Owl’s Clover


Owl's Clover, in this case Castilleja exserta, is a fairly common California native.


A close view of Owl’s Clover reveals the probable reason for the name — fat little purplish-pink owls, crowned with a tinge of yellow, perched amid the purplish-pink of this unusual blossom. Here’s an even closer view of one of the individual flowers, showing its remarkable structure.


Owl’s Clover, in this case Castilleja exserta, is a fairly common California native that seems to prefer the margins of dirt roads and other disturbed areas at lower elevations. It’s in bloom now in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills. I noticed some on the Bulldog loop while running the Malibu Creek Challenge on Saturday, and also while doing a short run out a Sage Ranch Sunday.


This photograph is from a run at Sage Ranch on May 2, 2005.

Olancha Peak Sierra Panorama

Part of the Panorama from Olancha Peak.

Part of the Panorama from Olancha Peak

Olancha Peak (12,123 ft.) is the prominent, pyramidal peak seen on the Sierra crest from Hwy 395, south of Olancha. Its rocky summit is above tree line, and in some years snow can persist in the east-facing summit gullies and other sun-protected areas into late June, or early July.

There are better choices for a run in the Sierra, but early in the summer when the passes on other routes are blocked by snow, Olancha may be passable. Views from the summit of Olancha Peak are expansive, and the running on the PCT was enjoyable. Round trip, the distance is an arduous 20 miles, with over 6300 ft. of elevation gain and loss.

The trail starts at Sage Flat, at a relatively low elevation of 5800 ft. As a result, in warm weather it can be hot and dusty. In addition, the trail segment up to Olancha Pass (9200 ft.) can have a lot of pack train traffic. To lessen the chance of encountering horses or mules on the trail, I opted to follow a very steep and rough “cow driveway” that shortcuts 1.3 miles of the trail up to Olancha Pass. It’s hard to imagine driving cattle up this swath, and judging from the cow femur I saw sticking up from the rubble, the cattle don’t find it so easy either.

Beyond Olancha Pass, the aesthetics improve, and a spur trail is followed northwest along Summit Meadow to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT eventually leads to the west slopes of Olancha Peak, and from here the summit is a short second class scramble. Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of my route.

This summit panorama is from a run on June 26, 2005. The view shows the headwaters of the N.F. and S.F. Kern River, and the high peaks of the Southern Sierra. From south (left) to north (right) are the Little Kern, the N.F. Kern near Hole in the Ground, Kern Peak, the Great Western Divide, the Kaweah Group, Junction Meadow, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Langley.

Sage Ranch Sunset


Sunset at Sage Ranch Park, a few weeks following the Topanga Fire.


 

Sunset at Sage Ranch Park, a few weeks following the Topanga Fire. The loop at Sage Ranch is about 2.4 miles. My usual route here is an out and back of about 4.5 miles. It’s a good short-day run with an elevation gain/loss of about 700 ft. (Photo from a run on November 14, 2005.)

Convoluted


Leaf of Milk thistle (Silybum marianum).


 


Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an aggressive invasive species not native to California. In Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (formerly Ahmanson Ranch) it seems to be increasingly abundant, particularly in the aftermath of the Topanga Fire. Last year, in some areas of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon, it grew thick as corn and more than head high.

Collective


Lichens on Chatsworth Formation sandstone at Sage Ranch.


Lichens are composite lifeforms, usually comprised of a fungus and algae, or a fungus and cynobacterium. Generally, the fungus provides shelter and needed minerals, and the algae, using photosynthesis, provides food. This community is on Chatsworth Formation sandstone at Sage Ranch.


There is a tendency to think of living things, including ourselves, in the singular. But most life is a intertwined assemblage of cooperating organisms, from the very small to the very large, living in harmony. Circle within circle, life within life.

Photography and inspiration from running and other adventures in the Open Space and Wilderness areas of California, and beyond. All content, including photography, is Copyright © 2006-2022 Gary Valle. All Rights Reserved.