Category Archives: quirky

Pandemic Cool: An Early Morning Dance at Topanga Lookout

With the San Fernando Valley as a backdrop, a couple dances at Topanga Lookout, during the pandemic

As I neared the top of Topanga Lookout Ridge, I could hear music coming from the Lookout. It looked like there were people on top, but from my vantage point down on the ridge, it was hard to tell what was going on.

When I reached the isolated platform, I was surprised to find a couple dancing! Wearing masks, and with much of the San Fernando Valley as a backdrop, they had found a unique way to deal with the complications of the pandemic.

Some related posts: Topanga Lookout Ridge Loop; Malibu Canyon to Saddle Peak, Topanga Lookout, Calabasas Peak, and the Secret Trail

A Sandstone Mammoth and a Spiral Labyrinth on the Bulldog Loop

A natural sculpture of a sandstone mammoth on the Backbone Trail

Instead of struggling to escape a tar pit, this “mammoth” seems to have been caught up in 25-30 million-year-old sandstone.

The beast can be seen along the Backbone Trail, east of the Corral Canyon Trailhead. When running/hiking/riding east from the trailhead, the trail climbs over two steep steps and up to gap in the rock. In the photo above, the gap is on the left and the mammoth figure is on the right. From the gap, the trail descends a rock corridor to Mesa Peak fire road.

A closer look at the mammoth reveals that it is pockmarked and there are rocks embedded in the sandstone. The embedded rocks are cobble from an ancient river and the pockmarks are where rounded rocks have fallen out of the eroding sandstone.

Spiral labyrinth constructed of ancient stream cobble along the Backbone Trail
Spiral labyrinth along the Backbone Trail

Stream cobble that has eroded out of sandstone formations in this area has been used to construct a spiral labyrinth on the north side of Mesa Peak Fire Road. The cobble was tumbled and smoothed by streams that drained a range much older than the Santa Monica Mountains.

The title photo is from this morning’s run of the Bulldog Loop.

Some related posts: Moon and Sycamores, Malibu Creek State Park; Bulldog Loop Near Corral Canyon

Another Red-tailed Hawk Encounter

Partially camouflaged red-tailed hawk in a valley oak

The afternoon was full of Fall. Oak leaves danced in a cool breeze, their shadows producing a familiar speckled pattern of shadow and sun, shadow and sun.

I was running northeast along the margin of Lasky Mesa in Upper Las VIrgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, enjoying the Fall weather and smoke-free sky. I’d just passed a valley oak along the dirt road, when a thought bubbled up from my subconscious and asked, “Did you see what I saw in that tree?”

I stopped, turned around, and walked the few steps back to the oak tree.

Just feet from the road, partially camouflaged by oak leaves and shadows, was a red-tailed hawk. It seemed surprised, if not indignant, to have been discovered. I was equally astonished to have seen the bird.

Red-tailed hawk with a just-killed field mouse or other small rodent
Red-tailed hawk with its prey – a small mouse.

The pattern of its plumage now made perfect sense. The hawk had been nearly invisible while feet away and in plain sight. I took one more photo, and then left the bird to its reverie.

I smiled as I ran down the road, and wondered if this was the same hawk that had buzzed me in Red-tailed Hawk Encounter.

Update November 14, 2020. Was near the spot where the encounter described above occurred and photographed a red-tailed hawk with a small rodent it had just killed. Since it’s in the same area, it may be the same bird.

Lake Lasky Mesa

Lake Lasky Mesa - Photography by Gary Valle'

Hidden away in the central highlands of Lasky Mesa, and not found on current maps, the “lake of the four hills” is shrouded in mystery.

Perhaps the result of earth movement or some other upheaval, the hills and lake seemingly appeared overnight. They are the latest in a series of perplexing formations to suddenly materialize on the site.

Deadly Nightshade

The shadow of a crab spider on the petals of a purple nightshade.

Fanged and clawed, death waits,
On a highland of lavender, near a saffron spire.

The silhouette of a crab spider on the petal of a back lit Purple nightshade (prob. Solanum xanti). The blossom is about 0.8 inch (~20 mm) wide, which would make the span of the spider’s crab-like grasping forelegs about 0.25 inch (~7 mm). From a run at Sage Ranch Park on November 2, 2006.

Note: This is not a photo of Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna).