4 1/2 miles, 2 1/4 hours in duration, less than 100’ in elevation change, rated Easy.
There has been a lot of press lately regarding the wildflowers in Southern California because of the unusually wet winter we have had. It mentions places like Lake Elsinore, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley as having what they are terming a “Super Bloom”. While looking for information regarding the phenomenon it mentioned other places with an abundance of wildflowers, and it made reference to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve right near where I live in Huntington Beach. I had experienced this hike once or twice, but that was a decade or so ago. So it was about time I laced up my hiking shoes and checked out my own back yard, Huntington Beach’s wetlands and start chasing the “Super Bloom.”
This is a delightful little hike right across from Huntington Beach’s Bolsa Chica State Beach. The wetlands of the ecological reserve are home to many species of birds, I saw a few lizards, and even a squirrel. The trail works it’s way across the wetlands to a hill which is covered with wild grasses, the tips gently swaying in the ocean breeze, sprinkled with different wildflowers. But your full attention is captured by the large field of yellow that did not disappoint when searching for wildflowers and I was certainly surprised to see so many. So it appears that Huntington Beach has it’s own Super Bloom.
7 miles, 6.5 hours in duration, less than 1000’ change in elevation, rated Moderate
I had heard that this was a very popular hike and since we have had a lot of rainfall during the last month I knew that the falls would be flowing and it would be a primo time to go. I arrived at dawn so that I would find parking, which turned out to be no problem at that time of day, but there were 4 or 5 cars there already. When I returned there were 40 or more. During my hike I saw over 60 hikers. On the dirt road portion 6 mountain bikers and one trail runner. This was winter midweek mind you! I met up with almost all of them on their way in while I was on my way out, so I was please about my early start.
It was a brisk 48 degrees at sun up and it warmed up about 10 degrees during the time I was there. More than half of this hike is on dirt road making it’s way through rolling green hills, (due to the unusually rainy season), along a babbling brook. I think that is why this hike is rated moderate. The first part is easy, the last part is strenuous. So I suppose that evens out to moderate?
Once the dirt road ends you then begin working your way up the Canyon and the stream. You will ford the stream over and over. It is slow going as sometimes there is a clear path and sometimes there isn’t. You have to hop scotch across rocks, type rope across damp branches, make your way up muddy slopes, always being cognizant of the abundant poison oak. Picking a route is not always easy, and many times you will do an about face and look for a better way across the stream, or across a boulder. It continues to ramp up in difficulty as you go until you are actually rock scrambling. There is one muddy bank that is pretty steep and you wouldn’t make it up without the rope that is tied on to a tree.
Here is a quick story about my embarrassing moment. I had painstakingly and very methodically picked my way across the stream over and over. I brought trekking poles which I thought would help with the balance and they did, but it was slow going. I did not want to get wet although some folks just walked through the water. I had made it all the way to the falls and almost all the way back without a slip or a dip. Then I happened upon these two cute little Asian ladies. They were heading toward the falls and they motioned that they had seen some other hikers go across were they were standing. It didn’t look too bad. It was multiple rocks to hop across. Instead of planting my poles on the bottom, testing it, and slowly making my way across with great care as I had many times, I thought I will just go with momentum and not use the poles. After all these little ladies were waiting, and it would be more impressive to just step step step. Well, about halfway across I slipped on the rock dipping both shoes in the water. I went down on my hip on one rock and my knee on another in a precarious position. At that point I had only two wet feet, but I was now momentarily stuck in this position. If I did not play my cards right this could end in disaster. I was dangerously close to rolling over like a turtle on my back and getting completely drenched and thus utterly humiliated. Luckily I was able to regain my composure, and raise myself up from this slick twister game and make it to the bank, all the while these little ladies were standing there big eyed with their hands over their mouth.
Black Star Canyon is a beautiful place with rushing water tumbling over rocks, and finally when you make it all the way to the end you can’t help but say, “Oh wow!”, as you turn the bend and there is this awesome 65’ waterfall. To the left is a mineshaft opening with water cascading out, which makes this particular waterfall very unusual. This canyon is named Black Star after a coal mining company that worked the area for a short time over 100 years ago.
Bommer Canyon Trail Irvine California February 6, 2019 4.6 miles, 814’ climb
I stumbled across this delightful little hike upon discovering one of my standard day hiking areas, Crystal Cove State Park at Newport Coast, closed due to all the rain that we had been experiencing.
It was a beautiful day, although a little cool in the low to mid 50’s with a little breeze on this winters day, the rain clouds had departed leaving clear views of the snow capped mountains in the background, and greenery we are not used to seeing in So Cal. I kept saying to myself, “Where am I, Ireland?”, this is crazy! The bright green just seemed too foreign.
Since I was already there, and it was such a nice day, I decided I must do something. So the opposite side of the top of the hill, heading in the direction of the mountains, I spied what appeared to me to be an equestrian trail with railings and pea gravel on the trail. So I set off on this trek which brought me under the 73 freeway in the direction of Irvine.
I really like being in the wilds of the wilderness the most with little signs of civilization, but this was a day hike and would lead up to the aforementioned type of backpacking. It is important to do some smaller day hikes to prepare for the load, distance, and altitude of a backpacking adventure. This day hike had the buildings of Irvine in the distance, and some very snazzy homes framing the bottom portion of this open space preserve which is Shady Canyon.
After a short distance I came to the trail head marker announcing Bommer Canyon Trail. “Cool”, I thought. I didn’t even know this was over here. I was thinking, “Wow, I know it is winter and mid-week, but I have this whole place to myself.” I was to find out at the opposite trail head this trail also was closed, “Oops, sorry…” I did see a couple hiking, and 2 trail runners during my day hike so I was not the only one uninformed.
I really enjoyed this little hike along Bommer Canyon Trail through this protected wild lands preserve, especially since it was so beautiful with the snow on the mountains, and the green grass on the rolling hills.