimeters and burn severity maps don’t tell the whole story, and I’ve been curious to see how the area was affected by the Bobcat Fire; how the Station Fire recovery is continuing; and how the area burned by both fires has fared.

Here is an interactive, 3D terrain view of the Three Points Loop. The map can be zoomed, tilted, rotated, and panned using the navigation control on the right. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity.

This slideshow includes photos from the August 2022 run of the loop, as well as additional information.

Some related posts: Twin Peaks East, Plus Mt. Waterman; Three Points Loop Adventure – July 2020: Bobcat Fire Perimeter and Some Angeles National Forest Trails: 3D Terrain View of Bobcat Fire Soil Burn Severity and Some Angeles National Forest Trails

Bulldog Training Run 2022

Runners east of Corral Canyon on the Bulldog Loop

When I parked at Malibu & Piuma to do the Bulldog Loop on Sunday, I didn’t know that I was going to be swept up in a Bulldog Ultra training run.

I had just started up Bulldog Mtwy fire road when the first group of speedy runners swarmed past. The strenuous climb to the Castro Peak Mtwy gains about 1750 feet over 3.4 miles. Much of its infamy is due to the oven-like conditions typically experienced on the second loop during the Bulldog 50K.

New bridge extension across Malibu Creek on the Crags Road trail, east of the M*A*S*H site.
New bridge extension across Malibu Creek on the Crags Road trail, east of the M*A*S*H site.

This morning, the climb was a little warm in spots, but not bad. There was a good turnout for the training run and nearly everyone was enjoying the run.

On the way up I had an interesting conversation with a runner that had just done their first 100 miler and was going to pace someone in the AC100 this weekend.

In case you haven’t heard, State Parks has finally come up with a solution to the repeatedly washed-out footbridge across Malibu Creek, east of the M*A*S*H site. An extension was added to the massive block of concrete that formed the foundation of the old bridge. No more shaky log crossings — at least for a while.

Common Madia (Madia elegans) at the bottom of the Bulldog Mtwy fire road.
Common Madia (Madia elegans) at the bottom of the Bulldog Mtwy fire road.

Here’s an interactive, 3D terrain view of the Bulldog loop. The map can be zoomed, tilted, rotated, and panned. To change the view, use the control on the upper right side of the screen. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity.

Good luck to all the runners doing Bulldog — especially those doing their first trail race or ultra!

Some related posts: Sunlit Rocks Along Castro Peak Motorway; Trees, Bees, and a Washed-Out Footbridge on the Bulldog Loop in Malibu Creek State Park; Bulldog Loop Plus the Phantom Loop; After the Woolsey Fire: Bulldog Loop

Poodle-dog Bush Along the PCT Near Islip Saddle

Poodle-dog Bush along the Pacific Crest Trail near Islip Saddle with Mt. Williamson in the background.
Poodle-dog Bush along the Pacific Crest Trail near Islip Saddle with Mt. Williamson in the background.

Nope, my eyes weren’t deceiving me, the hiker was carrying his full-size poodle up the trail.

I was running down the PCT, east of Islip Saddle, after a run/hike to Mt. Hawkins and Throop Peak. I’m guessing the hiker was carrying his dog to keep it out of the Poodle-dog Bush on both sides of the trail.

Poodle-dog bush along the PCT above Islip Saddle in the San Gabriel Mountain
Poodle-dog bush along the PCT above Islip Saddle

Poodle-dog Bush (Eriodictyon parryi) is a fire-follower that can cause severe dermatitis in some people. In this case the plants sprouted following the 2020 Bobcat Fire.

The last big outbreak of Poodle-dog Bush followed the 2009 Station Fire. At that time many people were unfamiliar with its potential effects, and were caught off-guard.

The plant can get you in a couple of ways — the plant’s resin can affect sensitized people in a manner similar to poison oak, and the plant’s numerous hairs can break off and irritate the skin.

My experience with Poodle-dog Bush is described in the posts Contact Dermatitis from Eriodictyon parryi – Poodle-dog Bush and Getting Over Poodle-dog Bush Dermatitis.

Additional related posts: Trail Runners Describe Reactions to Poodle-dog Bush, Poodle-dog Bush Near the Top of the Mt. Wilson Trail

Not So Flat Las Llajas Canyon

Cliffs along Las Llajas Canyon Road/Trail

Earlier, as I was running up Las Llajas Canyon, I thought of a conversation I had with a runner during a 50K. The runner was from southern Florida, and talked about the difficulty of finding a good hill to run. It sounded like the main options are overpasses, bridges, buildings and stadiums.

Las Llajas Canyon Road/Trail near Evening Sky Drive.
Las Llajas Canyon Road/Trail near Evening Sky Drive.

In Southern California we have the opposite problem. It’s hard to find a trail run that doesn’t have hills. And the longer the run, the more likely it is you’re going to be running some hills.

The out and back in Las Llajas Canyon is one of the flatter runs that I do. From Evening Sky Drive it’s about 3.5 miles up to where the trail forks. There is a sign at the split indicating that the left fork leads to a private ranch, and the right fork connects to Rocky Peak Road.

Pass between Las Llajas and Chivo Canyons
Use trail to pass between Las Llajas and Chivo Canyons

On rested legs, the run up Las Llajas from Evening Sky Drive seems pretty flat. Over the 3+ miles up the canyon, the elevation gain is around 565′. That’s not a huge amount, but it’s roughly the equivalent of climbing 56 floors or 900 stairs. After leaving the Marrland aid station at 20 miles, runners doing the Rocky Peak 50K discover that the run up the canyon isn’t as flat as it looks!

If you want more distance or elevation, there are a couple of ways to extend the Las Llajas out and back. One is to take the right fork at the sign and continue up to the top of the hill just before Rocky Peak Road. This adds about 2 miles and 600 feet of elevation gain.

Peak at the head of Chivo Canyon from the pass between Las Llajas Canyon and Chico Canyon.
Peak at the head of Chivo Canyon.

Another interesting way to extend the run, is to do the variation I was doing this morning. About halfway down the canyon on the way back, on the right, is a use trail. The use trail is about 1.6 miles from the turnaround point at the fork at the ranch sign. It is just past the area where steep cliffs tower above the road on the right, and is very easy to miss.

After turning right onto the use trail, about a half-mile up the trail splits. One trail switchbacks to the right and continues up to the top of cliffs and an old seashell grit mine; the other trail continues up the canyon to a  pass between Las Llajas and Chivo Canyons.

The trail over the pass leads to a well-used trail that connects Chivo Canyon to Las Llajas Canyon near Evening Sky Drive. Some refer to this trail as the “Marr Ranch Trail.” This variation adds about 1.3 miles and 500′ of elevation gain.

Yellow mariposa lily (Calochortus clavatus) along the Marr Ranch Trail
Yellow mariposa lily along the Marr Ranch Trail

Here’s an interactive, 3D terrain view of a GPS track of today’s route, as well as the variation that continues to Rocky Peak Road. The map can be zoomed, tilted, rotated, and panned. To change the view, use the control on the upper right side of the screen. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather, and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity.

After I got back from the run, I was curious to see what hilly trails there are in Florida. A quick search turned up the Hilly Trails In Florida page of the Florida Hikes web site. Anybody up for doing Mount Cockroach?

Some related posts: Exploring Las Llajas, Top of Las Llajas, Marr Ranch Wildflowers