40 Miles of Sunny Trails
A little less than 15 miles from our Marina home is the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. We discovered it one weekend when we were headed up the Ortega Highway for a hike in the Cleveland National Forest. The Highway was closed off at Grand Avenue so we continued driving until we intersected with Clinton Keith Road remembering that there were hiking trails accessible from this area. Turning west toward Murrieta we happened upon the Reserve.
The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve occupies 9,000 acres along the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains. The Santa Ana Mountains are also referred to as the Ortega Mountains. And yes, it is quite confusing to definitively name all the mountain ranges surrounding Lake Elsinore because so many segments carry their own local nicknames.
As we begin our hiking adventure we are pleasantly surprised at the flatness of the trails and dirt roads since there are not many trees providing relief from the sun shining brightly in a cloudless blue sky. However, as you will notice in the pictures below, the scenery does not disappoint.
Now, as soon as I mention this, we decide to turn onto part of the Vista Grande Trail which climbs up steadily but lets us capture some beautiful panoramic views of how much of California looked before the San Andreas Fault produced volcanic and earthquake activity.
On our way back to the car we choose the Granite Loop Interpretive Trail hoping to learn more about the Reserve via the 15 plaques and brochure guide we picked up. Working backwards is difficult, but I will do my best at an attempt to highlight the animals, plants, natural processes, and historical landscapes.
Chaparral is the most common plant community in California. These small shrubs and bushes surround the granite rocks and boulders with their tough, tangled, thorny, and woody stems.
Hundreds of years ago Native Americans stood in the pictures below.
Archeologists affirm this because ceramic pots used for water storage, ollas, were found here. As you hike further into the Reserve you can’t help but see, smell, and hear what the American Indians experienced once upon a time!
Granite rocks dominate the trail. About 100 million years ago these rocks were buried underground. As pieces chipped away and melted beneath the earth, they formed magma which cooled slowly. As wind and water eroded away the surface rocks, the magma rocks (granite) rose to the exterior.
The Engelmann Oak Tree is only found here, in San Diego County, and in northern Baja Mexico. This tree can survive in drought conditions because it can lose or drop its leaves during extremely dry conditions. Once it rains again, new leaves grow.
Lots of lizards appear and disappear along the trail. Here are my favorite pics: