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.
# Friday, October 01, 2010

Hot on the heels of our record setting Autumn heatwave, an upper level low off the coast has been spinning subtropical moisture into Southern California. The unstable weather has produced some impressive clouds, isolated showers, strong thunderstorms, as well as a few rainbows. This thunderstorm development is north of Los Angeles.

From today's run in the Simi Hills.

Friday, October 01, 2010 4:01:20 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Thursday, September 30, 2010

...Or maybe tap water in a reusable container?

Here's more info about Boxed Water is Better.

From today's run at Ahmanson Ranch.

Thursday, September 30, 2010 3:54:53 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Study of the leaflets of a tree of heaven

Study of the leaflets of a tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima).

An invasive plant introduced from China, Ailanthus is very common along the Kern River. It appears to be well-adapted to growing in the cobble along stream banks. It spreads through root sprouting and seeds, producing thickets which displace native vegetation.

According to Wikipedia, the tree of heaven "Was mentioned in the oldest extant Chinese dictionary and listed in countless Chinese medical texts for its purported ability to cure ailments ranging from mental illness to baldness."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 3:43:43 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Williamson Rock in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Los Angeles.

Originally posted 5/27/07. Previously updated 9/15/10. Scoping letter info added 12/22/13.

Update 12/22/13. New Williamson Rock/PCT scoping letter, dated 12/18/13, from Angeles National Forest to "consider resuming recreation opportunities in the currently closed area, in and around Williamson Rock." The following information regarding comments is excerpted from the letter WITH THE EMAIL ADDRESS CORRECTED per Justin Seastrand (FS):

To Submit Comments

Two opportunities will be provided for you to submit written comments specific to this proposed project, prior to a final decision. The first opportunity is the scoping period, which is currently underway and will continue through January 24, 2014. Issues identified during scoping will help determine the range of issues to be considered in the environmental analysis and will help determine whether alternatives to the proposed action should be developed and analyzed. A project website - - has been established and will be used to post documents and periodic updates on the process.

In order to receive full consideration your comments should be postmarked or received by January 24, 2014. Comments may be mailed to the following address:

Jose Henriquez, Williamson Rock/PCT ID Team
Angeles National Forest
701 N. Santa Anita Ave
Arcadia, CA 91006-2725

Comments may also be e-mailed to the following:

To help us identify your e-mails faster, please use "Williamson Rock" as part of the subject heading/e-mail title.

To be most useful, your comments should focus on specific issues, and identify which aspect of the proposed action your comments are addressing. Please include concerns you believe should be considered before a decision on the proposed action is reached. Your comments must also contain the following:

Name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address (if available);
Title of the project (Williamson Rock); and
Comments, along with supporting reasons, that you believe the Forest Service
should consider in evaluating the proposal.

Upon completion of the environmental analysis and prior to the signing of a decision document, a second designated opportunity to comment will be provided to the public. A copy of the draft environmental document and draft Decision Notice will be posted to the project website for review and comment. You will be notified at that time, by letter, web notification, and publication of a legal notice.

All comments received become a part of the project record and are available for public review.


Located in Angeles National Forest (ANF), Williamson Rock is an area of exceptional scenic and recreational value. Because of its proximity to Los Angeles, variety of climbing routes, scenic beauty, and moderate summertime temperatures, it is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in Southern California.

In December 2005, in order to protect critical habitat of the mountain yellow-legged frog (MYLF), the Forest Service “temporarily” closed approximately 1,000 acres in the upper Little Rock Creek drainage in the San Gabriel Mountains. The closed area includes Williamson Rock, and the Pacific Crest Trail between Eagle's Roost and the Burkhart Trail.

In May 2007 the Forest Service issued a press release and scoping letter proposing an access trail and initiating an environmental analysis. Now, nearly five years after the "temporary" closure of Williamson Rock, and following many delays, Angeles National Forest has completed a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) whose bottom line recommendation is to extend the closure another three years!

In the draft EA, the Forest Service says the extension is needed,"while neighboring [MYLF] population segments are given time to rebound from the effects of wildfire and consequent watershed emergency."

The Forest Service's recommendation to extend the closure is based on a false premise, that closure of MYLF habitat, and adjacent land, will protect the MYLF population. There is substantial evidence that this is not the case. This was recognized in the 1999 paper (Mahony, et al.) in which researchers assessed the disappearances and declines among Australian frogs and proposed methods to prevent further losses:

"It is generally accepted that the least expensive way of preventing extinction and loss of biodiversity is the maintenance of habitats. This argument is well established in the conservation biology literature (Caughley and Gunn 1996), however, it does not consider or deal with a situation such as that which currently faces frogs in Australia and globally. One of the puzzling features is that species have disappeared from areas of pristine or near pristine habitat and areas of large reserves where there are no indications of habitat destruction. Similarly, there is no evidence that an introduced competitor or predator is responsible, apart from the hypothesis that an introduced pathogen is involved (Laurance et al. 1996). Preservation of habitat or declarations of new reserves would not have halted or prevented the loss of the majority of species."

Since this paper was published, there has been much research in this area, and there is a growing body of evidence that global declines in many species of frogs, including the MYLF, is due to infection from the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd).

It is believed that the fungus is spread through its own movement in water, the flow of water, and by the activity of infected amphibians. Because infection has occurred in pristine, widely separated populations, it is hypothesized that other vectors, such as birds, fish, animals or insects, could play an important role in its spread. Research has shown that spread by birds and other mechanisms are a possibility (Johnson & Speare, 2005). It is also a possibility that Bd has been present in amphibian populations worldwide for some time (Rachowicz et al., 2006).

In support of its recommendation that the Williamson closure should be extended, the EA states, "Indirect impacts to the frogs include the spread of pathogens, such as chytrid fungus, inadvertently carried into the habitat by visitors."

I have found no published evidence that recreational activities, such as rock climbing, are the proximate cause of the spread of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis into MYLF habitat. It would seem especially unlikely in the context of rock climbing in usually warm and dry Southern California. Desiccation kills the fungus. In the 2005 study by Johnson & Speare, in which zoospores and zoosporangia were introduced on feathers, under most circumstances the fungus became inviable after 2 hours of drying.

According to the EA, all remaining units of the Southern California distinct vertebrate population segment (DPS) of the MYLF have already been confirmed positive for presence of Bd. This suggests that a frog unaffected by Bd is much more likely to be infected by natural mechanisms and vectors from within the infected population rather than by Bd brought into the habitat by a human visitor.

Under the EA's Alternative 3 (The Recreational Development Alternative), in which climbers would be routed away from MYLF habitat, the probability of climbers spreading Bd from outside the habitat, or physically harming the frogs, or disrupting their habitat, would appear to be almost nil.

Rather than extending an unnecessarily prohibitive closure that is unlikely to benefit the MYLF, a plan such as Alternative 3 (The Recreational Development Alternative) should be adopted, and Williamson Rock reopened to climbing.


The efforts of the climbing community are being coordinated by the Friends of Williamson Rock in partership with the Access Fund and the Allied Climbers of San Diego. The Access Fund is a national, non-profit climbers' organization dedicated to preserving the natural resources used by climbers, and climbers' access to those resources.

Comments regarding the draft EA, and the recommendation to extend the closure of Williamson Rock for another three years, must be submitted by October 1, 2010. Send to:

Darrell Vance
Attn: Williamson Rock Environmental Assessment
701 N. Santa Anita Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91006

For more information, see the Friends of Williamson Rock blog.

The photograph of Williamson Rock was taken on the PCT while doing the run Pleasant View Ridge on July 2, 2006.

Related post: Complications

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 3:16:47 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Monday, September 27, 2010

Record heat in Southern California

Today at 12:15 p.m. PDT the temperature at Downtown Los Angeles (USC) reached 113°F (45°C), which is the highest temperature recorded downtown since weather recordkeeping began in 1877.

It wasn't quite as hot in the San Fernando Valley. The high temperature at Pierce College reached 110°F.

When I started my run at Ahmanson Ranch it was 106°F. I took two bottles with ice water. One was used to keep my arms, legs and head/neck wet. With the relative humidity low, this was very effective for cooling. I picked a 45-50 minute course that was not too strenuous, and kept the pace moderate.

It was a surprisingly moderate run, but I sure wouldn't want to run out of water or have some other problem when the temperature is that high!

Monday, September 27, 2010 10:32:22 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# 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:

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)  #