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.
# Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chumash astronomical petroglyph.

There is nothing quite so compelling as an unanswered question.

Several years ago, in the middle of a trail run, an unusually shaped rock formation caught my eye. After a little bushwhacking and exploration, I found a way to climb the formation, and on its summit found a small pictograph. I wondered if there might be other pictographs in the area, and on the way back to the trail found the inscription pictured above.

Thursday, June 18, 2009 1:15:18 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, June 14, 2009

View from near the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell.

Overnight the lows on the high peaks had dipped into the 30's, and today the high temps would be 15-20 degrees below normal. If I could have ordered the perfect mix of temperature, clouds and sun for running in the Angeles high country, it would be difficult to top the weather this weekend and last.

Clouds and pines along south ridge of Mt. Baden-Powell in the San Gabriel Mountains. Now that Hwy 2 was open between Islip Saddle and Vincent Gap, and we could do a car shuttle, Miklos, Krisztina and I had decided to run from Inspiration Point to Islip Saddle on the PCT. Starting at Inspiration Point instead of Vincent Gap adds about 4.5 miles to the run, but the miles are relatively easy, and the stretch is a good warmup for the 2800 ft. climb up Mt. Baden-Powell.

Here's a Google Earth browser view of a GPS trace of our approximately 18 mile route. We wandered down the south ridge of Mt. Baden-Powell, so this is a little longer than the usual route. The elevation gain was about 3300 ft., with an elevation loss of about 4000 ft. Continuing over Mt. Williamson to Eagle's Roost would add about 4 miles and 1400 ft. of elevation gain.

Note: The speck in the summit photo is one of several violet-green swallows working lift and zooming along the top of southeast face.

Sunday, June 14, 2009 3:31:45 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Friday, June 12, 2009

South Ridge Relic

From Sunday's hike/run up and down Mt. Baldy's South Ridge.

Friday, June 12, 2009 3:07:22 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Monday, June 08, 2009

California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum) at Sage Ranch Park.

Like many runners, I like to do a recovery run the day after a race, or strenuous run. Combined with some stretching before and after, an easy-paced run helps to work the bugs and stiffness out of the body and mind.

It may have been only 14 miles long on the map, but from my legs point of view, yesterday's hike/run up and down Mt. Baldy's South Ridge felt more like about twenty normally hilly miles.

The photo above is California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum), at Sage Ranch Park.

Monday, June 08, 2009 10:53:58 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hikers on Mt. Baldy's South Ridge.

One, two, ten...
Will the switchbacks ever end?

I can't think of a tougher stretch of trail in the San Gabriel Mountains. From Mt. Baldy Village, the Bear Canyon/Old Mt. Baldy Trail climbs 5800' in 6.7 miles to the 10,064' summit of Mt. Baldy (Mt. San Antonio). The route is as rewarding as it is difficult, with inspiring views and interesting terrain.

Sunday, June 07, 2009 9:02:20 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Thursday, June 04, 2009

Indian pink along the Chumash Trail.

Pleasant run on the Chumash Trail this afternoon.

Despite its small size, the scarlet flower of Indian pink (Silene laciniata) is easy to spot along the trail. Indian pink is a member of the carnation family, and although not as ornate as its cultivated relatives, there is a clear family resemblance.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 5:09:35 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Valley oak on Lasky Mesa, with a line of thunderstorms in the distance.

Off to the south, I heard the distant rumble of thunder. The developing line of thunderstorms had swept through the West Valley about an hour before I began my run at Ahmanson Ranch.

Unusual weather for June. Not so much that there were thunderstorms, but that the thunderstorms were in part the result of an unseasonably strong jet embedded in the base of an upper level low.

It's a bit of a stretch, but an argument could be made that these storms were a calling card of an increasingly energetic atmosphere, and a developing El Niño.

Several factors point to an increased probability of El Niño conditions developing over the next few months. Among them, Equatorial Pacific SSTs have increased, and the subsurface heat content is the highest it's been since the El Niño of 2006-07.

But as the short-lived 2006-07 El Niño event demonstrates, an El Niño is more than just warm Pacific equatorial SSTs. Through complex forcing and feedback mechanisms, the atmosphere and oceans have to cooperate on a global scale. Generally speaking the atmosphere speeds up when there is an El Niño, and slows down during a La Nina.

And it looks like the atmosphere may be speeding up. Orbits of the Global Wind Oscillation, a measure of atmospheric momentum, have been shifting upward, in the direction of more energetic values usually associated with an El Niño.

But an El Niño is not a done deal. The climate system is just leaning in that direction. As climate scientist Klaus Wolter has pointed out, in a similar situation in 1973-1975, the climate fell back into a La Niña for another year. At this point it appears we may be diverging from that analog case. We'll see!

Update June 6, 2009. The April-May Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) value, released today, has increased by 0.54 to +0.34. As discussed by MEI originator, Klaus Wolter, the 3-month rise of the MEI since January-February is the 4th highest on record for this time of year, exceeded only by the strong Niño of 1997. According to Dr. Wolter, if next month's MEI rank is at least the same as this month (37th), "it would be unprecedented for it to drop below that high-neutral ENSO-phase range by the end of 2009, virtually excluding a return to La Niña, based on the MEI record since 1950."

Related links: ENSO Diagnostic Discussion, ENSO Wrap-Up

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 1:26:01 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, May 31, 2009

A collection of Jon photos put together by Vickie (Cook) Chapus.

 Are you an Old School Valley Runner? Read over Mark Covert's shoulder and take the quiz. Start with the fourth question from the top:

Mark Covert takes the Old School Valley Runners Quiz. "Whose run the most miles ever in the history of the San Fernando Valley?"

Then try,

"Which Valley runner drilled running trophies on his car hood as an ornament?"

The answer to both questions is Jon Sutherland.

Today, Jon and a bunch of his friends (not all old school) got together at Ahmanson Ranch to celebrate an amazing benchmark: 40 years of running without missing a day.

Jon's streak began on May 26, 1969, and since then, through injuries, illness, operations and other obstacles, he has run 14,600+ days, and more than 179,000 miles! The United States Running Streak Association maintains a Streak List with up-to-date stats of the top 350 active runners.

Among those gathered to celebrate Jon's streak were runners that set high school, collegiate, and world records. Yep, I was the only person out there wearing trail running shoes, and a water bottle waist pack! And probably the only person out there that does the majority of their running at 10 min/mile.

The start of the 5.2 mile Beast loop fun run. For those that wanted to stretch their legs, Jon had set up a variety of courses for celebrants to walk or run. The long run was a tough 5.2 mile course that went up the Beast, a mile long hill that climbs more than 350'. That run was competitive from the word go!

Richard Lucas and Jon put together this short video with some highlights of the party.

Congrats Jon! I've enjoyed the runs, and the stories, and look forward to many more!

Sunday, May 31, 2009 7:42:47 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, May 30, 2009

Click to start slide show...
Click image above to start slide show.

Update May 30, 2009. In a Draconian measure that could close over 200 of California's State Parks, Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting the State Parks core funding in half begining July 1, and then would eliminate ALL core funding in a year. Here is a list of the California State Parks at risk (PDF). Click here to take action and send a letter to your legislators and Governor Schwarzenegger! For more information see the California State Parks Foundation web site.

Update May 18, 2008. Gov. Schwarzenegger's revised state budget, released May 14, rescinded the funding cuts that would have resulted in the closing of 48 California state parks. For now it appears these state parks will remain open. For more information see the Save Our State Parks and Campaign To Save Topanga State Park web sites.

Following is the original post from February 2, 2008:

What a fantastic morning! Taking advantage of a break in a series of Southern California rain storms, I was running on Fire Road #30 near the entrance of Topanga State Park. The sun had found its way through a broken layer of clouds, and bright patches of sunlight highlighted the rugged terrain. Down in a steep canyon on my left, wisps of steam wafted from the chaparral.

Following an  "On your left!" a group of mountain bikers swept past. Working up the hill toward the Hub, good morning's were exchanged with other runners, hikers and cyclists.

Many of us live and work in California because of its diverse open spaces, parks and wilderness areas. Incredibly, this popular urban park, along with Will Rogers State Historic Park, Santa Susana SHP, Los Encinos SHP, Mt. San Jacinto SP, and forty-four other California State Parks have been slated for closure in the fiscal year 2008-09 California state budget.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the selection was made according to the dour formula of those parks "that had the fewest visitors, produced the least revenue and would be the easiest to close off to visitors."

This formula necessarily targets less developed parks, such as Topanga State Park, ignoring those intrinsic values that make a park a park. The formula targets walk-in parks, and the hikers, cyclists, riders, and runners that simply enjoy the outdoor experience. The formula targets day use parks in urban areas that don't need campgrounds or additional services. And, the formula targets those with less to spend on recreation.

So is this how we are to appraise the value of our public lands? Closing our state parks would be astonishingly short-sighted. Their varied trails, terrain, and habitats are accessible to millions, providing a therapeutic escape from the rigors of city life, and experiences and insights that can only be gained from the out of doors.

Today I was doing one of my favorite runs in Topanga State Park. It links several trails and visits several popular destinations in the park -- the Hub, Parker Mesa Overlook, Trippet Ranch, Eagle Rock, and the Musch, Garapito and Bent Arrow Trails.

This two minute slide show is a compilation from a few such runs. It is a small selection of photographs from one set of trails, in just one state park.

For more information regarding Topanga State Park, see the Campaign To Save Topanga State Park, Topanga Canyon Docents and California State Parks web sites.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009 8:55:51 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, May 24, 2009

Snowbush on the Pacific Crest Trail near Islip Saddle.
Snowbush on the Pacific Crest Trail near Islip Saddle

Below, the throaty rumble of an almost continuous stream of motorcycles echoes through the canyons. Closed by storm damage since the Winter of 2005, Highway 2 from Islip Saddle to Vincent Gap is open again.

It is also busy on the Pacific Crest Trail. I'm southbound on the PCT, and some of the hikers I've talked to are doing the route I'm doing -- an out and back from Islip Saddle (6593') to Mt. Baden-Powell (9,399'). At least one group has set up a car shuttle, and will descend to Vincent Gap after climbing Baden-Powell.

A patch of snow on the PCT near the switchbacks on the northeast slopes of Throop Peak Northbound on the PCT, there has been a mix of youth groups returning to Islip Saddle after a night under the stars, and PCTers on their way to Canada. Nearly 400 miles into their 2650 mile trek, the PCTers look great, and if their broad smiles are any indication, they are enjoying life on the trail.

Whether hiking a couple of miles, or a couple thousand miles, it is great day to be outdoors. The weather is cool, and there is not a cloud in the sky. There are patches of snow here and there, and even some snow on the trail. My legs feel good, and I feel good.

Today I decided to keep things simple. Rather than climb Mt. Islip and other peaks along the way, I'm doing a basic out and back route to Baden-Powell. Even so, it's no cakewalk. A quick calculation using the topo map gives an honest elevation gain/loss of at least 3600 ft.

Earlier, as I worked my way above Windy Gap, I was surprised to feel and then hear a distant, powerful, rumbling ka-boom! It wasn't a motorcycle, or thunder -- it was Space Shuttle Atlantis landing at Edwards!

Pine Mountain, Dawson Peak, and Mt. San Antonio (Mt. Baldy) from Mt. Baden-Powell With a few stops, and a mix of hiking and running, it takes me about 2.5 hours to get to Baden-Powell. No one is on the summit. Across Vincent Gulch, Mt. Baldy (10,064') looms in the haze. A few ribbons of snow embellish its north face.

I grab a Clif Bar from my pack, and walk along the ridge, looking at the weather worn trees. After a few minutes, I return to the summit and then descend to the Wally Waldron Tree. For an impulsive moment I briefly debate continuing down to Vincent Gap and doing the South Fork loop. It would "only" be about 7 miles longer, and I'd never done the loop counterclockwise... but instead I hang a left onto the PCT and take the first strides toward Islip Saddle. Maybe next time.

Here's a Google Earth browser view of a GPS trace of the approximately 16.5 mile route.

Some related posts: San Gabriels High Five, Snowless San Gabriels

Sunday, May 24, 2009 4:57:29 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, May 17, 2009

So far, Brett's intro to Bay Area trail running had taken me to the Marin Headlands and Pt. Reyes National Seashore -- outstanding areas in which to run and hike, with great scenery, terrain and courses. An area that might be overlooked by a visiting trail runner is the Presidio. That's where we were running this morning.

Warm weather had chased the fog away. Saturday, the high temp at SFO was 89 degrees, and today the high was forecast to be in the 90s. So it wasn't a big surprise that at 7:30, the temp was already near 70 when we descended the stairs at Inspiration Point. (SFO would set a record high of 93 later in the day.)

Brett at the start of the East Battery Trail on our Presidio loop trail run. Our loop started on the Ecology Trail and then worked down through the Main Post, under the 101, across Crissy Marsh, and onto the Golden Gate Promenade (Bay Trail). From the Promenade there were iconic views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, Marin, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Just past the Warming Hut we turned up the East Battery Trail stairs, and then continued west, under the southern abutments of the bridge.

Here we followed the Coastal Trail past several 100+ year old defense batteries, to another nice overlook of the Golden Gate. After clambering up on one of the battlements, we headed east to Fort Scott and picked up the Bay Area Ridge Trail. This segment took us through the Presidio's trademark pine, cypress and eucalyptus forest to the high point of the course near Rob Hill Campground, then along the Presidio Golf Course, and finally down past Andy Goldsworthy’s cypress spire to the car. From the point of view of this out-of-towner, the course was spectacular, and it's hard to imagine an urban run with more variety!

Our particular loop worked out to about 5.5 miles, with an elevation gain/loss of about 450 ft. Here's a Presidio Trust map of Presidio Trails and Overlooks (PDF), a NPS Presidio Map, and a Google Earth browser view of a GPS trace of our loop.

I had a great time in San Francisco, and can't wait to get back and see more... Thanks Brett & Amanda!

Sunday, May 17, 2009 9:09:23 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sprawling eucalyptus on the Coast Trail, near the Sky Trail junction, in Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

Like an Ent, of Tolkien's Middle Earth, the huge tree hummed softly. We were on the Coast Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, near Kelham Beach, about halfway into a 14.5 mile hike/run. We'd paused under the sprawling limbs of the Tasmanian blue gum to enjoy its shade and eat a quick snack.

Pt. Resistance and Pt. Reyes from the Sky Trail, near its junction with the Coast Trail. Rather than the singing of an Ent,  the resonating buzz was from the wing-beats of many thousands of bees, foraging in the tree. But, it was certainly the kind of day an Ent would relish. Instead of fog and chill gales, the day was warm, with just enough of a breeze to tickle a leaf. Below the bluff, a lazy ocean lapped at the shore, barely mustering enough strength to generate an occasional wave.

Awed by the size of the tree, Brett, Amanda and I joined hands to create a crude measuring tape, but our combined reach only encircled about half of the trunk. We estimated its girth at chest height to be about 30 ft! An oak tree this size would be ancient -- perhaps several hundred to a 1000 years old. But, eucalyptus followed the Gold Rush into California, and the tree could be no older than about 150 years!

It was comfortable in the shade of the tree, and we were not in a rush to get back on the trail. Near record high temperatures had been forecast, and the expected 70-80 degree temps along the coast and 90-100 degree temps inland seemed about right.

Lush Douglas fir forest along the Sky Trail in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. We'd started at the Sky trailhead on Limantour Road, and followed the Sky Trail up through lush Douglas fir forest, past Sky Camp, to the Woodward Valley Trail. Here, at an impossibly green meadow, we had turned off the Sky Trail, and followed the Woodward Valley Trail down the shoulder of the ridge to its junction with the Coast Trail.

Now we had to get that elevation back. Nearby a hummingbird dashed and darted among the peach colored monnkeyflowers, and lodged a territorial complaint as we returned to his trail. In a couple of minutes we turned sharply left onto the Sky Trail and began the steep climb back up the hill.

Here's a NPS map of Pt. Reyes (PDF) and Google Earth browser view of a GPS trace of our route.

Tomorrow, a loop through the Presidio and under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Saturday, May 16, 2009 4:41:44 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #