Category Archives: running

September Storm

Rocky Peak road 

Los Angeles sometimes gets rain in September, but usually it is the result of tropical moisture from a dissipating hurricane, or perhaps the passage of the tail end of a weakening front. It is rare to see a low as cold, deep and energetic as the upper level low that deluged many areas of Los Angeles county Friday afternoon into Saturday.

Thunderstorms raked the San Fernando Valley Friday night, and several locations in and around the Valley recorded more than an inch of rain over the course of the storm. Los Angeles set a new rainfall record on Saturday, recording 0.40 inch of rain, and rainfall records were broken across the area.

In Southern California the first rain of the season often doesn’t occur until October or November and is always savored. Especially this year, when Los Angeles has recorded only 3.21 inches of rain in the last 15 or 16 months, and a developing La Nina threatens to put the kibosh on Winter rain.

I celebrated the rain by doing an out and back run to “Fossil Point” on Rocky Peak fire road. Based on the size of the mud puddles on the dirt road, this unseasonable storm appeared to be wetter than any in last year’s record dry rain season. Here’s a panorama of the view northwest from the fire road to Oak Ridge, the Santa Susana Mountains and beyond.

Some related posts: San Fernando Valley from Rocky Peak, Rainy Morning on Rocky Peak Road.

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GlobalSat GH615B

Garmin Forerunner 205 (left) and GlobalSat GH615B.

Update 7/26/08. There have been recent USB driver (4-28-08) and firmware (5-07-08) updates, and the PC software has been replaced (7-04-08), but the most significant change is that SportTracks now supports the GH615 via a plugin. Since I use SportTracks I have not looked closely at the new “g-Sports PC Utility” software, but it appears to be more functional than the original “PC Utility” software. Some significant quirks remain. When the GH615B is set to STATUTE(ft, mph) units, the elevation still displays in miles — e.g. 1.702 miles instead of 8987 ft.

Update 9/10/07. Shortly after writing this post I learned that the GH-615B has been discontinued in the U.S. in favor of the GH-615M, which includes a heart rate monitor.

Chugging up Mt. Baden-Powell, I pushed various buttons on the GlobalSat GH615B, searching for the screen that displays elevation. I had seen it on a run during the week, and now I couldn’t find it. Wait… What? My elevation is 1.702 MILES??

When my Forerunner 205 had to be returned to Garmin a second time, it seemed like a good time to see if there were any new GPS-based running watches I could use for tracing the routes of my trail runs. The description of the GH615B on the GlobalSat web site looked promising. Like the Forerunner 205/305 it had a watch-like design, and the specs said it also used the newer, more sensitive, SiRFstarIII GPS technology.

My first impression was not positive. Out of the box, with old firmware and software installed, the watch was almost unusable. Actually, I could use it, I just couldn’t do much with the data. Updating the USB driver, firmware, and PC interface software helped some. But it wasn’t until installation of the July 2007 round of updates that I could routinely transfer activity data from the watch to the “PC Utility” software, and then export a GPX file that could be imported into applications such as SportTracks and MotionBased.

Even with the July updates, the “PC Utility” software included with the GH615B is primitive. The software has no activity management features, and serves mainly as a data conversion tool. It can display track data on a Google map, or export a track to Google Earth Plus. It can also generate Altitude/Time and Speed/Time graphics, but these are rudimentary.

The GH615B’s default setting of recording one trackpoint per second will create a high resolution GPS track that will indicate almost every twist and turn of a trail. Here’s a Google Earth image that shows GPS tracks from the GH615B using the 1 second resolution setting, and the Forerunner 205 using the “Smart Recording” setting. The image shows an approximately 5 mile section of trail from Islip Saddle down to the South Fork Campground, in the San Gabriel Mountains. (These tracks were recorded on different days.)

For day to day workouts the one trackpoint per second resolution setting is probably overkill, and will produce proportionally larger GPX files than a setting of (for example) a trackpoint every 3 seconds. The GH615B does not currently have an adaptive recording option like the “Smart Recording” feature of the Forerunner 205/305, but has much more trackpoint storage capacity.

Although somewhat quirky, and not nearly as polished and feature-rich as the Forerunner 205/305, the GH615B did seem to do a good job of tracking my running routes, even in difficult terrain. With some firmware updates and bundled with decent software, it might do a better job of finding its way in the GPS-based fitness watch market.

The photograph of the GH615B and Forerunner 205 was taken at the end of a sweltering out and back run to Las Virgenes Canyon from the Victory Trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (formerly Ahmanson Ranch) on the afternoon of August 29.

Related post: Garmin Forerunner 205

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Mt. Baldy Run to the Top 2007

Runners winding their way up the final steep climb to the summit of 10,064 ft. Mt. Baldy during the 2007 Run to the Top race.

Despite an ongoing heat wave and excessive heat warnings, temps were surprisingly moderate for the 42nd running of the Mt. Baldy Run to the Top race. This year the men’s overall winner was Eric Martin in a time of 1:10:04, and the women’s overall winner was Brigid Freyne in a time of 1:30:41. For all of the results see the Run to the Top web site. Many thanks to the race organizers, volunteers, USFS, Mt Baldy Ski Lifts and the Mt. Baldy Fire Department for a great race!

Here are a few images from the race (Flash 8 required), a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file (updated) of a GPS trace of the route.

Related post: Mt. Baldy Runner

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Simi Peak Out & Back

Sandstone Peak and Boney Mountain from Simi Peak.
Sandstone Peak and Boney Mountain from Simi Peak

I hadn’t done this course in midsummer, but a long run close to home, and an early morning ascent of Simi Peak sounded like a nice change of pace. A dawn start from El Scorpion Park put me on the peak and back to the car before temps got out of hand.

On the way out to Simi Peak I usually run up Las Virgenes Canyon and then follow a single track popular with mountain-bikers to Shepherds’ Flat. From here the Sheep Corral Trail leads west to the Palo Comado Canyon fire road, which can be followed up to China Flat. On the way back, from Shepherds’ Flat I run down the Cheeseboro Canyon trail to a connector that can be followed east back to Las Virgenes Canyon. Done this way, and tacking on a short scenic tour of China Flat, the route works out to be about 22.5 miles, with an elevation gain and loss of about 2200 ft. Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of the run.

There is an extensive network of trails in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (trail map) and Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons (trail map) , and many routes to Simi Peak are possible. El Scorpion Park is the most distant trailhead from Simi Peak. Starting at the Victory trailhead will decrease the round-trip mileage by about 2.5 miles, and from the Las Virgenes trailhead by about 6 miles. Simi Peak can also be accessed from the Cheeseboro Canyon, Lindero Canyon, Lang Ranch, and Long Canyon trailheads.

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Wally Waldron Limber Pine

A grizzled guardian of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Wally Waldron Tree stands defiantly astride an airy, rock strewn ridge, just below the summit of 9399 ft. Mt. Baden-Powell.

A grizzled guardian of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Wally Waldron Tree stands defiantly astride an airy, rock strewn ridge, just below the summit of 9399 ft. Mt. Baden-Powell.

Perched on the brink of the mountain’s precipitous southeast face, the weather-sculpted Limber Pine is at an elevation and in an environment similar to the 4000+ yr. old White Mountain Bristlecone Pines. Burnished and hardened, the tree’s huge, gnarled roots anchor it firmly to the mountain, helping it to resist the whims of weather and time. The tree is estimated to be 1500 years old.

We had stopped to visit the tree part way through an approximately 23.5 mile loop from Islip Saddle. Our route had descended to South Fork Campground (4560′), before climbing back up to Vincent Gap and Mt. Baden-Powell. In a few minutes we would continue to Baden-Powell’s summit, and from there follow the PCT along the crest back to Islip Saddle. Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of the loop.

Water Notes: The little stream on the Manzanita Trail about 1.5 miles from Vincent Gap was still running. The flow from Little Jimmy Spring was lower than normal, but still very reasonable. We did not detour to Lamil Spring.

Related posts: Vincent Gap – Little Jimmy Spring Out & Back, Complications, Heat Wave

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Mt. Wilson Area Peaks From Twin Peaks

Mt. Wilson, Occidental Peak, Mt. Markham, San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Disappointment, and Mt. Deception from the summit of Twin Peaks, in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Los Angeles.

Mt. Wilson, Occidental Peak, Mt. Markham, San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Disappointment, and Mt. Deception from the summit of Twin Peaks, in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Mt. Markham (5742′) is the craggy peak along the skyline, just right of the centerline of the photograph. The bump to the left of Mt. Markham is Occidental Peak (5732′). To the right of Mt. Markham is the highest peak in the group, San Gabriel Peak (6161′). To the right of San Gabriel Peak are Mt. Disappointment (5960′), and Mt. Deception (5796′). The indistinct summit of Mt. Wilson (5710′), and the observatory, are on the left.

Guardian of the rugged San Gabriel Wilderness, Twin Peaks (7761′) has an isolated, high mountain feel. Its flanks drop more than 5000 feet to Devils Canyon on the southwest, and Bear Canyon on the southeast.

We climbed Twin Peaks while doing a point to point run from Buckhorn to Three Points. Including the peak, the run/hike was about 13 miles, with an elevation gain of about 3200′. Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of the route.

Related posts: Manzanita Morning, Three Points – Mt. Waterman Loop

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