March 25, 2012

Arroyo Sequit and Leo Carillo Campground

Leo Carillo State Beach is located at the mouth of Arroyo Sequit, a small creek emerging from the Santa Monica Mountains paralleled by Mulholland Drive. The campsite is tucked in a wide section of the canyon underneath majestic old sycamores, willows, and walnuts.

A view of the campground
From the campground, a trail leads up a few hundred feet to the top of a peak overlooking the ocean. This peak offers a great bird's eye view of the campground and Leo Carillo beach and tidepools.

We really enjoyed our time at this park. We had campfires every night, with the mandatory two roasted marshmallows once the coals developed. Rosie the kitty was tied to a long-line that was attached to the picnic table and then was allowed to wander around. She was particularly happy climbing up about 12 feet into the trees to survey the landscape. When birds and squirrels would come visit the campsite to raid for crumbs, Rosie would go into stalk mode. But, alas she was unable to get near them.

At one point, about 10 crows landed in the tree she was in, and their cackling sure sounded like they were laughing at her and her inability to get to them.

The view of the ocean from the top of the hill
One of the days, we decided to just go hike down the Arroyo Sequit to see what it was like. Near the campground it was completely dry. Makes sense given that there was virtually no rain in Southern California all winter. But, there were several sections where it cut through the rocks into a narrow canyon.

It was interesting to see the vegetation of this riparian forest. It isn't quite like that of Arizona (lacking the Fremont cottonwoods, box elders, and Arizona ash) or of the Pacific Northwest (lacking the big-leaf maples, red alders, and black cottonwoods). It contained its own mix of sycamores, willows, and California black walnut.

Further upstream, we came across a slow trickle of water and the later larger pools. The water was filled with aquatic insects and it was easy to imagine it being pull of tadpoles in a few weeks. In addition, poison oak began to show up in thickets all alongside the stream bed, making traversing further more difficult.

We eventually ended out adventure when we came across a steep and narrow section of the canyon choked with boulders and blocked by poison oak. But, there was a beautiful swimming hole below that clearly had been used on hot days as evidenced by the graffiti on the boulders and cliff faces.

The most unfortunate part of this fun little adventure were the numerous ticks we had to pull of Sophie. While the three humans apparently avoided getting any on us, Sophie was covered in them. We pulled off several on the walk back and a couple dozen immediately upon returning to the campsite. But, even that wasn't enough. Despite extensive searches, we found probably another 10 of so stuck onto her upon our return to Flagstaff. Even two weeks later we found a giant blood engorged one on her ear. Not sure how we missed it.

March 20, 2012

Leo Carillo State Beach, Santa Monica Mts, California

After a couple of days in Los Angeles, we camped for three nights at Leo Carillo State Beach just past Malibu in the Santa Monica Mountains. The weather was beautiful and warm and we had a great time just hanging out. We had originally planned to stay for four nights, but the impending rain storm caused us to leave after three days.

Dried up chaparral slopes in March 2012
Same area in March 2010
But, the recent rain was desperately needed in Southern California. With virtually no rain all winter, the chaparral covered slopes were brown and devoid of wildflowers. It looked like mid-July rather than mid-March in this region. It certainly looked a lot different than it did when we were in the area two years ago. But, with the fine weather we experienced, we definitely had some nice time to get in a long hike and spend some quality time at the beach.

Two baby octopi were found amongst the rocks in the tide pools.

One day, while cruising the beaches, I discovered nine dead common murres on the beach, many covered with oil. First of all, I was surprised to see that common murres actually came this far south. But, I wasn't shocked to see them covered with oil, as it is well known that just to the north, in the Santa Barbara Channel, there are natural oil seeps (similar to La Brea Tar Pits) that leak thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean every day.

What I did not realize until I got home was that just a few days earlier an article in the LA Times detailed a sudden and massive increase in the number of dead seabirds showing up on beaches in Southern California soiled by oil. In addition, nearly all of them are common murres.

Tar balls and oil splotches like this above are a common site on the beaches in this area

Apparently the common murres only recently returned to this region of California after having been absent since 1912. They established a breeding colony on one of the small uninhabited Channel Islands. Since they are not used to the oil seeps, they have been coming in contact with the oil and ending up on the beaches dead or sick. One nature center has recovered and cleaned up 140 common murres just since January 1st. Anyways, I collected some tar balls off the rocks to take back to my Chemistry and AP Environmental Science classes for discussion and lab demonstrations.

You can see the oil stuck to the breast of this dead common murre.
This indicates it was floating on top of the water and then swam into the oil slick

We took Hilina to the beach every day we were there, in morning fog and afternoon sun. It was glorious to be back on the Pacific Ocean again. I tell you, we've love to live in California if it were not for two reasons...Too many people and too expensive to live there.

Hilina checking out seastars on some sea stacks

On the next post, I'll discuss our adventures inland along Arroyo Sequit and up to Nicholas Flat over 2000 feet above the ocean.