Tyler Martins is a chemistry student at Cal State Fullerton with a passion for Orange County. When he decided he wanted to see his native area in a new way, Tyler and a friend took a 66-mile, four-day hike across Orange County. At the end of his trek, on a San Clemente beach, he chanced upon some OCTA employees who encouraged him to share his transportation adventure.
I love Orange County, so much so I even made my own unofficial flag for it. It’s based on the original flag but with a little more meaning (blue for the ocean and skies, green for the surrounding area, and an orange in the sun for the name of our county and our sunny skies) and the use of vexillology (flag design).
Orange County has been my home for most of my life; I was born in Anaheim and moved to Fullerton for school. I go to Cal State Fullerton for chemistry. CSUF is the second largest school out of all of the CSU’s by amount of students, a whopping 39,000. One of the biggest problems at our school is parking. We are a commuter school, and when they come, they come by car.
There’s a widespread thought that no one wants to walk in southern California, though this is just not the case. People of all kinds across Orange County are setting foot to path or pavement. OCTA is doing great by adding a biking paths, walking paths, and a cool streetcar between Santa Ana and Garden Grove.
Our journey began a few years back when I was at an estate sale in Azusa. There was this man who had written a journal throughout his life. He was a surveyor in the L.A. area and I have his journal from 1912. He talked about a lot of interesting things like the cost of a pound of flour, or how he went to Long Beach and “did some drinking and did some shooting.” Imagine a time when it was socially acceptable to shoot a gun in Long Beach! One of the most striking things I read was how he took his wife on a trip for their anniversary. They went on a two-week journey to a beach up north, mostly walking. I thought it was such a novel thing to do.
After reading the journal, I decided I wanted to experience Orange County in that way, a way I had never seen before: on foot. My friend Riley and I decided to go from the most northern point to the southern tip of Orange County. That meant starting in La Habra where it meets Whittier all the way to San Mateo Point in San Clemente. The rules were simple: we had to walk the whole way.
In the early summer morning, we geared up in La Habra with heavy backpacks and a tent and started walking. Down the street where we hit Whittier Boulevard, we took a picture of ourselves with the city and county line sign, and we decided to take a picture with each city sign as we passed through. It was hot and we started to sweat after only a few miles. On Euclid, we passed over the old Pacific Electric railroad tracks that used to connect passenger trains to L.A. and continued on Imperial Highway until we got to Harbor Boulevard.
We went up and over the hill that separates La Habra and Fullerton, through Downtown Fullerton and into Anaheim. After 11 miles, we stopped in the lovely Pearson Park in Anaheim. Resting and airing out our feet in the grass felt so nice, and the shade of the trees was so inviting, that we lay down. An hour later we woke up realizing we had just passed out!
We continued on Anaheim Boulevard past the I-5 freeway and went to the Block in Orange, where Riley got new shoes for his sore feet. We were supposed to get into Santa Ana and stay on Main Street, but he was in so much pain that we found a hotel near the Orange Crush (where the 5 meets the 22 and the 57). The first day we walked 17 miles. We had quite a way to go.
We were running behind, and Riley was in so much pain that I was afraid I was going to have to go it alone. At breakfast, we talked about how we were going to get to our next destination. We had two choices: take the streets, or the Santa Ana River Trail. Even though it was longer, we chose the river route because we would be off the street where many people were out biking or walking too, avoiding the intersections and cars.
After a mile, Riley could no longer walk. We found a shopping cart, Riley climbed in with our stuff, and I began to push. When we realized that we might be late to check in at our campsite at Crystal Cove, I began to run. Twelve miles later, we made it to where Newport Beach meets Huntington Beach.
At the campground the park ranger told us we had to hike another 3 miles if we wanted to camp at the top of the hill. We had already hiked 23 miles that day, so this news was devastating. The moon lit the way to the top, where we set up the tent and passed out.
The sun woke us the next morning. When we looked outside of the tent, we were greeted with an amazing view. From across the top of the hills, we saw the ocean in the distance. It was a beautiful sight, worth the exhaustion of the day before.
As we walked through Laguna Beach so many people were out walking that it was hard to move at a quick pace. The free shuttle passed often, and it was tempting to climb aboard, but we resisted. It was interesting to see how many more people came out and walked around when there was good public transit.
Next, we reached south Laguna and walked along PCH. There was no sidewalk and people walked into traffic to get around parked cars. Then there were the endless hills from Laguna to Dana Point. Between the trees and houses we could see the beautiful beaches, so we didn’t complain much. We camped on a cliff overlooking Doheny Beach. Total mileage: 15.
The last day was the shortest, which was great because we were exhausted: sunburned, and aching legs, feet, and body. We continued down PCH onto the San Clemente Beach Trail, which runs right along the coast and the train tracks. We took it south toward San Mateo Point, where OC turns into San Diego. The trail ended and we walked about 2 miles through the sand.
When we asked some people to take a picture of us overlooking the ocean and San Onofre Beach, we discovered that they worked for OCTA. One person gave us an orange. We threw our stuff down, peeled that orange, and ate it. It was poetic: eating an orange at the southern tip of Orange County. We had made it! It was a great experience that gave us a different outlook on transportation and the place that we call home.