School is in session for my little boy. Gone are the days of shuttling Ben from one therapy appointment to the next. He is now in preschool 5 hours a day, 5 days a week. He is a little boy with special needs (he has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum with PDD) and so we have to do what is best to meet those needs. Luckily, he is in a wonderful school with programs specific to children just like him. Unlucky for his mom and sister who love having him around all day, this means less time together during the week. This will be my only year alone with Mari before she starts preschool and I am hoping that we will take full advantage of our special time together. One way we plan on taking advantage of that special time is hiking. Ben loves being outside and is a great little hiker but he is incredibly prone to distraction. It can take all day to go 50 feet if we let him slip off into "Benland". Mari, on the other hand, is born to walk. She loves every minute of it and makes for a great hiking partner. Now that we have a few hours every day to spend together, we can start attempting longer hikes. During Ben's first week of school, I decided to attempt something with Mari I had never done with my children before, a 5 mile hike.
Mari and I pulled up to Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park on an unseasonably warm fall afternoon. The park is an urban oasis with 4,200 acres of canyons, rock formations, and grassy hillsides set aside in an area where real estate is at a premium. I had read about a cave inside the park which bandits had used as a hideout after robbing stagecoaches in the 1800s. That cave was our destination. We started down the path and got excited about the scenery and signs of wildlife all around us. We found scat and tracks from deer, rabbits, and coyotes. My daughter always gets excited about animal poop so this was a good substitution for seeing the actual animals. I imagine at the right time of day (dawn or dusk), it wouldn't be very hard to see a plethora of wildlife. For those who aren't familiar with animal tracking, there are some nice information plaques set up along the way.
We discovered a wild melon along the trail called a coyote melon.The fruit is not edible for humans but coyotes (as the name implies) do eat its fruit. After a little research on the internet, I found out that there is a coyote melon festival in Arizona every year and that Native Americans ground and ate their seeds. They also used them in their dried form as rattles. Doesn't that make you want to go out and pick a melon to make rattles of your own?
Even though October is not the greenest month in Southern California, we still managed to see a nice variety of plant life from cholla cacti on the dry hillsides to riparian plants along the creeks.
After following the Aliso Creek Trail for about 1.5 miles, we made a right onto the Wood Canyon Trail. The landscape became much more rocky and Mari and I were anxious to get climbing. We took a side trip on the Cave Rock loop and found the perfect spot to scale some rocks.
As we came back down the side of the rock we encountered a cave. It looked small at first glance, but once we crawled inside we could see that there was plenty of room to hide out. I thought this was Dripping Cave, the famous bandit hideout, but when we got home and I looked online I found out it was in fact Cave Rock and that we had turned around on our hike about a quarter mile too soon. Nonetheless we were quite happy with our little cave discovery.
Since the hike is not a loop, we headed back the way we came and were happy to enjoy the same scenery one more time. If you would like more information on Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and the multitude of trails running through the park click here.