Unfortunately deadly accidents are also a part of the Ortega Highway experience.
We parked in traffic for an hour while a crash was cleaned up. Just last Sunday the highway was closed off of Grand Avenue because a car crossed over the center line and killed the driver of an SUV. The speed limit is 55mph except where posted and most of the route is separated by double yellow lines. There are turn offs every mile or so for slower moving vehicles. But these do not deter motorcyclists and impatient drivers to push the limits.
The scenery starts flattening out to eye level after leaving the Cleveland National Forest and passing the fire station in Orange County.
Today we are turning around at the traffic light for the Nichols Institute which is part of Quest Diagnostics.
What lies beyond is Casper State Park and the Rancho Mission Viejo area. The Ortega Highway ends at its intersection with I-5 in San Juan Capistrano.
And now we head back to Lake Elsinore.
Not far from the road on the left, you can see part of the trail of the San Juan Loop. You guessed it, we are approaching the Ortega Oaks Candy Store!
As we continue on our return trip, we pull into a turn out and take pictures of some of the original fire trails that are now popular off roads for bikes and SUVs.
Just beyond El Cariso Village on the left and the fire station on the right in Riverside County, the road intersects with the north and south main divide. We turn to the right to pick up the Morgan Trailhead off of the south main divide. This road is also known as Killen Road, or so we discover after hiking 2.3 miles in and coming across a sign marking the route to Tenaja Falls.
Hang-gliders and para-gliders take off from the cliffs of the south main divide hoping to catch the thermal pockets to sail down to the open field near the intersection of Grand Avenue and the Ortega Highway.
And so, we too head back down to Lake Elsinore as we pass our icon boulder we nicknamed Big Ass Rock.