This photograph was taken early in the morning in the canyon of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, on a solo trail run from Agnew Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, in the Summer of 1986 or 1987. My route followed the river trail to Thousand Island Lake, and then the PCT over Island and Donohue Passes, and down Lyell Canyon to the Tioga Road. It was a wonderful and adventurous run in a stunning area.
Tarantula Hawks are among the largest of wasps, and are said to have one of the most painful stings of any insect. As chilling as any science fiction, female tarantula hawks hunt, attack and paralyze a tarantula, and then use the spider’s inert — but still living — body as a host for the wasp’s egg and developing larva.
Males have straight antennae, and females curled antennae. This may be because the long, showy antennae of the male would be a serious liability when battling a tarantula. The title photo is of a male on a narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) at the start of the Chumash Trail in Simi Valley. Here’s another photo, taken in Las Llajas canyon by runner Lynn Longan, in which a female tarantula hawk has just attacked and paralyzed a tarantula.
Several good runs start at the Chumash trailhead, and many variations are possible. It’s 2.6 miles up the trail to Rocky Peak Rd, and from there you can do out and backs north or south along the fire road, or loops via Las Llajas canyon, the Hummingbird Trail, or the Lower Stagecoach Trail. (Photo from a run on September 14, 2005.)
Bear Creek is an isolated tributary of Arroyo Seco Creek, north of Pasadena, in the San Gabriel Mountains. This photo was taken on a spectacular Fall day in upper Bear Canyon on a long trail run that started at Clear Creek Station. The route worked around the north side of Strawberry Peak to Red Box, down to the West Fork, up the Valley Forge trail on Mt. Wilson to Eaton Saddle, then through the Mueller Tunnel and past San Gabriel Peak and Mt. Lowe to Tom Sloan Saddle. From here it continued down into Bear Canyon, up the Gabrielino Trail to Switzers, and then back to Clear Creek using the Nature’s Canteen trail. (Photo from November 11, 2005.)
Ferns along the Garapito Trail, Topanga State Park.
Chaparral has been described as an elfin forest, and there is probably no better trail in the Santa Monica Mountains to see why, than the Garapito Trail. From the fire road near Eagle Rock, the trail seemingly dives into a tunnel of chaparral, and doesn’t emerge until it ends at Temescal Fire Road, some 2.5 miles away.
This day I ran a 12 mile figure-eight course from the end of Reseda to Trippet Ranch via the Hub, and then returned via the Musch, Garapito, and Bent Arrow trails. Fire roads out– trails back. A shorter option goes directly to the Garapito Trail via the Hub, and then returns via the Bent Arrow trail. This is about 7.5 miles. A longer option tacks on an out and back to Parker Mesa at Trippet Ranch.
Whether it’s raining, 100 degrees, or snowing (!) you’re likely to see someone hiking, mountain-biking, or running Rocky Peak road in Rocky Peak Park. Switchbacking up from the 118 freeway, the fire road climbs along the spine of the Santa Susana mountains. It’s proximity to the San Fernando and Simi Valleys, and array of route variations, make it the choice of many for a morning or afternoon workout.
It’s not because it’s easy — the route is steep from the start, gaining 500 ft. in the first three-quarters of a mile, and 1200 ft. in just over 2 miles.
Following are some approximate one-way distances and elevation gains.
Hummingbird Trail: 0.8 miles 500 ft.
High point at turnoff to peak: 2.4 miles 1200 ft.
Johnson Motorway: 3.2 miles 1350 ft.
Chumash Trail: 3.8 miles 1390 ft.
Fossils: 4.8 miles 1800 ft.
Las Llajas Loop turnoff: 5.5 miles 1950 ft.
End of Rocky Peak Rd at Las Llajas Cyn Rd.: 6.3 2070 ft.
Snow highlights skeletal fingers of burned chaparral along the Chumash Trail in eastern Simi Valley. The chaparral was burned in the 2003 Simi Fire. More info and a couple of additional photos can be found in my Coyote Oak Journal entry Chaparral Snow.