A nice sized group of 18 OC CNPS members are guests enjoyed one of the more picturesque area of the Santa Ana Mountains, and also a little visited area. Once our car caravan travelled through the locked gate the adventure began. The five mile drive up the private Rancho Carillo Road to the trailhead was almost a field trip in itself. Finally we arrived at the trailhead and the entrace point into a small portion of the nearly 40,000 acre San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, a well protected area within the Cleveland National Forest with no public roads, no motorized vehicle, no mountain bicycles and almost no people. In c=fact, we did not see another person all day.
As we walked the extensive grasslands here we stopped several times to discuss what we were seeing and share our combined knowledge. This knowledge included information about the effect of nitrification upon the local plant communities and watershed, invasive plant challenges, grazing pro's and con's, wildfire issues and even native American culture.
Of course, we saw plants as well, lots of them as we travelled though the plant communities from chaparral, to grassland, to oak woodland and even some coastal sage scrub. The oak woodland here is among the best in The Santa Ana Mountains and we paused a few times simply to enjoy the canopies and to understand some of the oak issues that are a current challange, including drought, boring insect, fungal diseases and even the damage caused by this winter's unusually low-elevation snowfall.
About three and a half miles of trail seems to fly by.
For a complete list of the 110 plant species seen today, click the "Plants Seen" tab.