Category Archives: southern california

Rocky Peak 50K 2018

Runner ascending Hot Dog Hill during the 2018 Rocky Peak 50K.

I had the date wrong! I thought the Rocky Peak 50K was the Saturday following the Skyline to the Sea trail marathon and had decided I wouldn’t be able to run it. When I got back from Santa Cruz I checked some upcoming races on UltraSignup and discovered Rocky Peak was on October 20th, rather than the 13th. That meant there would be 12 days between the races, instead of 5.

Five days or 12, my legs weren’t quite on board with the idea, and they had a point. With about 6000′ of elevation gain/loss, steep ups and downs, and rocky roads and trails, Rocky Peak is not an easy 50K. I had a few more days to convince them, and hoped my legs would come around.

It did help that the Start line is about 10 minutes from my front door. I’ve hiked, run and explored the Rocky Peak area for more years than I care to admit, and was very excited when Randy & Sarita Shoemaker organized the first Bandit Trail Run in 2009. The 50K was added in 2011 — the additional mileage gained by doing the Chumash – Las Llajas loop twice! The out and back to Tapo Canyon was substituted for the second loop in 2013. The Rocky Peak 50K course is essentially the same as the 2013 – 2016 Bandit 50K courses.

The week before the race I still had to go through the pretense of not knowing if I was going to enter. My legs continued to complain on training runs, and it looked like yet another heatwave was going to peak on Friday or Saturday. None of that really mattered, because at a key level, I’d already decided I was going to run. Thursday I signed up, and at dawn on Saturday I toed the Start line in Corriganville, hoping that Rin Tin Tin might come to my rescue.

I encountered no valiant German Shepherds on the “warm-up loop” around Corriganville, and much to my leg’s chagrin soon faced the mile-long, 860 foot climb up the Corridor Trail to Rocky Peak Road. One of my main takeaways from doing this course many times is that you can go up the Corridor Trail climb too fast, but it’s almost impossible to do it too slow. At least that’s what my legs tell me. It’s been my experience that going a little slower on this first steep climb pays significant dividends later in the run. That seemed to be the case again this year.

The weather was nearly identical to last year’s race with moderate Santa Ana winds and warm temps. (The high at the bottom of the Chumash Trail was 88 °F.) Like last year, the low humidity and wind kept the “feels like” temperature relatively comfortable for most of the race. But somewhere around mile 27, near Rocky Peak, the wind stopped and things got toasty. Maybe not middle of the summer, Mt. Disappointment hot, but warm enough to notice it.

All in all the run went well. For sure, my legs were a little tired from Skyline to the Sea. I was a bit slower running back up the canyon from the Tapo turnaround and also going up Las Llajas Canyon. But I can’t complain. I had no cramping (yahoo!) and felt good nearly all of the run.

Many thanks to Trail Run Events, LLC and New Basin Blues Running Club who co-managed the race, all the volunteers, and to Ventura County SAR. For more information see the Trail Run Events web site and Facebook page. All the 50K and 30K results are posted on UltraSignup.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Some related posts: Bandit 50K 2014, Bandit 50K 2013, Bandit 50K 2011, Bandit 30K 2009

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Up, Down and Around on Mt. Pinos’ Tumamait and North Fork Trails

A Chumash spirit tower on Sawmill Mountain, near Mt. Pinos

Yellows, reds and greens marked its location, but the seep above Sheep Camp was dry. As I approached the camp, the uppermost campsite was empty and I wondered if the spring at the camp was also going to be dry. If it was, I was going to have to revise my running plan.

Rabbitbrush blooming along the Tumamait Trail near its eastern trailhead on Mt. Pinos.
Near the start of the Tumamait Trail on Mt. Pinos.

So far the run had gone well. From the Chula Vista parking area (8350′), I’d run the service road up to Mt. Pinos (8831′), then followed the Tumamait Trail west to Mt. Abel Road. Along the way Sawmill Mountain (8818′)and Grouse Mountain (8582′) had been short side trips; and from the end of the trail, the summit of Mt. Abel (8280′) was a short hike up through the pines.

Compared to the triple-digit temperatures in the parched West Valley — as high as 117 °F this July — the temps on the Tumamait Trail had been wonderfully cool. The hotter than average weather seems to have become the new norm, and also — unfortunately — the resulting wildfires.

On a run here Last July, smoke from a fire near Lake Cachuma had nearly enveloped Mt. Pinos. Today several fires were burning in California, and once again smoke could be seen in the valleys and canyons to the north of the mountain.

The North Fork Trail and small spring at Sheep Camp.
The small spring at Sheep Camp.

To get in a bit more mileage and elevation gain the next part of my run was supposed to be an out and back to the sun-baked environs of Lily Meadows (6600′). That wasn’t going to happen if the spring was dry.

When I stopped at the wildflower-accented spring I could see that there was the barest thread of water trickling from the pipe. It didn’t look like much, but it filled my 18 oz. cut-off water bottle in about three minutes. I gulped down most of the first bottle and it took a couple more to fill my Camelbak. In about 10 minutes I was headed downhill.

The North Fork Trail at Lily Meadows Camp.
The North Fork Trail at Lily Meadows Camp.

The North Fork Trail is far less used than the Tumamait Trail. That’s part of the fun. Thunderstorms had not only wiped away any previous tracks, but had severely eroded some sections of the trail as well.

With the loss of elevation came an increase in temperature. By the time I reached Lily Meadows Camp the temp was in the 90s. This time of year there were no lilies or meadows at the campsite, but there was a nice grove of Jeffrey pines and a new camp table!

I didn’t spend much time down there. There was a hill to climb and the cool temps along the crest were only about an hour away.

Some related posts: Pinos to Abel Plus, Thunderstorm, Vincent Tumamait Trail

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Lemon Lilies, Tree Rings and More Heat Training on the Three Points Loop

Lemon lily and sneezeweed at Waterman Meadow in the San Gabriel Mountains.

There seems to have been some carryover from the wet rainy season we had in 2016-17 to this year. The 2017-18 rain season was very dry — the third driest on record at Downtown Los Angeles — but seeps at Waterman Meadow, along the Burkhart Trail below Buckhorn were still wet. In general plant growth along trails has been more than I expected in such a dry year.

Old growth Jeffrey pine on Waterman Mountain killed in the 2009 Station Fire.
Old growth Jeffrey pine killed in the 2009 Station Fire. Click for a closer view.

Wet and dry periods can be seen in the growth rings of the large Jeffrey pine along the Three Points – Mt. Waterman Trail just west of the Twin Peaks Trail junction. A more careful count of its rings totaled about 500. No matter how careful the count, because of the various anomalies that occur with tree rings, some form of crossdating is usually required to confidently assess the age of a tree. Even so, it is clear this was an old tree.

The first few miles of the loop were gloriously cool, but by the time I reached Cooper Canyon and was working up to Cloudburst Summit on the PCT, the sun beat down on me in a familiar refrain.

Here are a few photos taken on the loop.

Related post: Cool Weather, Old Trees, Grape Soda Lupine and a Restored Trail

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Another Scorching Angeles National Forest/Mt. Disappointment Trail Race

Sunrise on Mt. Wilson prior to the start of the 2018 Angeles National Forest/Mt. Disappointment Trail Race

It was “déjà vu all over again” for the 12th running of the Angeles National Forest Trail Race on Saturday. When the sun rose over Mt. Wilson Saturday morning, the temperature was already in the 80s and monsoon clouds were scattered across the eastern sky. We all knew it was going to be a hot day. The only question was how hot?

Following weeks of seasonable — and often cool — weather, temps began to ramp up Thursday. On Friday many daily and some all-time record high temps were set around the Los Angeles area. Van Nuys set an all-time record high of 115°F. Downtown Los Angeles set a new daily record of 108°F and Woodland Hills set a new daily record of 117°F.

The high temperature recorded at Clear Creek for each of the ANFTR/Mt. Disappointment races. Click for a larger image.
The high temperature recorded at Clear Creek for each of the ANFTR/Mt. Disappointment races. Click for a larger image.

The record-breaking heatwave continued race day with temps on the ANFTR course surpassing the torrid temps of 2017. The Clear Creek RAWS recorded average hourly temperatures as high as 100°F and average hourly fuel temps as high as 123°F. The highest temperature measured at Clear Creek was 105°F — five degrees higher than last year’s race.

Once again, despite the heat, there were some AMAZING performances. In the 60K, first and second place in both the Mens and Womens division finished only a couple minutes apart. Mario Martinez’s 6:41:25 just edged Rupert Romero’s 6:43:27, and Katie Asmuth’s 7:29:11 was just ahead of Teresa Kaiser’s 7:32:21. Chase Coffey ran the 50K in 4:25:26, which I believe is the fastest time for the normal 50K course. (In 2009 we ran all the way to Red Box on Mt. Wilson road.) Ana Suchey was the top woman in the 50K with a time of 6:04:30. In the 25K Victor Martinez bested the record he set last year, running the course in 2:07:27. Jennifer Sunahara was first among the women, with a time of 2:58:29. Not all the great performances were from the fastest runners. Sa Il Hong, age 80, completed the 50K in fine form.

Many thanks to Gary and Pam Hilliard and all the ANFTR staff and volunteers! It wasn’t just hot for the runners! And those setting up the event and marking the course had to endure Friday’s record-setting temps, spend a warm night on the mountain, and then work in the heat again on Saturday!

See the ANFTR web site, Facebook page and Facebook group for more info. The Angeles National Forest Trail Race is the new name for the Mt. Disappointment Endurance Run. Only the name changed. All the results for the ANFTR/Mt. Disappointment races since 2005 can be found on Ultrasignup.com.

Note: The temperature in a commercial weather station is measured inside a white, ventilated instrument housing, several feet off the ground. Mid-day temperatures in the sun, in the summer, with a cloudless sky will be much warmer than this. Some stations, such as Clear Creek, also measure the fuel temperature — the temperature of a pine dowel in direct sun about a foot off the ground. According to the NWS (and common sense) exposure to full sunshine can increase heat index values by up to 15°F. In my experience the fuel temp gives a better indication of the actual temperature a runner can experience in the sun, especially on exposed mountain slopes facing the sun.

Related post: Record Heat for the 2017 Mt. Disappointment 50K & 25K

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Still a Little Snow in Southern California

Snow patch at about 11,000' on San Gorgonio Mountain on June 9, 2018.

Given that Southern California has had way below average precipitation this rain year, I was a little surprised to find a few widely scattered patches of snow on San Gorgonio Mountain this past Saturday.

The patch of snow in the title photograph was at 11,000′, about a mile from San Gorgonio’s summit. This Google Earth image from last year shows an overview of the area. There was a lot more snow last year, but the same patch — in a deposition area — is near the “San Bern” in the “San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail” label.

There was “shorts and short sleeves” weather for the entire run from the South Fork trailhead.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Some related posts: San Gorgonio Mountain: Falls Creek Loop, August 2017; After the Lake Fire: The Dollar Lake – Dry Lake Loop on San Gorgonio Mountain

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