Touring the Santa Ana Mountains
By Bob Jacoby
Photos by Norma and Danny Siler
Our DE tour of the Santa Ana Mountains finally took place on Saturday, June 10th 2017. This interesting adventure was originally scheduled in January, rescheduled for April, and we finally were able to do it in June. The problem, as we are all aware of, was a very rainy winter which prompted Cleveland National Forest to close most of the roads in the area until they perceived all were passable.
Fortunately, June 10th turned out to be a bright, sunny and clear day as the following DE adventurers gathered for this scenic trip: Terry Ogden, Danny and Norma Siler, Jim Watson and Linda Stevens, Matt Jones, Dave McFarland, Neal and Marion Johns, Leonard and Rebecca Friedman, Jay Lawrence and yours truly (if I forgot someone, my sincere apologies). Our meeting place was right off the Ortega Highway near a Cleveland National Forest fire station. Because of a warning from the Forest Service ‘to not have a large caravan” some of us doubled up. The Freidman’s and myself had the opportunity to ride with Jay and his big time truck.
For most of the morning our route followed the Main Divide Trail along the ridge tops of the mountains. From the time shortly after we left the Ortega Highway until we made it all the way up the Santiago Peak we were essentially climbing on a moderately rugged shelf road. Some of the climbing was just a little bit challenging but the erosion was not severe and no one had any problems. The scenery was beautiful as we traversed through low shrub vegetation all the way to our initial landmark, Trabuco Peak.
While we were climbing we encountered panoramic views of Lake Elsinore to the east and south in the Temescal Valley. Farther along, the trail offered great views of Orange County, including Mission Viejo. Also the trail scenery included plentiful wild flowers.
Before we knew it, it was time for lunch and we enjoyed ourselves eating just below the top of Santiago Peak. Santiago Peak is the highest point in Orange County at 5,687 feet. After lunch we made the final climb to radio towers at the top of the peak. This spot offered considerably more scenic views.
After lunch it was time to head downhill from Santiago Peak on the very steep Maple Springs Road. This road, as it descends, goes basically west and northwest toward Silverado Canyon. The trail becomes even steeper when it enters Silverado Canyon and become Silverado Canyon Rd. It proved to be a real challenge when we met vehicles coming in the other direction.
Silverado Canyon is a deep gorge in the Santa Ana Mountains and has a creek flowing all the way down. It was so named because of silver mining in this area many years ago. This year there was water in the creek and it added to the beauty of this incredible environment.
As we descended Silverado Canyon we finally hit pavement at the canyon bottom. However, that was OK because this was a one lane paved road that was absolutely beautiful. We soon came upon some homes deep in the canyon bottom. This area was a former hippie hangout in the 60’s and although it has gone upscale, it is still quite bucolic.
When we finally hit civilization in eastern Orange County everyone headed for home after an interesting and enjoy.able day. We need to do this trip again in the next few years. ~ Bob