Vetter Mountain

I did not set out on Sunday to add a new chapter to the San Gabriel Trails Project. I set out to break free from my running malaise, brought on by flat and often repetitive routes that I had been running while training for the Javelina Jundred. With two weeks until race day, and having trouble finding the mental fortitude to get myself out the door, I decided now was the time to just go back to exploring the mountains, which was my primary reason for taking up trail running to begin with. The plan was to park at Chilao, go five miles out in one direction and then back, then five miles out the other direction and back. I managed to pick up new trail segments for the project on either end of the run.

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The Fine Art of Voluntary Adversity

Every one of us that toes the line at an ultramarathon gets asked at some point why we do what we do. We all have our own reasons, but there is a seemingly common thread: this sport, more than most, makes us feel alive. We feel alive in the triumphs and tragedies that are a requisite part of covering what seems like inconceivable distances on foot. While the adversity we face is voluntary, indeed manufactured in a sense, it is adversity nonetheless as we set out with a drive to complete what may seem to be an impossible physical test.

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The Joys and Sorrows of Working Away From Home

I have always had an affinity for travel and exploration of the outdoors. It began when I was young with family camping trips and a fascination with the photos from my mom's childhood camping trips across the West. I branched out more when I got to college, initially taking spring break and summer camping and birding trips in places like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Great Smokey Mountains, and southern Florida. I spent two summers studying at Estación Biologica La Suerte in Costa Rica. I spent two years, after college, running the Landbird Monitoring Programme at Lamanai, Belize. It was here that I meant H. Lee Jones, a Ph.D. biologist who was well-known as an established biological consultant in California while living significant portions of the year in Belize working on the Birds of Belize guide that would be published by UT Press in 2003.

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Three Points to Pacifico Mountain via the Pacific Crest Trail

It's been nearly a year since I've added a new chapter to the San Gabriel Trails Project. You can ask me why that is, but I would not have an answer for you. There are many miles of high country trails that I have not yet covered, and I haven't spent much time in the high country this year because it was not a good way to prepare for the Angeles National Forest Trail Race. I decided yesterday was a good time to scratch that itch and visit a new place. That new place was Pacifico Mountain.

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A Night at West Fork

The degree to which I am enamored with the freedom of backpacking is not reflected by the frequency with which I go. For awhile now, I've taken an interest in expanding my knowledge-base of the fauna of the San Gabriel Mountains by backpacking into remote campgrounds, preferably on a weekday when no or few people are likely to be present. Last night, I finally did the first of these forays.

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A Remote Balloon in the Verdugo Mountains

Yesterday, I joined my wife and a friend on my first substantive trail run since the Chimera 100, having spent the last several weeks with the lingering effects of running more than 50 miles on an unhappy iliotibial band. Detracting from my enjoyment for a few moments (seriously, as these things irk me), was the glaring sight of a bright blue mylar balloon hung up in an oak tree in a canyon on the eastern slope of Mt. Thom. Obviously, I could not retrieve it.

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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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