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.
# Thursday, March 25, 2010

Castle Peak from the West

Castle Peak from a trail near the northern boundary of Ahmanson Ranch, west of El Scorpion Park.

From today's 8.5 mile circuit around Ahmanson Ranch.

Thursday, March 25, 2010 12:17:59 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Monday, March 22, 2010

Poison oak flowers

This time of year if you're running in Southern California's canyons and notice a subtle, pleasantly pungent, and slightly sweet fragrance wafting about the area, look around, poison oak is probably near.

The small, greenish, five-petaled blossoms generally hide under the "leaves of three" and are easy to miss.

From today's run in the Simi Hills.

Related post: Poison Oak

Monday, March 22, 2010 6:44:26 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, March 21, 2010

No doubt about it, waterfalls have a special attraction. Angel Falls, Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls, Yosemite Falls -- people travel the world and spend thousands to see them.

They are the five star hikes in guidebooks, and THE iconic image of the outdoors. They are so compelling that I have been running on a trail along a dry creek, on a 100 degree summer day, when it hasn't rained for months, and been asked, "How far is it to the waterfall?"

To be an attraction they need not be big, spectacular, or even flowing. One of the most popular hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains is the mile-plus hike from Temescal Gateway Park to the ephemeral 10 ft. cascades of Temescal Canyon Falls.

Waterfalls must tweak our aesthetic being in such a way we just can't resist. If you spend much time in the outdoors, or even if you don't, you've probably done at least one hike to see a waterfall.

Here's a California State Park Press Release from 2006 listing some waterfalls in, or near, California's State Parks.

Sunday, March 21, 2010 6:53:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, March 20, 2010

End of Joes Diner on Upper Kern River.

Kern Canyon along Hwy 178 Paddled Limestone on the Upper Kern today. The flow on the Upper was about 1000 cfs, midday temps were around 70, and the water a balmy 40-something. Given the good Spring flow and weather, we were surprised no other paddlers were on this section of the river.

The drive between Kernville and the San Joaquin Valley was exceptionally scenic. Kern Canyon's steep slopes were as green as they get.

Saturday, March 20, 2010 11:11:05 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Even if the calendar is a little slow, Spring is here. The oaks are leafing out, goldfields blooming, chorus frogs  singing, and I just had my first rattlesnake encounter of the year.

The single track trail paralleled the dirt road in upper Las Virgenes Canyon. I weaved and wound my way through the grassland and oaks, eventually returning to the road near the connector to Cheeseboro Canyon.

Usually, the sound of my footfalls would be enough to abruptly silence the sing-song of the frogs at the creek crossing. As I approached the creek, the calls slowed but did not stop. I paused at a small pool and stood quietly.

Over a period of seconds, the chorus of the frogs grew to a surprising intensity, interleaving and reverberating in such a way as to envelop me in sound. In the small pond at my feet, I could not see the frogs, but I could see the waves and ripples of their calls on the water's surface. Immersed in sound, I stood still for a few moments, and then crossed the creek, and continued down the canyon.

I'd been thinking about it earlier in the run. Highs had been in the 80's since Monday. Was three days enough to get the rattlesnakes out and about?

I reacted to the rattle before I heard it, leaping away from the sound. The snake was in the grass at the margin of the trail, about halfway up "the Beast," west of Lasky Mesa. It was nearly invisible in the tall grass, and only an inch or two off the overgrown path. Fortunately, it's reaction had been similar to mine, a defensive recoil, rather than a strike.

The adrenalin of the encounter quickened my pace up the hill. At the top of a hill, a falcon flew from a sentinel oak. I followed its flight until it disappeared in the glare of the setting sun, and sighed...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 9:17:04 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lenticular wave clouds northwest of Los Angeles.

Because of their unusual "flying saucer" appearance, lens shaped lenticular clouds have long drawn attention. According to a research article in Weather, depictions of wave clouds appear in Gothic art from the 15th century.

Lenticular clouds typically form when wind flows into, and then up and over a mountain range, creating a series of "roller coaster" atmospheric waves downwind of the range. Lenticular clouds can (but don't always) form in the peaks of the waves, as a layer of air rides up a wave, and cools and condenses. The waves are called standing waves because the peaks and troughs can stay (more or less) in the same place for hours at a time.

The rising air on the windward side of a lee wave can be soared by gliders to high altitudes. According to the FAI, the current world absolute altitude record for gliders is 15,460 meters (50,722 ft.). This record was set by the late Steve Fossett in 2006, soaring a mountain wave in the Andes. Mountain wave soaring was pioneered on the east side of the Sierra, and several single place sailplane world altitude records have been set soaring the Sierra wave.

Lee waves also have a nefarious side. Rotors, breaking waves, and other phenomena associated with mountain waves can create extreme turbulence. A sailplane destroyed in early research on rotors was estimated to have experienced 16 g of acceleration. According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, "clear air turbulence associated with a mountain wave ripped apart a BOAC Boeing 707 while it flew near Mt. Fuji in Japan. In 1968, a Fairchild F-27B lost parts of its wings and empennage, and in 1992 a Douglas DC-8 lost an engine and wingtip in mountain wave encounters."

The wave clouds above were photographed northwest of Los Angeles during a trail run earlier this month. The wind forming the wave clouds appears to be from the north-northeast. The situation was peculiar because the wind at nearly all levels at that time was from the northwest. The tops of the wave clouds are being sheared by winds blowing from the northwest (left to right).

Here's an animated series of NRL satellite photos showing the waves pictured above, and the complex wind and wave pattern at the time of the photograph.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 12:48:39 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Monday, March 15, 2010

Salomon XT Hawk 2 Trail Running Shoe

It's funny the things you think about during a race. Running down the Chumash Trail in the Bandit 30K on Saturday, one of my thoughts was, "Wow, these may be the most comfortable trail shoes I've ever run in."

Salomon XT Hawk 2 speed laces I purchased my XT Hawk 2's from Zappos a couple of weeks ago. Right out of the box there were several things I liked about the shoes:

  • They are light. My pair of US size 9's tipped the scale at a light 22.3 oz. This is about the same as the Salomon SpeedComp. 
  • The shoes fit well. No weird seams, pressure points or other problems.
  • The updated speed-lacing system is symmetric. It has no offset lace anchor across the toe, and uses a new eyelet design. I've never had Salomon speed-lacing fray on shoes with symmetric lacing, and the new eyelet should make the laces even more bombproof.
  • The outsole looks nearly identical to the sole on the XT Wings, which in my experience provides a good balance of traction versus predictability.

Out on the trail, the first thing that stood out was the shoe's cushioning. It feels like the shoe has more cushioning than either the original XT Wings or SpeedComp. The heel is particularly well cushioned, but for mid-foot strikers like me, there is also plenty of forefoot cushioning.
What I didn't notice until I was running down the irregular surfaces of the Chumash Trail is how the XT Hawk 2's combination of flexibility, support and cushioning combine to produce a really comfortable ride. Based on the shoe's performance on the Bandit's tough 19.5 mile course, I'm looking forward to trying the shoe on some longer mountain runs or races.

Monday, March 15, 2010 6:17:12 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, March 07, 2010

Conejo Valley from the north side of Boney Mountain.

Pushed up and over Boney Mountain's two thousand foot western escarpment, Pacific winds condense into thick cloud along its jagged crest. At times breaking free of the mountain's grasp, patches of cloud drift eastward, creating a patchwork of sun and shadow on the steep slopes, and in the valley below.

HD video snapshot from Boney Mountain In the distance, the Ventura Mountains gleam with a mix of snow and cloud, and below the fields of Satwiwa stand out vibrant and green. At my feet hundreds of purple shooting stars dance in the wind; and nearby yesterday's rain seeps and trickles from moss to lichen on the scraggy volcanic rock.

It is a remarkable morning, and an exceptional one to be doing the Boney Mountain north side loop. Here's a short HD video of some of the views along the way. (If the video doesn't play cleanly the first time through because of bandwidth issues, let it finish and then try playing it a second time.)

Sunday, March 07, 2010 8:29:51 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Paintbrush Red

From today's run in the Malibu Hills.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010 8:57:12 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Monday, March 01, 2010

Winter into Spring the purple flowers of wishbone bush (Mirabilis californica) are found along sun-warmed sections of low elevation trails in much of Southern California.

The plant's common name refers to the stems of the plant, which are repeatedly forked.

From today's run in the Simi Hills.

Monday, March 01, 2010 10:28:22 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Sunday, February 28, 2010

View from Simi Valley to the Sea

Rain-washed skies resulted in some long views from Rocky Peak road this morning. Fifty miles to the west, the Channel Islands were easily seen, and to the east Santiago Peak could be seen above a layer of low clouds, some 75 miles distant.

From today's run from Corriganville to "Fossil Point" on the Bandit 30K course.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 8:40:51 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Chumash Trail, Simi Valley, California

The 2.5 mile run down the Chumash Trail is my favorite section of the Bandit 30K course. Mike Kuhn and the Rancho Simi Trail Blazers work hard to keep this single track trail in top shape. Th trail is technical, but fast, and the views are superb.

The Bandit course has a character all its own, with a great mix of spectacular scenery, challenging terrain, technical single track trails, and wide open fire roads. This year, the 14K course has been extended to 15K, turning around at the junction of the Chumash Trail and Rocky Peak Road.

The Bandit trail runs are coming up in two weeks -- Saturday, March 13. For all the details see the Bandit 30K/15K web site.

Update 12/09/10. The date of the 2011 Bandit 15K/30K is Sunday, February 20th. A 50K distance has been added! Here's a Google Earth flyover of the Bandit 30K course, created from a GPS trace of the 2010 race.

Photos are from today's run on the Chumash Trail.

Related post: Bandit 30K 2009

Thursday, February 25, 2010 10:50:05 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #