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Discover the "The Sinks," a rare exposition of verticality amid the rolling hills of interior Orange County.

Orange County's 50,000-acre Irvine Ranch Land Reserve -- essentially a big olive branch extended to the County of Orange by the Irvine Company in exchange for development rights in that county's remaining open spaces -- is bit by bit being transformed into public parkland. About 5000 of those acres, east of the city of Irvine and west of Santiago Canyon Road, lie in what is known as Limestone Canyon Preserve. The preserve is not yet in full public ownership, but will someday become a fully accessible wilderness park. Meanwhile, the Nature Conservancy is charged with offering guided hiking, equestrian, and mountain biking tours of the property, ranging in length from 2 miles to 15 miles.

Limestone Canyon Preserve's most popular tour features an easy, two-mile round-trip hike to a viewpoint overlooking the Sinks, a colorful, dramatically sheer piece of landscape that looks out of place amid the gently rolling foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. No one is allowed unaccompanied by a guide on the Limestone Canyon property, and roving guards ensure enforcement of that rule.

Contact the Nature Conservancy at 714-832-7478 or e-mail [email protected] for a tour schedule and reservation instructions. For the popular, short hike to the Sinks, participants will either rendezvous at the trailhead (parking space permitting) on Santiago Canyon Road near the tiny community of Modjeska, or gather at a car-pool site not far away. The short hike is offered about twice monthly during morning hours, and typically once a month as an evening hike by the light of the full moon.

You'll begin with a crossing of the wide, bouldery bed of Santiago Creek; then you follow an old dirt road heading up a small canyon on the far side. Graced with shade-giving live oaks and lush riparian vegetation, the canyon is recovering from a century or more of cattle-grazing use. Expect progress to be slow; your Nature Conservancy guide will likely point out every significant type of plant, and spin yarns about various birds and animals that may come into view.

At 0.8 mile you reach the head of the small canyon, where you meet a ridge-running dirt road. You turn north and continue about 0.2 mile to the best viewpoints overlooking the steep-walled sandstone gorge named the Sinks. Erosion of the soft sedimentary rock here has led to the formation of a receding cliff -- most dramatically sheer on the north side, where it exhibits a relief of about 150 feet. Iron oxide is responsible for the ruddy color of the rock. The scene is impressive under mid-morning sunlight, and eerily spectacular in bright moonlight.

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Orange County's 50,000-acre Irvine Ranch Land Reserve -- essentially a big olive branch extended to the County of Orange by the Irvine Company in exchange for development rights in that county's remaining open spaces -- is bit by bit being transformed into public parkland. About 5000 of those acres, east of the city of Irvine and west of Santiago Canyon Road, lie in what is known as Limestone Canyon Preserve. The preserve is not yet in full public ownership, but will someday become a fully accessible wilderness park. Meanwhile, the Nature Conservancy is charged with offering guided hiking, equestrian, and mountain biking tours of the property, ranging in length from 2 miles to 15 miles.

Limestone Canyon Preserve's most popular tour features an easy, two-mile round-trip hike to a viewpoint overlooking the Sinks, a colorful, dramatically sheer piece of landscape that looks out of place amid the gently rolling foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. No one is allowed unaccompanied by a guide on the Limestone Canyon property, and roving guards ensure enforcement of that rule.

Contact the Nature Conservancy at 714-832-7478 or e-mail [email protected] for a tour schedule and reservation instructions. For the popular, short hike to the Sinks, participants will either rendezvous at the trailhead (parking space permitting) on Santiago Canyon Road near the tiny community of Modjeska, or gather at a car-pool site not far away. The short hike is offered about twice monthly during morning hours, and typically once a month as an evening hike by the light of the full moon.

You'll begin with a crossing of the wide, bouldery bed of Santiago Creek; then you follow an old dirt road heading up a small canyon on the far side. Graced with shade-giving live oaks and lush riparian vegetation, the canyon is recovering from a century or more of cattle-grazing use. Expect progress to be slow; your Nature Conservancy guide will likely point out every significant type of plant, and spin yarns about various birds and animals that may come into view.

At 0.8 mile you reach the head of the small canyon, where you meet a ridge-running dirt road. You turn north and continue about 0.2 mile to the best viewpoints overlooking the steep-walled sandstone gorge named the Sinks. Erosion of the soft sedimentary rock here has led to the formation of a receding cliff -- most dramatically sheer on the north side, where it exhibits a relief of about 150 feet. Iron oxide is responsible for the ruddy color of the rock. The scene is impressive under mid-morning sunlight, and eerily spectacular in bright moonlight.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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