Category Archives: adventures

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

Musch Meadow Frost

Frost along the Backbone Trail at Musch Meadow

As I approached Musch Camp, a scrub jay flew from a trailside faucet and into a nearby eucalyptus. There had been a little rain the day before, but the birds at the closed camp were still thirsty. Less than a quarter-inch of rain had fallen, and nearby creeks were still dry.

Melting frost
Melting frost “steaming” at Musch Meadow

I was doing a run from the “Top of Reseda,” and on a warmer day would have topped off my water bottle at the camp. I stopped at the faucet and briefly turned on the spigot. Maybe that would make it easier for the jay.

Leaving the camp behind, I continued south on the Backbone Trail, across frost-covered Musch Meadow. Early morning sun had just reached the meadow, and water vapor from the melting frost steamed in the cold air.

In another mile I reached the Trippet Ranch trailhead, and then begin the six mile run back to the Valley. At several points on the run there had been wintry views of the local mountains. On the way back the best view of the snowy mountains was from the Hub, where Mt. Baldy could be seen gleaming white in the morning sun.

Some related posts: Garapito Trail Runs, Musch Trail Mule Deer, Musch Trail Morning

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

Moon and Sycamores, Malibu Creek State Park

Moon and Sycamores, Malibu Creek State Park

The photograph Moon and Sycamores was taken at dawn, near Malibu Canyon and Piuma Road, at the start of this morning’s Bulldog Loop trail run in Malibu Creek State Park.

A quarter-mile from the top of Bulldog Mtwy fire road in Malibu Creek State Park.
A quarter-mile from the top of the Bulldog climb.

According to the Tempe sensor on my pack, the temperature ranged from a chilly 32° F along Malibu Creek to around 65° F on the crest. It was a near perfect morning to be outdoors.

Here’s an interactive, 3D terrain view of my GPS track from a previous run of the Bulldog Loop from Malibu & Piuma.

Some related posts: Bulldog Loop Plus the Phantom Loop; Trees, Bees, and a Washed-Out Footbridge on the Bulldog Loop in Malibu Creek State Park; After the Woolsey Fire: Bulldog Loop

Looking for the Highest Point of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

View south from windmill hill in Upper Las Virgenes Open Space Preserve

From the top of the hill, the blue-sky view extended all the way to Saddle Peak and the Pacific. The gray-green chaparral was brittle and dry, and the grasslands sun-bleached. Rain was in the forecast, but for months, little had fallen. It was the day after Christmas, and I was near the northern border of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. Fourteen years ago, nearly to the day, I had run to the same hill. That rain year had also been dry, and the area had looked much the same.

The Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Trail climbs steeply to windmill hill
Steep fire road to “windmill hill.”

Today’s run had started at dawn at the Victory Trailhead. It had been cold in the canyons for the first few miles — in the low 30s — but eventually temps had warmed. I had run west in East Las Virgenes Canyon, taken a connector trail to Las Virgenes Canyon, and then run north on the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon fire road past Bell Canyon to “windmill hill.”

The hill is labeled with an elevation of 2124′ on the 1967 Calabasas topo map. The top of an old windmill has been placed on its summit. The windmill wasn’t there in 2006, and I wondered if it was from the infamous Runkle Canyon well. From the top of windmill hill I could see the high point of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, a quarter-mile or so to the northeast.

High point of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve
High point of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

Located at its northeastern corner, the point with the highest elevation in the Preserve is a hilltop that’s just south of “hill 2160” on the Calabasas quad. Marked by a prominent pine tree, hill 2160 is on Santa Susana Field Laboratory property. It overlooks an area of the SSFL where a partial meltdown of an experimental reactor occurred in 1959.

Leaving windmill hill behind, I ran east down the hill, and then north along the fire road toward Albertson Mtwy. I was still debating whether to do the side trip to the Preserve’s high point. There was no path or trail to the high point, and the upper part of the slope was thick with brush. After running past the hill and nearly to Albertson Mtwy, curiosity finally got the better of me. I turned around and ran back to a place on the fire road where I could access the high point.

View south from the high point of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve
View south from the high point of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

There is a survey marker on the high point labeled “N.A.A.V. INC. L.S. 2379 1953.” This is where the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, SSFL and Runkle Ranch properties meet. According to 3DEP Lidar data, the elevation of the high point is about 2162′.

The side trip to the high point and back took about 20 minutes. After returning to the fire road, I continued down to the junction with Albertson Mtwy, turned left, and followed it west to a junction with an Edison powerline service road. This road meanders south through a rugged canyon, and then climbs up and over a prominent ridge with some spectacular sandstone rock formations.

Mountain bikers in the backcountry of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve
Mountain bikers in the backcountry of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

After topping out on the ridge, the service road descends to the junction of the Sheep Corral and Cheeseboro Ridge Trails. Today, I followed the Cheeseboro Ridge Trail south to the Las Virgenes – Cheeseboro connector. Once back in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon, I retraced my route from earlier in the day back to the Victory Trailhead.

Here is an interactive, Cesium 3D terrain view of most of the 20-mile route. The bushwhack to the Preserve high point and an exploration of the Norway Trail aren’t shown.

Some related posts: Upper Las Virgenes Canyon – Cheeseboro Ridge Loop, Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Backcountry, Trail Run and Hike to Peak 1842 at Ahmanson Ranch

Trippet Ranch Oak Grassland

Trippet Ranch oak grassland

Taken on today’s trail run from the “Top of Reseda” to Trippet Ranch and back.

Here’s a Cesium 3D interactive view of a GPS track of my usual route. Today I did the Garapito and Musch Trails on the way out, then ran the fire roads on the way back.

Some related posts: The Heavenly Ranch in the Hills, Garapito Trail Runs