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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# 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)  #   
# Friday, January 31, 2014

Dissipating wave clouds provide fuel for a fiery sunset

Tuesday afternoon during a run to Las Virgenes Canyon a series of extraordinary wave clouds developed in the skies of Southern California. Over the course of the 90 minute run the clouds slowly shifted and changed, eventually beginning to dissipate and provide fuel for a fiery sunset.

As mentioned in the post Lenticular Wave Clouds, the unusual "flying saucer" appearance of wave clouds has long drawn attention, the clouds having been depicted in 15th century art.

Here are a few additional photographs of the wave clouds as they developed and then dissipated. More photographs and information about wave clouds will be found in the links below.

Related posts: Lenticular Wave Clouds, Atmospheric Dynamics, Mountain Weather

Friday, January 31, 2014 2:18:12 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Thursday, January 30, 2014

It may have only been drizzle and very isolated light showers, but after the 13 driest months on record in Los Angeles and 42 days without measurable rain -- and counting -- being able to run in the "rain" this afternoon felt incredible.

If all the comments on Facebook and Twitter about the relief of having a little drizzle are any indication, we must have a built-in sense of the need for rain, and crave it when we don't get enough.

Thursday, January 30, 2014 5:55:54 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 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)  #   
# Saturday, January 04, 2014

Remember when it used to rain in Southern California? This is from a run at Ahmanson Ranch on January 6, 2005.

The 15 days from December 27, 2004 through January 10, 2005 were the wettest 15 consecutive days in downtown Los Angeles since record keeping began in 1877. Los Angeles would go on to have the second wettest water year on record, with 37.25 inches of rain for the period July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005.

So far this water year -- since July 1, 2013 -- Downtown Los Angeles (USC) has recorded only 0.97 inch of rain!

Saturday, January 04, 2014 6:18:55 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Las Llajas Canyon, in the eastern Simi Valley

Not everywhere is parched and brown in moisture-starved Southern California. There are a few places that have slurped up a few extra raindrops and are turning green.

This patch of green is in Las Llajas Canyon, in the eastern Simi Valley. Judging from the green growth and dried mud on the road in the upper part of the canyon, there must have been some extra rainfall here. There was even some water in one section of the creek.

Las Llajas Canyon is part of the 50K & 30K courses in the Bandit Trail Runs coming up February 16, 2014 at Corriganville Park in Simi Valley, CA.

Some related posts: Bandit 50K 2013 Notes, Las Llajas Longhorns, Chumash-Las Llajas Loop

Wednesday, January 01, 2014 4:17:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Driest Year on Record in Los Angeles

2013 will go on record as the driest calendar year in Los Angeles since recordkeeping began in July 1877.

Downtown Los Angeles (USC) has recorded only 3.60 inches of rain since January 1, breaking the record of 4.08 inches set in 1953 and 1947. Downtown Los Angeles averages about 15 inches of rain in a calendar year.

For more info see my post on Southern California Weather Notes.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 2:03:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, December 29, 2013

Windblown stratus on Santa Monica Bay with Palos Verdes Peninsula in the distance

The tinge of frost on the rusty M*A*S*H ambulance wasn't so much of a surprise, but that there was not even a breath of wind at the M*A*S*H site was astonishing.

Overnight unrelenting winds had rushed and roared through the palm trees above the house and I'd steeled myself for what would surely be a difficult run.

But when I arrived at the Cistern trailhead on Mulholland Drive there was almost no wind. A layer of cold air trapped against the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains in the Malibu Creek drainage was shielding the area from the wind. At least for a while.

When I'd left the house in the West Valley the temperature had been a balmy 64 degrees. As I turned onto Mulholland Highway from Malibu Canyon Road my car's thermometer had read 32 degrees and at the trailhead it had been 46 degrees. Along Malibu Creek at the M*A*S*H site I'd guess the temperature was in the mid-thirties.

Incredibly, the climb up Bulldog Motorway was one of the most pleasant I've done. Near freezing temperatures gave way to warming Winter sunshine, and as I worked up the grade I wondered how long the respite from the wind would last. To the northeast I could see the telltale dusty haze from strong offshore winds in the San Fernando Valley. At some point those winds would scour out the protective layer of cold air or I would climb above it.

It wasn't until about halfway up the Bulldog climb that the wind started to pick up. But it was still far less windy than I had expected. Several sections of Castro Peak and Mesa Peak fire roads were in the lee of the crest, and the running was excellent. The variegated patterns of sun, stratus and wind on the Pacific was spectacular.

Once I was off the crest the wind diminished to little more than a zephyr. In many areas -- such as at Tapia Park and along Crags Road there was no wind at all.

But it was still windy in the West Valley. When I got home from the run I checked the Cheeseboro RAWS, which is about 6 miles NNE of Malibu Creek State Park. Between 9:30 and 10:30, when it had been dead still on Crags Road, the Cheeseboro RAWS had recorded steady winds of 30 mph, gusting to as high as 50 mph!

The title photo is of windblown stratus on Santa Monica Bay with Palos Verdes Peninsula in the distance.

Some related posts: Malibu Creek State Park Scenic Loop, Vertical Relief

Sunday, December 29, 2013 10:47:48 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
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