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, 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)  #   
# Saturday, December 07, 2013

No big deal, so the temp was in the low 40s and it was a little windy... and rainy... and my work gloves were sopping wet... Yes, Victoria did say she hadn't been this cold since leaving Russia, but how bad could it be -- Mike and Jeanne were wearing SHORTS. I quietly whimpered and lopped off another limb of encroaching chamise. If I kept lopping maybe no one would notice how much I was shivering.

Logistically, the Chamberlain Trail segment of the Backbone Trail is one of the more challenging trails in the Santa Monica Mountains to maintain. It's difficult to get all the tools and people to the trail and out again and still have time to do a few hours of work.

Coordinating with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, Howard Cohen, RD of the Coyote Backbone Trail Ultra, rounded up a bunch of trusting folk that will do just about anything if running in the mountains is involved.

Starting at the Wendy Drive trailhead runners hoofed it over Boney Mountain to the top of the Chamberlain Trail -- about a two hour run/hike -- then lopped, and sawed and cleared their way down the trail until told to stop. Then they ran back to their cars.

If the smiles (of relief?) at the end of the day were any indication, good, clean fun was had by all -- even if it was a little damp and chilly.

Here are a few additional photos from the adventure. Click for a larger version of the photo.

Boney Mountain

Front Moving In

Soups On

Chamberlain Trail

Wrapping It Up

Clearing Clouds

After Work


Jeanne & Howard

Clearing Clouds Panorama
Chamberlain Rock Panorama
Saturday, December 07, 2013 12:51:18 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sunset at Sage Ranch Park

It's been great to get a little rain the last couple of weeks. Since November 20th Downtown Los Angeles (USC) has recorded 0.62 inch of rain, bringing the calendar year total through November 30th to 3.40 inches.

During our showery rainstorm on Friday the few extra raindrops that made it into the rain bucket at USC moved 2013 from 4th driest to 5th, behind 1947 (2.51), 1971 (2.69), 1894 (2.89) and 1984 (3.37).

Rainfall totals can change dramatically in December, which is normally about twice as wet as November. Of the dry years listed above only 1947 continued to be unusually dry and finish the year as one of the nine driest on record.

Rainfall amounts were compiled from NWS and NCDC data. In a couple of instances differences were noted in daily and monthly data. Monthly data was used in rankings.

The title photo is from a run at Sage Ranch on November 21.

Saturday, November 30, 2013 4:05:52 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, November 23, 2013

San Fernando Valley from Near Rocky Peak

In short sleeves and shorts it was cold. The wind gusts were so strong that I could not hold the camera steady. Dropping down on one knee helped, but I still had to time the shots for the 10-15 mph "calm" between the 20-30 mph gusts.

After generating some rain and snow in Southern California, a blustery upper level low was finally exiting the area. Had I not known it had rained a couple days before, I'm not sure I would have been able to tell. The dessicated soil had quickly absorbed most of the moisture and the chaparral plants still looked drought stricken.

From today's late afternoon run on Rocky Peak.

Saturday, November 23, 2013 2:29:41 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Friday, November 01, 2013

Oak and clouds on the El Escorpion loop near West Hills, California

Updated November 5, 2013. My mistake -- a spreadsheet range error -- thanks for the heads up Reg! The driest January 1 to November 1 for Downtown Los Angeles was in 1972 with 0.92 inch. Here are the driest ten years for that period:

1. 1972 0.92
2. 2002 1.62
3. 1984 1.93
4. 1961 2.37
5. 1971 2.39
6. 1947 2.45
7. 2013 2.78
8. 1894 2.89
9. 1953 2.89
10. 2007 3.37

As much as I enjoyed running in the showery weather Monday, I barely got wet. What Los Angeles needs is a good soaking.

Year to date Downtown Los Angeles (USC) has only recorded 2.78 inches of rain. This is the seventh driest January 1 - November 1  in Los Angeles over the past 135 years! To get out of the bottom ten for calendar year rainfall Los Angeles needs about 3.5 inches of rain by December 31. Normal rainfall for November is 1.04 inches and for December is 2.33 inches.

Although it's still early in the rain season Downtown Los Angeles (USC) is already 0.83 inch below normal for water year rainfall. The water year extends from July 1 to June 30.

Friday, November 01, 2013 3:02:35 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Rocky Peak Road near its junction with the Chumash Trail

Updated October 17, 2013.

As I started up the Chumash Trail, a patchwork of clouds filled the sky, and the fresh smell of a recent shower filled my lungs. A strong and unseasonably cold low pressure system was producing the first widespread rainfall of Southern California's 2013-14 rain season.

I hoped there would be another shower during my run. The plants and animals needed it and I needed it. It had been many months since I had run in the rain on a local trail.

As I worked up the trail I thought about how dry it had been. Downtown Los Angeles' 2012-13 water year (Jul 1 - Jun 30) was the sixth driest on record. Rainfall in Los Angeles since January 1 has been about 25% of normal. The 2012-13 Sierra snowpack was one of the worst on record.

Will this rain and snow season be any better? For months I've been monitoring climate data and forecasts looking for something on which to base a 2013-14 Winter Outlook. Historically, ENSO has been the big dog in Southern California rain season weather with El Nino conditions generally producing wetter weather and La Nina conditions generally drier.

But ENSO conditions are currently Neutral and are expected to remain so through the end of the year. Most climate models forecast there will be slow warming of SSTs in the equatorial Pacific (NINO 3.4 region) over the next several months, but at this time of the year it would be very unusual to have substantial warming. The CPC/IRI ENSO Forecasts from IRI's October Quick Look indicate the probability of an El Nino developing before the end of the year is less than 20% -- and 20% seems high.

One computer model that at times has been forecasting above average precipitation this Winter in Southern California is the Climate Forecast System version 2 (CFSv2). The CFSv2 is fully coupled ocean-atmosphere-land-sea ice model used to forecast parameters such as sea surface temperature, temperature and precipitation rate. While skillful at predicting tropical SSTs, the CFSv2 generally performs very poorly when forecasting precipitation over land, so forecasts such as this one for Dec-Jan-Feb must be viewed somewhat skeptically.

Another glass half-full observation is that the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) has been relatively active this year and if this activity continues it provides recurring opportunities for enhanced U.S. West Coast precipitation. The downside is that it can result in periods of dry weather as well.

With the ocean and atmosphere neutral there's just not much on which to base a rain season forecast. According to the Climate Prediction Center, the current winter precipitation outlook for most of Southern California calls for an equal chance of below average, average, or above average rainfall. I know -- that's no help at all -- you might as well flip a three-sided coin!

Update October 17, 2013. The Climate Prediction Center released its updated U.S. Dec-Jan-Feb Precipitation Outlook today. The outlook now indicates an equal chance of below average, average, or above average precipitation for all of Southern California. The October CPC outlook is usually the basis for the initial official NOAA U.S. Winter Outlook.

The title photo is of Rocky Peak Road, near its junction with the Chumash Trail. Here's a larger version of the panorama.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013 10:33:58 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, September 21, 2013

Runner near Cougar Crest in the Kodiak 50 mile ultramarathon.
50 Mile Runner on the PCT Near Cougar Crest Junction

If you've driven to Big Bear on Highway 18, you've driven the dramatic, twisting, turning, mountain road that seems to be perched on the rim of the world. Whenever I've driven that highway I've always peered into the chasm it traverses with more than a little awe, some trepidation, and a lot of curiosity.

A little earlier this afternoon, following a path of pink markers, I'd run across the Rim of the World Highway, clambered up to the edge of the world, and plunged into that chasm.

I was at about mile 31 of the Kodiak 50 mile ultramarathon. We'd started our run at 6:00 am at Holcomb Valley Campground -- the halfway point of the 100 mile run. The 100 milers had started their counterclockwise circuit of Big Bear Lake at The Village at 6:00 pm the previous evening and run through a cold night.

As I descended the steep, rocky trail deep into the canyon cut by Bear Creek a disconnected sequence of thoughts flew through my mind

"Wow, it's a long way down..."

"Can't I run any faster?"

"Is there really going to be a water station at the bottom of this canyon?"

"Prime real estate for rattlesnakes..."

"Those BBQ ribs were pretty good..."

"Wow, we have to go up there???"

High on the ridge to my right I could see the lift towers of Snow Valley and to my left across the canyon was the 3000' escarpment leading up to the rim of Big Bear. Somewhere up there was one of the largest lodgepole pines in the U.S. and near that the aid station at the top of the Siberia Creek climb.

Saturday, September 21, 2013 4:32:53 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, September 07, 2013

View east past High Lake from the switchbacks below New Army Pass

The Cottonwood Pass - New Army Pass loop is one of the best 20+ mile mountain trail runs that can be done as a day trip from L.A. You don't have to get up any earlier than for a local race, and even if you want to get back to the city by 8:00 pm or so there's still time to enjoy the sights and serenity of the high mountains.

The monsoon has been active this Summer and more than once I postponed this run because of a threat of thunderstorms. As late as midday yesterday (Friday) the forecast had been for increasing clouds and a chance of thunderstorms, as the moisture from Tropical Storm Lorena was drawn into the area.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it's worth waiting for good weather to do this run. The views aren't that great from inside a cloud, and there's enough going on that you might as well try to eliminate the complications poor weather can create. I always try to carry enough to get by if things go sideways. You can't avoid all risk, but you can be smart about the risks you take. Decades of climbing, kayaking and skiing adventures have shown me both sides of that adage.

Saturday, September 07, 2013 3:23:26 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
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