In much of the country, this is the time of year for cozying up around fireplaces with family and friends to escape the harsh climate outside. But before you bust out the hot chocolate and the 2000-piece puzzle, remember that in Orange County, winter is a great time to hit the trails.
Now is the time when native plants in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks that have been dormant over the hot summer and fall months start to come to life. In spirit with the holidays, this is a great time to see the Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) shrub, also known as “Christmas berry,” that produces bunches of bright red berries in the winter months that resemble Christmas holly.
If you and your family want to take advantage of pleasant hiking temperatures and explore local open space, you might want to consider signing up for Friday’s family-friendly Canyon Explorers: Menagerie of Mammals interpretive hike in Bommer Canyon in the City of Irvine. During this event you and your family will have the opportunity to compare and contrast the biology and behavior of many of Bommer Canyon’s fluffy residents, even feeling their fur and studying their bones. Participants will then go on a fairly easy 1-mile exploration hike to look for various animals, their homes and the tracks they leave behind. This is a perfect afternoon adventure for children ages 6-10, and off-road strollers are welcome.
Visit Bommer Canyon again on Saturday, Dec. 20 during the monthlyWilderness Access Day, which will feature a family-friendly Exploring Bommer: Our Canyons are Diverse guided interpretive hike where participants will learn about biodiversity and its importance to our local ecosystem. They will learn about our unique climate and what makes the flora and fauna of our region so special. During this 3-mile hike, participants will be on the lookout for the native shrubs and trees that thrive in the cooler, wetter conditions that our winters bring.
For other family-friendly interpretive hikes you might want to consider one of the following events, geared toward introducing people of all ages to the dynamic landscapes and wildlife of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks:
Saturday, Dec. 20--The Flora and Fauna of Weir Canyon
Saturday, Dec. 20--Family Hike in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
Saturday, Dec. 20--Big Canyon Nature Walk in Newport Beach
Most of these programs are free and require pre-registration for all participants (children must attend with their parent or guardian). To register and to find more information about the above activities, please visitwww.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.