TRABUCO CANYON : FOCUS : Trabuco Canyon is Steeped in Stories

Clipboard researched by Susan Greene, Henry Rivero and Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

On July 24, 1769, an expedition of Spanish soldiers were camped out for the night along a creek near a large plateau in what would become Orange County. While there, one of the men lost his prized possession--his blunderbuss, a gun like those carried by the Pilgrims but called in Spanish a trabuco. As a permanent remembrance of this loss, the creek and later the canyon were named Trabuco. The area, of course, became today's Trabuco Canyon.

Another story linked to Trabuco Canyon is that of a woman of ill-repute named La Llorona, who, several generations ago, gave birth to many unwanted children. Immediately after birth, she would go to the Trabuco Creek and drown the illegitimate babies. The legend claims that after her death, her penance was to walk the creek banks looking for her murdered babies. So when the wind whistles and the bushes rustle, those are the nights La Llorona moans and sobs for her forever lost children.

Situated in Trabuco and Live Oak Canyons is the 1,298-acre O'Neill Regional Park. Equipped with an equestrian campground, an arena and 6 miles of riding trails, O'Neill is a horse-lover's haven.

Portersville is a small section of the Trabuco Highlands Ranch. About 35 families living there in shacks, trailers and abandoned boxcars pay rents ranging from $60 to $175 monthly, including water. Sam Porter, owner of this 300-acre ranch, established Portersville nine years ago when a man who had been living in O'Neill Park went to Porter and asked to stay on the ranch. Word soon spread around the area and it became known as a refuge for working homeless.

At the mouth of Trabuco Canyon is a historical bar and grill. Cook's Corner is known for its great chili, burgers, rustic decor and down-to-earth dialogue. Once a World War II mess hall at the Santa Ana Army Air Base, it was purchased from the government 41 years ago and moved to its present location.

Statistics Population: (1987 est.) 762 Median household income: $39,903 Racial/ethnic mix: white, 87.3%; Latino, 13.8%; black, .0%; other, 12.7% (Total is more than 100% because racial/ethnic breakdowns overlap)

Employment status Employed persons: 258 Unemployed: 1 Not in labor force: 139 Per capita income: $9,082

Population Median Age: 24.6 years

Statistics: Donnelley Demographics

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