Tucker Wildlife Santuary is a 12-Acre non-profit preserve which is operated by the College of Natural Sciences and Mathmatics at Cal State University, Fullerton. The preserve is both open to the public and its free Tuesday thru Sunday…..Tucker's facilities include a small natural history museum/interpretive center, two ponds, a bird observation porch and feeders, relaxing patio and picnic areas, a small amphitheater, a caretaker's house, hiking trails, a gift shop, restrooms and an ample visitor parking lot; which for us is the start of our journey this morning.
As I began to prepare my gear for the days run I paused for a moment to enjoy the quiet of the canyon, it was a little cool now but the blue sky that met the hilltops had begun spilling sunlight along the ridge; it might be pretty hot today so my plan to only bring two water bottles was changed to now include my blowfish camelback and a single bottle ( I like to fill the bottle from the pack and carry that way – don’t ask, got no answer). As my friends began to arrive I was getting excited; this trail was new for me and I was ready to start exploring.
There would be 5 of us on this run today; all good company Greg, Mark, Shannon and Annette with me of course. After a few moments talking about upcoming races and Gregs hair (from long to short) we started off on the Harding Truck Trail which begins directly across from the parking lot of the preserve.
All buckled down we set off up Harding, then continued up Harding, up harding and kept going up Harding…..there’s a continuous theme here don’t you think. Harding Truck Trail is a beautiful trail which extends from the floor of Modjeska Canyon and intersects with the large Main Divide road in the Cleveland National Forest, its about 9.2 miles one way. Harding Trail sits on the north side of the ridgeline and is a nice non-technical trail, because of its position it receives the long shadow of the morning resulting in a nice shady trail for most of your early journey.
As I reached the Main Divide at “Four Corners” I took in the views of the Santa Ana Mountains along with a few mountain bikers that had paused for a moment -(I had caught up to them earlier on Harding), with a morning greeting we moved along the Divide passing the site of the Maple Springs Aid station for the Chimera 100; memories of cold rain, wind and the tent being blown down….good times..Gooood Times!@#$ and headed up once more. At the top of Modjeska Peak we soak in a 360 degree view of everything... the snow covered top of Mt.San Antonio, Perris , Santiago Peak, Catalina, Del Mar, Encinitas Beaches….all are in play up here; beautiful. Modjeska Peak is the second highest peak at 5,384ft to Santiago at 5,687ft in the Santa Ana Mountain Range; it was named after Helena Modjeska a Shakespearean actress who lived in its shadow towards the end of her life.
After a few drinks, gels and laughs we were off again, only one way now…..down! our trip plan is now to travel south on the Divide to the Joplin Trail 6W03 then down into Jamison Spring past Vulture Crags onto Santiago Truck Trail and back to civilization on Modjeska Grade road. Joplin Trailhead sits off of the Main Divide tucked in the a ridge valley between Modjeska and Santiago Peaks; I almost ran right past it while talking with a friend (would have been in Mexico by now if he hadn’t of stopped me).
Joplin Trail is a single track trail covered in trees and shade, sidelined by moss and long grass and complimented by the occasional poison oak so be aware. Joplin is a 6.2 mile adventure, compatible to some of the best trails around. The trail is very runable, with sections of rocky downhill followed by smooth dirt or leave covered trail sections hiding under the canopies of the many trees throughout this run. As I run down it I feel like I’m in another world; hard to imagine that we are still so close to 7-11’s and constant hustling of the city below us.
The trail opens into a wonderful section called “Old Camp” with a fire pit and stream beside it; this was a meeting spot for hunters traveling the area many years ago, make an immediate left and continue up slightly along Joplin, before long you will find yourself at a flag pole, this is where Santiago Truck Trail takes hold and the “Louge” begins off to the left at a spot called Vulture crags, a hundred years ago California Vultures nested here in large numbers. Santiago trail then continues up to the right and runs directly into Modjeska Grade road. Once we reach the Grade road we are satisfied that this run has done well for us……Bring on the next adventure!!!!
This is a beautiful run, very challenging and satisfying for all. This is a 25+mile run so be prepared, there are no water stops and you must carry what you need with you.