During the late 1800’s a man named Jake Yaeger had a cabin along Trabuco Creek and mined a mesa he owned up the canyon. His mining efforts (which ran between 1899 and 1925) proved unsuccessful, but his name still lives on with the mesa taking his name: Yaeger Mesa.
I have only visited Yaeger twice before. It’s not an easy task, and one that should not be taken alone. It’s steep, it’s lonely, it’s long, and it’s hot. But it’s beautiful. I took that trip for a 3rd time yesterday, Saturday August 23. First however, I hiked up Trabuco Canyon with my son on Friday, the day prior, to stash water at what would end up about mile 8.5 in my Yaeger Mesa loop.
On the way we stopped of at an old shot-up car, and also posed at the base of a closed-off mine-shaft:
Saturday, I managed to get myself out of bed at 4:45 AM. I woke to the noise of Hank’s text arriving to my phone. He was on his way. Fortunately, I only live about thirty minutes from the trailhead, so I was able to take in a cup of coffee and casually change into hiking clothes. At 6AM, I met my friends Hank, Judi and Matt, and we headed up the steep county trail called Bell View. Did I mention that it was steep? Well, it was. And this was only the beginning.
After about a mile on Bell View, we got off the beaten path and took an unmarked single-track referred to as Bell Ridge. The climbs were immense, but we had relief with the occasional downhills and flats. I felt confident that we were headed in the right direction when we spotted the flag. Soon after, we came upon a giant cross that I hadn’t see before. We bushwhacked out to it for quiet awesome views of the county.
And then we continued to climb, and then climb some more. And when we climbed a hill that seemed so steep that we couldn’t possibly climb one steeper, we’d come up on an even steeper hill. Often I used my hands and arms to hoist me up particular difficult sections. The steepness was laughable.
At about mile six, Bell Ridge turned abruptly to the left, and we headed downhill before one last uphill to the peak. At the top of that next hill, at about mile 6.5, we took a turn onto another single track and headed down a ridiculously steep loose-dirt trail. It was shady. It was lush. And it took all my strength just to stay up right. Often I leaned into my hip and slid down, but was careful to periodically change hip sides to avoid injury. At one point, when simply just standing, my feet flew out beneath me and I crashed to the ground. With minor cuts to my right arm, I worried more about the status of my camera, which I distinctly heard slam against a rock on impact. Fortunately, all was well with my trusty camera. I would find out later that evening however, that all was not well with me from that fall. (I experienced pretty severe back pain for several hours before finally taking ibuprofen to ease it some)
Around mile 7, we finally reached Yaeger Mesa which is a large field filled with bracken fern year-round. On Saturday, the ferns were a yellowish-green which from afar (say from The Main Divide or Horsethief) looks bright green. Other times of the year the ferns are brown, green or even red (see prior winter visit by clicking here). There is nothing like it in Trabuco Canyon, or anywhere that I’ve been in the Santa Ana Mountains. Yaeger Mesa is one of my happy places.