Category Archives: photography|landscape

Rainy Season Trail Running on the Backbone Trail

Rock formations below Triunfo Lookout, with the Channel Islands in the distance. From the Etz Meloy section of the Backbone Trail.
The Backbone Trail contours around Triunfo Peak (on the right) above the rock band that extends across the photo. The Channel Islands are in the distance.

The Backbone Trail between Encinal Canyon and Mishe Mokwa is one of the must-do sections of the 68-mile trail. Engineered to be multi-use, this exceptionally scenic stretch of the Backbone Trail is popular with riders, hikers, and runners alike.

Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceum) blooming along the Backbone Trail (Thumbnail)
Chaparral Currant

It’s also a pretty good place for a trail run after rainy weather like we’ve had this February. Although the parking lot at the Encinal Trailhead was quite wet this morning, the  Backbone Trail was in decent shape most of the way to the Mishe Mokwa trailhead. There were a few muddy and wet spots, but it was generally easy to work around them. And I didn’t have to change my shoes before driving home.

The out & back run worked out to about 21-miles, with a surprisingly moderate gain/loss of about 2500′. The weather and visibility were excellent. Striking rock formations and the Channel Islands could be seen from one side of Etz Meloy Mtwy fire road, and snow on Alamo Mountain and other Ventura County peaks from the other side.

On the way back, as I was working up the long hill on the northwest side of Triunfo Lookout, a descending mountain biker commented that a large group of bikers were at “the corner.” The overlook at this prominent switchback has a wide-ranging view of Mishe Mokwa, Boney Mountain, and Sandstone Peak, and some prefer to turn around here. This variation is about 3.5 miles shorter (round-trip) than dropping down into the canyon and going all the way to Mishe Mokwa.

Here is an interactive, 3D terrain view of my GPS track of the out and back run from Encinal to Mishe Mokwa and an elevation profile of the route.

Some related posts:
Encinal Canyon to Mishe Mokwa Out and Back Trail Run
Kanan to Mishe Mokwa and Back
Kanan to Mishe Mokwa to Wendy Drive
Night Training for the Backbone Ultra

East Las Virgenes Canyon After a Seventh Day of Rain

East Las Virgenes Canyon After a Seventh Day of Rain

A very wet East Las Virgenes Canyon and Trail on February 8, 2024,  following seven days of rain. This was by far the wettest start to February in Los Angeles since recordkeeping began in July 1877.

Related post: Ahmanson Ranch and Upper Las Virgenes Creek After Six Days of Rain

Running to the Temescal Canyon Cascade From the Top of Reseda (Two Ways)

Temescal Canyon Cascade

The Temescal Canyon “waterfall” is an immensely popular cascade, most often accessed from Temescal Gateway Park using the Temescal Canyon Trail. Judging from the number of people on the trail, a loop incorporating the Temescal Canyon and Temescal Ridge Trails is also very popular.

Even though many refer to it as a waterfall, it’s not a dramatic river-wide fall, such as Nevada Fall in Yosemite. Picture a Japanese garden with a gurgling little stream, cascading down through rocks into a pool, surrounded by an artistic arrangement of plants and trees. There’s even the requisite bridge to complete the composition. It would be meditative if it were not so popular.

Cloud-shrouded view northwest from Temescal Peak to the Cathedral Rocks/Hub area. (Thumbnail)
Cloud-shrouded view of the Cathedral Rocks/Hub area.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve run from the Top of Reseda (Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park) to the Temescal Canyon Cascade two ways — a 15-mile out-and-back and a 21-mile loop.

The out-and-back route from the Top of Reseda was one of those “I’ll just go a little bit farther” runs. It had rained the day before and the NWS forecast called for a chance of showers in the morning and then showers likely in the afternoon.

High Point (Goat Peak) from Temescal Ridge. (Thumbnail)
High Point (Goat Peak) from Temescal Ridge.

With the weather unsettled, I didn’t have a particular plan in mind. When I started the run, it looked like it might rain at any time, so I decided to run to Temescal Peak, and then play it by ear from there. Once on Temescal Peak, the weather seemed to be holding, so I continued to Temescal Lookout. From the Lookout, Green Peak was just a “little bit further,” and in a few minutes, I was standing on top.

I continued to be drawn down Temescal Ridge in this fashion, and before I knew it was at the junction of the Temescal Ridge and Temescal Canyon Trails. From there, it was only a half-mile down to the cascade.

Scrambling up Boney Mountain's Western Ridge (aka Mountaineer's Route) on an adventure run to Sandstone Peak. (Thumbnail)
Scrambling up Boney Mountain’s Western Ridge

Two weeks later, I was back at the Top of Reseda. It had rained an inch and a half in Downtown Los Angeles a couple of days before, and a well-advertised multi-day rain event was forecast to begin the following day.

The previous weekend, a friend and I had climbed/run to Sandstone Peak from Wendy Drive. Temps in the sun reached into the 80s, and maybe I talked too much and ate and drank too little. On the way back, I hit the wall near the turn onto the Upper Sycamore Trail.

Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) in Will Rogers State Historic Park. (Thumnbnail)
Cootamundra wattle at Will Rogers.

This morning, I had no idea how my legs were going to feel. My loosely defined plan was to run out the Rogers Road segment of the Backbone Trail from the Top of Reseda and see. If the legs held up, I’d continue to Will Rogers State Historic Park. If not, maybe I’d do Goat Peak or something else.

The temperature was in the 40s most of the way down to Will Rogers. With the cool weather, it seemed my running was back to normal. From Will Rogers, I headed over to Rivas Canyon, where I found Sierra Club volunteers hard at work on the Rivas Canyon Trail. This enjoyable trail links Will Rogers to Temescal Canyon and is a key part of the loop.

Cactus and agave along the Rivas Canyon Trail. (Thumbnail)
Cactus and agave along the Rivas Canyon Trail.

Once down in Temescal Canyon, there was a constant stream of hikers going up the Temescal Canyon Trail to the cascade. With the recent rain and good weather, the cascade had more water and more people than on the run in January. A large group rested near the bridge, and hikers hustled and bustled up and down the trail. The little cascade gurgled and burbled in the morning sun, glistening bubbles popping up beneath the plunging stream and then disappearing as they wandered downstream.

Soon, I was chugging up the trail toward its junction with the Temescal Ridge Trail, retracing my steps from two weeks before.

Some related posts:
Will Rogers – Rivas Canyon – Temescal Canyon Trail Run
Go Figure: An Extended Version of the Will Rogers – Temescal Canyon Loop
Sandstone Peak from Wendy Drive

Back on the Old Boney and Serrano Valley Trails

Boney Mountain from the Serrano Valley Trail.
Boney Mountain from the Serrano Valley Trail.

Not all trails will have a smooth tread, good footing, trimmed vegetation, trail signs and other luxuries. What you see is what you get, and sometimes what you get is not perfect.

That was the case on last May’s run to the Serrano Valley from Wendy Drive. A long stretch of the Old Boney Trail was all but impassable. The trail was badly overgrown, the day foggy and gray, and everything was dripping wet.

Sycamore leaves scattered along the Serrano Canyon Trail (thumbnail)
Serrano Canyon Trail

But there is just something about immersing yourself in the good and not-so-good that nature offers. It’s part of what nature is. The splendid display of wildflowers seen on that run was a result of the rainy season that produced the overgrown trail.

Curious to see how that section of trail had changed in seven months, this morning I was back on the Old Boney Trail and on my way to Serrano Valley. It had rained around 4 inches during the week, and I expected the mud to be like glue and creek crossings wet.

Use of the trail had improved its condition. There were still some overgrown sections but most of the time I could see my feet, as well as the ruts and rocks on the trail. It was muddy in the usual places but the globs of mud on my shoes didn’t reach dinner plate proportions.

The Fireline Trail climbs out of Sycamore Canyon. Boney Mountain is in the distance.
Fireline Trail with Boney Mountain in the distance.

In the wake of the storm, the weather was exhilarating. Postcard clouds decorated the crest of Boney Mountain and a cool breeze filtered through the canyons. Despite all the rain, Serrano Creek was flowing at a modest level, and I emerged from Serrano Canyon with dry shoes.

It was a day for a longer run, and when I reached Sycamore Canyon fire road, I turned left (south) and continued down the canyon to the Fireline Trail. Going up the Fireline Trail to Overlook Fire Road extended the run and expanded the views. A right turn on Overlook Fire Road lead to the top of the Ray Miller Trail, and from there to the Hub. These junctions offer additional opportunities for extending the run.

Today, I ran down Hell Hill, over to the Two Foxes Trail via Wood Canyon Fire Road, then picked up Sycamore Canyon Fire Road near the Danielson Multi-Use Area and followed it to the Upper Sycamore Trail, Danielson Road, and Satwiwa. This interactive, 3D terrain view shows the route.

Some related posts:
A Really Overgrown Trail, Thirty Creek Crossings, and Thousands of Wildflowers
Old Boney to Serrano Valley, Plus Fireline and Overlook
Serrano Valley from Wendy Drive

A Displaced Bridge, Exceptional Backbone Trail Views, and a Card Table Along the Bulldog Loop

Rock formation along the Backbone Trail. Photography by Gary Valle'

The photograph above was taken a few steps off the Backbone Trail, between the Corral Canyon Trailhead and Mesa Peak Motorway fire road. Also in the area was a set of table and chairs that might be used for an ocean-view card game or a lunch break.

These scenes were about halfway through a variation of the Bulldog Loop that starts/ends at the Cistern Trailhead on Mulholland Highway. The route follows the Cistern, Lookout, and Cage Creek Trails down to the Crags Road Trail, just east of where it crosses Malibu Creek.

A permanent bridge used to span the creek, but after being washed out several times in Winter floods, a “seasonal” bridge was put in place. The seasonal bridge is removed when there is a threat of flooding, such as during the rainy season.

This morning, the temperature in the canyon was in the mid-thirties. That was cool enough that I didn’t want to get wet, and I hoped the removal of the bridge had been delayed. But several days of rain were in the forecast, and as I neared the creek, I could see the bridge now lay alongside trail.

A log spanned the creek where the bridge once stood. Using a suitable stick as a hiking pole, it was easy to cross the log, stay dry, and continue the loop.

Some related posts:
Best Trailhead to Start the Bulldog Loop?
Bulldog Loop Plus the Phantom Loop
After the Woolsey Fire: Bulldog Loop