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.
# Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Salomon XT Wings 2 Trail Running Shoe

Wow -- what a great ride! That was my impression the first time I used the Salomon XT Wings trail running shoe, and seven pairs and a couple thousand miles later, the XT Wings is still my shoe of choice for longer trail runs. Now the shoe has been upgraded to the XT Wings 2, and the good news is Salomon listened to the feedback from runners, and made a very good shoe even better.

XT Wings Comparison One of the most obvious changes in the XT Wings 2 is the change from an asymmetric speed-lacing system that would sometimes fray, to a symmetric speed-lacing system with lower friction eyelets. None of my Salomon trail shoes with symmetric lacing have had lace-fraying issues, and these new laces look bombproof!

Update 07/05/10. I now have about 190 miles on each of three pairs of Salomons with the the new eyelets (XT Wings, XT Wings 2 & XT Hawk 2), and I've had no problems with the laces fraying.

Not so obvious until you run in the shoe is the redesign of the toe cap to increase flexibility. I thought the gait transition was smooth in the original XT Wings, and it is even better now. I was also happy to find that my new pair of XT Wings 2 (US Size 9.0) weigh 26 oz., which is a bit less than my first pair of XT Wings.

The shoes felt great on Sunday's Trippet Ranch loop; they had that familiar XT Wings' combination of comfort, smooth ride, cushioning, traction and support.

Related posts: Salomon XT Hawk 2, Salomon XT Wings

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 9:50:31 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bush sunflowers along the Secret Trail

This Spring it has been especially easy to choose a good trail run in Southern California -- run anywhere there's a trail and some open space!

It's been warm and dry in recent weeks, but rainfall in the Los Angeles area in October, December, January and February was above normal. The hills are green, small streams are flowing, and the chaparral is blooming. Don't miss out! Pick a local trail and go for a run, hike or ride!

The photograph of bush sunflowers and Saddle Peak is from today's run on the Secret Trail in Calabasas.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 11:14:42 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fiesta flower (Pholistoma auritum)

Fiesta flower (Pholistoma auritum) near Big Cone Camp in Santa Paula Canyon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010 9:35:01 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #   
# 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)  #