When I rounded the corner on the Lasky Mesa Trail, I could hardly believe my eyes. The Ahmanson Blue Oak was gone. Where there had been a sprawling oak, there was nothing.
Crossing an eroded section of trail and walking over to the edge of the old roadbed, I looked down the slope. Much like this valley oak along Rocky Peak Road, the entire Ahmanson blue oak had fallen from its hillside perch near the bottom of the canyon.
Oaks in the oak-grasslands of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve have had a tough time with climate change. The five-year drought from July 2011 to October 2016, increasing temperature, and the 2018 Woolsey Fire have combined to kill a large number of trees.
This blue oak was one of very few found at the southern extent of its range.
Several popular trails and fire roads in Topanga State Park have been damaged by the cumulative effects of Winter 2022-2023 rainstorms.
Since December 1, 2022, the Topanga Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) has recorded nearly 16 inches of rain. The most rainfall occurred January 9-10, when about 5.4 inches was measured.
On Sunday, January 15, I did an exploratory trail run from the Top of Reseda that took me through some popular areas of the Park. This included Fire Road #30, the Hub, Temescal Peak, Temescal Lookout, Temescal Ridge Fire Road, Eagle Springs Fire Road, Eagle Rock Fire Road, the Garapito Trail, and the Bent Arrow Trail.
There were numerous mudslides on the fire roads. The larger slides were on Fire Road #30 below the Hub and Temescal Ridge Fire Road between the Backbone Trail junction and Temescal Lookout. There was also significant roadbed and shoulder erosion in places. At the time, all were passable on foot.
The Garapito Trail was blocked in two places on the upper part of the trail. One problem was from a sluff of soil and brush sliding onto the trail. The other was from the collapse of a section of trail. There were additional sluffs, limbs, and washouts on the trail that were passable at the time.
Update February 5, 2023. The Bent Arrow Trail is closed. Fire Road #30, Eagle Springs Fire Road, and East Topanga Fire Road to Parker Mesa Overlook had all been cleared. The Musch Trail was eroded in spots but OK. Use of the Garapito Trail has moderated its condition. Some brush had been cleared and paths have evolved through the sections of collapsed trail. Extra care is required in some spots.
The morning was overcast and — remarkably — there was a 70% chance of rain. An eclectic group of runners was gathered at the Victory Trailhead of Ahmanson Ranch to celebrate Jon Sutherland’s run streak of 18,263 days.
Included in the group were Chaminade and Notre Dame High School athletes Jon has coached, a four-time Olympian, an NCAA Division II Men’s Cross Country Champion, CSUN hall-of-fame teammates, members of the United States Running Streak Association, and many, many of Jon’s good friends.
Jon Sutherland is #1 on the U.S.A. Active Running Streak List and has the longest active streak in the world. Running every day is tough. Heck, it’s tough enough to brush your teeth every day and that only takes a couple of minutes. Jon has run through strains & pains, illness, injury and tragedy. He’s maintained his streak through two knee operations, hernia surgery, and several fractures.
Except for a few rogue sprinkles, the rain held off for most of the morning. Following a short run up to Lasky Mesa, the group reassembled at the trailhead to recognize Jon’s accomplishments.
The Mt. Wilson – Chantry Flat loop is a favorite that I run a couple times a year. Including a little bonus mileage to get to the Mt. Wilson parking lot before the gate opens, the run is about 18 miles long and gains/loses about 4500′ of elevation. The main trails in the loop are the Rim Trail, Gabrielino Trail, Upper Winter Creek Trail and Mt. Wilson Trail.
The weather was perfect for today’s run. Sunny at the beginning, then partly cloudy for the 4000′ climb from the “green bridge” below Chantry to the parking lot on Mt. Wilson. Although there was a lot of poison oak on the Rim and Gabrielino Trails, it was mostly avoidable. About 30 minutes into the run, I was surprised to hear the unmistakable gobble and rustling of a wild turkey high on the Rim Trail.
Near the end of the loop, on the section of the Mt. Wilson Trail above the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, I saw two solo hikers brush against new, vigorously growing patches of Poodle-dog bush (Eriodictyon parryi). I spoke to them, and they were unaware that, like poison oak, Poodle-dog bush can cause an itchy rash. Some people don’t react at all to the plant and others can have a severe reaction. My own experience is described in this post.
Fire followers are plants that grow in a recently burned area in much larger numbers than before a fire. In some cases the species may rarely have been observed in the area prior to the fire.
A good example of a fire follower is Poodle-dog bush (Eriodictyon parryi), which became widespread in the San Gabriel Mountains following the 2009 Station Fire.
A wet rain season also increases the population of many species. Combine a fire and wet rain season and plant distributions and populations can be dramatically altered.
Yesterday, I did a long run in the Santa Monica Mountains that included several miles of the Backbone Trail between Sandstone Peak and the Danielson Multi-use area in Sycamore Canyon. This area was burned in 2018 Woolsey Fire and there were some stunning displays of fire followers and other wildflowers.
Although not as numerous as the large-flowered Phacelia, I’ve never seen so many fire poppies along the Backbone Trail. Its orange-red color is striking and stands out sharply against the brown, charcoal-infused soil. Also more abundant this year is the vibrant yellow collarless poppy.
Over the past two weeks more than 15 species were added to my Weekday Wildflowers slideshow. These are wildflowers photographed on weekday runs from the Victory Trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve.