Gary Valle's Photography on the Run
Images taken on trail runs, and other adventures, in the Open Space and Wilderness areas of California, and beyond. All content, including photography, is Copyright © 2006-2014 Gary Valle. All Rights Reserved.
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# Wednesday, March 11, 2015

California poppies along the Two Foxes Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park

Poppies along the Two Foxes Trail in Pt. Mugu State Park. From Sunday's run to Mugu Peak and back from the Wendy Drive trailhead in Newbury Park.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 1:49:47 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, March 08, 2015

hummingbird moth feeding on spreading larkspur

I was on the way back from Mugu Peak and about four hours into my run. I'd stopped at an exposure of Miocene age shale along the Upper Sycamore Trail. The gray-brown rubble is home to an intensely blue-purple wildflower called spreading larkspur (Delphinium patens ssp. hepaticoideum).

Click for animation I'd just snapped a series of bracketed exposures of one patch of the flowers when suddenly there was the bumblebee-on-steroids buzzing of a hummingbird in front of me.

At least I thought it was a hummingbird. It sounded like a hummingbird and was about the right size. Its blurred wings were shaped like a hummingbird's. It flew with the precision of a hummingbird, darting from flower to flower, deftly feeding on each blossom's nectar using its oddly shaped beak.

Click for larger image But it wasn't a hummingbird -- it was a hummingbird moth -- a white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata). I'd read about hummingbird moths, but to have one suddenly appear and start feeding on a larkspur plant I happened to be photographing was extraordinary.

Apparently the problem of feeding on the high-energy nectar in certain types of flowers is sufficiently definitive as to have produced a very similar evolutionary solution in wildly different organisms.

The sphinx moth is described as flying like a hummingbird, but which lineage produced this elegant solution first? It may have been the moth! A trace fossil of a sphinx moth found in Early Eocene Asencio Formation of Uruguay appears to predate the earliest known Oligocene fossils of hummingbird-like birds! In any case it appears that both hovering moths and birds co-evolved with the flowering plants on which they feed and pollinate.

Related post: Hummingbird Stories

Sunday, March 08, 2015 8:25:24 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Thursday, March 05, 2015

Goldfields on Lasky Mesa

Following last year's drought-induced hiatus goldfields are once again blooming in profusion on Lasky Mesa. The little yellow "belly flowers" tend to grow in low spots and along paths where rain water pools.

Thursday, March 05, 2015 11:12:56 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Monday, March 02, 2015

East Las Virgenes Canyon, Ahmanson Ranch

Race director Nancy Shura-Dervin picked a great year, and as it looks now, a great weekend for the inaugural running of the Ahmanson 12K Trails event.

The hills are lush and green; wildflowers are in bloom; valley oaks are sprouting fresh green leaves; and it's looking like race day may be one of those "gotta run" kind of days.

According to today's NWS forecast the area will see dry and warmer weather beginning Tuesday and continuing through race day. While there could be a remnant puddle here or there, four days will be plenty of time for the dirt roads to (mostly) dry out. The Cheeseboro RAWS automated weather station can be used to get an idea of the current weather in the vicinity of the race course.

Over the past 10 years I've logged approximately 6000 miles at Ahmanson Ranch (now Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve) and the loop Nancy has selected for the course is a variation of a favorite.

Here's a Google Earth overview of the 12K course and a preliminary elevation-corrected profile generated in SportTracks. The course is about 7.4 miles long with an elevation gain of about 740 feet. (Note: The loop is run in the clockwise direction.)

Lasky Mesa has long been used to shoot movies, television, commercials, music videos, and even Internet games. Its wildland character and expansive views bely its urban location. For a few weeks one summer the Mission Impossible III bridge was a Lasky Mesa landmark. The aesthetically-shaped valley oak at the west end of Lasky Mesa is a favorite of production companies and I've spotted it in more than one commercial.

The Ahmanson 12K should be an outstanding event on an excellent course in conditions we haven't seen at Ahmanson in several years.

For more information and photos see the Trail Run Events web site and the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve web site.

Some related posts: 10th Anniversary of the Acquisition of Ahmanson Ranch, Coyote Tag, It Was So Muddy That..., Ahmanson Ranch Trail Runs

Monday, March 02, 2015 8:31:52 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, March 01, 2015

Cumulus clouds from the Chumash Trail

Instability associated with an upper low resulted in some pop-up showers and thunderstorms today.

As I ran up the Chumash Trail on the east side of the Simi Valley I kept a close eye on a cell that developed near Ladyface in the Agoura Hills. That cell didn't track as much to the east as I thought it might, but other cells were developing to the east and south of Rocky Peak and Santa Susana Pass area and at one point I heard the rumble of thunder.

As it worked out, I only had a few sprinkles on the run, but drove home in the rain!

Sunday, March 01, 2015 2:39:15 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Monday, February 09, 2015

The rising sun illuminates a translucent layer of cloud trapped by a shallow inversion in the San Fernando Valley

The rising sun illuminates a translucent layer of cloud trapped by a shallow inversion in the San Fernando Valley. The mid-level clouds above are associated with a system that brought heavy rain to much of California, but would only produce showers in the Los Angeles area.

From Saturday's trail run to Trippet Ranch from the End of Reseda (Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park).

Related post: Garapito Trail Runs

Monday, February 09, 2015 1:10:26 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, February 08, 2015

California peony (Paeonia californica) along the Garapito Trail in Topanga State Park

California peony (Paeonia californica) on an east-facing slope along the Garapito Trail in Topanga State Park. From Saturday's trail run to Trippet Ranch from the End of Reseda (Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park).

Some related posts: Trippet Ranch Wildflower Run, Garapito Trail Runs, Garapito Trail Green

Sunday, February 08, 2015 1:04:41 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, February 07, 2015

View across Trippet Ranch past Topanga Canyon to Hondo Canyon and Saddle Peak

View across Trippet Ranch past Topanga Canyon to Hondo Canyon and Saddle Peak.

The wildflowers in the foreground are wild cucumber (Marah macrocarpa) and Ceanothus (probably Ceanothus megacarpus).

Related post: Trail Run to Trippet Ranch, Hondo Canyon and Saddle Peak

Saturday, February 07, 2015 12:59:24 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, January 31, 2015

La Jolla Valley from Mugu Peak

I had to stop running and take it all in. Soaked by recent rains, La Jolla Valley was renewed and green. To my right a meadowlark warbled its silvery call, and in the distance at first one and then another bird followed in song.

Isolated for weeks by the closure of Pacific Coast Highway and Pt. Mugu State Park, the La Jolla Loop Trail was trackless and in places overgrown. Wet with dew, the mustard choking the trail had soaked my shoes and socks.

Sprinkled among the greens were whites, purples, pinks, reds and yellows of the first stage of a wildflower explosion. A sweet scent drifted on the breeze. Running in the valley was like running in a remote and seldom-visited wilderness.

There had been much to see on the run from Wendy Drive. Before the Park closed in December I had surveyed the aftermath of the December 12 flash floods in Sycamore Canyon, Blue Canyon and Upper Sycamore Canyon. One of the reasons for today's run was to see what had happened in this part of the Park.

Wood Canyon parallels Sycamore Canyon and is probably its largest tributary. Based on the height of the debris piled against the trees, the flash flood that roared down Wood Canyon must have been astounding! Looking down the stream course reminded me of flash floods I'd seen on creeks and streams during the El Nino's of 1997-98 and 2004-2005.

Bowl-shaped La Jolla Valley is an independent drainage, separate from Sycamore and Wood Canyons and their tributaries. It acts like a huge rain collector and funnels all the runoff down deeply cut La Jolla Canyon to the ocean. In La Jolla Valley all the creeks were scoured by the flash flooding and the small footbridge west of the group campground was washed out. The vernal stock pool on the Loop Trail above La Jolla Canyon was once again full.

It's no surprise that the December flash floods washed out the trail in La Jolla Canyon. I can't think of a steeper and more narrow canyon in the park.  The flow must have been phenomenal! The La Jolla Canyon Trail is closed and barricaded at its juncture with the Loop Trail. Here is a trail map of the area from the La Jolla Valley Natural Preserve web site.

In recent years the drought has dramatically reduced the number and variety of wildflowers blooming in the Santa Monica Mountains. Not so this year. Since October 1 Camarillo Airport has recorded 7.0 inches of rain, which is about 92% of normal. Last year over the same period only 0.84 inch had been recorded.

Many species are already blooming and many more will be blooming soon. On today's run I saw shooting stars, encelia, lupine, nightshade, monkeyflower, paintbrush, California poppy, bladder pod, wild hyacinth, phacelia, wishbone bush and more. A small patch of chocolate lilies were in bloom along the eastern segment of the Loop Trail.

La Jolla Valley and Mugu Peak can be busy places, but today it was just me and the meadowlarks.

Update February 3, 2015. According to the Ventura Star six miles of Pacific Coast Highway from Las Posas Road to the Sycamore Cove Day-use Area reopened today providing access to Pt. Mugu State Park from the south. Note that the La Jolla Canyon Trail is still closed and likely to be for some time.

Some related posts: Pt. Mugu State Park Debris Flows and Flash Floods, Wendy Drive - Mugu Peak Challenge, Laguna Peak, La Jolla Valley, and the Channel Islands

Saturday, January 31, 2015 11:49:42 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Friday, January 23, 2015

Evening Sky

Also from the run yesterday evening.

Friday, January 23, 2015 4:17:41 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Thursday, January 22, 2015

East Las Virgenes Canyon from Lasky Mesa

East Las Virgenes Canyon from Lasky Mesa. The hilltop in the background is the highest point of Ahmanson Ranch.

Thursday, January 22, 2015 3:42:23 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Greening hills of Ahmanson Ranch

Last year on this date (January 14) Downtown Los Angeles (USC) had recorded just under an inch of rain for the water year beginning July 1. Here's what it was like out at Ahmanson Ranch, near upper Las Virgenes Canyon, on January 14, 2014.

Today's photo was also taken at Ahmanson Ranch, the difference being that this year, as of January 14, Downtown Los Angeles has recorded 5.64 inches of rain since July 1, which is about 98% of normal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 3:06:23 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
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