Date: November 25, 2015
Place: Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach, California
Address: 8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Coordinates: 33.566709, -117.821390
Length: 5.7 miles
As this year is turning and fall comes around again, we make plans once more for the week-long Thanksgiving school break in November.
Last year we traveled to Southern California, combining a visit at Mission San Juan Capistrano for then 4th grader younger chika, a visit to Disneyland as a birthday gift to the elder chika, a visit with our friends at San Juan Capistrano, and of course - hiking a sample of the numerous Orange County Nature gems.
Early on that trip we had a nice hike at Laguna Niguel. After that we had a more frustrating hike in the Santa Ana Mountains, a hike that ended abruptly when the elder chika fell and cut her hand on a sharp rock. The cut was deep and we had spent the rest of that evening at the local urgent care with her. After that adventure, we were ready for something nice and easy, and less hot. The coast seemed the natural direction and I selected Crystal Cove State Park at Laguna Beach.
This park is actually larger than how it looks on the map. And it has a nice trail system that we realized immediately, would be too extensive to cover in one day. Or even three.
We arrived at the main parking lot and started at the trailhead behind the visitor center building.
|Our hike at Crystal Cove State Park as captured by Papa Quail's GPS|
We took some water and snacks and started uphill, getting slowly away from the communication towers and the power lines. I tried focusing on what Nature had on display for us that day.
|Missouri Melon (Cucurbita foetidissima)|
It was a hot day and the chikas were complaining, especially the elder chika who was hurting still from her injury from our hike at the Santa Ana Mountains on the day before. To keep the girls interested I recruited them to 'Mission Roadrunner', urging them to seek the bird that all of us would love to see.
Well, 'Mission Roadrunner' was accomplished within a few minutes when papa Quail spotted a single roadrunner standing by the side of the trail and looking at us carefully. It waited there until we were almost on top of it, then it walked into the bushes and vanished from our sight.
Immediately I recruited the girls to 'Mission Coyote', which was not accomplished on that day.
|California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)|
Way to the east the twin peaks of the Saddleback peeked over the hills ridge line. We planned to go east as far as we had the time for, but the Saddleback would wait for another trip Southern California.
|Cliff Aster (Malacothrix saxatilis)|
|Going east on Moro Canyon Road|
We didn't smell anything in particular but there must have been something interesting on the hillside to our north because a committee of vultures was circling over that particular area. Perhaps the deceased in the shrubs was too fresh still.
I thought we might make it to the eastern boundary of the park and loop back along the Moro Ridge trail. On any other day we would have probably completed that look as planned but on that November day we has a deadline that couldn't be pushed back - the low tide was due at about 3:00 pm and if we wanted to go tide-pooling (we wanted! we wanted!), then we would have to turn back right then.
I managed to wrestle a few more minutes out of Papa Quail's timeline calculations and went briefly up a side trail to see what I could see from there. I didn't get much of a view but I did see a sticky monkeyflower that bloomed in red - a color I had never before seen in Bay Area monkeyflowers.
|Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus)|
|California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)|
|Moro Canyon north-facing slope chaparral|
Whatever little rain had fallen so far on those hills - the cacti were making the most of it, sprouting new pads out of plump old ones.
|New pad budding of Mission Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica)|
|One of our stopping points - a sole oak hugging the rock|
|Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis)|
|The Poles Trail|
There, where moisture collects and remains even throughout summer the shrubs were green and welcoming, and few bore flowers still.
|California Wild Rose (Rosa californica)|
|Pill Millipede (Roly Poly Bug)|
|Chaparral Mallow (Malancothamunus fasciculatus)|
|Menzies' Goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii var. menziesii)|
|On the way up -Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)|