Author Archives: Gretchen Garnett

Registration is (Finally) Open

Med Res_Roch runderwear

Photo of Icky Ocky in his handerpants by Jayme Burtis

At last, your latest raison d’etre (don’t you love it when we speak French?) – registration for the 2014 Coyote Cohorts Backbone Trail Ultra is now open on Ultra Signup. Let the games begin!

You can sign up here as a player until Feb. 15th, or as a volunteer until March 8th. We’ve capped entrants at 175, but will maintain a wait list in the event we hit capacity on those of questionable-enough sanity to sign up for this 2nd traverse of the Backbone (we think it likely, but we don’t want to be too full of ourselves).

A few items of note:

  • There are 2 start groups this year, as opposed to the three in last years games. Aid station cutoff times and other relevant details have been updated on our website.
  • Pre-requisites are completion of a 50 mile event of comparable difficulty and one day’s worth (minimum) of trail maintenance prior to the coin toss.
  • We’ve added volunteer registration to Ultra Signup, so’s you can ensure you get your free shirt of choice for the hours of suffering you will endure with no other personal gain (although if you volunteer after Feb 15th we can’t 100% guarantee availability of shirts.) After you are formally conscripted, one of our volunteer coordinators will contact you to, well, coordinate your volunteer post. They’re pretty good at that coordinating thing.
  • Training runs: there will be 4 official ones. We don’t know exactly when yet. But “Like” us on our Facebook page or keep us off your e-mail Spam list and we’ll let you know relevant beta as soon as we have it.
  • Nicknames: returning players will be assigned their previous nom de’ guerre; new recruits will have little say whatsoever in what nickname will be given them.  Hey, we gotta’ have our fun somehow and at someone else’s expense.
  • Apparel: while you won’t have a choice as to the color of your shirt, you will be able to choose between the far more important option of long-sleeved versus short-sleeved Patagonia technical shirts. They’ll be great, trust us, and the colors will set off your complexion perfectly.

Oh, and we’re sorry for the delay in the registration go-live. From the usual mashups with various park service authorities, a brilliant last-minute assist from the national government, and the acquisition of permissions from certain celebrity land owners and all, we erred on the side of caution.

OK, what are you waiting for? Sign up already. Here.

Toodles! And happy trails!

The Next Time You Run the Backbone…

…maybe send a little love upwards to one who helped create the trails that keep us on the right side of sanity. Linda Palmer died this past June 22 of cancer at the age of 80, having racked up a lifetime exemption from any trail work entrance requirements as well as some serious bonus minutes.

From our friend and hers, H’ard Cohen, who attended the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council memorial service for her this past weekend, “Linda was a significant force in establishing the trail systems we enjoy today in these local mountains.  Her ability to influence private land owners, developers, state and federal organizations on land use was subtle but effective.  She brought these decision makers out on the trails so they could experience the natural resource and appreciate the value it would bring to future generations.  I worked with Linda on the trails with McCloud in hand and on the SMMTC board for a number of years, and her stewardship of leading conservation efforts in the Santa Monica Mountains will truly be missed.”

You can read more about Linda’s life and work here. Happy trails, scout!

Fall Rainbow_Chris Scott_filter

Photo by Chris Scott

For this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines, going where I  list, my own master total and absolute – Whitman

Map Porn Game 2 and Bizarre Lizard Sex

OK, let’s see what THIS blog post title does to our keyword search metrics.

SAMO annotated_square thumbnailWith a nod towards building even greater camaraderie betwixt participants,  Game 2 of the Coyote Backbone Trail Ultra will feature just 2 starting groups. We’ve updated our playground maps and aid station beta accordingly. Check out our latest cartographic creations on our map page here, and aid station details for you and your long-suffering support crews here.

And, perhaps inspired by the extraordinary bump in, umm, exposure Ringneck Snakegenerated by Miley Cyrus’ coming-of-age performance, the National Parks service has spiced up their event marketing with their announcement of their October 6th Live Reptile and Amphibian show. Among the lecture topics: “From Social to Indifferent: Insights into the Bizarre Sex Lives of Southern California Lizards”. It’s probably safe to take the kids, though, so might be kind of a cool event for future Backboners. It’s being held at the Santa Monica Mountains Visitor Center this Saturday from 10am to 3pm, more details on the flyer here. Possible bonus minutes for the first to identify this snake, which can be found throughout the playground.

New Merit Badge Requirement

Hey Webelos and Girl Guides, planning to camp out with us on the Merit badgeBackbone Trail in 2014? Not that you need the prompting, but since the playground’s in need of a little extra upkeep this year, we’ve added a day’s worth of trail work to the entrance requirements for Game 2. We aren’t going to require that you submit proof of completion prior to entry or put an exact number of hours on this – it’s really about scout’s honor and giving back to the trails. ‘Course we might randomly ask you about where and when you “served”, or dish out a little extra pre-race schwag to those who went above and beyond the call of doodie duty.

We’ll keep you posted on upcoming trail work opportunities in the Santa Monica Mountains (or you can follow the SMMTC page here), but of course whatever trail you decide to whack away at is fine by us.

Pic below is from Overlook Trail in La Jolla Canyon, taken about a month ago. Looks a bit different from last year, but we think it’s actually beautiful in a Tim Burton-ey kind of way.

Image by Gretchen Garnett

Image by Gretchen Garnett

Opening Day

H’ard Cohen reporting from the field:

Today the California State Parks opened the remaining portions of Point Mugu State Park that were impacted by the Springs Fire. I ventured down the black b*tch hill (that’s the inland end of the trail for you non-locals) and ran up Little Sycamore Canyon. Definitely “toasted” including an unfortunate Alligator Lizard. The Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council was repairing this trail on Wednesday of this week and did a fine job removing deadfall and rocks from the trail.

Photo courtesy Howard Cohen

Photo courtesy Howard Cohen

Photo courtesy Howard Cohen

Photo courtesy Howard Cohen

Post Springs Fire Trail Work

Photo courtesy Howard Cohen

Photo courtesy Howard Cohen

Time to get busy: the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Council (SMMTC) has created the first two trail work events devoted specifically to restoration of the Backbone Trail following the Springs Fire. See details below, and for a full and dynamic list of all SMMTC trail work opportunities throughout the year, click here.

Please RSVP for one or both dates to Howard Cohen: howard(at) so he can let his SMMTC compadres know how many players to expect. Brownie points and gold stars awarded to all who attend.

Sat, June 8, 8:30 am – 2:00 pm AND
Sat, June 15, 8:30 am – 2:00 pm
Meet at: 4128 W Potrero Rd (at Wendy Dr), Thousand Oaks, CA 91361 (map)

BRING: water, lunch, work gloves, eye protection, sunscreen, hat; wear sturdy shoes, long sleeve shirt, long pants. Tools are provided.

Springing Ahead and Giving Back

The Springs Fire that ignited on May 2nd, 2013 in the western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains ultimately burned more than 24,000 acres, including 14,000 acres of park land through which the Backbone Trail passes. It was big, and intense, and it was stared down and beaten back by truckloads of firefighters who were far less pampered during their Backbone experience than y’all were. The image below is part of a particularly hair raising (hair singe-ing?) set from local but internationally recognized photographer David Pu’u, who writes about his don’t-try-this-from-home photo shoot here.

Photo courtesy David Pu'u

Courtesy David Pu’u Photography

The Patio is a bit less inviting at the moment, and the view beyond is, well, kinda lunar.

Photo courtesy Jerry Gonzales

Photo courtesy Jerry Gonzales

But as the church sign says, don’t look back, ’cause we ain’t going that way. Nature will do her recovery thing of course – per the NPS  “the first spring following a fire there is dramatic vegetation recovery on barren, blackened hillsides from resprouting shrubs and herbaceous perennials, germinating shrub seedlings, and an abundance of colorful native annuals. Within about 10 years at coastal sites and 20 years at inland sites, the canopy of the dominant shrubs begins to close.” And firefighters, scientists and local Coyote Cohorts (updates on trail openings and other park alerts are here) are already reporting a variety of critters coming back out to play.

Photo courtesy Ventura County Fire Department

And we terrifically lucky few who got to romp across the whole of the Backbone Trail before it was temporarily besmirched have MANY opportunities to help restore the playground. We’ll keep you posted on volunteer opportunities from here and on Facebook, but for first-hand updates on how you can help, sign up for notices from the National Park Service here. And check out the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Convervancy (SMMTC) trail maintenance calendar here. You don’t need to wait for an invitation. Not a local? Read on for how you can help too.

For those of you who have not yet purchased official event photos, now is the time. Jayme Burtis has generously offered to donate HALF of the purchase price to the SMMTC to be used towards recovery efforts. Seriously, these images are sick, he is the real deal and a true cohort.

Courtesy Jayme Burtis

Courtesy Jayme Burtis

His website is here. Visit now. Oh, and in the spirit of new beginnings, check out his son Ocean, in his element and a future Backboner for certain.

Courtesy Jayme Burtis

Courtesy Jayme Burtis