Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Tribute toTrabuco Trail

I've taken a few days to process my thoughts and to get around to putting them down in writing due to traveling back from WY and life. In that time I've realized in a big way that the grief I'm feeling is much less than that of those who have lost their homes, loved ones and livelihoods in recent fires.

Even still my heart broke this Monday afternoon when I heard through friends that one of the very few open spaces in Orange County, in the mountain where I learned to love back country adventure, where I feel most at home and at peace was burning. Since Monday we have lost at least 5 of my favorite OC trails in a slice of National Forest which housed some of the few big trees, ferns and natural creeks in our overpopulated, freeway strewn county. And today we learned that the whole thing was preventable. An email from the arson to the fire chief a WEEK AGO warned that he was going to burn the canyon. I am loosing it, I have no words to express the grief I feel that my favorite slice of Orange County is gone, will never look the same in my lifetime. The verdant drainage where I have spent hours staring at trees and connecting with nature will be a black moonscape for years. If the trees don't make it the steep slopes wont hold, the trails will wash away and I can't even imaging what will happen to my beloved forest.

I don't know how to process this. It's too hard knowing it was intentional, and preventable. The only thing I can think to do is remember my favorite memories on my favorite trails (of which there are too many).
Trabuco winds up on the mountainside on the right of this picture. This is the shale section that is SUPER hard to clean, one of the places I learned to love to suffer. This whole canyon burned Monday.
This is a tribute to Trabuco Trail.

Trabuco trail, you taught me to ride steep, shaley climbs. I've climbed you hundreds of times to access Bell, Pinos, Yeager, and just to turn around and descend you. You started out gentle, green, lined with grass and big Maple trees. That one dang creek crossing always got me halfway to the steeps, and I was ALMOST able to cleaned the second gnarly creek crossing at the base of West Horsethief. That dang right hand turn got me every time but always gave us an excuse to stop and eat. After that it was so so steep, and loose. I remember the first few times I rode up Trabuco I couldn't believe that Carl was able to climb such long sections of crazy loose rocks, but the day I cleaned it myself for the first time I felt so damn proud. I distinctly remember climbing the shale on each of my mountain bikes, on my Marin HT and trail bikes, on my Cannondale Scalpel and on all of my Felt bikes. I remember how I would charge it full gas when I was newer to riding in the OC, but the first time I truly paced myself how fast I was able to get to the top, how 'mature' I felt. I LOVED the view from the shale, looking right across the canyon towards Yeager Mesa at the big Fir trees, feeling so much joy that there was real forest in Orange County. I've stopped so many times to take pictures of those trees because during the long school year, when I can't get away to the forests of NorCal or Colorado that was all I had. I remember the time we found a million and one lady bugs on the trail at the top of the shale section, ladybugs so dense you couldn't see ground through them. And the time we hit snow just past the shale in the third section of trail, the final push to the top. I've ridden past your Christmas tree so many times, but I didn't ever stop to take a picture, the one with the beer can ornaments and other year round decorations that indicated to us that we were almost to the top. I remember so many rides where I pushed SO hard here to drop Carl, or whomever I was riding with. And running into friends on that section so many times, feeling stoked that despite being so far out in the middle of nowhere I was seeing familiar faces, sharing the joy of the trail with them. But more often than not I was just riding with Carl or alone the whole way up, on long weekend rides. Trabuco was our gateway to all things good in the Santa Anas. The top of the trail never meant rest, because you took us to the hike-a-bikes of Bell, Yeager and Pinos (three other dear trails that we lost this week), but we almost always stopped there to find water in the bushes, to sit on the ground and eat a snack, and to let others catch up. Trabuco trail, you were one of my all time favorite climbs, a beautiful single track ribbon of technical rock problems, creek crossings, poison oak, and lung busting steep ascents. I'm so grateful for everything you taught me, how to clean rocky, chunky technical climbs, how to distribute my weight when climbing to maintain traction, and how to suffer. Thanks for giving me the outlet to get away from life, to sneak off into the forest, to climb into the clouds and to find solitude and peace. Thanks for helping make me into the mountain biker and racer I am today. Your brutality and beauty are unmatched.

A not so great picture of some of the real trees on the Yeager side. There were a few pockets of large Fir trees that looked out of place in Orange County, but made me so so happy every time I climbed Trabuco. 

And while this is a huge loss for all the mountain bikers I know in the OC, I am almost more sad for all the people who didn't get to experience Trabuco trail. I'm sorry you will never know the joy I felt after cleaning the steep shale, or the smile that always consumed me when I looked across to the giant trees nestled in the crevases off Bell Ridge.

I spent much of today unable to process my feelings, crying as I remembered details of this section of forest that wont be there when I get home. I have so many memories in the Santa Ana Mountains, and I honestly think living in Cleveland National Forest made me who I am today. I'm crazy grateful for that.


  1. It won't be gone forever, even if waiting for it to come back may feel like forever.

  2. When we moved into Silverado in 1987 there was a bad fire that burned up and over the main divide on Maple Springs and charred the prestine fir forest up there. Today it is beautiful once again and most don't know it's history of devastation and regrowth. It might take 30 years to fully heal but we'll probably be riding e-bikes up Trabuco and it will still be wild and rewarding.

  3. You brought tears to my eyes and a flood of trail memories into my thoughts. Deeply saddened about the loss of those tall magestic trees that would provide the much needed shade on a mountain epic. Top of west Horsethief was always my place of zen.

  4. Trabuco Trail has provided countless memories for mountain bikers and hikers. Thanks for so eloquently sharing yours.Like you and others, I too am very sad/mad/depressed about the loss but at least we still have the memories. Like you mentioned, I am mostly sad for the countless others, especially youth that will be deprived of even having the chance of making those memories the way we remember the forest. But alas, time marches on, and the forest will eventually heal itself and will again continue to provide recreation, relief and solitude for generations to come.