I love where I live. If I drive an hour East, I’m in Joshua Tree National Park. An hour and a half West lies the Pacific Ocean. And hour northeast and I’m in the amazing mountain community of Big Bear Lake. And an hour south? The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve. Post Christmas, and with a shiny new zoom lens, Cal & I headed out, snagging her mom along the way.
Located near Murrieta, CA, the Santa Rosa Plateau boasts over 9,000 acres with a variety of interesting ecosystems. There’s meadows of low brush, forests of Engelmann oak, and plenty of chaparral. There are also miles of hiking trails, but on this particular day, we opted for the Vernal Pools and Historic Adobes trails.
The vernal pools come and go with the rains, but we were lucky this time around to see them in nearly full force, even if they did give me a bit of the Dead Marshes vibe (from Lord of the Rings). No, you’re a nerd. There’s a nifty circular dock that allows you to look at the pools from within their border, looking directly down into the water without getting your boots covered in muck. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see some fairy shrimp, one species of which ONLY exists in these pools and nowhere else in the world. I know, that’s nuts.
The pools themselves aren’t far from the parking lot, and COULD be a stop off before any number of other trails, but we continued on to the Historic Adobes, which, having been built in 1846, are the two oldest standing structures in Riverside county!
The trail to the Adobes, which the area’s cowboys used to crash in, is up a quick hill, down a narrow trail with bushes on either side (and was quite muddy on this particular day), up another hill, and finally down through a wide valley with a beautiful view of the snow-capped San Jacinto Mountain range. On the way, you get to see plenty of prickly cacti, a wide range of wildflowers, and a generous helping of picturesque panoramas.
I didn’t find the Adobes themselves particularly interesting, but we were surrounded by a 400-year-old oak tree and its avian residents. An acutely adorable Acorn Woodpecker aspired to be a model, thus posing for me for an extended period of time. Not to be outdone, a Scrub Jay pranced about in a tree, demanding equal opportunity for a contract.
As we left the Adobes for the last 1.4-mile leg of the hike, we climbed a short, albeit mildly steep, hill until we found ourselves flanked on the right by a stunning meadow. While we did see plenty of coyote tracks, we didn’t get to witness any bouncing around. After kicking the mud off our boots, it was but a short jaunt to our perfectly-located home.
Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve:
Costs:$4 each adult pedestrian, $3 each child between 2-12.