My Wonderful, Inspiring, and Embarrassing Hike In the Cleveland National Forest

IMG_8073As is often my practice, I used an out-of-town speech this week to experience another of our wonderful national parks.  With my keynote to the Ninth Circuit scheduled for Monday, I used Sunday to explore the rough remote areas of the Cleveland National Park. I decided to get up early an hike the San Juan and Chiquito Falls trails.  It would turn out memorable beyond all of my expectations.  With a heat wave hitting the area, the hike in the desert environment was well over 100 degrees with no shade. Despite bringing over a gallon of water in my camel back, I ran out of water on the return of the long hike and ended up with heat stroke . . . and had to be airlifted out after taking a tumble into a ravine. More of that rescue later.  All I can say is that I can never repay the Orange County rescue team of the Sheriff’s office and fire department.  While I wish I was not the subject of their work, meeting these incredibly heroic first responders was an inspiring experience. I will be writing about that experience separately.  While I am now recovering from heat stroke in my hotel, I wanted to share some of the pictures before my embarrassing failure just short of the trail head.

I love arriving in Orange County as a Westerns fan to see the huge statue to the Duke at the John Wayne airport:


The 9-10 mile trek up the San Juan and Chiquito Falls is punishing during the summer and clearly dangerous danger a heat wave.

You start at a unique trailhead by buying your Adventure pass across the street at The Candy Store, a established run in 1956 silent movie actor Paul Anhalt and later purchased by a young and dynamic owner, Shannon Rosenberg.  Shannon explained that she could hardly let a decades old candy store die in this most unlikely place die.  The store is an amazing treat and Shannon is a fascinating person to speak with about life on the mountain.  Believe me, half of the joy of his hike is to visit the Candy Store:

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This hike is a 9 mile out-and-back route with 1,409′ of vertical elevation gain. It begins with some daunting signs of the rattlesnake and mountain lions prevalent in the area.  The sign on the lions advises you “if attacked, fight back.”


The hike up to the highest elevation is punishing in the summer on hot days. It has that stark beauty of the desert hikes.  This proved more punishing than my hike in New Mexico on the Pino trail.  I will address the ignoble ending a bit later but here are a few pictures:

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147 thoughts on “My Wonderful, Inspiring, and Embarrassing Hike In the Cleveland National Forest”

  1. In case you read this Jonathan,,

    I’m glad you’re ok. In looking at the details of your hike, 9 miles or so, 1400 ft vertical gain, and hot temps, it would seem you are fit and used to hiking. I would suggest though that you do re assessment of what you are up to. Here’s where I begin the Captain Cautious “back when I was a youngster” stuff, bear with me.

    Ditch the camelback. Use half gallon soda bottles and bring way too much, it’s good exercise. With bottles it’s easy to monitor your consumption. In hot weather you should be drinking until you sweat, and taking a break every hour or more won’t slow you down, there’s no race.

    Bring a GPS and personal locator beacon. Bring enough clothes to last overnight, water too. Headlamp, extra batteries for everything. Boots, above the ankle.

  2. So glad to hear you’re recovering and safe! What a scary ordeal for you and your family!

    Next time you’ll know you need to be a Bactrian camel instead of a dromedary.

  3. I have a video of the rescue effort. I’m glad you’re alright. Email me if you’d like it.

    1. Mike – just release the video here. Or upload it to YouTube and then give us the link. 😉

  4. Well safe to say you weren’t near Area 51. Soooo glad you are safe and rested. Not sure about “sound”! 💋💋💋💋💋💋💋💋💋

  5. Hmmm. After reflection, I think Prof. Turley has earned an Irish Poem!

    A Stoke of Luck???
    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    There was a professor named Turley.
    Who neglected to go hiking “early”. . .
    He got over-heated,
    But thankfully cheated
    A trip to those Gates, we call “Pearly!”

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

      1. It was sort of subsumed in the whole cheating death thingie. Although. . . I guess I could do a Parody Nursery Rhyme if my new kitten quits jumping on the keyboard:

        Err. . . And See Rescue???
        A Parody Nursery Rhyme by Squeeky Fromm

        Jonathan Turley went for a hike,
        He fell down a hill when his temperature spiked.
        They sent in the copters to whirly him out,
        He’ll be good as new and of that, there’s no doubt!

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

      1. TEACHING spastics…That is such a chilling image. As chilling as his “fundamental change” plans for our country!

    1. Nice touch. 60% of Americans will grok all that entails.

      this is to Dave’s touch of sanity post

  6. Despite bringing over a gallon of water in my camel back, I ran out of water on the return of the long hike and ended up with heat stroke . . . and had to be airlifted out after taking a tumble into a ravine.

    Speedy recovery Mr. Turley.

    Always remember proper hydration begins the night before your hike not the day of the hike.

  7. The professor opines, “… All I can say is that I can never repay the Orange County rescue team of the Sheriff’s office and fire department. …”

    Yes!, you can.

    What you can “do” is first reimburse the taxpayers for your, at best poor judgment, and, at worst, endangering the lives of others.

    As any causal reader of your blog can attest, you are, at best, a dilettante and, at worst, a danger to yourself and others as a poseur.

    You apparently were alone in unfamiliar terrain in July “… With a heat wave hitting the area, the hike in the desert environment was well over 100 degrees with no shade. …” As the saying goes as to dilettantes and poseurs, “Who would have thunk it!”

    As a lifetime ( 68 years plus including 35 years plus as a civil trial lawyer ) surfer, mountain climber/hiker and skier/snowboarder, the increasing occurrence of “educated dummies with more money than common sense” populating the pristine, unspoiled and remote areas of nature causes the loss of scarce financial and environmental resources.

    Truly and sincerely I am glad you were not a fatality and wish you a full and complete recovery.

    I suggest, suggest strongly, you stay seated … in your office, at the ballpark and in the movie theater. Dilettantes and poseurs do best there.

    If you must be a dilettante and poseur, on your next adventure from your seat, take a guide.

    dennis hanna

    1. Yes!, you can.

      LOL! That was my first thought; and will. Then I thought about him being a lawyer with “friends” in the 9th. Somehow I believe he will be able to avoid repaying the costs.

    2. Why is it that of all the people who post here who claim to be lawyers, only one can be verified to be a lawyer and only one (that same chap) writes like someone who has a disciplined mind?

        1. a clever little package of insults from spastic

          And one the posing attorneys here have earned and deserve. (Natacha claims to be both a lawyer and a nurse-practitioner).

          1. Never said “nurse practitioner”. I have an MSN, but I’m not a nurse practitioner. I don’t care what you think about me in any event, but get your facts straight.

            1. You mean I should get your stories straight. The thought of you installing an IV searching WESTLAW leaves one agape.

            2. One of the guys I sometimes co-counsel with was an RN prior to law school. He’s hell-on-wheels on nurse disciplinary cases; and is also very strong on DWI cases where the alleged intoxicant is a prescribed medication.

              in response to natacha

            3. Natacha:

              How do we know you have an MSN? You seem rather defensive about your own credentials after casting aspersions on mine.

      1. Teaching spastics…….Not that you are addressing the question to someone like me, but I’m married to a trial attorney who is also a Constitutional scholar. I have followed Jonathan Turley’s career for about 20 years. My husband and I deeply admire him, and enjoy this blog.

              1. mespo…You said it, honey chile. (I come from a Southern heritage like you!)

                1. Cindy:

                  I can always tell. And by that last name, I’m betting hubby, too. You can’t hide nice.
                  Pssst. Don’t tell the yankees. 😀

                  1. mespo..LOL my mother until her dying day always said “yankee” in a somewhat hushed voice because the complete word, as you know is “damnyankee” and she wanted to be polite! LOL. Hubby was born and raised, until a teenager, in Atlanta.

                    1. Don’t we all live the same life? Wonderful lady with a sense of grace and graciousness. I’ve known lots of delightful ladies just like her.

                    2. mespo – I think I have told this story before but I was in high school before I found out that “thatgoddamnroosevelt” was not one word. 😉

                    3. TEACHING spastics………….Well, that brought a lump to my throat, indeed.
                      As some of my Louisiana kin are fond of saying: “The war’s not over…..We’re just waitin’ on supplies”

    3. oh and dennis. STFU. hike yourself back out of the computer room and get back to doing whatever retired loudmouths do

    4. Needs a rewrite. You had too much filler before getting to your real subject; yourself. Although I’m not sure that subject will draw much interest, after all.

      this is to “get those kids offa my wilderness” dennie

  8. Wow, Professor Turley I’m glad you survived this ordeal. And posted about your “embarassing” mistake – so perhaps others don’t make it. I hope the rescue won’t be too pricey – a friend of mine was hiking around Lake Tahoe and was snowed in – the heli rescue cost him and his father 20K.

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