We walked by this water tank welcoming us in the dark
We met at a quarter to six inside the park, and got a little briefing on the route and what to expect. Then we headed out for our 3 mile hike up the canyon, around the ridge, and back down. It was overcast initially, blocking the moon. It was the closest moon in 15 years, and when it came out from behind the clouds it was like someone had switched on a light. We hiked without turning our flashlights on so our night vision would have a chance to adjust.
Here's a map to give you an idea of where the canyon is
A western toad leapt across the path in front of us, nearly landing right under my foot! We watched him as he passed across the path, then continued on our hike.
A motion-sensor camera went off halfway up a steep slope - normally meant to catch the nocturnal wanderings of bobcat, coyotes, and other animals, it instead caught us!
We made our way to the top of the ridge, where all of Orange County was laid out below us in a shimmer of lights, only the old El Toro Marine Base was dark.
We started the switch-backs of our descent back into the canyon, passing by native cholla and prickly pear cactus, and through some nice untouched coastal sage scrub habitat. I'd love to come back and bird along that part of the trail in daylight.
By the end of our descent the temperature dropped noticeably and we were glad to be getting into our cars to turn the heat on. My car's temperature gauge read 48 degrees, chilly for the OC. It was a fun hike, one of the few true night hikes I've ever done, and I'm sure not the last.