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.
A couple leaving the camp saw that I was trying to collect drips of water from the nearly dry spring. I told them I was OK, and had water in my pack — I was just using a makeshift cup to get a couple of mouthfuls of cool water from the slowly dripping spring.
I had stopped at Sheep Camp (8300′) in the Chumash Wilderness, in Los Padres National Forest. The day was warm and the spring at the camp is usually a refreshing stop on the way back to Mt. Pinos and the trailhead at the Chula Vista parking area. Earlier, I’d talked to a runner training for the Kodiak 100, and he’d mentioned that the spring was a key source of water for his dog.
In recent years water has sometimes been an issue at the Sheep Camp spring. In July 2018, six out of the past seven Rain Years had been dry, and the flow of the spring was just a trickle. But it had been enough to slowly refill my Camelbak (TM) and get me down to Lily Camp (6600′) and back. Not so today.
Even without the water, Sheep Camp is a pleasant and worthwhile detour. Old growth pines tower above and bright yellow sneezeweed and other flowers are sprinkled about the forest floor. In the Spring large patches of iris bloom in the damp areas.
Today, I was returning from Mt. Abel, after having done Mt. Pinos, Sawmill Mountain, and Grouse Mountain on the way to Mt. Abel from the Chula Vista parking area. Here is an elevation profile of the run/hike. The cumulative elevation gain on the 15.5 mile run is about 3700′.
The short side trips to the summits of Mt. Pinos and Sawmill require almost no extra effort, and the view from Sawmill — if it’s not too smoky or hazy — is wide-ranging. Getting to the twin summits of Grouse takes a bit more work, but it’s fun to follow the short use trail up the south summit and then to wander through the pines to the slightly taller north summit.
The descent that follows — down the use trail from Grouse and then down the Vincent Tumamait Trail to Puerto del Suelo, drops about 1000′ in elevation over 1.6 miles. This, of course, must be repaid on the way back!
When you reach the road at the end of the Vincent Tumamait Trail, you might remark, “But there’s no trail to Abel!” And you would be correct. It’s fairly straightforward to trek up through the forest from the road, though care is required due to the debris from forestry work in the area.
Nope, my eyes weren’t deceiving me, the hiker was carrying his full-size poodle up the trail.
I was running down the PCT, east of Islip Saddle, after a run/hike to Mt. Hawkins and Throop Peak. I’m guessing the hiker was carrying his dog to keep it out of the Poodle-dog Bush on both sides of the trail.
Poodle-dog Bush (Eriodictyon parryi) is a fire-follower that can cause severe dermatitis in some people. In this case the plants sprouted following the 2020 Bobcat Fire.
The last big outbreak of Poodle-dog Bush followed the 2009 Station Fire. At that time many people were unfamiliar with its potential effects, and were caught off-guard.
The plant can get you in a couple of ways — the plant’s resin can affect sensitized people in a manner similar to poison oak, and the plant’s numerous hairs can break off and irritate the skin.
The nasal bellowing of a bullfrog shook the morning, but didn’t disturb the mirror-like surface of Century Lake. I had paused along the Forest Trail in Malibu Creek State Park to take in my surroundings. Here and there glimmers of sunlight reflected from the base of the reeds along the opposite shore. Birds called, flowers bloomed and Nature continued to work in its wonderous way.
My run had started at the Cistern Trailhead on Mulholland Highway and then wandered about the Reagan Ranch area. The Lookout and Yearling Trails had been thick with mustard and badly overgrown. The plants had been wet with dew, and my black sleeves and shorts had been liberally sprinkled with the bright yellow flowers. A few ticks had also hitched a ride, but were removed before they could bite.
It had been a relief to get back to the Cage Creek Trail and descend to the Crags Road Trail and Malibu Creek. The logs extending across the creek from the washed out bridge had been rearranged, making it easier to cross.
No other trail in the Park is quite like the Forest Trail. The trail isn’t part of a loop, doesn’t connect to other trails, and is only a half-mile long; but it feels like a trail you might find in Big Sur, Santa Cruz or the Bay Area. The forest is comprised primarily of coast live oak, California bay, and sycamore, but at several spots along the trail you’ll find coast redwoods.
Coast redwoods are not endemic to Southern California. All but one of the Forest Trail redwoods were planted over 100 years ago. The trees were severely impacted by the 2011-2015 drought, and only a few have survived. Even so, they are easy to spot — the large, deeply-furrowed, copper-brown trunk of a coast redwood is unmistakable.
Note: There is some poison oak along the Forest Trail, and this year some was protruding onto the trail.
If you’re a bee in the Ahmanson Ranch area, your Fall menu of wildflowers is usually pretty sparse; particularly when the previous rain year has been below normal.
But life has a way of carving out a niche for itself in the toughest of circumstances. One plant you’ll find blooming in the oak grasslands of Ahmanson Ranch following a long, hot, dry summer is goldenbush. In the case of the title photo, it’s Palmer’s goldenbush.
The title photo was taken along the PCT, at an elevation of about 8600′, near Mt. Hawkins. The area was burned in the 2002 Curve Fire. Here, and elsewhere in the burn area, new trees — now in their teens — are slowly replacing some of the trees lost in the fire.