Category Archives: running|adventures

Condor Peak Trail Run – April 2024

Condor Peak Trail above Fusier Canyon.
Condor Peak Trail above Fusier Canyon.

After climbing Condor Peak, I paused along the trail between the peak and Fox Mountain to take a photo. That’s when I heard a loud rattling behind me. I slowly turned around… A very upset snake was in the brush about 15 feet away and continuing to buzz.

Many rattlesnakes I encounter don’t rattle — even if directly on the trail. But for some reason this well-hidden snake was really agitated.

Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak from the Condor Peak Trail. (thumbnail)
Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak

The rattle sounded like that of a mature snake. I briefly considered looking for it. But, I reasoned, if the snake had been kind enough to rattle, then I should return the favor and leave it alone. It was already amped and clearly knew where I was. While I was curious, I didn’t need to see THIS snake. I turned and continued down the trail.

It had been one of those runs where everything goes as planned. Other than the first 50 yards or so of the Vogel Flat Trail — which was in terrible condition — it had been a nice change to be on a “normal” trail. By that, I mean a trail that (generally) wasn’t rutted, overgrown, or washed out. Consecutive wet rain seasons have been hard on lower elevation trails in the Los Angeles area.

The San Gabriel Mountains from East Condor Peak. (thumbnail)
The San Gabriels from East Condor Peak.

I was the first up to the peak, and on the way down passed several small groups of hikers. The topmost group was resting in the shade near Fox Mountain, and the others working up the trail farther down the mountain. All were enjoying the day.

According to the Tempe thermometer on my pack, the temperature climbed steadily from 60 degrees at the start of the run to around 75-80 degrees on Condor Peak. The day wasn’t forecast to be particularly hot — around 85 in the warmer valley locations. But on the return from Condor, the temperature in the sun in the south-facing bowl at the head of Fusier Canyon was in the 90s. This was offset somewhat by the shaded little streams in the corners of the canyon. In some years these have been completely dry.

Paintbrush mixed with bush poppy along the Condor Peak Trail. (thumbnail)
Paintbrush and bush poppy.

As elsewhere this Spring, the wildflowers along the trail were spectacular. Some of those in bloom included woolly paintbrush, yellow monkeyflower, chaparral whitethorn, hoary-leaved Ceanothus, bush poppy, collarless California poppy, chia, and black sage. The paintbrush and bush poppy were especially striking.

Here’s an interactive 3D-terrain map of my GPS track (yellow) of the route to Condor Peak, starting near Vogel Flat on Big Tujunga Canyon Road. It’s a strenuous 16-mile run, hike, or ride, with an elevation gain of about 4000′. The summit of Condor (either one) is at about 5441 feet.

Some related posts:
Condor Peak and Fox Mountain Adventure Run
Condor Peak Out and Back Adventure Run
Condor Peak Trail Run

Boney Mountain – Old Boney Loop from Wendy Drive

Western Ridge and escarpment of Boney Mountain from the Old Boney Trail
Western Ridge and escarpment of Boney Mountain from the Old Boney Trail

For months, it seems wet weather has had a particular affinity for Saturdays and Sundays. This has resulted in some wet, chilly runs. It’s also put a damper on other outdoor activities. A long-time rock climber, I enjoy going to Stoney Point and doing a circuit of easy bouldering problems. That’s been hard to do because 1) muddy climbing shoes don’t work so well, and 2) sandstone hand/footholds tend to break when wet.

That’s one of the reasons I was back on the western ridge of Boney Mountain — at least I’d get to climb something!

Near the halfway point on the Western Ridge of Boney Mountain. (thumbnail)
Near the halfway point on the Western Ridge.

Following a well-worn route, I scrambled up Boney’s western ridge to the crest and worked over Tri Peaks to the Backbone Trail. This time, after descending the Chamberlain Trail, I turned right (north) on the Old Boney Trail and looped back to where the western ridge route began. From there, I retraced my steps back to Wendy Drive. Here’s an interactive 3-D terrain map of my GPS track.

There were other reasons for doing this route. It’s been a very wet couple of years, and there is little trail infrastructure to handle the runoff from all the storms. Last weekend, another strong storm drenched Southern California, and on Friday, there was additional rain. The Boney – Old Boney route crosses just one creek (twice), and it usually has a decent limb/log/rock bridge. I suspected other routes would involve soaked socks and shoes.

Bush sunflower along the Old Boney Trail. (thumbnail)
Bush sunflower along the Old Boney Trail.

I’d also read that the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (SMMTC) recently worked on the Old Boney Trail. After experiencing the challenges of brush on that trail firsthand, I was curious to see what the trail was like now. In addition, the Old Boney return has fantastic views of Boney Mountain’s impressive western escarpment. It’s fun to look up at where you’ve been!

Another consideration — not necessarily positive or negative — is the Boney Mountain – Old Boney keyhole loop has nearly a 1000′ more elevation gain than the similar length (16-mile) Blue Canyon, Sycamore Canyon, Upper Sycamore route.

Here are a few photos taken along the way, including some of the vibrant wildflowers.

Some related posts:
Looking for Boney Mountain
An End of Year Boney Mountain Adventure
Boney Mountain Western Ridge & Loop

Trippet Ranch Loop, Musch and Garapito Trails – February 2024

Mountain bikers at the Hub in Topanga State Park
Mountain bikers at the Hub

It’s uncommon to have back-to-back Rain Years with 20+ inches of rain in Los Angeles. During Rain Year 2022-2023, Downtown Los Angeles (USC) recorded 28.4 inches of rain — about two times normal. This rain year Los Angeles has already had about 21 inches of rain, so another big year is in progress.

Curious to see how the trail conditions compare to last year, on February 17th and 25th I ran the Trippet Ranch Loop in Topanga State Park.

The big surprise was that the fire roads on the loop — Fire Road #30, Eagle Springs Fire Road, and a short section of Eagle Rock Fire Road — generally fared better than last year. Fire Road #30 had some damage along it’s shoulder, but I did not see the numerous mudslides along these roads like last year.

Wet and muddy section of the Musch Trail. February 2024. (Thumbnail)
A little mud on the Musch Trail.

The news on the trails was divided. One of the more unusual events occurred where the Garapito Trail crosses the east fork of Garapito Creek. A mudslide from a gully on the northwest side of the creek crossed the creek, and left a pile of debris on the trail. The stream may have been dammed by mud and debris for a short time. Farther up the trail, about a half-mile from Eagle Rock Fire Road, a section of the trail collapsed in a slide.

The Musch Trail was very muddy and wet in the usual places. There were a couple of slides along the trail, but all things considered, the trail was in OK shape. The Bent Arrow Trail remains closed as a result of previous storm damage.

Last year, the bloom of bigpod Ceanothus was well underway in early January. This year the bloom began about a month later but is now happening in a big way. Greenbark Ceanothus is also starting to bloom. Some peonies were blooming on an east-facing slope of the Garapito Trail, and a Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry was in bloom near Fire Road #30.

Here are some photos taken on these two runs.

Some related posts:
Popular Trails in Topanga State Park Damaged by Winter Storms
Wettest 14 Months in Los Angeles in 134 Years
Rainy Season Trail Running on the Backbone Trail

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.

Explore the scenery and terrain on the Backbone Trail of this out-and-back trail run and hike from Encinal Canyon to Mishe Mokwa using our high resolution,  interactive, 3D viewer. The imagery is so detailed, it’s almost like being there! To change the view, use the control on the upper right side of the screen, the CTRL key and your mouse, or touch gestures. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather, and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity. Here’s  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

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

A female (left) and male mallard enjoying a large puddle adjacent to the Victory Trailhead parking lot.
A female (left) and male mallard enjoying a large puddle adjacent to the Victory Trailhead parking lot at Ahmanson Ranch.

After January 2023’s torrential rains and Hurricane/Tropical Storm Hilary’s drenching in August, here we are again, experiencing record rainfall.

Over the first six days of February 2024, Downtown Los Angeles recorded 10.2 inches of rain. That’s almost three-quarters of L.A.’s normal ANNUAL rainfall in just a few days and the wettest start to February on record! Some stations in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains recorded even more — over 13 inches in some locations!

How much did it rain at Ahmanson Ranch (Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve)? Unfortunately the Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) on a hill between Upper Las Virgenes Canyon and Cheeseboro Canyon hasn’t been accurately measuring precipitation. A citizen weather station (KCAWOODL130) near the Victory Trailhead at Ahmanson Ranch recorded over 11 inches from February 1 – 6. Another station near Cheeseboro Road in Agoura (KCAAGOUR41) recorded over 9 inches.

Whatever the amount, it was a lot. Here is a short video, from a run at Ahmanson Ranch on February 7, 2024, to check out the conditions and creeks.

As I write this, more wet weather is forecast to affect the Los Angeles area, beginning sometime over the weekend of February 17-18. We’ll see!

Update Friday, February 16, 2024.  Latest forecast for Los Angeles area suggest the rain may hold off until Sunday night or Monday.

Trippet Ranch Loop Plus Temescal Peak and Temescal Lookout

Eagle Rock, Clouds and Sun. Photography by Gary Valle'
Eagle Rock

There are many ways to extend the 12.5-mile Trippet Ranch Loop. A couple of my favorites are the Trippet Ranch Loop Plus Parker Mesa Overlook (18.6 miles) and Trailer Canyon – Santa Ynez Canyon – Trippet Ranch Loop (17.2 miles) trail runs.

Runners descending Cathedral Rocks in Topanga State Park (thumbnail)
Runners descending Cathedral Rocks, near the Hub

Lately, I’ve been doing another option — adding an out and back from the Hub to Temescal Peak and Temescal Lookout and then continuing on the Trippet Ranch Loop from the Hub.

This extends the run to about 16 miles, plus Temescal Peak and Temescal Lookout are excellent viewpoints (video).

That’s the run I did this morning, plus a quick stop at Cathedral Rocks (near the Hub) along the way.

Explore the scenery and terrain on the Trippet Ranch Loop Plus Temescal Peak and Temescal Lookout trail run using our high resolution,  interactive, 3D viewer. The imagery is so detailed, it’s almost like being there! To change the view, use the control on the upper right side of the screen, the CTRL key and your mouse, or touch gestures. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather, and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity.

Some related posts:
Seventh Wettest Water Year Results in Spring-Like Scenery Along L.A. Area Trails
Out and Back Trail Run from the Top of Reseda to Parker Mesa Overlook
Trailer Canyon – Santa Ynez Canyon Trail – Trippet Ranch Loop
Garapito Trail Runs
Popular Trails in Topanga State Park Damaged by Winter Storms