The Cheeseboro Ridge keyhole loop is a slightly shorter variation of the Ahmanson – Cheeseboro Canyon keyhole loop described in the post Classic Cheeseboro Canyon. Since it ascends the Cheeseboro Ridge Trail, instead of descending Cheeseboro Canyon, the ridge route has a bit more elevation gain.
Cheeseboro Ridge separates Las Virgenes Canyon and Cheeseboro Canyon and on a clear day the views are outstanding. Running the ridge is particularly enjoyable in the Spring when temps are cool and the hills are green. In the heat of summer, the surface of the road develops a powder-like layer of silty dust and the experience isn’t nearly so pleasant.
At times the site of a religious colony, a grit mine, an oil field, and a housing development, Las Llajas Canyon is now part of the Marr Ranch Open Space and Rocky Peak Park. Its oak groves, gurgling stream, varied plants, and unique geology make it a popular place to hike, run or ride.
According to California Place Names, Las Llajas might have originated from a misspelling of the Spanish word “llagas,” which literally means sores or wounds. Perhaps this was a reference to the area’s natural oil seeps. These would have been an important resource for the Chumash and early settlers.
The trailhead for Las Llajas Canyon is on Evening Sky Drive, in Simi Valley. From the trailhead it’s about 3.4 miles up the (mostly) dirt road to a windmill and oak-shaded trail junction. From the junction a connecting trail crosses the creek and then climbs steeply to Rocky Peak Rd., passing a derelict oil well on the way. A strenuous 9.2 mile loop follows this route, and is described in the post Chumash-Las Llajas Loop.
There are also some less used side trails in Las Llajas canyon. One of them climbs a peak on the west side of Las Llajas Canyon, ascending a ridge and then cutting across a steep, rocky face, before continuing up the mountain. The rough and somewhat overgrown trail was probably started sometime around 1920-30 as part of a mining project.
It is my impression that the trail and mining operation were the lifework of a very determined and hard working individual. As the trail winds up the mountain, there are bits and pieces of rusted mining equipment and abandoned dig sites — signposts of success and failure on the meandering trail of time.
At the end of the trail, a few feet from the summit of the peak, is a P&H Model-206 Corduroy power shovel. Nearly out of mountain, its bucket is poised to scoop another load, waiting for its operator to return.
Google search: $g(trail running), $g(Las Llajas), $g(Simi Valley), $g(mining)
Ounces count when you’re fighting gravity — in your pack, on your body, and especially on your feet.
The Salomon SpeedCross 2 (left) and adidas Response Trail 14 are my two lightest trail running shoes. My Response Trail 14’s weigh 24.2 oz./pair (US 9.5), and the SpeedCross 2’s weigh 21.3 oz./pair (US 9.0).
In round numbers a runner takes about 5,000 strides an hour. Even on smooth, level pavement there is significant effort involved in taking those 5,000 strides. But add to the mix the irregular surfaces and ups and downs of trail running, and the effort required increases.
Every time a trail runner speeds up or slow down, or lifts a foot to clear a rock, or ascend a trail, additional effort is required. The heavier the shoe, the higher the energy cost of all these speed changes and gait adjustments. Imagine what it would feel like to run a technical trail in a 5 lb. pair of shoes!
But there is more to designing a trail running shoe than just reducing the weight. A drastic reduction in weight might also reduce durability, cushioning, support, or other desirable characteristics. A shoe that falls apart, or does not provide adequate cushioning or support isn’t of much use, even if it is feather light.
I’ve run in the Response Trail 14’s for several months and the SpeedCross 2’s about a month. Both are comfortable, seem to have adequate support and stability, and feel good under foot on dirt roads and most hiking trails.
There are some differences in the two designs. The SpeedCross 2 is exceptionally light, with good cushioning. The knobby ‘Winter Contragrip’ waffle tread provides good traction in soft conditions and appears to contribute to the shoe’s cushioning and shock adsorption. Some might find the tread too aggressive in less inclement conditions.
Update 03/31/08. Yesterday I used the Salomon SpeedCross 2 on a demanding 19 mile trail run with 4000 ft. elevation gain/loss. The run was primarily on single track trail, but also included some dirt and paved road. Some of the single track was very technical and rocky. On the more technical sections of trail the SpeedCross 2 felt very light and agile.
The Response Trail 14 seems to be exceptionally well-cushioned. The shoe runs a little more like a road shoe than most of my other trail shoes. That isn’t a criticism — I’ve used the shoe on many trails, and used it a couple of months ago in a trail half marathon that featured a mix of pavement, dirt road and single track trail.
Every runner’s shoe requirements are different, and these requirements can change from day to day, and run to run, depending upon the trail conditions, the terrain, the length of the run, your fitness, where you are in your training cycle, and a host of other factors. I tend to use the SpeedCross 2’s and Response Trail 14’s for short and medium length runs, and my XT Wings for longer runs.
I’m always counting ounces — a lighter shoe, a lighter pack, a lighter rain shell, a lighter camera — it all adds up in my battle against gravity.
The beauty and intensity of the day was infectious. Hours before a cold low pressure trough digging down from the Pacific Northwest had carried showers, thunder, hail, and chilly temps into Southern California. Its rainfall had refreshed the greens of the hills, and accentuated the yellows, purples and reds of the wildflowers along the trail. Its blustery winds had cleansed the sky.
A few minutes before I had completed one run, and now was starting another. I wasn’t certain how much farther I would run — I just knew I had to run.
The day had begun with friends on the Secret Trail in Calabasas. We had run up and over the shoulder of Calabasas Peak, and then ascended Saddle Peak via the Stunt High Trail and Backbone Trail. The view from the summit of Saddle Peak had extended beyond Santa Monica Bay and Palos Verdes Peninsula to the South Bay and Saddleback Mountain. New snow glistened on Mt. Baldy, and to the west the rocky summits on Boney Mountain stood in bold relief.
That 14.5 mile run had ended at Tapia Park. Now I was on the Tapia Spur Trail on the first climb of the Bulldog Loop. On the wind sheltered slope the bright yellow blossoms of tree poppy had begun to unfurl, absorbing the warmth of the midday sun. Distant peaks loomed to within an arm’s reach, and my legs seemed to draw energy directly from the trail. It was a long run kind of day.
Notes: The title photograph is of Saddle Peak from the Backbone Trail, in the Santa Monica Mountains, near Los Angeles. Mt. Baldy can be seen in the distance. The combined length of the runs was about 29 miles with an elevation gain of about 5000 ft.
When the rainy season turns wet and the grasses green, all routes to Simi Peak are scenic, but the varied trails and terrain, and the wilderness feel of the more remote sections of this 21.5 mile run makes it one of my local favorites.
It is a longer variation of the route described in the post Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Backcountry. The run starts at the Victory (or Vanowen, or Las Virgenes) trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve and explores the headwaters of Las Virgenes Creek. At the junction of the power line service road and “backcountry” trail, instead of turning south up the power line service road, this option works west over to Albertson Motorway fire road, and on to China Flat and Simi Peak.
Last updated 07/05/10. Symmetrical lacing and new eyelets working great on XT Wings 2!
Wow — what a great ride! That was my impression the first time I used the Salomon XT Wings trail running shoes. That continues to be my feeling after using the shoe for a couple of weeks and doing several runs in the 15-20 mile range. For my particular trail running requirements, this shoe has a near perfect balance of comfort, smooth ride, cushioning, traction and support.
It’s been my experience that if a running shoe doesn’t feel comfortable when you first try it on, it’s not going to feel any better on a long trail run, and it’s probably going to feel worse. The XT Wings felt great from the start. I first tried a pair of 9.5’s — my usual trail shoe size — but found size 9.0 was better in this shoe.
Under foot, the shock adsorption and cushioning gave that “ahh..” feeling without feeling bouncy or unstable. The shoe provides just the right level of support, without overly restricting the motion of my foot. When combined with the super smooth foot strike to toe transition, the overall ride is the best of any trail shoe I’ve used.
The outsole rubber appears to have excellent friction, and the lug pattern seems to have good traction without being too grabby. The speed-lacing system is convenient and appears to work well. Some friends have had Salomon speed-laces prematurely fray at the first eyelet on their XA Comp 2 XCRs, and prevent that by using a little duct tape around the lace. I’ll see if that happens with this model.
Update 07/05/10. I now have about 190 miles on each of three pairs of Salomons with the the new eyelets (XT Wings, XT Wings 2 & XT Hawk 2), and I’ve had no problems with the laces fraying.
Update 02/22/10. In addition to new eyelets, the XT Wings 2 also uses symmetrical lacing. This should completely resolve the old lace-fraying issue.
Update 01/22/10. Recently retired my fifth pair of XT Wings, again at about 300 miles. When I purchased my sixth pair was surprised to discover that the eyelet system has been redesigned. Hopefully this will resolve the problem I’ve had with the laces fraying, and I won’t have to use the “duct tape fix” on future pairs. Here’s a photo comparing the new lacing system (left) to the old one, and a close up of the new eyelet.
Update 08/05/09. Recently retired my third pair of XT Wings, at about 300 miles, and purchased my fifth pair. It’s still my shoe of choice for long runs.
Update 05/29/09. With the “duct tape fix” applied, I’m now 244 miles into my third pair of XT Wings, and 95 miles into my fourth pair — no problems. My Speedcomps, which don’t have the “toe anchored” lace like the XT Wings, have 235 miles on them, and no duct tape on the laces!
Update 09/24/08. Not good — with only 135-150 miles on my second pair of XT Wings, the lace has frayed on the left shoe at the same point (second eyelet from the anchor eyelet) as it did on the right shoe of the first pair. I’ve exchanged the pair and applied the “duct tape fix” at the second eyelets. We’ll see how it goes. Shouldn’t have to do this with a $120 pair of shoes.
Update 06/21/08. With about 250-275 miles on the pair, the lace on my right shoe broke on Thursday while running the Chumash Trail. I tied off the broken end, tightened the lace and continued the run — no big deal. In my case the lace broke at the middle eyelet on the left side of the tongue. While I hope Salomon will make the laces bombproof, the lace breaking won’t keep me from running in this outstanding shoe. I primarily use the XT Wings for longer runs.
Update 03/21/08. I’ve done several longer (20-29 mile) trail runs the last month and the shoe has performed exceptionally. I’ve had no problems with the laces or anything else. It sure seems that the smooth ride of this shoe translates to my legs feeling better at the end of a long run!
There are a couple of things I have to gripe about. At 27.7 oz, the size 9 pair I purchased is a little heavier than my Vitesses. The shoe is also expensive — $120 compared to around $85 for the Vitesse.