As I was leaving my home in Laguna Niguel this afternoon I was stunned to see the effects of our little storm. Driving North on Moulton Pkwy the clouds of many shades of grey draped the Santa Ana Mountains providing peaks of a surprising dustng of snow all the way down to the foothills…a rare sight indeed. I’ve seen snow on Saddleback in the last few years, but never so low. The temperature was a low 50 degrees at noon and made it a great day to wear a scarf, boots and my favorite newsboy hat and pretend I was somewhere where they have a real winter.

Dozens of trees with shallow roots from living in the grass parking strips where they receive only sprinkler water, lay like fallen soldiers along the road, with scattered eucalyptus branches decorating the highway. In typical SoCal winter style, the few remaining hills were brightened by the vivid green of winter rye and perhaps the promise of profuse wildflowers to come.

I remember when I grew up in Orange County in the 50’s. Living in a post-WWII housing tract in Anaheim, I would walk to school in the winter and see the mountains covered in snow, but by afternoon I would be dragging my heavy jacket behind me in the warm sun.

We had orange groves down the street still, with 1920’s houses in the middle. We loved to explore and play hide-and-seek in the groves and brave the wrath of the old man who, suburban legend held, would threaten neighborhood children with a shotgun if he found them trampling his irrigation furrows. I never saw him, but it gave us all a thrill to imagine the danger.

They had smudge pots in the groves then, so that when frost was threatened they would light them to keep the oranges warm at night. I don’t remember the last time frost threatened Anaheim…perhaps there is too much concrete, asphalt and stucco that keeps things heated up. Of course, there are no orange trees to worry about, so a little frost is hardly noticed.

You can still find orange trees in the hills of North County and along Portola Pkway between Tustin Ranch and South County…just like the old days…at least for a few more years.

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