Yulia Mikholap and Alex Barseghyan say one reason they chose Orchard Hills for their new home was the convenient access to natural open spaces and hiking trails.

Life at its best, naturally

by TOM BERG

Yulia Mikholap slides open the floor-to-ceiling glass door of the California Great Room in her new Orchard Hills home. The entire wall of glass opens, eliminating any barrier to her backyard and the earth-toned hills and green avocado orchards beyond.

“We like the views,” says her husband, Alex Barseghyan, looking out over the city.

They also enjoy their natural setting, adjacent to Irvine’s Northern Open Space Preserve, with trails, reservoirs and some of the rarest habitat in the world.

The Irvine Master Plan has permanently preserved these hills — along with one-third of the city — as open space for public use. As a result, hawks, owls and mule deer are common sights.

The Orchard Hills Trail provides sweeping vistas of the city.

The hills also form an intimate connection to Irvine’s ranching history with working avocado orchards that rise along the slopes.

“They’re part of Irvine’s legacy,” says Pete Changala, who for 26 years has maintained the orchards as some of the most sustainable and eco-friendly in the nation.

Hiking trails skirt these orchards leading high up to Loma Ridge, with views to the ocean.

“It’s a wilderness area that’s literally in our backyards,” Irvine Ranch Conservancy hiking docent Joan Steiner says. “We get to walk the edge of a working orchard to a wildland area, just miles away from our home.”

For families, the setting is idyllic.

“It’s a wilderness area that’s literally in our backyards,” Irvine Ranch Conservancy hiking docent Joan Steiner says.

“With a young daughter, it’s important to my husband and I that we live in a place where we can have an active outdoor lifestyle,” says Orchard Hills resident Christy Figueroa. “We love to ride our bikes to a nearby trail or take a walk near the avocado groves. We feel lucky to be so close to all of this natural beauty.”

So do Yulia and Alex, who say they moved here to be close to the city — and close to nature.

So far, they’ve been busy setting up house, designing a patio for the backyard, planting a flower garden (or two) and exploring their new surroundings on both mountain bike and foot.

“There are a lot of trails for walking,” Yulia says. “I feel really safe here, and everything is so clean.”