Category Archives: photography

Ahmanson Trailhead Rattlesnake

Southern Pacific rattlesnake at the Victory Trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve.

I pressed the START/STOP button on my Garmin watch and started to walk over to the horse/hiker entrance at the Victory Trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (Ahmanson Ranch). This “end of an Ahmanson run” routine is something that I repeat around 150 times a year. It’s so routine, it’s rote. I’m not thinking about rocks or ruts, or how far I have to go. It’s a time I can relax and reflect on the run, the weather, or whatever.

Continuing toward the trailhead entry, I pulled the water bottle from my pack. Lifting my head to take a drink, and still on auto, I began to step over the first of two large wooden beams forming the entrance.

Some primitive, protective mechanism recognized the threat before I did, and I stopped mid-stride. Then it registered — a sizable Southern Pacific rattlesnake was undulating through the boxed-in area between the two beams of the entryway.

Moving quickly through the entry and into the grass, the snake barely reacted to me. With single-minded resolution, it continued on a beeline toward the brushy area near the trailhead. A single shake of its rattle was all the bother I was worth. Here’s a short video of the rattlesnake.

California kingsnake in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, a.k.a. Ahmanson Ranch.
California kingsnake

Surprisingly, this was the first rattlesnake I’ve seen this year at Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve . I’ve seen numerous gopher snakes, a couple of California kingsnakes, a California whipsnake, and the tracks of many rattlesnakes, but no actual rattlesnakes. Others have described various rattlesnake encounters at Ahmanson — one friend saw three on one ride!

Note: Most of these snakes were old enough to have survived the November 8, 2019, Woolsey Fire.

Some related posts: The First Snakes of Spring, Big Southern Pacific Rattlesnake at Ahmanson Ranch, Southern Pacific Rattlesnake

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An Upper-Level Low Sunrise, Shower, and Sunset

Sunset in West Hills, CA, associated with an upper-level low off the coast of Southern California.

It was about 15 minutes before sunrise when I started my run from the trailhead at the “Top of Reseda.” After running up to Mulholland and partway down Fire Road #30, I could see a batch of tropical-looking clouds to the southeast. These were associated with a cutoff upper-level low that had formed off the coast of Southern California on Halloween.

The behavior of cutoff upper-level lows is difficult to forecast. They are usually separated from the general west to east flow and typically wobble around like a spinning top. A cutoff low can remain off the coast for several days or more. Just where they wobble can dramatically impact the weather. So far this morning, the only effect of this weak low had been to embellish the sunrise with a few clouds, but such lows can be capricious, and this one was no exception.

My first stop was going to be Temescal Peak, and I picked up the pace a bit, curious to see how the clouds and sunrise might look from that viewpoint. Temescal Peak is just off the Backbone Trail, near its junction with Fire Road #30/Temescal Ridge Fire Road. On a clear day this tiny peak affords an exceptional 360-degree view that can include Mt. Baldy, San Gorgonio Mountain, San Jacinto Peak, Mt. Pinos, Hines Peak, and other area landmarks.

Sunrise over West L.A. from Temescal Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Sunrise over West L.A. from Temescal Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Turning left at the Hub, it didn’t take long to get to Temescal Peak. Westward from the peak, a veil of smoke could be seen in the vicinity of the Maria Fire. Nearby, some of the canyons in the area of the Getty Fire were filled with a smoky haze. In the distance, a few mercurial clouds were scattered across the eastern sky.

At the time, I couldn’t tell if the clouds were approaching or receding, developing or dissipating. Returning to the Hub, I turned left on Eagle Springs Fire Road and began the descent toward Trippet Ranch. On the way, it became clear the clouds were headed my way. By the time I’d run to Trippet Ranch and up to the top of the Musch Trail, the band of clouds covered much of the eastern sky.  Virga streamed from the bases of some of the clouds, and  I wondered if a few rogue drops might be reaching the ground.

Developing clouds associated with an upper-level low along the coast of Southern California.
Developing clouds from near the top of the Musch Trail.

Over the remainder of the run — past Eagle Rock and through Garapito Canyon — the clouds continued to move overhead. A few drops of rain found me near the end of the run, but the most pleasant surprise occurred on the drive home, when showers dampened the  streets of the western San Fernando Valley.

There had been no rain in the Los Angeles area this October, and the showers reminded me of the erratic nature of Autumn precipitation in Los Angeles. Even though “normal” rainfall in October at Downtown Los Angeles (USC) is 0.66 inch, no one familiar with L.A. weather is surprised when October is dry. Over 143 years, Downtown Los Angeles has recorded no October rainfall 26 times, 0.10 inch or less 54 times, and 0.25 inch or less 74 times.

The upper-level low continued to influence the day’s weather, and while the low remained mostly offshore and didn’t generate any more showers in the West Valley, it did produce a colorful sunset!

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California Fuchsia Along East Las Virgenes Canyon Road

California fuchsia in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

If the wildflower is red, the season is Fall, and you are in Southern California, the flower is probably California fuchsia. You might also find there is a hummingbird feeding on the “hummingbird trumpets,” or hovering nearby, watching over its flowers.

California fuchsia along Bulldog Mtwy fire road in Malibu Creek State Park.
California fuchsia along Bulldog Mtwy fire road in Malibu Creek State Park.

As a result of the wet 2018-19 rain season, and somewhat cooler than normal summer, California fuchsia is especially abundant this Fall, with some exceptional displays along local trails.

I’ve added California fuchsia, and a few other flowers that are blooming this Fall, to my Weekday Wildflowers slideshow. These are wildflowers photographed this year on weekday runs from the Victory Trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve.

Some related posts: More Weekday WIldflowers, Weekday Wildflowers

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What? My iPhone (And Camera) Have Been Disabled?

iPhone is disabled

There aren’t many things more frustrating to a photographer than seeing a potentially good photo and discovering your camera is unusable.

I almost always run with a camera. As part of my routine before a run, I swap out the camera battery for one that is fully charged, check the flashcard, check the lens, check the camera settings, and take a test photo. This helps ensure the camera will be ready to go when needed.

Often I’ll run with a camera and phone, but sometimes I’ll just take the phone. Three or four times over the past two years I’ve been running, stopped to take a photo, and discovered my iPhone X has been disabled. How does that happen?

From what I can determine, there is only one way you can be locked out of your iPhone — by entering an incorrect passcode too many times.

You might reasonably ask, “Why were you having so much trouble entering your passcode?” The thing is, I wasn’t entering any passcodes. My phone was becoming disabled while in a pocket of my running pack.

At first, I thought the phone’s “Raise to Wake” feature was the culprit, but disabling that setting didn’t fix the problem.

For a while, I overlooked the “Tap to Wake” setting, thinking that a tap would require human interaction. But it doesn’t. An iPhone X sitting in a pocket that is moist from sweat can interact with the fabric touching the screen to wake the phone up, swipe up, and then enter passcode numbers.

Now, when I run with my phone, in addition to having “Raise to Wake” disabled, I temporarily disable “Tap to Wake.” Since doing this, my phone — and camera — haven’t been inadvertently disabled.

The easiest way to locate these settings is to enter “wake” in the Search box at the top of the Settings screen and then tap on either “Raise to Wake” or “Tap to Wake.”

For detailed info about what happens when you repeatedly enter incorrect passcodes on your iPhone, see Encryption and Data Protection > Passcodes in the Apple iOS Security guide.

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An Out-of-the-Way Trail, Two Peaks, a Wheelbarrow, and Washington’s Monument

Forsee Creek canyon from the John's Meadow Trail in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

Wow, what a fantastic trail, canyon, and morning!

The view above is from the John’s Meadow Trail, a circuitous trail that winds its way through a less-traveled part of the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

Sugar pine cones
Sugar pine cones along the John’s Meadow Trail.

The prominent canyon in the photo is home to Forsee Creek. During the last ice age, it held one of San Gorgonio’s small glaciers. I’d just crossed the Forsee Creek a few minutes before, and in a few hours would run past its source high on the crest — Trail Fork Springs.

The peak at the head of the canyon is East San Bernardino Peak (10,691′). Its summit marks the crest of the divide and the location of the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail. That’s where I was headed, but the path would be anything but direct.

From the Forsee Creek crossing at 7270′, the John’s Meadow Trail climbs about 1000′ in 2.3 miles to join the Divide Trail at “wheelbarrow junction,” about 5 miles west of East San Bernardino Peak. From that point I worked up the popular and scenic Divide Trail, visiting Limber Pine Bench (9330′), Washington Monument (10,290′), and San Bernardino Peak (10,649′) along the way to East San Bernardino Peak.

A weather-beaten lodgepole pine at Limber Pine Bench on the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail.
Weather-beaten lodgepole pine.

Using this roundabout — but very scenic — route, it took me about the same time to reach San Bernardino Peak from the Forsee Creek Trailhead as it does to do San Gorgonio Mountain from the South Fork Trailhead. From San Bernardino Peak it’s a little less than a mile to East San Bernardino Peak and from there only about 0.75 mile to the lateral to Trail Fork Springs.

From the westernmost Trail Fork Springs junction with the Divide Trail the theme was downhill, downhill, and more downhill — about 3800′ of downhill over 6.7 miles.

The running on the Forsee Creek Trail was generally very good. I was glad I did the loop counterclockwise. The John’s Meadow Trail and its extension are enjoyably primitive — they appear to be “use” trails that have evolved over time. On the other hand, the Forsee Creek Trail is a constructed trail. It was designed as a pack trail, so is generally well-behaved. Great for going down, but a long haul up with a heavy pack!

San Gorgonio Mountain and San Jacinto Peak from East San Bernardino Peak.
San Gorgonio and San Jacinto from East San Bernardino Peak.

Here are a few photos taken along the way, and here is an interactive Cesium ion view of the GPS trace of my route. The 3D view can be zoomed, tilted and panned.

Note: Water is generally more reliable and accessible on the John’s Meadow Trail than on the Forsee Creek Trail. Trail Fork Springs and Jackstraw Springs are seasonal water sources that may not have water. Check with the Mill Creek Ranger Station for the current conditions and more info.

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San Gorgonio Mountain Snow Follow Up

Hiker working up the Sky High Trail on San Gorgonio Mountain in Southern California
Hiker on the Sky High Trail

One of the things I’d been curious to see when running the Kodiak 50K in mid-August was how the summit snow band on San Gorgonio Mountain was holding up. The answer turned out to be fairly well. Now, a few weeks later, I was back on Gorgonio, chugging up the South Fork Trail, and on my way to see if any snow remained on the mountain.

Runoff from thunderstorms during the week had left the trail rocky and rutted. From the views of the mountain I’d glimpsed from the trail, I wondered if the rain had also washed away any remaining patches of snow.

Snow band near the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain. September 7, 2019.
Snow band near the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain on September 7, 2019.

In addition to that question, I also want to follow up on my earlier “field checks” this Summer and see how much water there was in Dry Lake, and if any snow remained in the avalanche debris above Dry Lake.

I was about a quarter-mile from the Dry Lake – Dollar Lake junction at South Fork Meadows, making decent time, when I heard footsteps behind me. I stepped to the side so he could pass, and we talked as we worked up the trail. Kevin said he’d been climbing in the Sierra just about every weekend and was really well-acclimated.

I asked him what route he was doing to the summit, and he said the Dry Lake route. I told him I was doing the Dollar Lake Trail route up and the Dry Lake route down. He was clearly moving faster than me and said he was shooting for a time of 4:20 to the summit. I mentioned the Dollar Lake route was shorter and faster, and depending on the number of stops for photos, I expected to get to the summit in around 3:45. We talked about some Sierra peaks and being in the mountains, and after a couple of minutes, he began to pull away.

Trail runner at Dry Lake on San Gorgonio Mountain
Dry Lake on September 7, 2019.

The early morning temperature had been a little more chilly than my earlier trips up Gorgonio this Summer. I debated pulling on my sleeves, but by the time I was in the sun on the Dollar Lake Trail, the temperature had warmed to a comfortable 50-something — perfect for ascending the peak.

The summit of San Gorgonio was a very busy place when I arrived. I’d estimate 40-50 people were on or around the summit. Most were part of one huge group that had come up Vivian Creek.

The good news was part of the summit snow band had not melted. Wow! It was September 7, and there was still snow in Southern California!

Copernicus Sentinel satellite imagery of snow on San Gorgonio Mountain on August 27, 2019.

Kevin caught up to me on the descent of the Sky High Trail. We’d both made the summit within a couple of minutes of our projections, leaving little doubt that the Dollar Lake Trail is the fastest route to the summit from the South Fork Trailhead.

I didn’t see any snow remaining in the avalanche debris above Dry Lake. The lake itself was in great shape, and the streams at South Fork Meadows were flowing nearly as vigorously as they had been a month ago.

I’ve added a couple of photos from this trip to the San Gorgonio Mountain Snow, Avalanches and Glaciers slideshow.

Update October 21, 2019. Copernicus Sentinel satellite imagery from October 21, 2019 still showed a few very small patches of snow on San Gorgonio Mountain. One of the patches is at a surprisingly low elevation of about 10,360′.

Update September 18, 2019. Copernicus Sentinel satellite imagery from September 18, 2019 still showed a few small patches of snow on San Gorgonio Mountain.

Related post: San Gorgonio Mountain Snow, Avalanches and Glaciers

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