The seasonal bridge across Malibu Creek is back! No sketchy log to test your balance or thigh-deep water to wade through — just walk across.
This afternoon I’d returned to Malibu Creek State Park to check on the bridge, count the surviving coast redwoods on the Forest Trail, and see what was happening on the Lost Cabin Trail.
When running the Bulldog Loop a couple of weeks ago, I did a quick check of some of the redwoods on the Forest Trail but skipped the back half of the trail. Today, I crawled through the downed trees blocking the trail and checked the rest of the trees.
I counted seven surviving redwoods. Several of these are multi-tree groups consisting of two or more trees. These family groups were counted as one tree. One of the trees, and perhaps more, was naturally germinated. Most of the trees looked healthy, but appearances can be deceiving.
One redwood is just a few feet from the Crags Road Trail. It’s on the right side of the trail, just past the seasonal bridge, when going west on Crags Road toward the M*A*S*H site. The unique conifer is easy to spot among the other trees.
The start of the Lost Cabin Trail is on the left as you enter the M*A*S*H site going west on Crags Road. Like the Forest Trail, it is less used and isolated but has a character all its own. Today, the Lost Cabin Trail was a trove of brightly colored wildflowers.
Update May 5, 2023. Did a run this afternoon in Malibu Creek State Park and the seasonal bridge across Malibu Creek on the Crags Road Trail is back in place!
As I approached the M*A*S*H site, I could see some people taking photos. I stopped to say hi, and without skipping a beat, one of them asked, “Did you wade across the creek?”
He was asking about the creek crossing where Crags Road crosses Malibu Creek upstream of Century Lake and east of the M*A*S*H site.
There’s a substantial log spanning the creek at the moment, and I wanted to answer that I danced across it with my eyes closed. But instead, I explained that I decided to wade — and for sure keep my phone dry — rather than take a chance of falling uncontrolled into three feet of water, ker-splash.
Speaking of which, this morning, I talked to a mountain biker who saw the bridge pulled off to the side of the creek before any flooding had occurred and thought it may have been hauled away. Good news! According to the Malibu Creek Docents, the bridge is seasonal and was designed to be portable. It was removed and stored before this Winter’s rain. It is expected to be reinstalled when the threat of flooding is over — which should be soon.
After crossing Malibu Creek and before continuing to the M*A*S*H site, I took a quick detour on the Forest Trail. Bordered by Century Lake on one side, and steep, rocky slopes on the other, the Forest Trail has a character all its own. It’s a wonderful place to observe, reflect, and enjoy nature. It’s also home to several coast redwoods. Unfortunately, less than half the trees originally growing along the trail survived the 2011-2015 drought. This morning, a redwood that died several years ago had fallen and was partially blocking the trail near its halfway point.
As has been the case in most of Southern California this Spring, the wildflowers on this run were spectacular. Canyon sunflower was particularly prevalent, with many thousands of the bright-yellow blossoms covering the hillsides burned in the 2018 Woolsey Fire.
Also exciting was my first rattlesnake encounter of 2023. I was running down Castro Peak Mtwy Fire Road from the Bulldog “T” when I saw something in the road that looked like a partially exposed root. As I neared, I could see it was a very dark — almost black — Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.
The snake was stretched out straight on the road, basking in the sun. As I approached, it did move, and it did not rattle. Usually, snakes in this state are pretty docile, and I can cautiously walk a few feet behind them. Yikes! This one was super-aggressive. In the blink of an eye, it turned and moved toward me, doubling back on itself. I jumped a mile! It coiled but still did not rattle! It must have recently emerged from its Winter hideaway.
The out and back trail run to Condor Peak (5440’+) and Fox Mountain (5033′) from Vogel Flat is an adventurous 17-mile, lower elevation run in the San Gabriel Mountains.
When I last did this run (May 2020), portions of the trail below Fox Mountain were washed out and overgrown. Later I learned that this was before the Condor Trail restoration project had been completed. Thanks to the hard work of the Lowlifes Trail Crew the trail has been brought back to life. Today, several groups — including hikers, bikers, and runners — were making their way to Condor Peak.
As mentioned in my posts from 2007 and 2020, this adventure is best done when the weather is cool. It can really bake on the south-facing sections of trail. From the Vogel Flat Trailhead on Big Tujunga Canyon Road the trail climbs about 2600′ in 6 miles to reach Fox Divide. Much of this stretch is surprisingly runnable. As with most mountain trails, extra care is required because of steep drop-offs and other hazards.
Today, the trail was in the best shape I’ve seen in years. The weather was relatively cool and good for running. As has been the case in other low elevation areas, a colorful assortment of Spring wildflowers were blooming along the trail. With our copious Winter rain, two small streams were crossed on the traverse above Fusier Canyon. It’s hard to say how long they will last.
When one of the runners coming down the Rogers Road segment of the Backbone Trail saw me coming up the trail, he commented, “At least now we know the trail goes through!”
He was only half-joking. With all the wet weather, trails may not only be wet and muddy but might be flooded, severely eroded, blocked by trees and debris, or destroyed by runoff, mudslides, or slope failures.
It had rained the previous two days, and more rain was forecast in a day or two. I was on this stretch of the Backbone Trail because I wanted to check out a use trail near High Point (Goat Peak) in the Santa Monica Mountains. I could do that by slightly modifying the route described in “Racing the Weather to High Point (Goat Peak) and Back.”
Two use trails connect to the High Point trail near High Point. Both are on the east side of the ridge. When traveling northbound from High Point, the first trail encountered is the “Rivas Ridge Trail.” Its junction with the High Point trail is on a hilltop, a bit more than a tenth of a mile north of High Point. The junction with the other trail — aptly named the “Great Escape” — is about a tenth of a mile north of the Rivas Ridge trail junction and a quarter-mile north of High Point.
Instead of doing the run as a pure out and back, on the way back, I took the Great Escape down to the Backbone Trail. This short use trail connects to the Backbone Trail about 0.4 mile south of “The Oak Tree.” It was an interesting trail to explore and only added about a third of a mile to the regular out-and-back route.
The condition of the Backbone Trail between Fire Road #30 and The Oak Tree was about what you would expect during such an active rain season. There were a few slimy, slippery spots and some eroded stretches of trail. My shoes and socks were already soaked from the wet grass along the trail by the time I reached The Mud Puddle. This was good because I didn’t waste any time looking for a way around the flooded section of trail — I just waded right in. Nearby, a short section of trail had collapsed in a slide, but there was enough of a shoulder to easily go around it.
With the wet rain season, everything is growing like crazy. This includes poison oak, which was already dangling into the trail in several places. More wildflowers were beginning to bloom. This scarlet-red Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry was blooming along the Backbone Trail near its junction with the High Point Trail.
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.