Colleen Hannegan

Finding the words....and the perfect pair of glasses.

mountain biking

Ride with care, please.

Colleen HanneganComment

A letter to the Stewards of the Orange County Parks

Yesterday, on Sunday January 4th, during one of my frequent hikes into Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness park, my daughter and I along with an elder couple hiking near us were accosted by a group of 100-200 aggressive mountain bikers as we were heading down a rather narrow section of the Wood Canyon trail. They were racing up the hill across the entire path and running everyone off the trail. We were very close to being hit. Other riders not in this group and runners and hikers were all forced into nearby bushes.

For the ten years I have enjoyed the beauty and restorative experience of hiking and riding my own mountain bike into ”Aliso”, there have been an occasional errant biker. But the majority of the experience has always been considerate and careful riders sharing the trails. 

But yesterday, Rock and Road cyclery hosted an A1 event in the park that included motosport riders, professional racing mountain bike riders and 200 of their customers to race and basically tear up the trail and everyone in their way. No courtesy shown, no patience with hikers, rude remarks from riders when we asked them to stay on one side. It was a free-for-all that left us all feeling sick that OC Parks had allowed a mob-mentality to unleash itself on our beloved park.

 The OC Parks Vision Statement is to “Preserve Orange County’s Parks in perpetuity for the recreation, education, and inspiration of ALL visitors.”

“As a steward of significant natural and cultural resources, Orange County Parks manages and operates a system of regional parks, beaches, harbors, trails and historic sites that are places of recreation and enduring value.”

The sacred space that is our community park system is a gift to our community I value a great deal. It is not a racetrack! I so love my wilderness park at Aliso and the positive healing and joy I’ve discovered biking and hiking in the park, that I wrote a book to share with the world about the healing power and joy there is for all if they will step off the sidewalk and onto a wilderness trail.  

As a professional speaker on the subject of healing in the outdoors, and how being in nature provides better health and happiness,  I teach others to seek peace and healing in the outdoors; in the wilderness. I am a member of the North American Chapter of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine and a teacher of Shin-rin Yoku, the Japanese term for healing in the outdoors.

Well, yesterday we were mowed down on that wilderness trail by a mob, who should have never been allowed to have that large a number of aggressive racers on the trail on a very busy Sunday morning. There  were no signs posted that we would be walking right into the eye of a storm of riders. It created a very hazardous situation.

This is no place for that kind of event. This is a preserved space for respectful and careful guests who will do their part to preserve our wild, not rip it up and upset this precious and delicate eco-system.

Who will care for all we’ve saved in the wild if OC Parks, the steward who represents the people, does not?

No more racing! No more large crowds of bikers! Set a limit to the size of riding groups on weekends! No more Sunday events that crowd out everyone else on the most active day of the week!


A wilderness loving guest.


Girl On Bike Chapter 1

FeaturedColleen HanneganComment

Girl On Bike, What the Boys Taught me about Love, Life & Mountain Biking

Chapter 1 Damsel In Distress

It was 7:30am on a gorgeous July morning when I rode into the Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park in Aliso Viejo, Ca. The sun was rising over the hills surrounding the park, into a cloudless blue sky above me. It’s warmth on my calves hinted of a perfect weather day ahead. One of those oh so perfect southern California summer days that whispers, “Yes, you do live in paradise you lucky girl.” My bike rolled over crunchy parking lot gravel as I steered it towards the dirt trail.  I had planned on completing a two-hour loop before the sun made things a bit too hot for comfort.  My ride in had been smooth, but energetic; the gentle uphill gradient of the fire trail was especially satisfying.  I was feeling very energetic and, admittedly, hot. Not hot as in the morning’s 80+ temperature, but hot, as in the opposite of homely.  Not even a year of weekly rides and I was already feeling like one of them. You know, mountain bikers. One of those ultra fit girls — and guys — who had passed me by so many times looking so confident and at one with their bikes. I was savoring the Zen of it all as I pedaled back towards the park entrance — having allowed myself a short break at the end of the 4-mile fire road loop. I was picking up speed on a lengthy downhill grade and feeling euphoric — the breeze was whooshing by, my shoes were pushing hard against the pedals, and I was enamored of my breathtaking surroundings.

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I distinctly remember every detail of that velocity-fuelled high — the heat of the earth crunching beneath my tires, the coolness of the two creeks through which the trail snaked, the clickety-click sound as I crossed the wooden bridge, the glimpse of the old corral as I rounded a corner…

I thought to slow down as I whizzed past groups of incoming riders. But I just couldn’t. The speed was like a drug that was making me feel omnipotent.

A couple yards shy of the entrance, I entered my last turn. It wasn’t at all difficult or dangerous. But I had created a most difficult and dangerous situation. The speed at which I was traveling, coupled with my inexperience as a cyclist and a bike not designed for this kind of terrain, spelled disaster. My front tire skidded in the sand and I lost control. In a split second, my bike and I came crashing down. I slammed hard onto the ground — my head and right shoulder absorbing the brunt of the impact — and slid across the trail before finally coming to a stop in the dirt. Dust was swirling all around me; it felt like the aftermath of a car wreck. I lay there for a moment or two, stunned, then tried to get up and disentangle myself from my bike. Despite being dazed, and in shock, I had the clarity to know that I was lying in the path of oncoming traffic — any number of bikers might at any moment turn the corner and plough right into me. As I tried to stand, I was overcome with dizziness, so on my hands and knees I half crawled, half dragged myself and my bike to the side of the path. Once safely out of harm’s way, I lay back on the ground to catch my breath and access the damage — to bike and girl.

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My legs were wet with the trickle of blood and my mouth was dry with the taste of dirt. I brushed it from my lips and tried hard to concentrate on the task at hand. Luckily, I hadn’t taken anyone down with me; on that busy morning, on a trail packed with riders heading in and out of the park, I was so grateful I’d hurt only myself.

Only a few moments later, riders traveling in both directions did turn the corner to the sight of a bleeding girl sitting in a dirt bath — covered from head to toe in dust, with blood oozing from her wounds, looking spaced out and war torn. In a matter of seconds, a large crowd had gathered around to check out the accident scene. A wonderfully kind and sweet girl named Mary and her riding companion Brad, immediately dismounted their bikes and knelt down, one on either side of me. The sun was in my eyes, yet I so clearly remember looking up and seeing all these people, pausing astride their bikes, to gaze down at me as Mary and Brad gently talked to me and checked out my injuries. One of the onlookers, a guy, asked if he could remove my helmet and examine it for serious dents, which would indicate head trauma. As I raised my arms to help him unfasten it, I caught sight of my bloody right arm and elbow, which was so badly grazed, there was very little skin left intact. I made an “injured girl” sound. Another guy took off his Camelbak, which is a back pack filled with water and supplies. The drinking hose attached to the Camelbak crosses over one shoulder and has a nozzle on the end for easy drinking access . He reached inside and produced a gauze bandage and antiseptic ointment and handed them to Brad to apply to my elbow. By now, a group of about 15 to 20 guys had encircled our makeshift “camp” and were surveying the scene; no doubt wondering how the hell this girl managed such a crash on such an easy

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stretch? “Damn,” I thought to myself. “This dirt is stuck to my lip gloss — I must really be a ridiculous sight.” And boy what a sight I was. A dirt freak — my face, my sunglasses, even my hair was coated with a thick layer. I took off my sunglasses and tried in vain to wipe it from my eyes while Mary kindly helped brush my tangled hair back from my face.

At Mary’s suggestion, we removed my gloves, which were also filled with soil. The group gasped as the left glove came off and revealed the biggest casualty of the collision: my thumb tip had been bent sideways, then forward, and was frozen in that seemingly impossible position; a gaping hole behind it revealed an exposed tendon and joint. I was a regular Girl Frankenstein.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh,” escaped my lips as I almost passed out in disbelief. Which is when I heard a guy with a Russian accent say, ”OK, time for the paramedics,” as he pulled out his cell phone. That’s how I met Edward Bederov, a trail assistant for Aliso Woods, who had just ridden into the park along with his cycling crew.

“Can I take a shot of the weirdest thumb I’ve ever seen?” asked another bystander, who had already whipped out his camera. “Geez,” I thought. “He’s excited. What kind of world have I ridden into?” But I smiled, and gamely held up the dislocated digit like it was some kind of bloody badge of courage and, at that moment, I found myself accepted into some kind of brotherhood… or something like that. The girl clearly had a sense of humor, so the guys felt comfortable enough to start cracking jokes. They could see I was going to be OK. All the same, Mary wisely took out a hankie and carefully covered my thumb to keep me from staring at it.

If you wish to read the next 4 pages of Chapter One, please leave a comment below and sign up for my blog updates to the right of this column, and I’ll send it right over….and maybe Chapter 2!

Thank you!

Please let me know if it doesn’t arrive in 24 hours…still working out the kinks here. Mucho thanks.