Spring is quickly approaching, making it the perfect time for those seeking greater appreciation of the outdoors to – as the saying goes – stop and smell the roses. But regardless if wildflowers are in bloom, interpretive programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks provide year-round opportunities for visitors to slow down and connect to the land in unique, memorable ways.
Programs on LetsGoOutside.org are broken up into categories – such as interpretive, hiking & fitness, and stewardship – to help visitors find what they’re looking for when visiting the Landmarks. Interpretive programs focus on helping people enjoy their time outdoors while also learning about nature. So if you’ve learned something new about the Landmarks while out on the trails that leaves you feeling more connected to the land, guess what – you’ve just had an interpretive experience! The National Association for Interpretation defines interpretation as “a mission-based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the meanings inherent in the resource.”
Join a slow-paced hike through the scenic oaks of OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve during Tales and Characters of the Santa Ana Mountains on Saturday, Feb. 20. Visitors with a spirit of adventure can spend their morning learning more about Native Americans who once called this canyon home. You’ll hear stories of grizzly bear encounters, cattle-driving vaqueros, early American settlers, bandits and stagecoach robbers – bringing that history to life by walking along the same trails those very tales occurred on.
Many parents want to find more ways to get their children interested in the outdoors. Interpretive programs such as Exploring Bommer: All About Kids Family Hike on Saturday, Feb. 20, do just that by adding an interactive, hands-on element to nature. Visitors will learn about local wildlife by searching for evidence they can see with their own eyes – such as scat and animal tracks along the trails – in the City of Irvine’s Bommer Canyon. This short, easy hike is suitable for those as young as 4 years old and occurs alongside Wilderness Access Day, so families can continue exploring designated trails on their own after the program until 2 p.m.
Interpretive programs also allow people to explore which learning styles best resonate with them. Maybe you’re an auditory learner, and sounds strike a chord with you more so than taking in a sweeping view of mountain landscapes. Enjoy the rare experience of Bommer Canyon at night during Canyon Explorers: Whooo Do You Hear? on Friday, Feb. 19. During this monthly kids program, you can learn about owls – one of the most common nocturnal critters in the area – by listening for their nightly calls as they hunt for food. The 2- to 3-mile trek will give adults and kids alike a chance to be on the Landmarks in the cover of night, a time not often experienced by visitors.
Whether it’s standing on the very road a rancher walked along 50 years ago, or getting an up-close look at what makes a coyote print different from a bobcat’s, interpretive programs provide purposeful, entertaining opportunities to learn how the Landmarks is unlike anywhere else. The best part is that there is no end to what you can learn – you can search for a variety of upcoming interpretive programs all throughout the Landmarks here.
All programs are free with required registration, which closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to the event. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. For more details on these activities or to register, click the titles above, or visit LetsGoOutside.org/activities.