Saturday, October 7, 2017

Cooper Canyon

50 Trail Runs in Southern California assigns Cooper Canyon a difficulty of strenuous. I agree with the assessment.  It is an out-and-back which starts on the Angeles Crest Hwy at Cloudburst Summit (elev. 7000', Google Maps) and drops into Cooper Canyon, descending to a low point of 5600', before climbing back up to the Angeles Crest Hwy at Eagles Roost Picnic Area. The challenge of running this course is saving enough for the last climb to Cloudburst Summit on the way back.

[50trsc] gives round trip distance of 13.6 miles, but when I ran the course today Strava gave a round trip distance of 15.4 miles.

Comparing my map with the one in [50trsc], it looks as if the trail has been re-routed in two places. The new segments add about 800 ft of elevation gain to the round trip.

Oh, and part of the trail is closed to human beings. I discovered the closure by reading a sign at Eagles Roost. I didn't see any signs warning travelers approaching from the west they are entering forbidden territory, but the closure starts at the 2nd junction with the Burkhart trail.

The closed portion of the trail has fallen trees and spots on steep slopes where it has eroded away. The Forest Service website with its broken link is unhelpful, but the trail was closed no later than 2011.

The closure is a drastic move by the Forest Service. The closed trail is part of the Silver Moccasin Trail which boy scouts have been using to cross the San Gabriels since 1942. It is also part of the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCTA established an alternate route which is about 16 miles longer. The closed trail is also part of the traditional route of the Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run, which was re-routed to the tarmac of the Angeles Crest Hwy.

The closure is for the same reason rock climbers were denied access to nearby Mt Williamson in 2005: to protect the mountain yellow-legged frog. The species was once abundant in the mountains. It is natural to ask why it has declined. Vance Vredenburg of UC Berkeley suggests the biggest factor is the introduction of non-native trout which eat the tadpoles. The trout hypothesis would explain why the frogs are still found in Cooper Canyon, since Little Rock Creek is too small this close to its source to support trout.

It is an open question whether hikers and campers have an impact on the frog population. If it does, then we would expect an increase in the frog population since 2011. Is anyone counting the frogs? If you are, let me know!