The hints of winter weather are finally here! Orange County was happy to see some much-needed rain this past weekend, with some areas of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks reportedly getting as much as 0.28 inches of rainfall in one night.
While the skies have dried for now, more is likely coming. The El Niño weather pattern is expected to hit Orange County in 2016, and is forecast to be one of the strongest on record. The expected rain is a welcome change for flora and fauna, but California’s recent drought has left many trail surfaces so dry that even those constructed to direct runoff into surrounding habitat could be overwhelmed by an abundance of rain. Landowners and managers are prepared to evaluate potential storm damage and reduce long-term effects, but you too can minimize rain damage by understanding wet trail conditions and abiding by closures to the trail system.
Once trails re-open, visitors can further help avoid damage by avoiding muddy spots. If a trail is mostly dry with only a couple of wet areas, landowners will usually open that trail to visitors. Also, if a trail is dry enough for foot traffic, the landowners may determine that it is not yet dry enough for mountain bike riders or equestrians. The tire track and horse hooves could leave more of an impression on a damp trail than individual footfalls.
After each rain, trails are assessed by landowners and trained trail personnel to evaluate the path’s ability to handle traffic. Trails are re-opened as soon as possible, and activities resume. Just remember that the rain is good for the land, and letting the trails dry is good for the long-term health of the trail system, native plants and local wildlife.