Just beyond El Cariso Village is the turn off for Hot Shots. One day we took the road expecting to find a scenic overlook or an interesting venue. Not finding anything but construction equipment, I did a little research and discovered that hot shots pertain to fire fighting.
A hotshot crew consists of 20 career and temporary firefighters specifically trained to suppress wildfires by constructing fire lines, working with aerial firefighting aircraft, and extinguishing flames and high heat areas in order to protect natural resources and populations living on wild land borders. These crews are trained and equipped to work in remote areas for extended periods of time. The history of hotshots goes back to the 1940s in Southern California’s Cleveland and Angeles National Forests. The term comes from the firefighters being assigned to the hottest parts of a wildfire. (en.m.wikipedia.org) According to wildfiretoday.com, the El Cariso Hotshots disbanded in September of 2013.
The Ortega Highway is peppered with spectacular views of rocky mountainsides. Hiking affords a close up and personal encounter with these large, round, white granodiorite boulders. (academics.ivc.edu) Granodiorite rock is similar to granite but contains more plagioclase feldspar than orthoclase feldspar. (en.m.wikipedia.org) I don’t understand what any of this means but you will have to trust that this is the briefest explanation I could find to attempt to identify these plentiful species of rock matter.
After crossing a narrow bridge, the San Juan Loop Trail parking lot appears on the right. The loop trail is about a 2 mile hike, enough to wear out our dogs. Midway the Chiquito Trail intersects and continues on for another 8 miles or so to the Bluejay Trail. Jeff and I hiked from the Bluejay Campground until we came to a fork in the road with an ambiguous sign pointing to the Chiquito Trail leading in 2 different directions. Where can you buy trail maps around here?
Across the street from the parking lot is the Ortega Oaks Mobile Home and RV Park which had no vacancies when we arrived in the area on October 31, 2015. In hindsight we are happier at Lake Elsinore Marina than having to navigate an RV and car on a tow dolly over the Ortega Highway.
Next to Ortega Oaks is their famous Candy Store.
The Candy Store features nostalgic candies that baby boomers grew up with along with new twists on the old, such as chocolate-covered gummy bears. Delicious homemade goods include pumpkin roll, brittles, chocolates, and over a dozen flavored of fudge. Made-to-order sandwiches, fresh baked pies, cheesecake, specialty cakes, and soups on rainy and cold days round out the menu. (the74candystore.com) Open 7 days a week, snacks, sodas, bottled water, coffee, cookies, unique gifts, and some general store items are available to purchase. (ortegaoaks.com)
Just beyond the candy store is the Bear Canyon Trailhead, a 6+ mile hike we hiked twice, once together and again with my son, John, and his father-in-law, Tim O’Connell. This trail connects with the Morgan Trail and upon reaching 4 Corners, intersects with several other hiking trails.
Hold on now as we twist and curve through the mountains with the wind whistling and echoing along every turn.