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.
# Saturday, June 04, 2011

Complex of mountain wave clouds to the north-northeast of Mt. Pinos

These unusual clouds are a complex of lenticular clouds to the north-northeast of Mt. Pinos, photographed this morning from near Mt. Abel. They were produced by strong south-southwesterly winds blowing across the east-west oriented Emigdio and Tehachapi mountain ranges, north of Los Angeles. Here's another view of these clouds from near the summit of Mt. Pinos.

The winds were associated with the circulation of an unseasonably strong low pressure system off the California coast. The storm system has resulted in measurable rain as far south as Santa Barbara County, and new rainfall records for the date were set in San Francisco, Paso Robles and Santa Maria.

The photographs were taken during a blustery out and back trail run from Mt. Pinos to Mt. Abel on the Vincent Tumamait Trail in the Chumash Wilderness. At the start of the run, the temperature at the Chula Vista trailhead (8400') on Mt. Pinos was a chilly 39°F. In exposed areas the wind speed was 20-25 mph with gusts to around 50 mph.

Other than the potential for deadfall, the wind wasn't too bad in the trees. The Vincent Tumamait Trail was in the best condition I've seen in years.

Update June 6, 2011. The low that was off the Central California coast Saturday and most of Sunday and an associated cold front set a new rainfall record for June 5 at Santa Barbara Airport, and produced a few sprinkles and showers in the Los Angeles area.

Some related posts: Mountain Weather, Lenticular Wave Clouds, Mt. Pinos - Mt. Abel Out & Back

Saturday, June 04, 2011 4:30:30 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, May 29, 2011

Scorched Jeffrey Pines on the South Side of Waterman Mountain
Scorched Jeffrey Pines on the South Side of Waterman Mountain

It was very odd to run up the Mt. Waterman Trail on the Sunday of a 3-day Memorial Day weekend, and see no one. And hear nothing, except the wind in the trees, the distant call of a jay, and the periodic drone of a contractor's truck working on the highway. That's because -- surprise, surprise -- Angeles Crest Highway was closed a little east of Three Points and on to Islip Saddle. CalTrans Road Conditions had only listed the Winter closure from Islip Saddle to Vincent Gap. Based on the number of cars parked at the closure, not many people knew about it.

I hadn't known about it until I saw the Ranger's truck and closed gate from the Pacific Crest Trail. I was doing a loop from Three Points up the PCT to the Burkhart Trail, then up to Buckhorn, over Mt. Waterman, and back down to Three Points. Part of this loop -- from Mt. Waterman to Three Points on Trail 10W04 -- had just reopened, and like last weekend I wanted to see how recovery from the 2009 Station Fire was progressing.

The conditions were much better on this loop, than last week's. Although within the initial Station Fire Closure area, and closed for eight months, 11 of the first 13.5 miles of the loop were not burned in the Station Fire. This mostly unburned stretch opened in late May 2010 and is described in the post Three Points to Waterman Mountain, the Long Way.

The remaining six miles of the loop, which winds in and out of the shallow canyons on the south side of Mt. Waterman, was in the burn area. Conditions along the trail appeared to generally correspond to BAER burn severity maps and images. At the higher elevations, fingers of the fire had run up the steep slopes, burning understory and scattered Jeffrey pines and incense cedars, while leaving other areas untouched.

At lower elevation, particularly in the chaparral and pine at the head of the north branch of Devils Canyon, the fire effects were more severe. The chaparral is recovering, but numerous Coulter and Jeffrey pines appeared to have been killed, and their replacement will be a slower process. This area is traversed by the last two miles of Trail 10W04, leading to Three Points.

There was very little, if any, damage from runoff and the trail was generally in good shape. The trail was slightly overgrown in spots, particularly at lower elevation, but was nothing like the Gabrielino Trail between Switzer and Red Box. There was some Turricula (Poodle-dog bush) at lower elevation, but for the most part it was fairly easy to avoid. Some pine needle covered sections of trail were indistinct, but it was like that before the fire.

From a trail running perspective, it is still a very "runnable" course with varied terrain and much to see and enjoy. Cooper Canyon Falls is very short side trip from the PCT's junction with the Burkhart Trail. The side trip to the summit of Mt. Waterman (8038') adds about two miles to the loop.

Some related posts: Three Points - Mt. Waterman Loop, Three Points Loop Plus Mt. Waterman

Sunday, May 29, 2011 4:47:54 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, May 28, 2011

Turricula Along the Silver Moccasin Trail at Shortcut Saddle
Turricula (Poodle-dog bush) Along the Silver Moccasin Trail at Shortcut Saddle

I knew Turricula (Poodle-dog bush)* was a common fire follower, but had never run or hiked through a burn area where it was abundant. Wow, it was everywhere on the Red Box - Bear Canyon - Gabrielino Loop last Saturday, and particularly dense on sections of the Gabrielino Trail between Switzers and Red Box. It appears to be one of the most common fire-followers in the Station Fire burn area, and likely plays an important role in the recovery process.

Gland-tipped hairs on the plant secrete a sticky substance that  causes a rash "like poison oak" in sensitized persons. There must be some threshold of exposure, because I have brushed against the leaves of Turricula many times before without reacting to it. This time my exposure was repeated, frequent, and prolonged; and the leaves were heavily coated with exudate. At the end of the loop my legs and forearms were coated with a thick layer of resinous brown gunk that would not wash off with water.

By the time I had finished the run, talked to some people at Red Box, and driven home, 2-3 hours had passed. Tecnu helped remove the resinous goo, but as I would discover a couple days later, it did not prevent me from getting the rash.

My reaction to Turricula was quite a bit different than what I've experienced with poison oak. A blotchy red rash developed on my arms and legs Monday, about 48 hours after exposure. After another 24 hours I thought the rash was going away, but it was actually morphing into a more widespread and uniform inflammation that was similar to bad sunburn -- a very itchy sunburn. There was some swelling and edema, particularly on my ankles. In the areas that had the most contact with the Turricula, primarily my shins and around my knees, there was some blistering. The blisters were small, perhaps 1/16 inch in diameter or less.

Most of the blisters were gone by Thursday afternoon, and since then the inflammation has been slowly subsiding. Although very itchy and annoying at times, it has not been debilitating. An equivalent exposure to poison oak would have been much more severe. However, in my case an underlying irritation or sensitivity has lingered for some time after the visible reaction dissipated. It seems like it will probably take a few more days for the reaction to completely resolve. We'll see!

Update July 12, 2011. My reaction to Turricula cleared after about two weeks. A running friend who recently did some trail work removing Turricula on the Kenyon Devore Trail sent this photograph of a blotchy red rash that developed on his forearm. He first noticed a reaction four days after doing the trail work, and the photograph was taken 10 days after exposure. As in my case, several hours later he commented that the blotchy rash had merged into a more general inflammation with swelling.

Research has found the dermatitic agents in the Turricula exudate are "phacelioids," hydroquinone based compounds structurally related to poison oak/ivy urushiols, but not as active. In one study the amount of the phacelioids in Turricula required to produce a qualified reaction was 100 times that required for a component of urushiol from poison ivy -- 170 µg vs 1.6 µg.

It is also noted that in place oxidation of hydroquinone based phacelioids is likely necessary to interact with the proteins of the skin and produce a reaction. This (and common sense) suggests that leaving the Turricula exudate on your skin for several hours (like I did) is probably a bad idea.

For more information see:

Prenylated Phenolics that Cause Contact Dermatitis from Glandular Trichomes of Turricula parryi. G. W. Reynolds, P. Proksch, E. Rodriguez, Planta Medica, 1985; 51(6): 494-498

Unusual contact allergens from plants in the family Hydrophyllaceae. G. W. Reynolds, W. L. Epstein, E. Rodriguez, Contact Dermatitis, 1986; 14:39-44

The book Poisonous plants of California by Thomas C. Fuller, Elizabeth May McClintock (1986) describes a 1941 incident in which hairs from old flowering stalks "easily broken from the stems" caused a rash, but flowering plants the previous year did not.

*The taxonomic name for Turricula parryi (Poodle-dog bush) has changed to Eriodictyon parryi. The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, Second Edition (2012) has returned Turricula to the genus Eriodictyon, as originally described by Gray. According to the Wikipedia entry for Turricula (April 11, 2012), "... molecular phylogenetic analysis carried out by Ferguson (1998) confirms that Turricula should be treated as a separate genus within a clade (Ferguson does not use the term "subfamily") that includes Eriodictyon, and also the genera Nama and Wigandia; Eriodictyon is the genus to which Turricula is closest in molecular terms, and is its sister taxon." I use "Turricula" and "Poodle-dog bush" interchangeably as a common name.

Related post: Turricula Along Angeles Crest Highway and these additional posts.

Saturday, May 28, 2011 8:48:52 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Speckled clarkia (Clarkia cylindrica ssp. cylindrica)

Speckled clarkia (Clarkia cylindrica ssp. cylindrica) along the Cage Creek Trail.

From Sunday's run in Malibu Creek State Park.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 3:56:51 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Large poison oak leaves

Most chaparral plants thrive in years in which we have above average rainfall, including poison oak. This poison oak is on the Phantom Trail in Malibu Creek State Park.

From Sunday's trail run.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 3:51:53 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Monday, May 23, 2011

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)

Some invasive plants, such as this milk thistle (Silybum marianum) on the Phantom Trail in Malibu Creek State Park, appear to respond disproportionately to above average rainfall and become particularly large and prolific.

From Sunday's trail run.

Related posts: Convoluted, Milk Thistle Seed Heads

Monday, May 23, 2011 3:42:32 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, May 22, 2011

Coulter's Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri)

Coulter's Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) along the Cistern Trail, Malibu Creek State Park.

From this afternoon's run of the Phantom loop -- a course than links together the Cistern, Lookout, Cage Creek, Crags Rd., Grassland, Liberty Canyon, and Phantom trails.

Sunday, May 22, 2011 3:45:53 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, May 21, 2011

Recovering chaparral and bigcone Douglas-fir in Bear Canyon 19 months after the Station Fire
Recovering Chaparral and Bigcone Douglas-fir in Bear Canyon

Most Southern Californians have direct experience with wildfire and its effects. Wildfires are often described as being a "natural part of the ecosystem," but in Southern California wildfire is anything but natural. Urbanization, land management policies and firefighting practices shape fire frequency, behavior, intensity and effects -- often with unexpected and tragic consequences.

According to InciWeb, the Station Fire started on Wednesday August 26th, 2009 at approximately 03:30 p.m. and was fully contained at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 16, 2009. Two firefighters were killed in the arson caused blaze, numerous homes and structures were lost, and 160,577 acres burned. The fire was the largest recorded in Angeles National Forest since it was established in 1892 and the 10th largest fire in California since 1933.

In January 2011 the Station Fire Closure was updated and extended to January 2012. At that point, it looked like it might be a long time before any substantial part of the closure area would be opened to the public. But with increasing public pressure to open more of the Forest, Angeles National Forest reopened about half of the Station Fire Closure area earlier this week. Today I did a run/hike in the newly opened area to see first-hand how recovery from the fire, and subsequent debris flows and flash floods, is progressing 19 months after the fire was contained.

Saturday, May 21, 2011 11:19:23 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Photo study of morning glories along the Musch Trail

From Sunday's Trailer Canyon - Trippet Ranch loop.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 4:34:03 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Sunday, May 15, 2011

View west across Topanga Canyon to Saddle Peak from viewpoint near the Temescal Ridge Trail.

Southern California doesn't get much rain in May. On any given day in the middle of May the chance of measurable rain in Los Angeles is around 4 in 100. Overnight we'd beat those odds, and this morning the weather looked more like March than May.

The view above, across Topanga Canyon to Saddle Peak, is from a popular viewpoint off the Temescal Ridge Trail (Fire Road #30), about 4 miles into the Trailer Canyon - Trippet Ranch Loop. This 17 mile route is one of several excellent trail runs that start at Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park in the San Fernando Valley. It crosses the Santa Monica Mountains on the Temescal Ridge and Trailer Canyon fire roads, dropping down to Pacific Palisades, and then returns by way of Santa Ynez Canyon, Trippet Ranch, and the Musch & Garapito Trails.

Here's an interactive Google Earth browser view of a GPS trace of my route.

Some related posts: Garapito Trail Green, Garapito Trail Runs

Sunday, May 15, 2011 3:40:43 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Saturday, May 14, 2011

Southern California black walnut (Juglans californica)

The CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants lists Southern California black walnut (Juglans californica) as uncommon and fairly endangered.

Saturday, May 14, 2011 7:34:05 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
# Friday, May 13, 2011

View from Twin Peaks to Mt. Wilson

Good news! Beginning Monday, May 16, 2011, you'll have the option to take in the view above -- from Twin Peaks to Mt. Wilson -- and to enjoy the trails and peaks in most of the area pictured.

In an action that many felt was overdue, Angeles National Forest is reopening about half of the area currently closed as a result of the 2009 Station Fire. This reduces the closure area from 186,318 acres to 88,411 acres, and opens most of the Forest south/east of Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy 2) from Bear Canyon on the west to Twin Peaks on the east.

Some of the trails and peaks in the area to be reopened are the Sunset Ridge Trail, Bear Canyon Trail, segments of the Gabrielino Trail, Nature's Canteen Trail, San Gabriel Peak and Mt. Disappointment, Valley Forge Trail, Kenyon DeVore Trail, Silver Moccasin Trail, Pacific Crest Trail (some rerouting), Twin Peaks and the Mt. Waterman-Twin Peaks Trail from Three Points.

Some trails in the reopened area may be closed. According to the Forest Service, trails in the open area that are closed are:

- Dawn Mine
- Tom Sloan
- Vetter Mtn. Trail (access is via the road)
- Silver Moccasin in Charlton (users are directed on to the middle road to get to the portion that goes to Chilao.)

Just because a trail is open does not mean it is in good shape or risk-free. Natural hazards are present on virtually any trail, but may be more common in an area recently subjected to fire and flood.

For official information see the news release, detailed map, and other information related to Closure Order No. 01-11-03 on the Angeles National Forest web site.

Friday, May 13, 2011 10:32:01 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #