Monday, April 12, 2010
Bolsa Chica In Pictures
I went on a run today at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. But I was feeling lazy. So I figured I'd take a super mellow run of just over 5 miles and stop once in awhile to take a few pictures.
As I've mentioned before I really like running at Bolsa Chica. What's great about it that it's quite close to my house and so with a 10 minute drive and very little preparation I can be running on the trails for lunch.
I set off around 1:30 this afternoon. Here are pictures of me & my feet getting ready to go. I'm sorry about the self portrait perspective, I didn't have too many options. By the way, a note about a balding guy wearing a visor. I just hate a completely sweat soaked cap. So I wear the visor with plenty of sunscreen on the dome. I mention this just in case you where wondering.
On to the other photos...
Photo 1 - Here is a shot from the start of the trail looking towards a brand new foot bridge that leads to the lower mesa, where I will turn south. My wife and I donate to the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, so there is a good chance we paid for a little bit of this bridge. Which is cool, because it's a great bridge.
At this point, I must admit I completely screwed up. Not a half mile up the trail, I ran into a snake. He or she must be used to humans, because he or she took his or her time slithering off the trail. I am not a big fan of snakes, but since I was out on this run with the express intent of getting photos, I grabbed my camera and tried to take one. Unfortunately, I hit the video button instead, tried to adjust to the different media, and after much confusion was only able to get a few seconds of footage. If you look closely, you can see the tail in the upper middle left going into the bushes. Sorry about my finger blocking the lens.
Just over a mile in and heading east, I come to a slight downhill that enters a grove of trees....
Photo 2 - I'm not sure why, but I look forward to this stretch every time I run here. Maybe it's the fast down hill that requires a little bit of fancy footwork. Once I make a soft turn to the left, the trail flattens out and runs parallel to one of the secondary tidal areas, where there are always tons of birds. I've seen Hawks and I've seen Egrets, and maybe a Brown Pelican or two. The others are species that I can't identify. Eventually the trail merges with a canal path, and I take the canal east about 500 yards until I take a left up to the upper mesa.
Photo 3 - This is a nice section of single track that is fun to run up and mountain bike up. It climbs to the top of the upper mesa. In the last 4 years, they have built a neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes to the upper left of this photo. I've walked through the model homes, and I must admit they are nice, though I usually don't like new construction. And due to the fact that no one is buying them, they are (gasp!) upgrading everyone to Sub Zero appliances for free with purchase. What they don't tell you is that all the houses are built smack on the top of the Newport - Inglewood fault line. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the mesa is a direct result of the fault.
Before they built the houses, this entire piece of land was an abandoned military installation. It was active during World War II. The Army had a couple of big guns pointed out towards the Pacific to defend against the Japanese invasion that never came. As far as I can tell, it was abandoned not too long after the war. But as with all abandoned military posts (at least the ones I've seen), there were building foundations and roads leading to nowhere left over. Before they built the houses this place always reminded me of the Do Long Bridge scene in Apocalypse Now, but without the river or the bridge. It just seemed crazy - kids on dirt bikes over here, kids playing paint ball over there, and an interesting collection of junk everywhere. I kind of miss it, actually.
Photo 4 - By now I've come off the mesa, crossed over the canal and turned 180 degrees back to the west. This next stretch is a little over a mile, straight as an arrow, exposed and usually windy. As I run here, I wonder where the Bolsa Chica Wetlands boundary is, because for the first half mile, I am running by an active oil field to my left. "Conservancy" and "drilling" are not two words I'd usually get to use together, yet here you have both as neighbors. A little bit weird, and a little bit ironic. Maybe when the oil leases run out, Bolsa Chica gets the land. That would be nice.
Photo 5 - By now I know I am back in the Wetlands, because I have passed a sign a couple hundred yards back saying that I can't go off the trail, ride a bike, walk my dog, or litter. The first 3 rules are fair enough, but I wish we still didn't have to remind people they shouldn't litter. That's just insane. But I know I am being idealistic. The buildings off in the distance are the Bolsa Chica State Beach life guard station and beach concessions.
This stretch of the run is cool. It's a man made berm probably originally built for flood control that cuts right across the main tidal area. Always a great mile and a highlight of the run because it's wide open and a great place to just cruise and take it all in.
Photo 6 - By now I've gone another mile and have crossed a foot bridge to the other side of the tidal pools. Behind me and across Pacific Coast Highway is the State Beach life guard station. This bridge is always filled with serious photographers with major league cameras and telephoto lenses. I tend to feel bad running across the bridge because I'm sure my foot falls are shaking the sensitive equipment perched on the complicated tripods, but no one has ever said anything. Except once, a middle aged man (who didn't have a camera, by the way) asked me where the beach was.
Photo 7 - By now the run is winding down. I've made the last turn north towards where I parked, which is about a mile and a quarter away. This footpath runs between the tidal pool and the Coast Highway. In about a half mile, I'll cross back over to the lower mesa via another flood control berm. Once I'm back on the mesa, I'm hoping to see the snake again so I can get a proper photo.
Photo 8 - I'm back on the lower mesa running towards my car. I've got about a half mile to go. No snake this time. Half of me was relieved and half of me was pissed. Well, maybe not pissed, disappointed might be a better word. There is no need to get pissed at the snake for not showing up again.
When I got back to the parking lot, I went into the visitor's center to try and get a positive ID on the snake. They couldn't tell for sure. It was probably either a gopher snake or a rattle snake. My guess is gopher, because of course the first thing I checked for when I ran into it was the tail. And there was no rattle.
So here's an open invitation. If anyone is in the area (and isn't too afraid of snakes) hit me up and we'll go for a run.