Last week I was able to catch a nice late afternoon ride through Santiago Oaks into Irvine Regional and was surprised at how quickly the parks are changing. As summer begins to creep closer, Irvine Regional is starting to lose its lovely spring greenery. There is still quite a lot of mustard seed (some taller than your head on horseback!) but the rest of the plants are beginning to turn brown and the lake that had formed is starting to disappear. I was pleasantly surprised to see the small frogs were still hopping along the trails, despite the receding waterline, but soon they too will begin to recede deeper into the park’s center.
I was saddened by the loss of so much greenery after such a spectacular growing season, but as the park maintenance crews have begun releasing the flood waters from Irvine Regional through the Villa Park Dam into Santiago Creek, some of the trails that were drowned have begun to resurface. However, it should be noted that the trails although visible, are not exactly open just yet. Closures are due in part to the fact that the trails still lead straight into the lake, but also due to the fact they aren’t exactly stable anymore (I learned this the hard way as I attempted to walk Bee out onto a branch of the Willows Trail and the ground crumbled out from beneath us, needless to say Bee was not happy about that surprise).
The western half of Egret Trail is no longer completely underwater and I was able to cross a small section of shallow water covering the trail next to the picnic/rest area and ride it completely to its eastern end (see my previous Springtime in Irvine Regional posts for some before pictures). Of course, once I made it to the eastern entrance of the trail, I saw the sign marking the trail as still closed (though to be fair, if I were hiking and not riding, I would be grateful for that sign). However, because of the closure sign at the busier, eastern side of the park, the trail was very quiet and I was the only one riding out on it.
Once I crossed the water onto the trail, I was amazed at just how overgrown the trail had become in the short months it was blocked off. The trail was still visible for the most part, but plants were closed in on us for a good portion of the ride (the featured image was taken on this trail). Egret Trail is also on a slightly elevated ridge through the park, so while the trail was exposed, there was still a good amount of water on each side of us, so it made for a more scenic ride than usual. Much of that water being stagnant for so long had become swampy in appearance, and as the water level has dropped, it has exposed some strange growth on the logs and trees that looks almost like spiderwebs covering the branches, making it somewhat macabre.
As the waters continue to be released and the trails are once again exposed (and safe-ish to ride), I will be able to provide some more current trail specific posts and photos. So keep an eye out for those soon!