Pecten Reef, Aliso Viejo
This place deserves a little more respect. A piece of land that’s been shamefully hemmed between condos and soccer fields, Pecten Reef is like a former professor, silenced and shuttered away in a small and dirty nursing home. Hiking here, it was sad to see how a once-underwater treasure from the Middle Miocene that has shown its prehistoric past so willingly and openly, is now not much more than a few poorly maintained trails around some hills. With the strip-mined look of rabbit warren maintenance. And a shopping cart tossed in the creek. And dog turds everywhere.
I did feel a bit better after picking up some trash and discovering that, despite the ignorance of humans, nature thrives here. A California King snake leisurely crossed the trail in front of us, a roadrunner stopped eating its meal of lizard to give us a look-see, and enormous, red-winged tarantula hawk wasps (which surprisingly did not scare my semi-bug-challenged M & D) were everywhere. And then there were the fossils. So many fun and easy finds that showed what was under the water when the reef was alive so many millions of years ago.
I left thinking that it would be wonderful if the people who regularly enjoy this trail make an effort to clean it up. Heck, it wouldn’t take more than a den of boy scouts who would be willing to put it on their list of continuous service projects to make Pecten Reef thrive beautifully. The city and county have excavated and reaped treasures from it; now it’s time for them to spearhead a clean up, mark the trailhead with some significant historical signage, and give the old place the dignified retirement it deserves.