Hunting for wild places in the OC – Peters Canyon

This was a completely accidental couple of hours of fairly easy hiking.  Given I was so delayed leaving Newport Back Bay and had no chance of making it up to LA in time to get to the Dodgers game, I decided to hang around a bit in the area.  Betsy the paddling guide suggested that I might be interested in the environmental centre on the other side of the bay.  And I was, but they’re not actually open for random strangers to wander through.

However the Centre does mark the start of the Sea to Mountains trail, which goes from Newport Beach up through Peters Canyon to the hills.  The last part of the trail that you’re allowed to walk without a guide is Peters Canyon.

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Pic of Tustin Sports Park's list of DO NOTs

There were tiny children playing baseball here. It’s really a miracle that I was able to move on at all. Tiny children playing sport in uniforms is one of my biggest weaknesses. And it was BASEBALL.

After faffing a bit and deciding that the San Diego Creek section was probably a bit too small for fun times, I jumped in the car and headed off to try and find the trail sections.  This involved parking in the Tustin Sports Park and missing the trail – which at that point is probably a bike lane marked on Jamboree Road – and then lurking around the exceptionally well-maintained streets of West Irvine feeling like a creep.  This was not because I was being creepy, but because West Irvine is so ridiculously well-maintained that I felt like I was staining its very character by being hot, sweaty and a little confused about my location. After not too long, I decided that the official website was too useless, went to a hikers/cyclists website instead and got some solid directions on where to park and how to get to the trail.  Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to travel with the internet always to hand? It really, really is.

I parked about a kilometre away from the section I was looking to walk in Cedar Grove Park, used the facilities and filled up my water-bottle (as two separate things. I enjoy Bear Grylls, I don’t wish to emulate him). And headed off to stroll into Peter’s Canyon.

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What’s this, Lydia? A Mountain Lion.

The walk was listed as Level 4 on the trail guide.  For reference, the last time I walked a Level  4 track was on the way up to Liverpool Hut, so I was planning to just walk up to the first scramble, admire it for a bit and then head back.  Level 4 does not mean the same thing here.  Going the signposted way would have left you on tracks that are fine for a running pram.

A wide, straight, pale shadow heads into the distance

Hot. Bare. No shade. But surprisingly full of attractive walkers.

As you can probably guess from that sentence, I found a slightly more interesting way to go.  I took the first smallish looking branch off the main trail and headed up the canyon wall to the Eastern Ridge track.

It was a really hot day, but there were still some people out running in it and a few families going for walks. This also proved to me that California’s forcefield repulsion effect on unattractive people is still strong, even this far from the beach.

A park bench on the highest point of the Eastern Ridge Trail

Yeah, I stopped for a rest. And made interrogative noises about exactly what I was seeing, just in case someone came up the trail behind me and thought I was just having a rest because I was hot and unfit. /crazyperson

The ridge trail had very little to recommend it, beyond being able to see a decent chunk of the plains. It was hot. Wildlife was minimal (spotted some crows, a hummingbird and a butterfly) and there were some really strange settlement patterns that made one side of the ridge look like a Stepford Village had been plopped in there from space.

Concreted drainage ditches dug into the hillside

Reticulation AND drainage? If you’re landscaping, why not swales? I guess there’s something about the rainfall pattern and/or the soil that makes it not practical?

I also noticed that they had landscaped the side of the ridge that the Stepford Village would be looking at.  Not only had the removed a large chunk of the natural bush and put retic in, they’d also put in drainage ditches.  Not swales.  I guess when it rains it rains really, really hard?

Came down off the ridge out of water and knowing that the car was at least 6km away with no shade on the main trail, decided to do the shorter loop around the top of the park to the ranger station and cross my fingers for water or a shop or something useful like that. (Spoilers: there was a drinking fountain).

Peter's Canyon Weir

Top of a steep (Gus said 14%) grade. Lots of people up here talking about the scenery and pretending to not be hot and unfit.

The loop around the weir was far more interesting, in terms of there being some shade and therefore some critters hiding in it.

The best part of the trip for me though, was seeing a roadrunner and watching it hunt and eat a couple of lizards.  Roadrunners are really nifty looking and walk far more comfortably than magpies do.  This one was walking up logs, peering in, grabbing critters in its beak, whacking them against the ground left-right-left and then chilling out and eating them rather daintily.  I must have lost an hour or so watching the roadrunner and chatting to a random (who turned out to be an engineer making and selling bits to SpaceX, which may have made me a little starry-eyed due to the coolness factor. Note to self – middle-aged engineers REALLY LIKE starry eyes.  Don’t do it again.)

Eventually got back to the car and the blessed, blessed airconditioning, deeply disappointed in the lack of mountain lions and well aware that over the course of a few days I had kind of fallen in love a little bit with the Californian mountains.

Overall, this trip to California was much like my other two trips.  I don’t fit in there at all, yet there are so many things to like about the place.  I think that if I make it to California again, I’d very much like it to be a winter/spring trip and I would like to get away from the beach and LA and see what’s behind the mountains.

Strangely perfect community nestled into one of the last folds in the hills

Sage-brush or fence-post lizard?

I took the photo so the people with me at that point in time could see the photo, find the lizard and then try and spot him in real life.

Me. Admiring the view. Not hot and unfit. Not at all.

Me. Admiring the view. Not hot and unfit. Not at all.

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