Chasing Fog: Mount Lukens & Topanga

Burned tree on the trail to Mount Lukens

Some days a run is something I need to do to keep sane. Saturday was one of those days. I was pissed off at other people and at my inability to respond without frustration when I let them annoy me just a bit too much. I needed to run off steam.

I got to Topanga intending to do the old Mulholland loop, but there was this amazing fog down Temescal Ridge Trail, and I was determined to run through it.

I chased the fog through the hills. Every time it looked like I was going to head into it, the path would dip and the fog would be blowing just above my head. I went from Hub up to Eagle Rock. Eagle Rock was covered in fog as I started my climb, but the fog was on the underside, and I emerged on top. I took another route that looked like a straight shot into fog, and climbed up to another peak, but the fog stayed just out of reach above me. A single track took me down to fire road and then back to Hub – a nice new loop to remember. I headed back to Mulholland and darted up Bent Arrow Trail, a short, fun single track with lots of sharp switchbacks. Then up to Nike Missile and down Westridge Fire Road a mile or so before turning around and heading back. At least half of this run was new to me – just heading off in directions that looked fun and, in the first 9 miles, promised fog.

2440 feet of climbing. I like keeping track of that stuff.

An especially odd moment was having a kid on a mountain bike pull up next to me near the turn off to Eagle Rock, all excited about what a beautiful day it was. Since when did kids appreciate that kind of stuff? This must be a rare child. He talked about the fog, and how perfect the temperature was – warm, but not hot, overcast, gorgeous, look at these views, and if I really was chasing fog like I said I was, I would for sure find awesome fog up on Eagle Rock. And then his parents caught up to him and they headed down the Backbone Trail.

This kid went a long way to redeeming my, well, faith is not the right word, willingness-to-tolerate is probably better, in humanity. Later, on Mulholland, I saw some chubby guy. He was thrilled. It sure is beautiful he said, and then he spotted a hawk, pointed it out to me and went running off in that direction.

Towards the end of the run a walker stopped me and asked which was the best way to go. I thought about it. I described the merits of various directions: fog is best that way, there are nice vistas that way, there are tons of wild bunnies in that direction… He could see I was leaning towards the fog. I told him any direction was going to be good. Some directions would just be better, is all, but he couldn’t go wrong no matter what. At that point I realized that as annoyed as I was, maybe the day didn’t suck at all.

Saturday I chased the fog. Sunday I caught it.

Mount Lukens is the highest spot in Los Angeles County, or so I’ve read. Total ascent of 3,628 feet, all in the first 7 miles. The highest point was 5,000 feet, and the air is noticeably thinner up there. The fog was thick, and when it combined with all the burnt trees from the fires 2 years ago, things were ghostly, and beautiful. My legs were tired on the climb up, and I kinda held the group of folks I was running with back. This was the same young fresh crew as last weekend. On the way down, I was much faster, in part because I really love those rock dodging downhills, and in part because I find it much more tiring to try to brake myself and run slow. Gravity is my friend on the downhills. I’ve been wanting to do this run for a while and I’m stoked that I now know the route.

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