Today the Trail Ticklers braved Casper Wildlife Park, and we saw, and gratefully did not see certain, wildlife all around us. This park is to the east of San Juan Capistrano off the Ortega Highway. Driving to the trail head alone was worth the 45 minute trip from our home. Ground squirrels were everywhere, and along the roadway were 2 families of mule deer. Hawks were everywhere and the only other people we saw were 2 men on horseback. The beginning of the trail was quite steep, but most of it was under beautiful oak trees with their colored leaves scattered everywhere along the ground. The book recommends taking this hike in the cooler months as it can be "enervating" in hot weather, and I heartily agree. Today, in contrast to all of our other hikes, was beautifully cool. A small storm passed by during the proceeding night and left the trail clean and dust free (yippee!). At the top of the hill, along the crest, the view was spectacular of hills and mountains without a single bit of development to be seen. We were at the top of sandstone cliffs, which in their own rights, were impressive. It was a lovely time of year for this hike, with the changing colors of some trees and the freshness of green in the others, with the occasional glimpse of the intricate branches of deciduous trees allowing the peeking out of the undergrowth. Some parts in the valley under Bell Canyon were surprisingly pretty with huge oaks forming an immense canopy for us to walk under.
The day was extra fun owing to 3 new Ticklers joining us. Mike, Lindsey and Evan came along to add a bit of interest and to learn a few new things. The boys quickly found out that prickly pears are aptly named. Someone in the group, who shall remain un-named, was only stopped from legal misdeeds by carefully placed razor wire. They were also awed by Martine and my impressive tracking skills, aided by my new compass (thanks Martine!).
The spooky part came when Martine first noticed fresh mountain lion tracks in the soft mud where we were walking. After that we saw many more tracks. It appeared that the mountain lions like to use the trails, too. While keeping a watch for things in the brush, I was glad that Mike has a voice that travels well and that there were 5 of us instead of our usual two. When I got home and told Dave where we had been I remembered that Casper Park is where the terrible incident with the bikers being attacked by the mountain lion had occurred a few years back. Thankfully, we made it out in one piece, and loved every minute of our adventure. This park is definitely a thumbs up. And I would go back anytime...with a large group of Ticklers!