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.
# Sunday, September 26, 2010

Early morning practice run on the Miracle slalom course

The high at Isabella Dam reached 102°F, but it was cool along the Kern River for the 2010 edition of the Miracle Whitewater Slalom Race.

Thanks to the efforts of firefighters, the Canyon Fire had been 100% contained the previous weekend, and did not burn Hobo Campground or Miracle Hot Springs, where the slalom course is located.

Last Winter's big snowpack extended the season on both the Upper Kern and Lower Kern, and this year we were able to schedule the race in the Fall and still have excellent whitewater. Race day the flow came up to 890 cfs, a very good level for so late in the year.

The course was set so that no individual move was super difficult, but it was challenging to do the combined gate sequences well. Saturday, Olympic Silver Medalist Rebecca Giddens gave a pre-race clinic that helped paddlers deal with the difficulties of the course.

Thanks to everyone that paddled and helped with the race! Results will be posted on the KVRC web site soon.

Course description:

Gates #1 and #2 were downs in the wave train at the top of Hobo Rapid. They led to gate #3 -- a flushing up in small eddy on river left at the island. A peel-out to a down in the current, gate #4, was followed by a cross-current move behind the pour-over hole to an up, gate #5, at the base of the drop on river right. A tight turn out of gate #5 was required to setup gate #6, a dive gate that wanted to eddy-out your boat. This was followed by another up, gate #7, in a good eddy on river right. Next was a series of moderate offsets, gates #8, #9, #10, ending at the top of a small rapid. Gate #11, a down just below the drop, setup a move to river left through some turbulent water and a couple of rocks to an up, gate #12. 

The move from gate #12, across several current differentials to the tight down at gate #13, was one of the trickiest on the course, and there were a couple of 50's here. Gate #13 was followed by another down, which was offset from a dive gate on river left, gate #15. The dive gate was the lead-in to a nice left-to-right "S" at gate #16. Although it was in "easy" water, the next gate on river right, gate #17, was another up that was difficult to do well. Gate #18, a down, was the last gate.

Sunday, September 26, 2010 12:33:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mt. Baldy from the North Backbone Trail
Mt. Baldy from the North Backbone Trail

If you have a passion for the outdoors, you can get pretty creative when devising a reason for doing a particular run, hike, climb, ride, paddle or other adventure. My rationale for today's outing was that I "wanted to measure a tree."

The tree is an isolated and aged Sierra juniper poised on a rocky ridge on the North Backbone Trail on the back side of Mt. Baldy. I'd noticed it while doing the North Backbone Trail in 2006. At that time I had estimated the girth of the tree from a photograph, using my cap for scale. I've been intending to get back to the tree for years, and hopefully that was going to happen today.

With one little twist. This time, instead of approaching the tree from the Blue Ridge trailhead on the back side of Baldy, I was going to start at Manker Flat, climb up Baldy, and then descend the North Backbone Trail to the tree. This meant I would get to climb Mt. Baldy twice.

Sunday, September 19, 2010 10:29:58 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, September 12, 2010

Coach Las Llajas

Las Llajas Canyon is a quirky place with a colorful history that includes oil production, grit mining, cattle ranching, and land development.

Coach Las Llajas has been keeping an eye on things in the canyon for a few months now. I didn't check, but rumor has it he's wearing a New Basin Blues t-shirt.

Some related posts: Chumash-Las Llajas Loop, Las Llajas Longhorns, Exploring Las Llajas

Sunday, September 12, 2010 7:06:35 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, September 05, 2010

Natural trail marker on the western approach to New Army Pass

Of the trail runs I do regularly, the Cottonwood - New Army Pass loop is the closest one to Los Angeles that goes over 12,000'. It starts at an elevation of about 10,000', and reaches an elevation of 12,300' at New Army Pass.

The run loops through glacier-sculpted Eastern Sierra terrain, crosses the crest twice, and along the way passes some spectacular high mountain meadows, lakes, and stands of weather-hardened foxtail pines.

Because of the altitude and the technical nature of some sections of trail, this run feels longer than the 21.25 miles indicated by my GPS. Another reason it seems longer is that I usually do the run as a day trip, driving from a few hundred feet above sea level in the San Fernando Valley, up to the Horseshoe Meadow trailhead at 10,000'. Depending on the number of photo stops, and if I have to stop for water, the loop can take 30% to 40% longer than a loop of the same length and elevation gain near sea level.

Today's run of the loop was outstanding. Short-sleeve and running shorts weather, and people on the trail as happy to be there as I was.

Some related posts: Cottonwood - New Army Pass Loop, Mt. Langley in a Day from L.A., Climate Change and the Southern Foxtail Pine

Sunday, September 05, 2010 2:04:06 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, August 29, 2010

View east from Mt. Waterman to Mt. Baldy

Weekend highs in California were down 30-40 degrees from the searing temps earlier in the week. After dealing with the heat, my jaw dropped when I read Sunday's NWS forecast for the Eastern Sierra:

 .SUNDAY...PARTLY SUNNY. A CHANCE OF SNOW SHOWERS AND A SLIGHT
 CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS IN THE MORNING...THEN A CHANCE OF
 THUNDERSTORMS AND SNOW SHOWERS IN THE AFTERNOON. SNOW LEVEL ABOVE
 9000 FEET IN THE MORNING. HIGHS 40 TO 52 IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS...
 AROUND 59 NEAR 8500 FEET. WEST WIND AROUND 10 MPH SHIFTING TO THE
 SOUTH IN THE AFTERNOON. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 40 PERCENT.
 
Now that is great August weather forecast!
 
I couldn't get to the Sierra, but I could do a run in the Angeles High Country -- and I was willing to bet the upper level trough that was producing unsettled weather in the Sierra would also result in a cool, Autumn-like day in the San Gabriel Mountains.

And it did! Compared to my midweek runs, running up the Mt. Waterman trail was like going for a swim in a high mountain lake. Just spectacular!

Sunday, August 29, 2010 7:37:54 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Simi Valley from Rocky Peak
Simi Valley and the Pacific Coast from Rocky Peak Road

What better way to recover from the Bulldog 50K than running Ahmanson and Rocky Peak on two of the hottest days of the year?

Yesterday, Pierce College in Woodland Hills hit a scorching 111°F, and then today 109°F. At the start of today's run it was still over 100°F on Rocky Peak, but extra (ice) water, and a bit of a breeze kept things mostly reasonable.

No matter the weather, you'll always see someone else on Rocky Peak!

Some related posts: Rocky Peak Rainstorm, Snow on Oat Mountain

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 9:39:55 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, August 21, 2010

Goat Buttes and the Bulldog Climb from Near the Start of the Bulldog 50K
Goat Buttes and the Bulldog Climb from Near the Start

The week following the Mt. Disappointment 50K, with the Edison and Kenyon Devore climbs still etched in my mind, I noticed that the Bulldog 50K hadn't filled yet. Hmmm... Could I do it? The little hill on my Wednesday afternoon run hadn't felt bad. Thursday I had done a little longer run, with a little longer hill. It was no Bulldog climb, but it felt OK. I decided that if the 50K didn't fill by Friday, and the weather forecast for the race wasn't crazy hot, I'd give the Bulldog 50K a go.

Saturday, August 21, 2010 10:50:44 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, August 07, 2010

Mt. Disappointment 50K 2010

The most remarkable thing about this year's Mt. Disappointment Endurance run is that there was a 2010 race. The Station Fire and heavy Winter rains decimated the San Gabriel Mountains. Without the hard work and dedication of Gary & Pam Hilliard and a host of volunteers the 6th edition of the race never would have happened.

Saturday, August 07, 2010 2:27:33 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Developing Limber pine cones

Developing cones on a limber pine near the start of the Vincent Tumamait Trail on Mt. Pinos (8831'). Limber pines are a hardy, 5-needled, species generally found at higher altitude in the western U.S.

Limber pine (Pinus flexilis) is a white pine, related to whitebark and bristlecone pines. They are slow growing, and can be very long-lived. According to the Gymnosperm Database, two trees have been crossdated with ages of about 1600 years.

In Southern California limber pines are found on Mt. Pinos, Mt. Baden-Powell, San Gorgonio Mountain, Mt. San Jacinto, and some other areas above about 8500'.

Related post: Forest Green

Wednesday, August 04, 2010 12:50:48 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Friday, July 30, 2010

Chalk liveforever (Dudleya pulverulenta)

It was eerily quiet high on the mountain. No birds chattered in the chaparral, and it was so still the mountain seemed to be holding its breath. Sometimes in cloud and sometimes in sun I made my way along the rocky ridge. Was I on the correct route? In the thick brush and towering rocks it was hard to tell.

Descending along a narrow, rubble strewn path, I stopped at the base of a rocky outcrop. An odd plant was growing on the steeply inclined face, and I climbed up to take a closer look.

The plant looked as if it belonged in the Triassic. Long tentacle-like stalks radiated menacingly from a central spiral of pointed, wedge shaped leaves. The outer leaves of the rosette were wilted and rusty, and the entire plant had the chalky appearance of something that was part alive, and part dead.

I couldn't quite see the structure of the flowers and leaned closer to take a photo. Suddenly...

This is the point in the story where the plant should grab me, or release a puff of toxic dust from its flowers, or do something equally malevolent. Not this time. But I can't think of a more bizarre looking plant than a chalk liveforever on a rocky outcrop in full bloom.

From Sunday's Clouds & Crags trail run.

Some related posts: Chalk Liveforever, Canyon Liveforever

Friday, July 30, 2010 4:08:40 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, July 25, 2010

The clouds are in the Conejo Valley and the crags are a prominent highpoint on the ridge that tops the west face of Boney Mountain. Here's a Google Earth aerial view SSE along the ridge that shows the topography. From the upper cliffs the west face drops over 2000' to the Backbone Trail in Blue Canyon.

Ascending the western ridge, or easier eastern ridge, is an adventurous way to access the Backbone Trail from Wendy Dr. Once over Tri-Peaks and on the Backbone Trail several loop variations are possible. These range from a relatively direct return on the Boney Trail, to lengthy excursions to Serrano Valley or La Jolla Valley.

Today's variation worked out to about 20 miles. Once on the upper section of the Backbone Trail, I followed it west down the Chamberlain, Boney and Blue Canyon trails to the Danielson Multi-use area in Sycamore Canyon. After doing a circuit in Sycamore Canyon I picked up the Upper Sycamore Trail and headed back to Danielson Road, Satwiwa, and the trailhead at Wendy Drive.

Some related posts: Boney Mountain Western Ridge & Loop, Sandstone Peak from Wendy Drive, Boney Mountain North Side Loop

Sunday, July 25, 2010 7:17:07 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Friday, July 23, 2010

Yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus)

Like scarlet monkeyflower, yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) loves springs and seeps. These are at a spring at Sheep Camp, between Mt. Pinos and Mt. Abel.

From Sunday's run on the Vincent Tumamait and North Fork trails in the Chumash Wilderness.

Friday, July 23, 2010 6:58:21 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #