Today I set out to find fall in Southern California. I knew it would be a challenge, but I miss fall color and the optimist in me was certain I could find some version of fall happening somewhere down here. Fall to me means cool nights, crisp mornings and lots of fall color. Living six blocks from the Pacific Ocean means my mornings and evenings are pretty much the same everyday. I’m not complaining about living where I live. I love it! It’s fantastic to wear sandals in October. But I get restless for the change in seasons and I decided today was the day. I took Otis, our family’s oversized cockapoo and hit the road. I researched an area in Orange, CA: The Santiago Oaks Regional Park. I like to do research on trails. It’s a bit of a hobby for me. I have more than one trail app on my devices so I can compare hikes through the maps, photos and other people’s reviews. Reading the reviews is my favorite part of the research.
We arrived in a thin layer of fog. I was excited about the fog and the photo opportunities it would bring. Unfortunately, we missed it by five or so minutes. Being the mother of school age children limits the time of day you can leave the house to go hiking. I like to say goodbye to my kids everyday and send them off with a hug and a kiss.
Santiago Oaks Regional Park is really beautiful. It’s also an easy drive and not too busy. There is a $3 fee to enter the park on a weekday. The fee is $5 on the weekend when I imagine it’s much busier.
When I got out of the car I was blessed with hundreds of birds singing and chirping. I’m not a bird person so I don’t know what kind they were, but they were plentiful. There were orange trees in a grove in the parking area. You’re not allowed to pick them so I’m pretty sure the birds enjoy them, which is why there were so many of them. A few hundred feet into the trail we also saw a deer. The trail guide promised animal activity, but I was expecting creatures that were a little more menacing. There are rattlesnakes and mountain lions in this area. Thankfully we didn’t encounter either.
The trees were beautiful. They framed the paths perfectly and because it wasn’t busy I was able to stop and get some nice photos. We saw three other hikers, one mountain biker and horseback rider. Most of the trails allow all three activities, but there were a few trails that were designated hiking only. Otis and I hiked the Santiago Creek – Wilderness Loop. It’s a short, easy loop with only a 100-foot elevation gain. There is also a creek, but we only came across one area where it was flowing pretty well. We tested out parts of some of the other trails too, Sour Grass and Lady Bug. There are many other trails in this area so I’ll definitely be back.
As we were returning to the parking area, I found what I was looking for: an oak tree! The leaves had turned and were beautiful hues of brown, orange and red. Mission accomplished! I left Santiago Oaks Regional Park one happy woman. I took one of the leaves with me to prove that there are seasons in Southern California. I just have to look more closely.