As 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:
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: