Just up beyond Caspers Regional park off the Ortega Hwy there’s a Candy store……….what? there really is a Candy Store! Yummy candies are prepared from scratch in addition to the standards that we all know and love jawbreakers, sours….ect. It seems a funny place to start a physically challenging, gut wrenching 21 mile trail run but the reality is that just off to the left begins the Bear Trail; that’s where we begin….
The San Mateo Canyon Wilderness makes up the southwest corner of the Trabuco Ranger District. Rugged mountains covered with chaparral and coastal sage dominate the landscape. Many deep drainages hide a lush growth of vegetation, with oak woodlands thick in the lower elevations. Narrow canyons give way to brilliant displays of spring wildflowers. Wildlife is abundant as evidenced by 139 bird species, 37 mammal species, and 46 amphibian and reptile species.
Established in 1984, this 39,540-acre wilderness has over 60 miles of hiking trails. There are four trailheads: Bear Canyon, Morgan, Tenaja and Tenaja Falls.
I and some friends met at 7:00….ok they met at 7:00 at the Candy store and proceeded to begin without me. I try to be very calculated about my planning; I really do but once you turn off on Ortega HWY it's another 15 minutes through mountain roads (which I keep forgetting to plan for!) so.......I arrived 15 minutes late and was greeted by another friend that was supporting our run by dropping water off for us at a trailhead mid-run. "THEY JUST LEFT!, if you push it you can catch them as they ascend the Bear Trail into San Mateo" He says…So my run begins…..very quickly.
The bear Trail is a beautifully conditioned trail, kept free from mountain bike overuse it’s a great trail for hiking or running. Trees provide shade for a good percent of the trail, as you ascend the sun will then take over and greet you for another good portion. This trail can be very attractive to most but you need to be prepared, carry enough water 22oz. per hour min. There are no water stops here and the trails can lead you into many of the canyons which have only a few ways out…..all of them on foot. As we ventured out we ran through many canyons, across a few streams and scrambled up some shade covered rock trails; all of which are very beautiful and forced me to act like a standard tourist (my trail camera was very busy).
All in all it was a great run, moderately challenging and amazingly beautiful. Grab a good map, layout your hike or run, find a partner or partners and be prepared! I promise that you will come out of this one exhausted with a BIG smile on your face.