Getting to the Real California at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park


Orange County isn't all Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. The real California lurks in the foothills only 40 minutes away.

Crédits: emperornorton

Deep in the golden brown back country near Foothill Ranch, California, you find a piece of Utah-esque red rock — a wrinkled canyon that turns red or pink or orange as the sun wills it. Few tourists make the trek to this anomaly, but local residents know it well and use the park around it for the opportunities it affords for mountain biking and hiking.

Crédits: emperornorton

Miles of trails take you through all kinds of Southern California environments: chaparral, live oak woodland, grassland, barren rock, coastal sage scrub, and even a marsh. The routes range from easy to strenuous; from the leisurely Borrego Trail to the arduous road over the aptly named Dreaded Hill. Some trails like the East Mustard Road leading to Four Corners are overrun with trail bikers and joggers. Solitude can be found on the less visited West Mustard Road where a Vista Point gives you the finest view of Red Rock Canyon to be found in the park.

Crédits: emperornorton

The thick live oak forests that line the bottoms of the canyons provide a pleasant respite from the heat on a summer’s afternoon. Bring sunscreen if you plan to climb the hills and ridges. The best season for wildflowers is March through June. You may find a vine bearing yellow coyote gourds in the summer and autumn months: leave these where you found them.

Crédits: emperornorton

Whiting’s adventures are not limited to rubber tires and hiking shoes. More than once I have been surprised by mule deer prancing in the chaparral. Summer evenings bring out shiny black bombardier beetles and hairy tarantulas. I’ve nearly tripped over rabbits darting across my path. Once, I saw a mountain lion jump out in front of me. The same puma killed one mountain biker and mauled another just three months later, so I count myself very lucky.,

You’ll see burnt stumps and thinned vegetation that testify to the wildfire that burned through Whiting in 2008. But the land is coming back. Today, those signs are less apparent than they were three years ago when the park reopened.

Crédits: emperornorton

Keep to a few rules when you visit:

Always wear a broad-brimmed hat. Carry water. Stay out of the cactus. Be sure that you don’t step on any rattlesnakes. Always hike the Billy Goat Trail downhill from Four Corners. Always hike from north to south on Dreaded Hill unless you are a marathon runner in peak condition. Bring a camera because Whiting — the face of the Real California — has many surprises for you.

Crédits: emperornorton

For more information, visit:

written by emperornorton on 2013-09-17 in #world #locations


  1. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    WOOOOWWWW, awesome. Remind me of documentary series if I'm not mistaken the place name Adarondac. So peaceful. What about the Indian tribe, are they still live there?

  2. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    @hervinsyah The Adorondacks are on the other side of the country in New York State.

    The native peoples are still around, but as far as I know they are not organized as a tribe. I could be wrong. The white men know them as the Juaneño after the Franciscan mission at San Juan Capistrano.

  3. ksears119
    ksears119 ·

    Very descriptive article, both in words and photos! Mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and tarantulas, yikes! Sounds exciting. Thanks for sharing.

  4. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    @ksears119 I distrust the bombardier beetles more than I trust the tarantulas. My dog agrees, having stuck his nose too close to the business end once. He would rather snort other things. Thanks for your comment. :)

  5. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    @ksears119 That should have indicated that I trust the tarantulas more than the bombardier beetles. :)

  6. af-capture
    af-capture ·

    great read and very nice pics: if i may i would like to add to the "Keep to a few rules when you visit:"...please don't leave any trash when you hike...don’t burn, bury, or leave litter or extra food - ”Pack it in, Pack it out.” thanks...i just posted an album on Mt Balday...thanks again for the read

More Interesting Articles

  • LomoAmigo: Stephen Dowling Tests the LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-14 in #people #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo: Stephen Dowling Tests the LC-A 120

    Previously a music journalist, Stephen Dowling now writes for the BBC. If that isn't interesting enough, London-based writer is also passionate about film photography. He has blog called zorkiphoto where he writes about all his favourite cameras and film types. The folks over at Lomography UK lent him an LC-A 120 and, as you'll see in a bit, he managed to get some wonderful shots.

  • Summer Hot Spots: Platja D'Aro

    written by guanatos on 2014-08-06 in #world #locations
    Summer Hot Spots: Platja D'Aro

    Only an hour and a half away, Platja D'Aro is a very nice alternative to the crowded beaches in Barcelona. If you get there early, you'll get a very nice spot. It's great to go there with kids and the whole family

  • Exhibition: Florian Reischauers - Grüß Gott, A Fairy Tale

    written by efrost on 2015-01-09 in #news
    Exhibition: Florian Reischauers - Grüß Gott, A Fairy Tale

    Florian Reischauer’s LomoHome isn’t the only thing he’s known for in the Lomography community. The photographer is also regarded for his series “Pieces of Berlin,” which started as a popular blog and formed the pages of his own book. His latest series “Grüß Gott- A Fairy Tale” takes its turn center stage and is slated to appear in a solo exhibition at the Deutsches Haus at the University of New York.

  • Shop News

    Show Off your Pics with Style!

    Show Off your Pics with Style!

    Build vivid hanging LomoCurtains, robust free-standing LomoCastles, and dazzling mounted LomoMosaics! Just click them together with the Lomography Photoclips!

  • Loving the Lomo'instant!

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-16 in #news
    Loving the Lomo'instant!

    It's only been a few months since the lovely Lomo'instant camera was officially launched online and in the Lomography stores. Since then this Instant compact camera has been flying off the shelves. You've all been busy experimenting and uploading your amazing shots so we've decided show you some of the best shots out there to inspire you to get creative!

  • Julia Benz Designs the La Sardina DIY for Millerntor Gallery

    written by zonderbar on 2014-03-04 in #lifestyle
    Julia Benz Designs the La Sardina DIY for Millerntor Gallery

    The event at the Millerntor Gallery in Hamburg happened a while back but we'd love to present you a special gem, anyway. Something that was designed during this charity event by Viva con Agua. The Berlin-based artist Julia Benz has transformed our La Sardina DIY Edition to a black and white dream! Read on and get to know more about Julia and her design.

  • London Fashion Weekend

    written by blondielocks on 2014-10-13 in #world #locations
    London Fashion Weekend

    Vodafone Fashion Weekend in London is the must-go-to event for all fashion lovers in September. There are fashion shows on the catwalk, talks with industry professionals, shopping (anything from bags to clothes to necklaces), and, if you so wish, you can even get your hair done at a very low price on the day. It's the complete TLC package in one event.

  • Shop News

    Wear lomo-love on your skin

    Wear lomo-love on your skin

    You’ve shouted your analogue love from the rooftops and worn your heart on your sleeve – Now it’s time to take it to the next level and wear it on your skin! Our new Lomography Tattoos are fun, easy to apply and come in five designs.

  • Lomography X Volkshotel: 24 Hours

    written by anna-lomo on 2014-11-18 in #competitions

    Lomography loves the Volkshotel in Amsterdam, and vice versa! And so we decided to join forces for a very cool rumble: show us your best analogue shots and get the chance to spend a night at Volkshotel for free! How, what, when? Check out all the details and join.

  • The Phoblographer Gives the LC-A 120 Five Stars and Editor's Choice Award!

    written by jacobs on 2015-01-08 in #news
    The Phoblographer Gives the LC-A 120 Five Stars and Editor's Choice Award!

    We love our cameras. We especially love it when you love our cameras. And we get super pumped when you tell us about it. So when the LC-A 120 got a stunning review from the fellas at The Phoblographer, we were giddy with delight! Not only did they give it a killer, in-depth review, but they also bestowed it with a 5/5 rating and Editor's Choice award! Read on for a little taste of the review and then head to their site to read the whole thing!

  • Lubitel 166+: Lubitel is for Lovers+

    written by adi_totp on 2014-09-05 in #reviews
    Lubitel 166+: Lubitel is for Lovers+

    Lubitel for lovers+. You're probably wondering, "Why is there a '+'?" It's to describe and expand a whole new definition of the Lubitel - in this case, this camera is not only for lovers literally, but also for anyone who loves to shoot portraits, street scenes, objects, and the skies. Do you love to take photos of your lover, your dear friend, your lovely family, your pet, or at the streets? This camera can be used in ALL situations. You can shoot everything that you love with it!

  • Shop News

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • To Russia with Love (Part 3)

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-03-03 in #people #lifestyle #locations
    To Russia with Love (Part 3)

    In the third and final installment of his Russian love story, Herr Willie recalls some of the most memorable experiences from his trips to post-Soviet Russia, including traveling aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway and shooting with the La Sardina for Lomography on assignment, and waxes nostalgic about all the amazing people he had met.

  • Snap Up This Brand New Instant Grand Slam Package - Lomo’Instant Boston Edition

    written by shhquiet on 2015-03-03 in #gear #news
    Snap Up This Brand New Instant Grand Slam Package - Lomo’Instant Boston Edition

    We are very excited to introduce the latest addition to the Lomo’Instant family, the Lomo’Instant Boston Edition. The Boston only made it to first base when it appeared in our Kickstarter campaign but by the raucous applause we got from you guys, it’s in it for the homerun!

  • Photographer Gilbert Blecken Captures Iconic Musicians on Film

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-03-02 in #people #lifestyle
    Photographer Gilbert Blecken Captures Iconic Musicians on Film

    Back in the 1990s, Gilbert Blecken was a big music fan and wrote for his own small music fanzine. He would interview bands in between sound checks and take photographs of them. He was never a professional photographer or worked for a company; he simply did it for his fanzine. Twenty years on, Gilbert’s photographs have matured into an amazing documentation of some of the biggest music icons of that era. We caught up with Gilbert to ask him about these photographs and the fascinating story behind them.