In conjunction with National Public Lands Day, Adventure Cycling made a call-out to all bicycle enthusiasts to go out and explore their parks on September 24, 2016 with their “Bike Your Park” campaign. If you were lucky enough to make it out to a National Park, you were given free admissions.
Camping in Orange County
We were not so fortunate, but we did get out to explore a local park that I’ve never been to before. The park of my choice was Orange County’s O’Neill Regional Park located in the popular Trabuco Canyon and Live Oaks Canyon.
The park’s 4500 acres contain plenty of hiking trails, mountain bike-friendly routes, and 78 campsites were primed for us to be explored.
This was my first trip back with the MeetUp group since my 2-month hiatus of being on my Trans Am trip in July and not having an August trip. We only had 3 people willing to join in on our fun as our trip started at the Irvine Train Station.
The Aliso Creek Bikeway
The ride only yielded a 24-mile trip from the train station to the campground and back. Although the mileage was on the low side compared to our other bike tours, the route was far from dull, as we enjoyed our ride on marked bike lanes to the Aliso Creek Bikeway.
We jumped on this dedicated path for bicycles from Muirlands Blvd and rode it up to Santa Margarita Parkway before we got off. The path traces the Aliso Creek and crisscross over the creek using several bike and pedestrian bridges.
We continued on bike paths through Santa Margarita and pulled into a shopping strip for lunch at Panda Express. We enjoyed our meals for about an hour before we jumped back on the bike lanes. Once we saw the Alicia Parkway intersection, we crossed the street and navigated the sidewalk for a few feet before we found the entrance to the mountain bike trail that led us straight into the park.
It was a perfect mixture of an on-road and off-road excursion that everyone in our little group thoroughly enjoyed. To be exact, the bike trail terminated in the day-use area and not the campgrounds, so we had to ride back to the entrance to check in with the rangers.
In exchange for our reservation confirmation, the rangers took several photos with our unofficial MeetUp mascot, Elf Cup.
Before riding off, we were warned about a mountain lion sighting at the park and was asked to stay off the trail (especially when we had a little dog like Elf Cup with us). We gladly obliged.
I reserved sites 69 and 70 thinking we would have at least 6 people with us. The sites were very spacious. So big that you can fit 10 tents easily on one site. The two sites cost us $40 total, just $10 per person.
We rode to the general store which was less than a mile away from the campgrounds to pick up some dinner for the night. We noticed that the campground was crowded with lots of family camping. There were some open spots, but not many.
We procured our provisions for the next 12 hours and quickly raced back to our campsite before the sunset. Nobody else brought their lights, so we didn’t want to be on the road with speeding cars and no lights.
Our camping fees included a warm shower which we all took advantage of. We really didn’t need the shower, but it was part of the camping fee, so why not?
People’s campfires burned into the night as the 4 of us turned in early. Noise could be heard all the way into the early morning until the campsite finally quieted down. Eventually, the only source of noise came from the passing cars flying down the adjacent road.
I was the first to wake at 6AM to prepare my coffee-making ritual. The coffee beans needed to be grounded, then placed in a filter that is held up by a wire Helix pour over funnel. Next, boiling water is slowly poured over the grounded coffee as I watch the delicious elixir trickle down from the filter tip.
Eventually, everyone got up and we quickly packed up by 8AM, when we all navigated back to where we came in from. We took the mountain bike trail to surface streets at Santa Margarita and stopped by the nearest Starbucks after our toughest (and only) climb of the day.
This was located in the same strip mall, Portola Plaza, where we had our lunch the previous day.
We got another coffee fix and rode across the street to an Einstein Bagel to grab our 2nd breakfast, as we typically do on these trips. The weather was much warmer on this day as we sat outside to soak up some Vitamin D and enjoyed each other’s conversations.
The rest of the ride was essentially a downhill cruise to the Aliso Creek Bikeway before we separated again with one of our riders and Elf Cup. We bid each other farewell. The rest of us had our heads down while headwinds blew against us as we made our way back to the train station for the remaining 3 miles.
We all made it back safely with plenty of time to spare, so we can enjoy the rest of our Sunday.
It never ceases to surprise me when I find a bike tour like this. I was very apprehensive at first since this was something new for everyone, but it all worked out at the end. The route wasn’t very challenging, but I think that was great for all of us to get back into conditioning. I think extending the route next time will make things more worthwhile.
I would also try to get food at the grocery store at the strip mall on Santa Margarita Parkway instead of at the general store near the campground. The selection at the general store was very limited and expensive.
The campground was very clean and spacious, so I would definitely come back again. Maybe I can find a spot with more trees next time as I couldn’t use my hammock this time.
Here is the video from our trip:
If you want to do this trip on your own, here are some resources for you to use.