Tag Archives: San Gabriel Mountains

The Ups and Downs of the Angeles Crest 100 Mile Run

Pacific Crest Trail on Mt. Baden-Powell

First published on June 30, 2015.

The Angeles Crest 100 Mile Run has always been considered a challenging 100 miler. This year it’s going to be even more challenging. Because of trail closures related to the Bobcat Fire and subsequent heavy runoff, this year’s course will be from Wrightwood, out to Shortcut Saddle, and back.

One of the main reasons it will be more difficult is that the course will, on average, be at higher altitude. According to Google Earth, the average elevation of previous AC100 courses has been around 5100′-5300′. This year’s course averages nearly 6900′.

Another big difference is that in the last 25 miles there will be two tough climbs on the highest sections of the course — the climb from Islip Saddle to Baden-Powell, and the climb from Vincent Gap to Blue Ridge.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, most calculate that the cumulative elevation gain is greater on the 2022 course than previous courses. The estimated elevation gain on the AC100 website for this year’s course is 23,228′.

Because of the increased difficulty, cutoff times have been adjusted and the overall time to complete the course has been increased to 36 hours — from 5:00 a.m Saturday morning to 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

The elevation profile of the 2022 AC100 course (PDF) was created in SportTracks from the GPX file on the AC100 website. The profile uses elevations corrected with pkan’s Elevation Correction Plugin and 3DEP 1-meter Lidar-based DEMs and a conservative elevation data smoothing setting.

2017 Angeles Crest 100 Mile Elevation Profile. Click for PDF.

Placemark locations, mileages, and elevation gains and losses are approximate. See the AC100 website for much more information and details. For comparison, here is an elevation profile from the 2017 AC100. Note that the 2017 profile was created using a GPS track from a runner and calibrated using lower resolution (1/3 arc-second) DEMs.

The race starts on August 6, 2022 at 5:00 a.m. in Wrightwood, California. There is a button/link for Runner Live Tracking on the AC100 Home Page. If you are participating, have a great race!

After the Station Fire: Back to Bear Canyon

Bigcone Douglas-fir burned in the 2009 Station Fire. September 1, 2018.

It’s been nine years since the Station Fire burned 160,577 acres in Angeles National Forest. The Red Box – Bear Canyon – Gabrielino loop is a long time favorite adventure run that I’ve enjoyed doing many years before and after that 2009 fire.

The loop was the first I did when the area reopened in May 2011. The trails were in poor shape — overgrown and damaged from flash floods. The notorious fire-follower Poodle-dog bush had flourished in the wake of the fire and was particularly bad along the Gabrielino Trail between Switzer’s and Red Box. Thinking I was “immune” to the plant, I brazenly plowed through it, and as a result spent several inflamed nights trying to sleep in a reclining chair.

Each year Bear Canyon and upper Arroyo Seco recover a little more. Poodle-dog bush is in decline and in many areas nearing the end of its life-cycle. The chaparral, bay trees and oaks are all recovering; and the bigcone Douglas-firs that survived the fire have become more fully-foliaged.

Bear Canyon from the upper Bear Canyon Trail.
Bear Canyon from the upper Bear Canyon Trail. Click for larger image.

This year Bear Canyon was a little drier than last. The creek was a trickle, disappearing in the sand in some areas and creating small pools in others. The path in the upper part of the canyon, above Bear Canyon Camp, was better defined, but still tricky to follow in some spots.

With the dry conditions, most of the poison oak had already turned red. It was easy to spot, but difficult to avoid. The “stinging nettle” creek crossing higher in the canyon wasn’t as overgrown as last year, but I still managed to brush against a plant or two.

Bear Canyon ends at Arroyo Seco, downstream of Switzer Falls. After turning upstream on the Bear Canyon Trail, I hadn’t run far when I encountered a couple of mountain bikers. They asked me, “is this the trail to JPL?”

This wasn’t the first time that I’d encountered misplaced riders or hikers on this section of trail. Some get misplaced looking for the falls and others mistakenly follow the Bear Canyon Trail down into Arroyo Seco instead of continuing high in the canyon on the Gabrielino Trail. Because of the completion of the restoration of the Gabrielino Trail there were a few more riders on the trail than usual.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Some related posts: Bear Canyon Loop: If the Poison Oak Doesn’t Get You, the Stinging Nettle Will; After the Station Fire: Red Box – Bear Canyon – Gabrieleno Loop; After the Station Fire: Contact Dermatitis from Turricula parryi – Poodle-dog Bush

Inspiration

Pine Mountain and Mt. Baldy from Lightning Ridge
Pine Mountain and Mt. Baldy from Lightning Ridge

The day before the Angeles Crest 100, after checking in for the race in Wrightwood, I drove over to Inspiration Point to have lunch, go for a short hike, and enjoy being in the mountains. The day was exceptional.

 

Click an image for more info and to display the image full-size.

Kingsnake Along the Garapito Trail

California mountain kingsnake along the Garapito Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains

The patterned colors of a mountain kingsnake are hard to miss. The snake’s white-black-red-black-white triads attract attention in just about any habitat. (The amount of red can vary in an individual as well as subgroup.)

San Diego mountain kingsnake along the Garapito Trail
San Diego mountain kingsnake

Traditionally California mountain kingsnakes (Lampropeltis zonata) have been grouped into several subspecies according to subtle and variable pattern characteristics.

The kingsnake in the title photograph appears to belong to the San Diego mountain kingsnake pattern class (Lampropeltis zonata pulchra). The broken white ring on the head is common in this subgroup in the Santa Monica Mountains.

San Bernardino mountain kingsnake on Pleasant View Ridge in the San Gabriel Mountains
San Bernardino mountain kingsnake

This mountain kingsnake, photographed on Pleasant View Ridge in the San Gabriel Mountains, likely belongs to the San Bernardino mountain kingsnake pattern class, Lampropeltis zonata parvirubra.

Study of California mountain kingsnakes’ mitochondrial DNA (E. A. Myers, et. al., 2013) conservatively supports separate northern and southern species and potentially two lineages within the southern group.

California kingsnake in Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve
California kingsnake

Mountain kingsnakes aren’t the only kingsnake found in the Los Angeles area. This California kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) was photographed at Ahmanson Ranch a couple of weeks ago. When I approached the snake, it immediately became defensive and started rapidly vibrating its tail. This behavior is often described as mimicking a rattlesnake, but could also predate the development of rattles in rattlesnakes.

For more info on the reptiles and amphibians of California see the californiaherps.com web site.

Hot Running, Cold Running

Even with a wind shell and multiple layers the gusts of wind were sharp-edged and penetrating. The weather was spectacular, but it was very windy and very cold.

My run on the PCT had started at Islip Saddle in the San Gabriel Mountains. At 8:00 am the temperature at 6593′ had been about 35 degrees. The north wind funneling through the saddle had roared through the pines, buffeting their stout limbs and telling me to put on every scrap of warm clothing I had in my pack.

The broad canyon of the South Fork seemed to act as a wind tunnel — drawing the wind from the high desert into and over the crest. Even with a gloved hand it took only a couple of minutes before my camera became too cold to hold.

I was on my way to Mt. Baden-Powell and nearly up to Mt. Hawkins. With every stride up the mountain the temperature had dropped. Father Frost had frozen the landscape and me along with it.

Had it really been just a week ago when I had broiled in 90+ degree temps on the south-facing sections of trail on the Leona Divide 50M course?