TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Nearly Forgot This One!

I nearly forgot this one. Harding Truck Trail out-and-back. I hiked this Sunday, March 16, 2019. It was cold and difficult, and skies were blue. 19.19 glorious miles with 3,593' of elevation gain. 

Two day total: 31.44 miles











Sunday, March 24, 2019

Painted Lady Migration

A week or so ago the Painted Lady butterflies began making their entrance into Southern California. At any given time you could have hundreds, no, thousands of butterflies fluttering about you. It has been quite amazing. Of course that's a difficult thing to actually capture in a photo. Eventually, I'll post a one of the butterfly video clips I took during my hike-run in Aliso/Woods Canyons some time ago (too much time, oh how it has gotten away from me -- much has happened in the past week which has pretty much dwarfed everything else).  

So, this post will briefly cover a 12.25 mile course with 1,657' feet of elevation gain. (3/15/19) The course: Aliso Canyon, Wood Canyon, Cholla Trail, West Ridge, Top of the World, Meadows, Wood Canyon, Aliso Canyon. The hills and the canyons were superb, so lush and green! Thousands of Painted Lady butterfies flittered and danced about, especially so in Wood Canyon. Tiny spring flowers, white, purple, yellow and orange dotted the hillsides. And wow, the skies were so blue with wisps of white clouds painted across them.











Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ortega Falls

Thursday my husband and I had AGAIN planned to hike Caspers to the hot springs. However, the trails we planned on taking were still closed. So, we drove up Highway 74  to the lot across the street from the candy store. There is a lovely short-short hike up called the San Juan Loop that takes off from the parking lot and winds around to end in back in the lot. It's only 2.2 miles long, but you can add more by hiking down to the falls. Our total hike ended up at 2.7 miles, and boy did we see some falls. It has been quite some time since I have seen Ortega Falls flowing -- can't recall the exact date, but it's been years. This hike is a must do after the rainy season. The added bonus is that it is short, so you can do it as one of your first hikes working up to longer ones. The trip down to the falls is a bit tricky, but definately can be done. Just do it with care.

The first sight of some falls -- looking down from San Juan Loop
 Hiking down & getting closer
 Arrived!
 After hiking back up to San Juan Trails, we spotted this one a little further in




Friday, March 15, 2019

Hot Springs Canyon 3X

I have come to conclude that it’s a good thing that the state and county parks have been closed so much lately “due to wet and muddy conditions.” I was getting so annoyed at OC Parks, but now I am fine. Really, I am fine. All these closed parks have lead me to a wonderful revisit -- a revisit to Hot Springs Canyon. And what an unexpected delight this has been.

Hot Springs Canyon is toward the bottom of the mountain off of Ortega Highway (In the Cleveland National Forest on the Orange County side). The turnoff is by the fire station and the same road that you take to LazyW Ranch. Old Goat’s Chimera (100 mi. race) has an aid station in this canyon. It’s where the runners come off a long 12 mile downhill on San Juan Trail. And then they must turn around and repeat those 12 miles back into the Blue Jay campgrounds. I have frequently travelled San Juan Trail over the past decade. But I almost always stay toward the top of the trail and go off on other junctions like Chiquito Trail and The Viejo Tie. A couple of times I have ventured up San Juan Trail from Hot Springs Canyon. Once, some years back, I ran up the trail from Hot Springs Canyon to Cocktail Rock. One thing for sure, during the summertime, San Juan Trail is a bear. It can get brutally hot, heat stroke kind of hot, if not taken seriously. It’s completely exposed until you get in pretty close to the campgrounds. So, you’ve got about 7 or 8 miles of uphill sun beating down on you if you want to make the trip on San Juan Trail from Hot Springs Canyon into Blue Jay campgrounds.

Oh, how I have digressed. My journey back to Hot Springs Canyon began at the beginning of this month -- March 1, in fact. I got a really late start because I had to pull over and make some unexpected phone calls. It may have been as late as 1 pm before I arrived to Hot Springs Canyon, the location I chose because it was semi-close and all my local trails were closed. I meandered a bit about the creek, which was clear and rushing. Then I gave myself two hours up before I needed to turn back to make sure that I’d get in before dark (we hadn’t changed the clocks yet). The weather was cool and breezy, the skies gray. Little fields of wildflowers were splattered all over the slopes. And moss and ferns were wrapped around boulders and rocks in the shady areas. Wow. This was no summertime San Juan Trail. This was beautifully cool weathered- springtime San Juan Trail. 8.10 miles on this hike; 1,713 elevation gain.




Trip number two into Hot Springs Canyon this month was unplanned. Thursday, March 7, my husband and I had planned a hike in Caspers Park to the San Juan Hot Springs (we have never been). I should have known, because Caspers is part of the county park system, that it was closed due to “wet and muddy” conditions. So, we drove a few miles and turned into Hot Springs Canyon hoping we could find a way to the hot springs from that location. Turned out that the entire perimeter of Caspers is fenced. We did find a spot to squeeze through, but being that the place was so heavily fenced and plastered with no trespassing signs, we decided to squeeze back through the barbed wire fence and did a short creek hike instead. We crossed the creek several times before reaching LazyW Ranch. We took in every cabin (as close as possible). Everything was clean and green. Some of the cabins had the creek flowing just past their front doors. What a lovely spring canyon. 4.03 miles on this hike, plus a little more walking around at the Tree of Life Nursery down the road a bit. (Wonderful nursery with all California native plants).



The very next day, Friday March 8, I got back out to Hot Springs Canyon. I had five hours. I really needed to get back to the car by 4pm so that I could bring my son to an appointment. (Just in case though, I had left directions on the kitchen counter so that my husband could bring him if I didn’t get back in time.) My goal was Cocktail Rock, which I estimated was around 6 miles away (uphill).

Well! The day was absolutely lovely with big puffy clouds and blue skies. Spring flowers were bursting all over the place. I could see down to the Pacific Ocean and for miles into the Cleveland National Forest. It really was amazing. But my time was not good. Cocktail Rock was slightly further than I expected. The weather was super cold at the rock, and the wind began to pick up. It took me slightly more than 3 hours to arrive there, and I wasn’t going to turn around and go straight back. I did recorded some video, took in the scenery. By this time though, I basically had 1 hour and 45 minutes to make the trip back, which I could conceivably do if I ran it. Funny thing was, my phone rang when I was hanging out at Cocktail Rock (did not expect any service there!). Learning that I had cell service, I gave my husband a call to let him know that he would have to take our son if I didn't make it in time. I had fun running back (as it was basically all down hill). But the trail got too technical in some parts, and being that I’m not really practiced at running this level anymore, I slowed it down during those portions.  I did not make the return trip in 1 hour 45 minutes. But I was close. It took me just a little over two hours. Total distance: 13.11 miles, 2,546’ of elevation gain. And that is why Hot Springs Canyon 3 times!



Friday, March 8, 2019

Wet and Muddy Conditions


We are having one of  our wetter rainy seasons this year. Sometimes we skip right past the rainy season with just two or three rains. And sometimes, we get a deluge for weeks and weeks. Such is the case right now. Everything is green. Everything is clean. The weather is perfectly cool, sometimes even cold. There's snow even occassionally in the local mountains, and the mountains just west of those (The San Gabriels for example) are still covered in snow. The rain is delightful (oh, except for all the driving I do freeway flying between three campuses). Creeks are full. Waterfalls fall once again. It is perfect trail season right now. PERFECT. Too bad our dang county park system has got the door closed tight on all the local trails. They're all closed due to "Wet and Muddy Conditions!"

A window opened up on the last day of February, and I got off to Wood Canyon Thurday late morning. The creeks were flowing and the skies were blue. Like I mentioned, perfect trail weather. I took the easy canyon route with two detours: 1) up to a bench that overlooks the canyon, and 2) Wood Creek Trail, a magical shady trail that crosses over Wood Creek and winds through a thick forest of trees.

Since I am behind in everything, I'll cut this short and end with the stats and pics. 

9.07 miles, 650' elevation gain. 







Monday, March 4, 2019

Spring is Coming to Arroyo Trabuco

We have been transformed into a green colored state with all the rain that we’ve had the past several weeks. Green hills and mountains surround us now. It really is remarkable. I get out to the trails when I can in between rains. Most of my local trails are closed, so I always shimmy off to the trails that open sooner than the others. One of those trails is Arroyo Trabuco, which I set out on over a week ago (February 24) for a nice long hike (with some running, because I got behind in my schedule due to all the creek crossings). I put in 13.17 miles and waded through the stream a dozen times. I didn’t mind the wet feet, but oh did it feel wonderful at the turnaround point in O’Neill Park when I replaced my socks with a dry pair. Almost nothing feels better than replacing soggy socks with a new dry pair.

Beneath Oso Parkway looking down onto Arroyo Trabuco Trail:

Nearly Knee Deep: