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Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County!

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail...Snow in Orange County!
Click any image to enlarge

First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR! It's hard to believe 2014 has come to an end and we're staring into the face of 2015. It's the future, man! If Back to the Future II has taught me anything, I know the next 12 months will bring us hover boards, instant-dry jackets, and Nike Air Mags. I can't wait.

2014 ended with a bang here in Orange County with a pretty impressive winter storm that dumped several inches of snow in unlikely places like Temecula and Rancho Santa Margarita. We didn't get any down here in Tustin, but the nearby Santa Ana Mountains with its centerpiece Saddleback Mountain were blanketed in a glorious sheet of white. That's right, Orange County in snow- it can happen.

New Years day brought with it clear skies, calm wind, and cold temperatures - the perfect conditions to go exploring one of my favorite Southern California hiking trails: the Trabuco Canyon Trail in the Cleveland National Forest. I've shown pictures and video from this trail before (check it out here). The Trabuco Canyon Trail doesn't scream Orange County at any time of year with its densely forested hillsides and abundant spruce trees, but it was especially out of character on this day with at least 8 inches of snow in most parts.

My girlfriend, my brother, and I set out to explore the area and see it in this unique state on the morning of January 1st. Thought it would be a perfect way to start 2015. Unfortunately, half of Orange County had the same thought. The trail, luckily, was empty, but the traffic jam leaving the mountains would have made east-coasters double over in laughter. It's ridiculous how terrible southern California drivers are at negotiating icy roads. If the thermometer drops below 40, all hell breaks loose. The dirt-road drive that normally takes 15 minutes stretched to over an hour with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

But aside from that little hiccup, this hike treated us to some of the most unique and stunning scenery I've ever seen. It's not often you get to see prickly pear cactus and giant oak trees poking out from deep snow. I didn't bring my "serious" camera equipment to document this unique sight because I didn't want to slow my group down and I just didn't feel like carrying the weight. Instead, I travelled with my pocket-sized Canon s100 point-and-shoot camera. The pictures aren't my best (ugly lighting, limited equipment, other dumb excuses), but they captured the Trabuco Canyon Trail in a way most people will never see.

Navigating the trail in this weather was tricky at best. And I don't mean it was difficult to find the trail on account of the snow cover (it was) but the trail was just littered with massive branches and bent over trees. The forest service has a hell of a job ahead of them cleaning this trail up, that's for sure. I hope they have some good chainsaws. The storm that passed over must have been a hell of a sight. The winds had to be incredibly strong to cause the destruction we saw.

This picture is a cluttered mess, which is exactly why I'm sharing it with you. This is the kind of chaos that storm wrought. Plus, check out those massive Southern California oak trees covered in snow...you don't see that everyday.

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

But now on to the pretty pictures. I guess there's no need to explain them. Simply feast your eyes on the Trabuco Canyon Trail in snow. And for the folks in other parts of the country, I know this must seem comical to you getting this excited about a few inches of snow, but hey, it's big news when we finally get a shred of weather around here. And I mean, come on, it's snow in Orange County!

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Nothing better than the smooth lines and reflected light you get with snow:

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Where's Waldo Drew?

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Snow and giant leaves? What the hell is going on?!

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

Trabuco Canyon Trail: Snow in Orange County

High Up Above Trabuco Canyon

Trabuco Canyon Hike

Well, it's official. I'm in love with the Trabuco Canyon trail. You may notice I've been posting a lot of pictures from this area of the Cleveland National Forest recently. It's for 3 reasons: 1) I can actually get there now that I have a 4x4. 2) The weather has been gorgeous lately. And 3) I absolutely LOVE the scenery here!

It's like a little taste of Oregon right in Orange County. Yes, a very little taste, but a taste nonetheless. After all, where else in Orange County can you find stately spruce trees enshrouded in fog blanketing an entire mountainside? That's not to mention the creeks winding through the canyons.

I visited this trail again on Sunday, and this time, we made it all the way to a peak above 4000'. Total hike was about 6.6 miles with around 2000' elevation gain. Not the most treacherous I've done, but with 38 lbs of camera gear on my back, it was a solid workout. Luckily, we started off in the rain and the temperatures hovered around 52 degrees all day.

Here are my pictures from the day (click the panos for larger versions):

Trabuco Canyon Hike

Trabuco Canyon Hike

Trabuco Canyon Hike

Trabuco Canyon Hike

View from the top. We could see all the way to Catalina!

Trabuco Canyon Hike

Trabuco Canyon Hike

I've only scratched the surface of these Santa Ana Mountains. I'm sure I have many more years of exploring its depths ahead of me.

Trabuco Canyon in Heavy Fog

Spruce Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

It was rainy and drizzly on and off this Easter Sunday, and since I'm too old to hunt for eggs, I thought I'd hit my favorite local trail, the Trabuco Canyon Trail.

Most people tend to hike when the weather is clear and mild, but not me. There's few things I love more in life than hiking in the rain and fog. So with the heavy cloud cover hanging over the local Santa Ana Mountains, I knew I'd be able to hike up into the clouds to get some great "forest in the fog" shots.

I had the trail all to myself and the fog was superb. Remember, all the following shots were taken in sunny southern California. I don't know about you, but had I seen these pictures without knowing where they were taken, I never would have guessed Orange County as the location.

Lots of similar shots here, but I loved them all. I played with the white balance quite a bit on some of these to get some cooler blue tones. I'm really happy with how these turned out. I can't wait to see how they look on Metallic Paper.

Alder Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Spruce Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Spruce Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Spruce Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Oak Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Spruce Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Spruce Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Oak Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Spruce Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Spruce Trees in Fog - Trabuco Canyon Trail, Orange County, CA

Thanks for viewin'!