By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
From an airplane, after the early-spring rains, Bommer Canyon appears to be a massive, green middle finger. Bordered on one side by the wealthy new Shady Canyon development and on the other by the wealthy old neighborhood of Turtle Ridge, now owned by the city of Irvine, Bommer Canyon is off-limits to everyone but docents leading official hikes or special events.
Which is too bad.
A stroll through the canyon would reveal a clear picture of OC past and present. Of course, that would be illegal. So I'm not suggesting you leave your car at Turtle Rock Park. Not suggesting that you cross Bonita Canyon Drive on foot. If you did, and I'm not saying you should, you'd find an elevated paved bicycle path bordering the road. If you followed that path to the right, which you wouldn't—ever—you'd shortly encounter a dirt road that leads through the heart of Bommer Canyon.
You wouldn't do any of this because if you followed that dirt road, you'd discover a strange, politically provocative juxtaposition: to the left, housing developments spreading on the hillsides like virulent corona viruses; to the right, lush slopes of coastal sage scrub and brilliant wildflowers encircling islands of rocky outcrops. On the canyon floor, criminal trespassers would encounter the remnants of a wooden enclosure, all that remains of a historic cattle camp, its weathered wooden planks scattered like fossilized remains; a new camp is emerging among the oaks and sycamores, now available through the city for special events.
A Lilliputian water tower greets visitors with "Welcome to Bommer Canyon" emblazoned on its side. I'm not suggesting you'd want to keep an eye out for security personnel hereabouts—this is just an exercise in fancy—but if you did make it past the camp, you could continue unmolested. Beyond the wide, dirt parking lot that serves the camp, overgrown jeep trails ascend the hillside as parallel single tracks. You'd never do this, and I'd never recommend it, not even ironically, but at the top of the hill, you can walk right under the 73 toll road.
Climb the low hill beyond and veer left, and you'd be free-except, of course, that you were never really un-free because you'd never do this—entering Laguna Coast Wilderness, a magnificent area saved from the bulldozer and a further reminder of the beauty that is being destroyed behind you—the imaginary you that would never trespass —in the name of progress.
Aren't you glad this is illegal?