The Backbone Trail between Encinal Canyon and Mishe Mokwa is one of the must-do sections of the 68-mile trail. Engineered to be multi-use, this exceptionally scenic stretch of the Backbone Trail is popular with riders, hikers, and runners alike.
The out & back run worked out to about 21-miles, with a surprisingly moderate gain/loss of about 2500′. The weather and visibility were excellent. Striking rock formations and the Channel Islands could be seen from one side of Etz Meloy Mtwy fire road, and snow on Alamo Mountain and other Ventura County peaks from the other side.
On the way back, as I was working up the long hill on the northwest side of Triunfo Lookout, a descending mountain biker commented that a large group of bikers were at “the corner.” The overlook at this prominent switchback has a wide-ranging view of Mishe Mokwa, Boney Mountain, and Sandstone Peak, and some prefer to turn around here. This variation is about 3.5 miles shorter (round-trip) than dropping down into the canyon and going all the way to Mishe Mokwa.
But there is just something about immersing yourself in the good and not-so-good that nature offers. It’s part of what nature is. The splendid display of wildflowers seen on that run was a result of the rainy season that produced the overgrown trail.
Curious to see how that section of trail had changed in seven months, this morning I was back on the Old Boney Trail and on my way to Serrano Valley. It had rained around 4 inches during the week, and I expected the mud to be like glue and creek crossings wet.
Use of the trail had improved its condition. There were still some overgrown sections but most of the time I could see my feet, as well as the ruts and rocks on the trail. It was muddy in the usual places but the globs of mud on my shoes didn’t reach dinner plate proportions.
In the wake of the storm, the weather was exhilarating. Postcard clouds decorated the crest of Boney Mountain and a cool breeze filtered through the canyons. Despite all the rain, Serrano Creek was flowing at a modest level, and I emerged from Serrano Canyon with dry shoes.
It was a day for a longer run, and when I reached Sycamore Canyon fire road, I turned left (south) and continued down the canyon to the Fireline Trail. Going up the Fireline Trail to Overlook Fire Road extended the run and expanded the views. A right turn on Overlook Fire Road lead to the top of the Ray Miller Trail, and from there to the Hub. These junctions offer additional opportunities for extending the run.
Today, I ran down Hell Hill, over to the Two Foxes Trail via Wood Canyon Fire Road, then picked up Sycamore Canyon Fire Road near the Danielson Multi-Use Area and followed it to the Upper Sycamore Trail, Danielson Road, and Satwiwa. This interactive, 3D terrain view shows the route.
The paintbrush above, and the following Spring-blooming wildflowers were photographed on December 14,2023, on a trail run from the Victory Trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. With the exception of the black mustard, the wildflowers were found along a half-mile stretch of dirt road connecting upper Las Virgenes and Cheeseboro Canyons.
The false Spring was the result of rain from Tropical Storm Hilary in August, an extended period of wetter than normal weather, and somewhat warmer Fall temperatures. The Water Year that ended September 30, 2023 was the seventh wettest on record for Los Angeles and Calendar Year 2023 was the sixth wettest.
I was beginning to wonder if I would get a chance to do the Three Points Loop around Mt. Waterman this year. Angeles Crest Highway had been closed from Red Box to Vincent Gap for many months, and CalTrans projected it might not open until Thanksgiving.
That’s why Friday (November 3) I was excited to hear Angeles Crest Highway had reopened between Upper Big Tujunga Rd. and Islip Saddle.
At dawn, a couple days later, I pulled into the Three Points parking lot, put on some sunscreen, grabbed my pack, and set out to see what was happening on the Three Points loop around Mt. Waterman.
I’d done the loop many times and in many situations — clockwise, counterclockwise, after the Station Fire closure, after the Bobcat Fire closure, with snow at the higher elevations, in hot weather and in cold. When the trails are in good shape and the weather isn’t too hot, the 20-mile loop is an outstanding trail run. Today, it was a challenge just to complete the loop.
At lower elevation, sections of Three Points – Mt. Waterman Trail (10W04) were overgrown with mountain whitethorn — requiring several “grin and bear it” passages. Higher, long stretches of the little-used path were covered with a second season of grass. This made route-finding difficult, particularly where the trail descends to the Twin Peaks Trail junction.
It was an intriguing puzzle to solve, and eventually I made it to the junction of the summit trail and the trail down to Angeles Crest Highway, near Buckhorn (10W05). The trail down to Buckhorn sees much more use than the trail from Three Points and is much better defined. Besides a couple of downed trees, the run down was one of the more enjoyable parts of the loop. The trail is usually very busy, but I didn’t encounter anyone coming up the trail.
As expected, Buckhorn Campground was closed and no water was available. It was a warm day — around 75 degrees — but with the November sun low in the sky, not as warm as 75 degrees in July. If I needed more water, there were several places I could refill.
The Burkhart Trail (below Buckhorn) was the only place I encountered a few hikers. They were returning from Cooper Canyon Falls. When I got down to the PCT and saw how much water was in the creek, I did the short side trip to the falls and took this video snapshot. It’s unusual for the falls to be flowing this time of year.
After checking out the falls, I resumed my westward journey on the PCT. Within feet of the creek crossing, an ugly tangle of fallen trees completely blocked the trail. This was just the first of several problems on the PCT between the Burkhart Trail junction and Cooper Canyon Camp. There were the usual downed trees, but there were also several sections of badly overgrown trail. These green thickets were generally adjacent to the creek, where the trail had been (or still was) wet.
Needing water, and to empty the debris from my shoes, I stopped for a few minutes at Cooper Canyon Trail Camp. Several campsites are nestled in a pleasant area along the creek. With Angeles Crest Highway open, I thought I might see someone here, but like Buckhorn Campground, it was empty.
After reaching Cloudburst Summit, the remainder of the run was more or less usual for the loop. There was some Poodle-dog bush and a small rockslide along the PCT on the way to Camp Glenwood, but neither were an issue. The run was more challenging than usual — and a bit slower — but it had been (mostly) fun and fascinating to work through it.
The blue of the woolly bluecurls was just stunning. The plant was along the Ken Burton Trail, in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Los Angeles.
Woolly bluecurls normally flowers in the Spring, but rain from Tropical Storm Hilary, combined with Spring-like conditions caused it to bloom this Fall. Such blooms are usually not widespread and the flowers are often less robust than their Spring counterparts. Other Spring flowers that were blooming included Ceanothus, bush poppy, and golden yarrow.
Downtown Los Angeles (USC) finished the 2022-2023 Water Year with 31.07 inches of rain, making it the seventh wettest on record in Los Angeles. The rainfall total includes about three inches of rain from former Hurricane Hilary as it moved through Southern California as a rare tropical storm and post-tropical cyclone.
The effects of all that rain can be seen on just about any trail in Southern California. It has resulted in a false Spring in many areas, with greening hills, out-of-season wildflowers, flowing creeks, and profuse growth throughout the area.
This morning, I returned to the Top of Reseda and Topanga State Park to do a variation of the Trippet Ranch Loop and continue exploring and enjoying the unusual conditions.
After running up to the Hub, this variation does an out and back to Temescal Peak and Temescal Lookout. After returning to the Hub, the route continues on Eagle Springs Fire Road down to Trippet Ranch. From Trippet Ranch, it works back to the Top of Reseda using the Musch and Garapito Trails and connecting sections of fire road. This interactive, 3D terrain map shows a GPS track of the trail run.
Visiting Temescal Peak and Temescal Lookout increases the run’s mileage from 12.5 miles to 16. On a clear day, the runner is rewarded with far-reaching views of the coast, West L.A., Downtown, and the surrounding mountains.
While most of the roads and trails on this route are frequently used and in decent condition, the Garapito Trail has been overgrown all Summer. As of October 8, it was still overgrown. Some people I’ve encountered on the trail were OK with this, but others haven’t been so happy. If desired, the trail can be bypassed by continuing to the Hub on Eagle Rock Fire Road and retracing your route back to the Top of Reseda.