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 © 2006-2012 Gary Valle. All Rights Reserved.
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# Saturday, April 05, 2014

North Bluff Trail on Santa Cruz Island

Great outing to Santa Cruz Island today as a guest of the Trail Runners Club.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Saturday, April 05, 2014 4:08:26 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bob Kimmerly bench on the Pacific Crest Trail

It had been "a while" since I'd run this segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. This photo will give you an idea of just how long. That year January was warm and dry and none of the local creeks had enough water to kayak, so Gary Gunder and I were doing a lot of running. Two of the most enjoyable runs we did were the segments of the PCT from Pine Canyon Rd to Lake Hughes Road (FS 7N05) and Lake Hughes Road to Sierra Highway in Aqua Dulce. These PCT segments are closely associated with the Leona Divide -- both the race and geographic feature -- and include some of the fastest single track trail in Southern California.

Today I was back in the Leona Divide neighborhood and getting reacquainted with the stretch of the PCT between Bouquet Canyon Road and San Francisquito Canyon Road. Bouquet Canyon Road is the turnaround point for the 2014 Leona Divide 50 mile and this 13 mile stretch -- done on the way out and the way back -- makes up most of the single track trail on the course. With the Leona Divide 50/50 coming up April 26 a number of runners (Karl, Dave #1, Matt, Dave #2 and others) were also out on the trail.

This section of the PCT is about as non-technical as a single track trail can be. It's generally in very good shape with surprisingly few rocks, technical obstacles, or steep hills to slow you down. Most of the trail is in chaparral, out in the open, and on sun-facing slopes. The elevation ranges from about 3300' to 4300'. Trail mileages are close to what the trail signs advertise -- about 7 miles between San Francisquito Canyon Road and Spunky Edison Road, and 6 miles between Spunky Edison Road and the 50 mile turnaround at Bouquet Canyon Road.

The weather could not have been better for today's run. Some shaded sections of trail were lush and green from recent rains and in places yellow bush poppy, blue Phacelia, purple chia, scarlet bugler and other wildflowers bloomed along the trail. The midday temp was in the 60s at the Grass Mountain RAWS (just off the PCT near Leona Divide Road). The temps at this weather station were in the 80s during last year's Leona Divide 50/50 when "in the sun" temps reached over 100 degrees.

In today's cool conditions it was a long run kind of day, and the 26 miles were about as enjoyable as a longer trail run can be.

Saturday, March 29, 2014 10:14:52 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mountain biker riding down East Las Virgenes Canyon in Ahmanson Ranch.

A spectacular Spring day for a run or a ride!

Thursday, March 27, 2014 3:50:31 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, March 15, 2014

Headlamps of runners in the Coyote Backbone Trail Ultra on the Rogers Road Trail.
Runners on the Backbone Trail at About Mile 2 of the Backbone Ultra

Last year I ran the Coyote Backbone Trail Ultra and enjoyed everything about it -- the trails and scenery, the runners, the volunteers, the approach of the organizers, and just the general vibe of the event. The Backbone Ultra team did a superb job, and as far as I know there no major issues. Nobody got lost or seriously injured. The runners and volunteers were respectful to the environment and everyone I talked to had a great time participating in the event.

Still I wondered. Because of its complex logistics and administrative requirements would there be a 2nd annual Backbone Trail Ultra? Then on August 22, a little after lunchtime, the news was posted -- there would be a "Game 2!" I needn't have worried, RDs Howard Cohen and Mike Epler were on it!

On March 15 at 6:07 a.m., at Will Rogers State Park, under the light of a 99% full moon, myself and 46 other runners in the first start group began our Backbone Trail adventure.

In the weeks leading up to the Backbone Ultra I'd been closely watching the weather. Two weeks prior to the run the area was inundated by the most rain in 48 hours since 2011. There had been some concern that heavy rainfall in the Springs Fire burn area in Pt. Mugu State Park would severely damage trails. That didn't happen.

Ten days out it looked like an upper level low might affect the area. That didn't happen. As the event neared, the forecast trended drier and warmer -- much warmer. Friday as I was getting my drop bag ready, @NWSLosAngeles tweeted "Still expecting high temps to approach records at some locations this weekend" along with this graphic. That did happen!

On Saturday, the first day of the event, Santa Ana winds pushed the temperature at noon at Malibu & Piuma to 86 degrees -- 16 degrees higher than during last year's event! Note that this is the temperature in a ventilated, white-painted box several feet off the ground. The "in the sun" temperature, near the ground, on south-facing slopes was likely in the 90's. Even more telling, the temperature at Circle X was in the 80's from noon until 5:00 p.m. and at midnight was 74 degrees!

It must have been something to be on the Backbone Trail at its highpoint near Sandstone Peak in the middle of the night, with 100 mile visibility, a full moon and warm weather. I am really bummed to have missed that! I didn't get to experience it because I had some kind of heat-related issue and dropped at the Encinal Aid Station at around mile 43.

This is the first time heat has kept me from completing a run or race. So what was the problem? Probably a combination of things. I don't think I was under-trained or over-trained. I hadn't just had the flu or a cold. My taper seemed OK. It wasn't under-hydration, at least not in the first 30 miles. My best guess is that anticipating the heat, I drank too much early on. Not having trained much in the heat this year probably also contributed. It's hard to know for sure. Sometimes it's just not your day!

Although I didn't get to the finish this year, I still very much enjoyed the miles I did run on the Backbone Trail. Here's a slideshow of some images taken along the way.

It is a tribute to the many people that helped support the Backbone Trail Ultra that -- by a substantial margin -- there were more volunteers than runners! Many thanks to:

- RDs Howard Cohen & Mike Epler and their team Fred & Lauren Case, Willie Roland, Tres Smith, Erica Gratton and Dan Dicke.
- California State Parks and the National Park Service.
- Trippet Aid: Rene Canizales and the New Basin Blues.
- Stunt Aid: Alison Chavez/Amy Chavez and the SoCal Coyotes.
- Piuma Aid: Art Byrne and the Trail Runners Club.
- Corral Aid: George Plomarity and Patagonia.
- Kanan Aid: Paul Van Zuyle and his leprechauns.
- Encinal Aid: Bill Kee and wife Paula and the Coyote Cohorts.
- Mishe Mokwa Aid: Manley Klassen and wife Mara and the Coyote Cohorts.
- Sycamore  Aid: Puerto Mauricio and the Coyote Cohorts.
- Finish: Erica Gratton & Janna Williams and the Conejo Valley Trail Runners.
- Breakfast: Luis Escobar, Jerry Gonzales and team.
- Medical: The Josepho Team and Ventura County Search and Rescue.
- HAM radio operators at each of the aid stations and the finish.
- Volunteers at the road crossings at Stunt, Piuma, Malibu Canyon, Latigo Canyon, Encinal Canyon, Mulholland Highway and Yerba Buena times 2.
- Sweeps: Kathy Higgins, Rene Canizales, Erin Chavin & Pedro Martinez, Ken Hughes and Jack Fierstadt.
- All the Course Markers & Safety Patrols.

Some related posts: Backbone Training Run 2014 #1, Backbone Training Run 2014 #2, Run, Lop and Shiver, Backbone Ultra 2013

Saturday, March 15, 2014 1:17:25 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Monday, March 03, 2014

Showery view from Parker Mesa

Beginning Wednesday evening and continuing into Sunday, two Pacific storm systems ended a nearly 14 month period of record-setting dry weather in Los Angeles and much of Southern California. Los Angeles experienced the driest calendar year on record in 2013, and until Friday had received less water year rainfall (since July 1) than in 2006-07, the driest water year since recordkeeping began in 1877.

According to preliminary precipitation data, Downtown Los Angeles (USC) recorded 4.52 inches of rain over the course of the storms, increasing its water year total from a desiccated 11% of normal to a not-too-bad-considering 50% of normal. Downtown Los Angeles' water year rain total now stands at 5.72 inches. This exceeds last year's cumulative precipitation total on this date by more than an inch, but still leaves us with deficit of nearly six inches.

Friday's rainfall total of 2.24 inches was the most recorded in 24 hours at Downtown Los Angeles since March 20, 2011, and Thursday's and Friday's total of 3.29 inches was the most rain recorded in 48 hours at Downtown Los Angeles since December 19 & 20, 2010. The storms increased February's rainfall total to near normal, and jump-started March with nearly half its normal amount of rain.

Foothill and mountain areas that faced into the storms' moist southerly flow recorded some impressive rainfall totals. According to this compilation of preliminary rainfall totals from the NWS Los Angeles/Oxnard, Opids Camp near Mt. Wilson recorded nearly 11 inches of rain, and several stations in the Ventura Mountains recorded double-digit rainfall totals.

Update March 4. With this recent rainfall 2013-14 will not be the driest water year in Los Angeles on record; but one good storm, or even two, "does not a rain season make." In the short term these storms have dramatically reduced the fire danger, provided crucial relief to plants and animals, and increased groundwater and reservoir storage. What happens in the longer term we'll just have to see. Over the next several days a series of systems are forecast to produce additional rain from Central California north into the PNW. While no rain is forecast in Southern California over the next week or so, and the 8-14 day outlook is for below average rainfall, some model runs have indicated the possibility of additional rain around mid-month. As long as the Pacific weather pattern remains progressive there should be additional opportunities for rain in the weeks ahead.

A related post with more technical detail and graphics is available on my weather and climate web site Southern California Weather Notes.

The title photo is from yesterday's showery run to Parker Mesa in Topanga State Park.

Monday, March 03, 2014 10:54:47 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, February 16, 2014

Approaching the top of the first steep climb in the 2014 Bandit 50K

As I worked up the hill toward "Fossil Point" I drank the last mouthful of water from my bottle. I wasn't surprised that I had run out. The morning temperature had been the warmest in the six year history of the event, and the midday temp in the sun felt like it was in the mid-80's -- maybe higher.

In Southern California it has been the kind of Winter that those in northern climes can only dream about: Day after day with fair skies and the temperature in the 70's and 80's. Great for trail running, but with the trade-off that we had had the least amount of rain in over a century.

Chugging up the steep hill I thought about how the run had gone so far. Even if it was a little warm, it was still a pretty good day for a trail run!

Sunday, February 16, 2014 8:40:47 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, February 09, 2014

Runner at Trippet Ranch in Topanga State Park

When I turned the corner at the Trippet Ranch parking lot and started up the hill toward the Musch Trail, I did a double take. The road was wet and it looked like it had been raining!

While it wasn't impossible that a rogue shower had been spawned from the deep layer of moisture flowing over the area, it was far more likely the road was just wet from on-again, off-again drizzle.

On the way over from the end of Reseda one thing is for sure -- there had been no rain. The dirt roads and trails had been in great shape. It would have been an exaggeration to describe them as damp. Although cool and cloudy, the weather was excellent for running and I'd removed my sleeves miles ago.

The Trippet Ranch Loop is a favorite. I'd taken the fire roads out from the end of Reseda, now on the way back it would be almost entirely single track trail.

Some related posts: Trippet Ranch Oaks, Trippet Ranch Mule Deer, The Heavenly Ranch in the Hills, Ferns Along the Garapito Trail, Garapito Trail Runs

Sunday, February 09, 2014 7:03:13 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, February 08, 2014

View west this morning from the Secret Trail in Calabasas toward Castro Peak and part of Malibu Creek State Park

This morning while the northern half of California continued to be inundated by an atmospheric river, recording inches of rain, in western Los Angeles County temps were cool; there was a mix of sun and wintry-looking clouds; but no rain.

The view is west from the Secret Trail in Calabasas toward Castro Peak and part of Malibu Creek State Park.

Saturday, February 08, 2014 4:28:45 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, January 25, 2014

Backbone Trail Ultra Training Run #2 2014
Rock Formations Along Wet Fork Arroyo Sequit from the Backbone Trail

The Coyote Backbone Trail Ultra was one of the most enjoyable runs I did last year. The low key approach with the emphasis on the experience rather than the clock was the perfect fit for my first 100K+ run. To be able to run the entire Backbone Trail with great support, company and entertainment was fantastic.

Today's run -- the second of four 2014 Backbone Ultra training runs -- was from Kanan Road to the Mishe Mokwa trailhead near Circle X. This approximately 15 mile segment is one of the most scenic on the Backbone Trail with expansive views and superlative sections of single track trail. The 850' climb from Encinal Canyon to Etz Meloy Motorway is so well-graded you (almost) don't realize you're gaining elevation.

I was looking to get in some extra mileage and it turned out running cohort Ann Ongena was as well. Ann was marking the course for the training run, so the plan was to do the Kanan to Mishe Mokwa segment and then continue from Mishe Mokwa another 13 miles or so to the Wendy Drive trailhead in Newbury Park.

Saturday, January 25, 2014 2:51:06 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mt. Burnham from the PCT in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Los Angeles
Mt. Burnham from the PCT

It's been warm in Southern California. Thursday Bob Hope Airport reached a high of 90 degrees and it seems every couple of days another high temperature record is broken or one SoCal city or another is the hottest spot in the nation.

Not only has it been really warm, it's been really dry. Downtown Los Angeles recorded only 0.2 inch of rain in December and not a measurable drop of rain has fallen so far this January. We already set the record for the driest calendar year, and at the moment we're vying for the driest water year on record.

The unusually warm and dry weather made me wonder what the conditions were like in the Angeles high country. Might the PCT be runnable between Islip Saddle (6593') and Mt. Baden-Powell (9399')? As warm and as dry as its been, how much snow could there be? 

At Islip Saddle there was very little snow. Here and there tiny remnants hid under the snowbush, but for the most part the north slopes of Mt. Islip looked more like July than January. 

I encountered the first larger patches of snow and ice in the deeply shaded corners of trail before Little Jimmy Campground and Spring. It was easily traversed, but reminded me of November runs on San Jacinto Peak and San Gorgonio Mountain, when early season snow had melted and refrozen, turning sections of trail into a skating rink.

The thing is, it doesn't take a lot of snow to transform a straightforward trail run into a slip and slide adventure, especially when the snow is icy. As warm as it was in the sun, several sections of the PCT between Islip and Baden-Powell never see the sun in Winter and were surprisingly cold. Even if it was 80-something degrees in the lowlands.

In this case if you wanted to bypass most of the snow patches you could do that by following the crest. On the way to Baden-Powell I tried to stay on the trail to see what sections were clear.  On the way back I climbed Mt. Burnham, Throop Peak, Mt. Hawkins and a couple other peaklets, so stayed on the crest.

Here's a very short video (under 2 minutes) that will give you an idea what the conditions were like.

Saturday, January 18, 2014 1:10:28 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, January 12, 2014

Backbone Trail Training 2014 - Stunt to Kanan

With the 2nd Annual Coyote Backbone Trail Ultra a mere 62 days away 28 assorted trail runners gathered under the tutelage of Mike Epler for Backbone Training Run #1.

The run was from the top of Stunt Road, at about mile 18 of the BBT, to Kanan Road at about mile 37. The segment included one of the three big climbs on the BBT and near Saddle Peak reached the second highest point on the Backbone Trail. Race day the segment will follow a long climb from Topanga Canyon up Hondo Canyon to Fossil Ridge. The elevation gain on the approximately 19 mile run was around 3400 feet and the elevation loss about 4300 feet.

It was a superb run on an excellent section of the Backbone Trail! Here's a short slideshow with a few photos from the run.

Sunday, January 12, 2014 9:08:26 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, January 05, 2014

Strong winds on Mugu Peak

Offshore wind events have been frequent this rain season. They often follow "inside slider" systems that miss Southern California and take a more inland track over the West. The result is more wind and less rain.

Los Angeles wrapped up calendar year 2013 with the least amount of rainfall on record. When talking about rainfall in Southern California it is more common to refer to the "water year" which runs from July 1 to June 30. Our rain season generally runs from October to April, so the water year includes all the months of a particular rain season.

So when was the driest water year in Los Angeles? It was just a few years ago, in 2006-2007 when only 3.21 inches of rain was recorded. There were also many wind events in that dry rain season, and like this January not a lot of green in the hills. To date we have had less rainfall this water year than in 2006-2007!

For the most part this Fall and Winter I've been able to work around the wind events and do runs that more or less escaped the wind. I thought that was going to be the case again today. The predicted offshore event seemed to be behind schedule and when I left for the Wendy Drive trailhead there wasn't much wind.

There were stirrings of an offshore breeze at the trailhead and I commented to a hiker that I hoped the winds would hold off until later in the day. The plan was to do the out and back run from Wendy Drive to Mugu Peak. Because of the myriad of route choices, this is a fun run to do as a time challenge. What is the fastest route? Try it and see.

Things looked good all the way down Sycamore Canyon and into La Jolla Valley, but the wind started to pick up as I worked toward Mugu Peak.

Once on the peak it was like flipping a switch on a wind tunnel! I was ahead of my PR to the peak by several minutes and I was trying to push the pace. That was not happening and several times I had to pause and put a hand down as I staggered in the middle of a big step.

I caught up to a couple of people just before the final steep push to the summit. The wind flow was not as turbulent and gusty here and one of them started to run. With each stride the dust streaked from his shoes and I stopped to take some photos and this HD video snapshot.  The smoother winds didn't last for long, and neither did the running.

Mugu Peak's next door neighbor to the west, Laguna Peak, has recorded a wind gust of 125 mph. In this photo from Boney Mountain Mugu Peak is on the far left and Laguna Peak has the communications equipment on the summit. Today I'd estimate the strongest gusts on Mugu Peak were in the range of 50-60 mph. The winds were strong enough that the sewn end of a fluttering strap was like a whip and just as capable of raising a welt.

I spent zero time on the summit and was very happy to get back down to La Jolla Valley.

Some related posts: Wendy Drive - Mugu Peak Challenge, La Jolla Valley & Mugu Peak from Wendy Drive

Sunday, January 05, 2014 8:40:39 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
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