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Recent Non-Grand-Canyon Adventures

June 6, 2013

My recent week-long backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon’s Thunder River/Tapeats Creek/Deer Springs-and-Creek still seems too “epic” to write about–an odd feeling producing an odd kind of writers block. So . . . back to the everyday, local, amazing trails of Orange County:

Mountain biking in Limestone CanyonOnce a month the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) offers an “open access day” for the public to enjoy the Limestone Canyon Wilderness area. As an IRC volunteer, I get to carry a radio while I bike around, making sure everyone is having a good time on the trails. Last Saturday I enjoyed teaming up with new IRC volunteer Bill to ride along Loma Ridge to the shady oak oasis of the Spring Formerly Known As Bolero (my name, not the official one). Bill immediately dubbed it his new favorite place in Limestone Canyon.

The next day, I returned (after an absence of a couple of weeks) to my favorite up-and-over trail: the Chutes to Mountain Goat, between Irvine and Santiago Oaks Regional Parks.

Fringed pink

What’s in bloom in June? My hike (with some running!) up Barham Ridge turned up just a few Silene lanciniata ssp. californica: California Indian Pinks.

What they lack in numbers, they make up for in brilliance . . . I love their bright and delicately fringed (or “pinked”) flower parts.

This time of year there is always a local cryptantha  that livens up the trails through The Willows . . . the Cal Flora web site listed 92 different species to choose from! They unroll in a phacelia-like fashion–but are not phacelia.

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At the end of my hike/run, I was elated that I had been able to run about 30 minutes and hike about 45 in my loop up and over Barham Ridge, beginning and ending at Irvine Regional Park.

I was less-than-thrilled at the amount of trash I found along the trail . . . as I mentioned, I haven’t been on these trails for a few weeks (see previous mention of the Grand Canyon), and I wonder: am I the only one who notices this stuff?

And I had to leave a few things out there, because I have my standards: nothing that looks like it’s been used on a bodily orifice, nothing that contains dog poop, and nothing that the ants are still feasting on (which disqualified a beer can that I fished out of some brush, only to discover it was swarming with tiny red ants. I dropped it (PDQ) and will check on it for next time. Ditto the blue plastic bag I went to great efforts to snag  from a down-slope thicket; sometimes these are empty and I use them to corral trail trash in my packet. This time: some dry deposit from someone’s pet.) All of  which prompts the eternal question:

WHAT PART OF LEAVE NO TRACE DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?!

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One hike’s worth of trail trash 😦

On a cheerier note, a couple of days ago, I volunteered to accompany painters from SOCAL PAPA on a plein air adventure in Round Canyon (another Irvine Ranch Conservancy area).

The morning was typical June gloom, but these talented folks produced some beautiful paintings anyway; I’m sorry I didn’t photograph any of them. Here’s what I did come away with:

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Plein air painting on a gray June day in Round Canyon.

Turkey vulture waiting for the day to warm up so there are thermals to ride above the landfill "next door" to Round Canyon.

Turkey vulture waiting for the day to warm up so there are thermals to ride above the landfill “next door” to Round Canyon.

At the end of the Round Canyon dirt road/trail:  earth movers roar and zoom at the Bowerman Landfill.

At the end of the Round Canyon dirt road/trail: earth movers roar and zoom at the Bowerman Landfill.

Oak groves line the road; it's a peaceful, bird-filled place . . . if you can ignore the occasional landfill noise.

Oak groves line the road; it’s a peaceful, bird-filled place . . . if you can ignore the occasional landfill ruckus.

Scat central: I've never seen so much critter droppings...some mighty big coyotes/cougars roam this road regularly!

Round Canyon = Scat Central: I’ve never seen so many critter droppings…some mighty big coyotes (cougars?) must roam this road regularly!

Hawk in a burned snag screeched and moved on down the road when I walked by.

A hawk in a burned snag screeched and moved on down the road when I walked by.

It doesn't need to be fall for the poison oak to turn color--the lack of moisture is also a trigger.

It doesn’t need to be fall for the poison oak to turn color–the lack of moisture is also a trigger.

Skinny oak grove in Round Canyon.

A grove of skinny oaks in Round Canyon: how did they survive the 2007 firestorm?

Round Canyon would never be my first choice to go for a hike; the dirt road to hike in is only 1.5 miles long and ends at a landfill full of ridiculously big & loud earthmovers. But sitting there for a few hours, in the dirt and red ants and scat, listening to birds, admiring the plants and trees that survived the 2007 Santiago wildfire, and watching painters transform it all into their own vision–what a peaceful experience! I’m glad I went . . .

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