Following the Local Watersheds

Between vacation and, well, laziness, I haven’t posted here on Natespin in a month.  Such is life.  But… I have a fun ride report that I did this past weekend.  The idea:  follow a watershed up to its headwaters in the Santa Ana Mountain Range.  Beginning in Dana Point, the start of my journey was the terminus for the San Juan Creek and its major tributary, Trabuco Creek.   While steelhead can not longer make the journey from ocean to mountains, this rider can.

My intention was to follow the Trabuco Creek watershed in its entirety, but I had to make a change in plans when I realized I forgot my water bottle and some food.  I did have a Camelback 3/4 full of water along with some food… but not enough to make a solo journey.  (I’ll do the intended route with some friends in the near future.)  So instead, I decided to cross over a watershed at O’Neil park and head up the Santiago Truck Trail to Old Camp.  Old Camp sits on the Northern boundary of the Trabuco Creek watershed at 3,000 feet up (and under Santiago Peak, OC’s highest point) and offers a view looking south back over Trabuco Creek and the route I took to the top.


Google Earth view of my route starting in Dana Point.  Heading north up Trabuco Creek and up to Old Camp at 3,000 feet  (just below Santiago Peak).  The view at the top looking south follows the creeks path to the Pacific.

This was my first time using the Trabuco Creek trail system between San Juan Capistrano and O’Neil park.  I took a couple bad turns here and there (which is prone to happen when a trail system criss-crosses suburban development) but found my way through the meandering paths.  Several sections of the path feature some great tree canopy – what Steelhead would have loved – and the trails slalom through Sycamores and oaks.  On the way up I took care crossing the creeks (my precious dry feet!) but found myself splashing through them on the return.

The start of the Trabuco Creek path in San Juan Capistrano.

The start of the Trabuco Creek path in San Juan Capistrano.


Santiago Peak towering in the distance and above the Trabuco Creek Watershed.


Traveling further “up-stream” towards Santiago Peak.  For those familiar with OC suburbia that’s Oso Parkway bridge.


No steelhead to disturb as I splashed through Trabuco Creek.


Some of the dense canopy the trails slalom through.

Once I arrived at O’Neil park, I reached into my Camelback and found a CliffBar for sustenance.  I was 20 miles in and the real “ride” would begin with the grade pitching up.  I traversed west over O’Neil Park and began the climb up the old Santiago Truck Trail which is now mostly a wide singletrack and closed to Jeeps.  I was tapping out a good sustainable rhythm while catching up to, chatting with, and passing some other riders enjoying a great autumn Sunday on our way to the Luge flag.


Starting the climbing up and over the watershed in O’Neil park with Santiago Peak closer yet far away.


The Luge Flag.  If there, can you locate the Kasel Cycling sticker?

The flag represents a good junction point for riders – most head right down the awesome Luge downhill trail.  For those wanting further adventure – 4 more miles and 1,000 feet of climbing – continuing on to Old Camp at the base of Santiago Peak is a great option.  At Old Camp, named for – wait for it – an old camp back in the day, there are some great views of OC master-planned suburbia below and the Pacific in the distance.  You can also look up and see Santiago Peak still towering 2,000+ feet above you.


The views looking south and down the Trabuco Creek watershed.


Old Camp (3,200 feet) looking up at Santiago Peak (5,600 feet).

As all hikers and cyclists know that the best part of a climb is the descent down!  I found myself back down at O’Neil park and out of water (now you see why I changed my original route) so I filled my Camelback up at the campground there and had another snack (1/2 a Cliffbar).  I was able to head back to Dana Point following the flow of water.


Back near sea level and the Pacific Ocean.

Final stats of the ride:  57 miles, 5,150 feet of climbing, 3,480 calories, in a total time of 5 hrs 40 min (moving time 4:53:30).  Needless to say I was hungry upon my return so Samantha and I joined the senior citizens at Hennessey’s for the 2-4-1 Thanksgiving Dinner at 5pm!   One final gratuitous selfie to wrap this post up:


Three & a half hours into the ride and I’m finally at Old Camp!  Santiago Peak in the background.


Update – After posting this yesterday, I came across a great article and map which redefines US State borders based on major watersheds, keeping the State’s Capital and national borders.  Fascinating to view.

3 responses to “Following the Local Watersheds

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s