Four Balloons in the Badlands

I worked in the Badlands area of Riverside and San Bernardino counties this past week. As much of it isn't publicly-accessible, I spent much of that time feeling fairly isolated. None of that matters to the balloons, however, which go airborne from someone's hands in a celebration to land somewhere they do not belong. I found four during the survey: three on November 6, and one November 7.

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The Under-appreciated Black-tailed Jackrabbit

We are walking our fifteenth mile of the day. The accumulated sun and wind exposure while walking around sagebrush and over unstable volcanic rock has taken its toll. Attentiveness is flagging. I am starting to get tunnel vision as my blood sugar declines and I try to focus on the ground looking for animal burrows and scat. A sudden explosion next to my feet snaps me out of it.

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On the Potential Interface of Ultrarunning and Pygmy Rabbits

This Autumn is, for me, an interesting confluence of long-distance trail running and biological consulting. On November 18, 2017, I will toe the starting line of the Chimera 100, a 100 mile trail race in the Santa Ana Mountains on the border of Riverside and Orange counties in southern California. I also won a contract from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct a survey on 2,048 acres of northern Nevada for Pygmy Rabbits, a species listed as sensitive by the BLM, as part of the Owyhee Roads Fuelbreak Project. It was unclear to me how the implementation of that survey would affect my training for the race. A 50 kilometer (more or less) race that I ran this past weekend answered a few of my questions.

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Islip Ridge, Little Jimmy, and Windy Gap

I decided yesterday was a good day to traverse some trails I hadn't done before, so I grabbed my Angeles High Country map and drove up Highway 39. I sought out a trail the map labeled as the "Islip-Wiwona Trail". There were no signs where the trailhead should be. The area was overgrown with a lot of downed trees. I had a lot of false starts and almost gave up. I eventually found it (though it took about a mile to be certain I wasn't on an animal trail). The lower sections in a recent burn area were overgrown and made me nervous about rattlesnakes. I ran a short runnable section and stepped within striking distance of one hiding in a log that rattled its pleasure about the situation. I ventured on. Once I reached a flat about 1.5 miles in I left the burn area and it took on the character of the San Gabriel high country, including a herd of about 20 Bighorn Sheep. I really wished I had my good camera.

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A Trio of New Wilderness Balloons

I've fallen a little behind on my wilderness balloon reporting. This update adds three to the map, dispersed across a large area of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Balloon 16 was found on July 17, 2017 during an evening run up Josephine Fire Road to Josephine Saddle. It was a black mylar balloon with the words "Happy Birthday" on it, caught up in a manzanita with a view of the summit of Strawberry Peak. I was able to deflate it and carry it in my running vest back out of the forest.

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A Four Balloon Day on Wilson

Yesterday was a trail running day with my wife. It was expected to be hot (and it was!), but my wife doesn't like driving up to the high country like I do. The compromise was to run on the shady north side of Mt. Wilson, basically dropping 1,250 feet down to the west fork of the San Gabriel River and then climbing 1,250 feet back up, all in a distance of about 11.5 miles. It was a beautiful route. Despite temperatures somewhere in the range of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the heat was mostly tolerable because of the shade and ample stream crossings to cool off. This run also set a record: four wilderness balloons in a single outing. Unfortunately, I was only able to retrieve one of them. I'm sure that mother will be happy to know the celebratory piece of trash she released into the sky was retrieved from a boulder that was really hard to get to. At least it didn't end up choking a marine mammal.

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Raptors in Flight

In response to a question about hawk identification on nextdoor.com (a neighborhood-based social media site), I posted a long discussion about the status of various raptors in our neighborhood. Someone posted a follow-up question about how to tell hawks from falcons in flight. I thought the easiest way to do that would be to post the response on my site and point them here. Since this will gather up folks that didn't see the original post I made, I will include that post and alter it to include some photos showing raptors in flight. I want to be clear here that the status discussion is relative to raptors in Mt. Washington, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. I also want to be clear that I don't claim all of these photos are great, but do serve their purpose for documentation.

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My Big Day

It was just two weeks ago that I ran 26 miles in 90-something degree heat in the hills around Bouquet Reservoir in the Angeles National Forest. While that may sound laudable (or crazy), it was because I was running the Leona Divide 50 trail race, so I came up 24 miles short. To redeem myself, I entered the Wild Wild West 50 that is taking place today. Unfortunately, my nagging problem this training season has been my right hip, which got drastically worse following my attempt at Leona. When I felt crippled trying to walk the day after a ten mile run last weekend, I decided to scrap my racing plans.

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Wilderness Balloons – Chapter 11 – Baden-Powell Blasphemy

After working through the weekend, I managed to clear my schedule and took a day off yesterday to go birding in the high country of the San Gabriel Mountains. It was my first trip up there this year, as much of the high country has been closed off to vehicle traffic until last week (as it is every winter), and there had been a large amount of snow. After spending some time watching and photographing high country species like Williamson's Sapsucker, Clark's Nutcracker, and Dusky Flycatcher along Blue Ridge and having lunch at Grassy Hollow, I drove southward on the Angeles Crest Highway toward Vincent Gap (the access point for most to Mount Baden-Powell) when a bright flash caught my eye in the trees.

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Wilderness Balloons – Chapter 10 – Whiting Woods

I ran yesterday with my wife and a friend in the Verdugo Mountains via the Whiting Woods Motorway. In the middle of the climb I was suffering a bit, as I ran a little over 23 miles in the San Gabriel Mountains the day before. My wife points and shouts "wilderness balloon!" It took me a minute to locate it as I had a bit of tunnel vision, but once I did, you could not miss it: a bright red mylar balloon hanging in the chaparral. A child's birthday in La Crescenta? Valentine's Day in San Francisco? Some unknown special day on a far-off Pacific island? Who knows?

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Running Charlton Flats to Three Points

My first run of greater than twenty miles in length since the HURT 100 hurt way more than I'd like it to. The plan was to run the Angeles Crest 100 route from Charlton Flats to Three Points and back. Things didn't entirely go as planned. Despite the ultimate treachery of this run, I was reminded again how beautiful the Hillyer area is despite being the site of two years' worth of broken dreams. As shown in the featured image, the area features giant boulders galore, with what are often twisted and gnarled trees popping up between them.

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Wilderness Balloons – Chapter 9 – Rincon - Red Box Road

I spent a good chunk of yesterday running on a new segment of the Angeles Crest 100 course between Red Box and Newcomb Pass. My otherwise wonderful day was again sullied by someone's trash that had drifted in from far away: this time a mylar balloon, a little old looking, laying on the side of a fire road in a fairly remote area on the back side of the front range of the San Gabriels. Unlike many of the wilderness balloons, I was able to retrieve this one and haul it out for proper disposal. It should go without saying that I wouldn't have to do that if people didn't insist on buying these things and releasing them to begin with...

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The Cross Town Loop

This 13 mile loop route with 2,854 feet of gain barely qualified for the San Gabriel Trails Project. It does, however, include several miles of trail that are, indeed, within the San Gabriel Mountains. Those several miles of the Cross Town Trail in La Cañada's trail system are what this loop is named after. The idea for developing this loop route came to me two days ago on a run with my wife at Cherry Canyon Park in the San Rafael Hills.

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Wilderness Balloons – Chapter 7 - El Prieto Pollution

For whatever reason, it's been awhile since I've found a wilderness balloon. They started blooming again this weekend with two finds in two different areas. This one, on Friday, was tucked against the sides of the canyon along El Prieto Trail in the Angeles National Forest. It is made of mylar and appeared to have been there quite awhile. I was unable to retrieve it.

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Hawaii: History, Honeycreepers, and the HURT 100 - Part 2

Two days before the race, we took a trip to Pearl Harbor to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. While Google Maps did a good job of getting us temporarily lost on Honolulu's confusing roads, we still arrived early and only had to wait a half hour for our slot to see the Memorial's movie and take the boat trip to the Memorial itself. I grew up enthralled with my grandfather's stories from his service on the aircraft carrier USS Cowpens in World War II, but I don't think such a background is a prerequisite to get emotional and shed a tear during the moving film presented at the Memorial.

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Hawaii: History, Honeycreepers, and the HURT 100 - Part 1

We look out over the vast Pacific that forms our temporary backyard and watch the sun set as large waves break on the volcanic rock in front of us and Brown Boobies fly northward just offshore. This is our first of ten nights on the island of Oahu. It's my first time in the state of Hawaii, but not my first time in a state of contemplation as I ponder the reason I am here. I am here, after all, to run the seventeenth edition of the HURT 100 mile trail race. I wonder if I am prepared for as much as 36 hours of rocks, roots, steep climbs and descents, mud, and probable misery that I had volunteered for.

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