Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks

When I received an email inviting me to the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks I knew I had to make it happen. I mean, they describe one of the location we'd visit as an expansive geological wonder known as the "Mini Grand Canyon."

"The Sinks" / Source: Irvine Ranch National Landmarks' Facebook

I've been in the region before for a few #TeamSparkle Trail Runs and knew it was a beautiful area, so thought I'd head up and check it out (even if it was just to do some intel for future runs or some hikes for the hubby, pup and myself).

When I signed up we were told we were going to explore the majestic open spaces during an exclusive tour of fitness focused programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks; traveling along Loma Ridge into Limestone Canyon, then pausing for a brief half mile hike on Box Springs trail ending at a shady Oasis. The open-air vehicle tour would then travel to the Sinks (aka the "Mini Grand Canyon"). The tour was supposed to include information about a variety of fitness programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks including yoga, mountain biking, Tai Chi, and hiking activities.


I was pretty pumped for the event (I mean, I sort of had to be to be willing to make the over two hour journey {an hour plus there in morning commuter traffic and an hour home}). We are always looking for new places to explore and with more than 37,000 acres of permanently protected wilderness I thought I had just found exactly what I was looking for... 


Well, let's just say I was a little bummed. I should have been tipped off when the directions mentioned "the road says private, but it's still okay to drive on for public programs." I quickly found out that although the majority of activities in the area are free with required pre-registration, unfortunately the space is not technically "open" to the public. There are "Wilderness Access Days" that allow more of a free-range use of the park (which seem to occur once a month), but other than that you are really only allowed on the land if you have pre-registered for an event. 


In my mind I think "public land" should be OPEN TO THE PUBLIC... But, once our guides explained the land was set aside for preservation and they have balance allowing human access and protecting nature it made a little more sense.

With that said, the area is gorgeous. And super expansive! There are over 40,000 acres of protected open spaces which are home to geological wonders, diverse flora and fauna, and rare or threatened species. Throughout our open-air vehicle tour (picture a pick-up truck with chairs along the sides of the truck bed), we were told about different hikes you could take, some of the different species of plants or wildlife in the area, given history of the land, etc. 

Source: Irvine Ranch National Landmarks' Facebook

There are a ton of activities that are offered by the conservancy group - including equestrian rides (but you have to provide the horse), twilight hikes, morning treks, evening walks, yoga, YIKING (which is a combination of cardio hiking and yoga), bird watching, kayak tours, nature walks, mountain bike clinics, etc. Not only do they offer exercise activities, they also have a ton of ways to volunteer and give back! There are a ton of stewardship programs where you can help restore the canyons, remove invasive plants, harvest wildflower seeds, help with trail restoration, etc. [PS I think I love the stewardship side the most and I already have a couple ideas of where the hubby and I can volunteer to help out.]

If you are in the Irvine area and are interested in any of the activities or signing up to volunteer, head to the website {https://letsgooutside.org/} and check it out! You can also keep up with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy blog HERE.


PS Did you know that this Saturday {September 30th} is National Public Lands Day?! If you were looking for a reason to get outside and enjoy nature, let this be your sign to throw on your "play" clothes and GO EXPLORE! #OptOutside


Where is your favorite place to explore?

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