Monday, August 24, 2015

Hiking Opportunities At The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks In September 2015

Explore the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks in September

Enjoy free, guided outdoor programs for nature lovers of all ages and skill levels

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (August 24, 2015) – This September, let’s get back to nature and experience the breathtaking views of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. The magnificent open space and parks offer a full calendar of daily activities and free, guided programs spanning hiking, mountain bike rides, horseback riding, habitat restoration and special events for nature enthusiasts of all ages and fitness skill levels. 

Every Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m., join Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers for a Fitness Hike on Paved Hicks Haul Road in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. Skip the gym and choose between a 3, 6 or 8-mile route in the great outdoors. All hikes are conducted at the speed of about 3-3.5 miles per hour. 

Each Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. naturalists will host a Mid-Week Hike in a different park location. Wednesday, September 2 visits Bommer Canyon, which is a historic ranch that has become open space. The hike involves multiple steep climbs with over 2,220 feet of accumulated climbing elevation across 10-12 miles. 

The Mid-Week Hike on Wednesday, September 9 ventures through Quail Hill in the City of Irvine Open Space Preserve. Several single-track trails, steep climbs and descents are experienced at a moderate pace spanning a 10-12 mile journey. 

Wednesday, September 16 takes the Mid-Week Hike to Aqua Chinon in Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. Experience The Sinks, Box Springs, Loma Ridge, Limestone Ridge and Limestone Canyon on a moderate paced hike spanning 10-12 miles of breathtaking landscapes. 

Wednesday, September 23’s Mid-Week Hike travels alongside a working avocado grove within Orchard Hills and Loma Ridge. A 10-12 mile moderately paced journey will provide spectacular views of all of Orange County. 

The final Mid-Week Hike of the month returns to Bommer Canyon on Wednesday, September 30. The hike involves multiple steep climbs and descents across a variety of trail types. 

Each first Friday of the month at 8:30 a.m. help improve the habitat of the land by joining the First Friday Habitat Restoration in Buck Gully Reserve. Simple things like watering and collecting seeds for planting can greatly improve habitat for wildlife in this Newport Beach preserve.

The Tuesday morning Fitness Hikes, Wednesday Mid-Week Hikes and First Friday Habitat Restoration Days are just a snapshot of the full calendar of free, outdoor, guided activities available at Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Register for free online at and begin the adventure today. 

Irvine Ranch Conservancy
Irvine Ranch Conservancy is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization created in 2005 to help preserve and support the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, enhancing the public’s connection to the land while helping partners and landowners with all aspects of stewardship. The Conservancy offers a variety of free, guided outdoor programs for all nature enthusiasts including hiking, mountain biking, horse-back riding and much more. For more information, visit

Friday, August 21, 2015

First Wolf Pack In Almost A Century Spotted In Northern California

It has been almost a century, since California last had a wold pack within its boarders.  This month, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released photographs showing evidence of five gray wolf pups and two adults in Northern California.  Ashley and I believe that is great seeing the wolves, after reintroduction into the Yellowstone ecosystem, begin to reclaim their historic and natural habitat.  We have seen the wolves in Yellowstone on many occasions during our multiple trips there.

This is the first wolf pack seen in California since the state's gray wolf population went extinct in 1924 (almost a century).  State and federal authorities announced Thursday that a remote camera captured photos earlier this month of two adults and five pups in southeastern Siskiyou County.  They were named the Shasta pack for nearby Mount Shasta.

The wolf pack was discovered four years after the famous Oregon wandering wolf, OR-7, first reached Northern California.  Karen Kovacs of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said it was an amazing accomplishment for gray wolves to establish themselves in Northern California just 21 years after wolves were reintroduced in the Northern Rockies.  Those wolves eventually migrated into Oregon and Washington before reaching California, where they are protected by federal and state endangered species acts.

Anticipating that wolves would migrate into the state, California declared them an endangered species last year, but the state Fish and Wildlife Department does not expect to have a management plan in force until the end of this year.  The department has no goals for how many wolves might eventually live in California and no idea how many once lived in the state, she added. California's last known native wolf was killed in 1924 in neighboring Lassen County.  There are at least 5,500 gray wolves in the contiguous 48 states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lake Fire Update And San Gorgonio Wilderness Closure

As a result of the Lake Fire, the entire San Gorgonio Wilderness is closed through October 1, 2015.  For a copy of the order closing the wilderness click Here.  After such a bad fire, the area definitely needs time to heal and recover, and the actual area that burned will likely be closed for much longer. U.S. Forest Service officials have determined the Lake Fire was sparked by human activity. The U.S. Forest Service is still investigating what caused the fire, but officials have ruled out natural causes like lightning. Human-caused could mean intentional, accidental or due to an electrical wire malfunction. Since the Lake Fire was first spotted on June 17, 2015, the Lake Fire has burned 31,359 acres, destroyed one home and three outbuildings and injured six firefighters. Currently the Lake Fire is 98 percent contained, but the last 2 percent is not going to be an easy finish. Remaining pockets of flames are almost impossible for firefighters on the ground to reach. Any visible smoke that occurs is within the containment area and most likely it will take a season-ending event, such as heavy rain or winter snow to fully extinguish the fire.

All Forest Service lands in the area of the fire remain closed to recreation purposes including the day-use areas of Barton Flats Visitor Center, Greyback Amphitheatre, and Jenks Lake Day Use Site. Campgrounds along Highway 38 are expected to re-open today including Barton Flats, San Gorgonio, South Fork, Skyline, Council, Heart Bar, Oso, Lobo, Heart Bar Equestrian, Wildhorse Equestrian, Coon Creek Cabin, Coon Creek Yellow-post Sites, Mission Springs, Green Spot, and Juniper Springs. And, all hiking trails into the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area remain closed, as well as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) between Whitewater Preserve to Onyx Summit. (Photographs credited to The Desert Sun.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Coronado Island Bike Ride In San Diego

Coronado Island, in San Diego, is one of the gems of California. Located in San Diego County, Coronado Island has a long (somewhat scary) bridge that links the island directly to San Diego, should you drive your car. For this trip, Brian and I decided to take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train from the Irvine Train Station to downtown San Diego, hop on the ferry that takes you from downtown San Diego to Coronado Island, and then rent bikes to ride on Coronado Island. We followed the same trip on the return home. This day trip adventure to Coronado Island in San Diego is a great one for the family--adults and kids! This is not a typical "hiking" post, so we broke down the trip information in a little different manner as compared to all our other posts.

How to get to Coronado Island: There are many different ways to get to the Coronado Island and go bike riding and/or explore the beach area. The most common method is obviously driving. However, if you are going down to San Diego on a busy holiday weekend, or for that matter a regular weekend, and seek to avoid the crowded freeways and roads, you can always take the Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner to San Diego. Below is a detailed account of our trip, but you can obviously take your car, or a taxi.

STEP 1-TRAIN: As previously stated, Brian and I took the train on our adventure to Coronado Island in San Diego. More specifically, we took the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner from the Irvine Train Station in Orange County, to downtown San Diego. Currently, the Pacific Surfliner offers twelve daily round-trip services between San Diego and Los Angeles. For a link to the Pacific Surfliner's scheduled departures, click Here. It is about 1 hour and 50 minutes from Irvine to San Diego on the train.  If you travel from Los Angeles to San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner, it will take about 3 hours.  The costs are reasonable and Amtrak has a good points reward system to earn free travel. NOTE: If you decide to take the train from the San Diego area, the Coaster commuter train service is another option. However, even though the Coaster can get you to San Diego, on the weekends there are not very many trains, leaving you with more limited service options. Additionally, the seats on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner are much more comfortable and spacious than the Coaster.

Brian and I took the 9:30 a.m. train from Irvine, which arrived in downtown San Diego at 11:22 a.m.  We decided to upgrade to business class, for our train trip down to San Diego, which was neat experience.  For the morning business class, there was complementary fresh coffee, apple juice, water, and assorted morning pastries. Business class passengers can read complementary newspapers and have reserved seats, which means you do not run the risk of having to stand up on a packed train on busy holiday weekends. The seats in business class and coach are the same size, and are the equivalent of domestic first class on airlines. Another benefit of Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner is the trains are equipped with free wifi.  

For our return trip, after the day was over, we took the last northbound train from San Diego, which was the 9:00 p.m. train.  During the night business class trip, you receive complementary drinks and a snack pack. We enjoyed a nice relaxing glass of red wine on the way home and the train was on time for both legs of our trip. We arrived in Irvine at 10:45 p.m. and the train was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles at 11:50 p.m. We look forward to our next trip on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train, because we thoroughly enjoyed our great views of the beach along the majority of the trip as well as how easy the trip was.

STEP 2-FERRY: Once we arrived in downtown San Diego, we took the Coronado Ferry from downtown San Diego to Coronado Island. The ferry to Coronado Island operates out of two different points in downtown San Diego, the Broadway Pier and the Convention Center. The closest ferry to the San Diego Train Station is from Broadway Pier. Broadway Pier is located just a couple blocks (no more than a 5 minute walk) from the San Diego Train Station. The Broadway Pier is right next to the USS Midway and is located right on the San Diego waterfront.

The ferry landing is right there next to the actual Broadway Pier building, at the end of the dock area.  The ticket booths have been re-done in a nice formal glass-like structure, as shown in the above picture. You can buy ferry tickets at the ticket booths for both round-trip or one-way ferry trips. The company that runs the Coronado Island Ferry is called Flagship Cruses and Events. Their website is helpful and has all the scheduled departure times, roughly once an hour or once every half hour depending on the day and season you go. Make sure you don't look at the commuter schedule. Check their regular ferry schedule. The commuter ferry doesn't run during holidays, but the regular one does.  The ferry is not very expensive and when we went, it was $4.75 per person one way. You can also take your own bike on the ferry as well as the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner with a bike reservation.

The ferry ride is a short 15 minute ride from downtown San Diego to the Coronado Island dock. As you peel away from the dock, the ferry ride gives you nothing short of a breath-taking view of the San Diego skyline, the USS Midway, the Coronado Bridge, and the coastline. It also feels incredibly patriotic to be riding in the same water as the giant Navy ships in this area. You can also see ocean life if you are lucky as well as the airplanes flying into the San Diego airport. Make sure to waive back at the passing recreational boaters who are very friendly and will likely waive and say hi.

Once you arrive at the Coronado Island dock, there is a "tourist trap" full of shops and places to eat.  The area's architecture is reminiscent of the Hotel Del Coronado, with it's hut-like red roof tops and cape cod facade. Once we arrived, we ate lunch at a fantastic BBQ joint called Lil' Piggy's that we would highly recommend. Their food was fantastic and we recommend the corn fritters! It's a crowded place, but they have "family-style" seating--so be prepared to make new friends! We sat with a nice couple from Apple Valley and shared a great lunch.

The Coronado Ferry Landing is on one side of the island, and the Hotel Del Coronado and our bike rental location were on the complete opposite side of the island. If you take a taxi or other vehicle transportation, the Hotel Del Coronado is only about 5 minutes away. Walking would be about 30-35 minutes. Being avid hikers, we obviously walked to the bike shop, which was not far from the Hotel Del Coronado. We enjoyed seeing the community up close, while on our walk. There are bike shops you can rent from that are closer to the Coronado Ferry Landing, but I saw good reviews and pricing at Cruiser King, which is where we rented our bikes.

STEP 3-BIKE: Once we finished eating, we then walked about a mile and a half to the bike shop, Cruiser King, where we rented bikes. Before you go on this trip, make sure that you call and reserve bikes at the Coronado location! I reserved and paid for the bikes online a couple of days prior to our visit because they can run out of bikes on busy weekends. We rented beach cruisers from Cruiser King. I looked through a bunch of reviews and pricing and found that Cruiser King was the best for us. It was $20 for each bike for the day (10am-6pm), so $40 total, for Brian and I. When we arrived at the shop, they had our bikes ready for us, added a basket on mine, and gave us a lock to lock them up, if we went into a store or something. At the end of the day, we simply returned the bikes and everything was super easy, since I paid for everything online. We would have no problem recommending Cruiser King to others.

Now that you have your bike and you are on Coronado Island, where do you go? What do you do? Once we had our bikes from Cruiser King, we rode about 5 minutes to the Hotel Del Coronado.  When you approach, there is a scenic sidewalk that parallels the beach. The Hotel Del Coronado is located to the left of the bike path and you cannot miss it. Sadly, most of the sidewalk in front of the Hotel Del Coronado is not bike friendly due to the large number of people, however, the Silver Strand State Beach (BIKE ROUTE) is not that far away.  The bike trail is long, flat, and has lanes for bikes coming and going.  It is well marked and you can ride as long as you want, or as short as you want, since the bike path is 24 miles long.  This bike trail/path takes you more on the inside of  Coronado Island, with an ocean view still.  However, most of the view is on the side of the path with the San Diego skyline in the background, the big Coronado bridge, and the Navy shipyard. It's also got some great photo opportunities that provide information on what the state is preserving and how they are protecting certain species of plants and birds.  In this way, it's much like an interpretative trail. We rode about 6 miles in and 6 miles back, then hit Hotel Del Coronado for chips, salsa and drinks. We locked up the bikes at Hotel Del Coronado's bike rack, which is located at the front of the hotel. Then, we walked around the hotel and headed out to their sundeck bar area. It's a beautiful outdoor seating area with a full ocean view.

Shortly after, we returned our bikes to Cruiser King. We walked back to the Coronado Ferry Landing and took the 7:30 p.m. ferry to the Broadway Pier.  We had a little time to kill before boarding the 9 p.m. train home, so we walked the waterfront where the USS Midway is located.  There are lots of cute shops and dining locations along the waterfront--it looks somewhat magical.  Our Amtrak train was waiting for us in the station when we arrived to the San Diego Train Station and we boarded to head home. It was nothing short of a perfect day in San Diego.

Rating: Elevation Gain: Minimal (easy), Distance: several miles of walking and up to multiple miles of bike riding. (Easy to Strenuous, tailor to your needs).

Time to Complete Adventure: All Day.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

OC Zoo Welcomes New Bear


(Orange, Calif.) – The OC Zoo will introduce its newest animal – a young California black bear – at a special event Saturday, July 25The female bear, named Elinor, is believed to be a little more than one year old. Her official welcome will take place at 1:30 p.m. during the OC Zoo’s Zookeeper Appreciation Day event. Elinor was found last year wandering alone in Humboldt County as a young cub and is believed to have been hit by a car. The cub recovered, but would not have survived in the wild. Elinor found a new home at the OC Zoo via the Calif. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The OC Zoo cares for animals native to the desert southwest that cannot be released to the wild due to health or socialization issues.
“This bear will be a great addition to the OC Zoo,” Chairman Todd Spitzer, Orange County Board of Supervisors, Third District, said. “The OC Zoo gives orphaned and injured animals a second chance and helps to educate visitors about wildlife that lives in and around Southern California.” Elinor and the zoo’s other bear, Yo-Yo, will be on exhibit alternate days for the safety of both animals. Introducing young animals in enclosures with older, established animals often carries a risk. 
OC Zoo staff plans to place Elinor on exhibit in the bear enclosure Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to let the new bear get accustomed to her new surroundings. Yo-Yo, will be on exhibit Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Those wishing for a sneak peek at Elinor prior to the official welcoming event may visit the zoo starting July 13. However, OC Zoo animal keepers will be carefully monitoring the new bear and her time in the enclosure will be subject to last minute changes. The OC Zoo is located in Irvine Regional Park, at 1 Irvine Park Road in Orange. The zoo is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and  weekends 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $2.