Covid Chronicles, Whiting Ranch Park
My vacation to Utah and its many adventurous national parks was planned for this week. The Covid19 pandemic would force me to cancel the trip. I didn’t even have a chose since my hotels cancelled my accommodations due to the closures of certain businesses. I definitely wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for spreading the virus from one region to another so it was definitely understandable. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of the many people furloughed or laid-off from work and I was able to keep my vacation time. This was my first staycation in maybe 20 years. That didn’t mean I was just going to sit on my couch and waste away for a week. I chose to do some local hiking and enjoy the spring bloom of the local landscape. I knew it wouldn’t be at par with Arches and Canyonland National Park but it would be a well deserved distraction from the pandemic.
Living in suburbia means my hikes would be visually lacking in quality of landscape and beauty. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, I was a willing day dreamer in these tough times. I didn’t want to go to Los Angeles and hike on their landmark trails like the Hollywood sign. With there high rate of the virus and the fact that it really isn’t in my area of Orange County, It wasn’t an option. I wanted to hike but I also wanted to be responsible enough to limit my social contact and to stay “home,” that is within my area. The days I would hike would be on weekdays only to further limit contact with others.
The desert landscape and the rows of track homes are the main features of the area. But, there is a small canyon in the area that resembles the red canyons of Utah. This canyon is located at my favorite park for hiking. Whiting Ranch Regional Park is just a short drive from my home and a wonderful place to escape the city life, even though it’s still within its borders. I started my hike early in the morning to avoid the heat and to avoid as much people as I could.
I parked in front of Wahoo’s restaurant and entered the trail. Within maybe 100 yards I was in the forest area of the park and it was like I entered another realm. I could no longer see any buildings, the city had disappeared. The critters were out to greet me. The typical lizards, ground squirrels and rabbits ran along the ground with a turkey buzzard hovering overhead as a woodpecker did its thing on a tree.
Occasionally, my stride would be broken by a speeding mountain biker. The trail would cross a creek several times which would be exciting in some circumstances but this one would be dry most of the year, unless there were recent rain. I’d often see deer in this part of the park but on this day I didn’t have such luck.
I cleared the woods and it was time to tackle the up hill portion of the trail. It’s not a difficult hill but it is a great workout at about 600 feet in elevation. On this portion of the trail, you’ll see suburbia once again in the distance. The homes are visible along the edges of the park. The trail will take you to the middle of the park were multiple trails intersect below a large water shed. By this time I was just over an hour into my trail. From this point, I could see the single narrow path of Billy Goat Trail but it wasn’t time for it just yet.
It was time to head down the trail and into the canyon, Red Rock Canyon. The trail would follow a creek that carved out this canyon over thousands of years. Again, it was like trekking in another world, Utah… maybe. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t compare to Utah but it does resemble it just a little bit, and little it definitely is.
It’s hard to imagine that a red canyon would exist so close to my home but here it is. I got to enjoy the canyon without the company of another sole and I was definitely the first one here. All the spider webs I came across on the trail told me that.
I sat a bit and just enjoyed the peacefulness of the canyon and reminisced about the first time I saw this canyon and the surprise I felt when I first viewed the red rocks. It was time to exit the canyon and tackle the hills of Billy Goat Trail. The trail would consist of a set of hills undulating along a little valley.
The trail consist of a single path just wide enough for one person to pass. At one point, or maybe more, it will take your breath away. If you want a great work out, don’t miss this trail. The trail ended at the water shed I passed earlier at the center of the park.
That would mean it was time to retrace my steps back to the beginning. Back through the woods and back to the world I wanted to escape from for just a few hours. I finished the hike truly satisfied, physically and mentally. During the 8.3 mile, 3.5 hour, hike It felt like I was on vacation exploring the world. All while still responsibly social distancing.