Category Archives: quirky

Ahmanson Ranch Hot Seat

Ahmanson Ranch Hot Seat. Photography by Gary Valle'.

It was a little past 3:00 in the afternoon when I passed this straight-backed wooden chair along an Ahmanson Ranch trail. The Tempe thermometer clipped to my pack read over 100 degrees.

It gets REALLY hot at Ahmanson Ranch (Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve). In the direct sun the temperature can be 10°F-15°F hotter than in the shade, and there is very little shade at Ahmanson. In-the-sun temperatures of 100°F or more are common in the Summer but can occur just about any time of the year.

There are two weather stations I use to get an idea of the weather conditions at Ahmanson Ranch — the Cheeseboro RAWS and Valley Circle Estates Weather Underground station. Weather station thermometers are usually shielded from the direct sun by a white, ventilated enclosure. The Cheeseboro RAWS includes a measurement of the “Fuel Temperature.” This is generally a better indication of the temperature experienced by a runner, hiker, or rider in the direct sun.

Update on July 29, 2023. Rounding the temperature to whole degrees, my West Hills weather station recorded a high of 100°F, or higher, for 15 consecutive days this July (7/13/23 to 7/27/23). The station is about three miles from the Victory Trailhead at Ahmanson Ranch.

Some related posts: Some Summers Are Hotter than Others, Run to the Cheeseboro Remote Automated Weather Station

Dawn Songs, Wildflowers, and a Rocket Launch from the Phantom Trail

Sun and clouds in Malibu Creek State Park
Clouds & sun at Malibu Creek State Park, near the end of the Phantom Loop

I checked my watch — it was 6:13 a.m. I was part way up the Phantom Trail in Malibu Creek State Park, and had stopped to see if I could hear the launch of the Falcon 9 at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

I’d hoped to see the launch, but low clouds obscured the view skyward. Even so, there was a chance that a thin spot in the cloud deck might reveal the ship, as it propelled its classified payload into orbit.

All was quiet, except for the dawn songs of waking birds and the occasional car or motorcycle on Mulholland Highway. But then, just above the ambient sounds, I heard it — a constant dull roar somewhere to the west. I scanned the sky for any hint of an exhaust plume.

None was evident, but I suspect that if I had looked at the right spot at the right time, I might have glimpsed the rocket’s sun-bright flame. After searching and listening for a couple of minutes, I resumed working up the trail.

Phacelia along the Phantom Trail in Malibu Creek State Park
A sea of Phacelia along the Phantom Trail

Ka-boom! Even though my attention had turned to the trail, the distinctive, two-syllable report of a sonic boom broke my reverie. It had to be the Falcon 9 booster returning to the launch site. The boom wasn’t very loud at my location, but some living closer to Vandenberg apparently mistook the launch and sonic boom as an earthquake.

The remainder of the run went well. I’d run the Ahmanson 12K the day before, and the Phantom Loop (clockwise) was a good follow-up to that run.

I was a bit surprised just how overgrown some sections of the trail were. Mustard wasn’t the only plant crowding the trail, phacelia was as thick along the Phantom Trail as I’ve seen.

A showy patch of Chinese houses wildflowers along the Phantom Trail
Chinese houses along the Phantom Trail

With the cloudy, cool start to the day, the poppies were mostly closed, but several other species of wildflowers added color along the trail. Among them were Elegant Clarkia, Owl’s Clover and Chinese Houses.

Note: A little higher in the Santa Monica Mountains and farther to the west, Jonathan Stewart captured this video of the NROL-85 launch from Boney Mountain.

Some related posts: Phantom Trail: Trade-offs of a Wet Rainy Season; Redwoods, Raptors, and the Phantom Loop; Ladyface Via the Phantom Trail and Heartbreak Ridge

Is This the Future of Trail Use?

e-dirt bike in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (aka Ahmanson Ranch)

The photo above is of a rider on an e-dirt bike in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (aka Ahmanson Ranch). Based on a sequence of photos, no pedaling was required.

With the explosion of e-bikes, encounters such as this are inevitable. I’ve seen e-bikes and tracks in the most remote corners of the local mountains. Earlier this year, while running on a wilderness trail, I was passed by a motorcade of ten e-bikes.

Poaching of trails is commonplace. In one bike forum the question was asked, “Has anyone here actually received a ticket for riding an e-bike on a trail?” At that time — 2018 — the consensus was a resounding no. More recent posts suggest that not much has changed.

Santa Susana Red-Backed Gliding Bullfrog

Santa Susana Red-Backed Gliding Bullfrog

This afternoon, while doing a meandering run in the Santa Susana Mountains, I was climbing one of the large rock formations in the area, when I spotted a blotch of ochre-red on its summit.

Not quite sure what I was seeing, I stopped mid-stride and stared at the creature. Blinking to clear my vision, it looked like it might be a large frog or toad.

Quietly moving closer, lest it launch itself from the top of the rock, I could see it was the rare Santa Susana Red-Backed Gliding Bullfrog.

A peculiar creature, its flight or fight response is to either leap from a high point and glide to safety, or to instantly lithify on-the-spot. While either action may prevent predation, lithification discourages virtually all predators.

Apparently, this animal had opted for the latter, and would be in this stone-like state for some time to come.

Fogbow Near the Top of Hell Hill in Pt. Mugu State Park

Fogbow Near the Top of Hell Hill in Pt. Mugu State Park

Fogbows form opposite the sun in a manner similar to rainbows, except the water droplets that create a fogbow are much smaller than raindrops. Because a fog droplet is so small, the physics of the interaction is different. The result is often a diffuse, primarily white bow.

The photograph of the fogbow was taken Sunday morning on an out and back run from Wendy Drive to Mugu Peak. The sun was about 14 degrees above the horizon. More about fogbows and other atmospheric phenomena can be found on Les Cowley’s Atmospheric Optics website.

Some related posts: Rainbow Colors in Cirrus Clouds Over Los Angeles, Out and Back Trail Run to Mugu Peak