It’s 6:30 a.m., Sunday. And, we’re going to trek up Mt. Rubidoux. It’s just this sort of early morning hike that brought us to the Rancho in the first place. Paul and I used to drive from our other house across town to make the climb early Sunday mornings, and it was while parking in front of what we now know as the Rancho, that we first fell in love with the neighborhood and the house’s low-key charms. Now that we’ve lived here for 2-plus years I don’t climb the mountain much anymore, preferring the more solitary bike path/Fairmount Park/street hike instead. There was just something about pit bulls wandering off their leashes, entire extended families and their pets blocking the path, teenagers shouting into cell phones and endlessly saying ‘good morning’ to everyone I passed that finally put me off. (Yes, dear reader, I’m a hopeless curmudgeon.) But today, to celebrate this, my 20th post, we’re hiking up the hill. What follows is not a step-by-step account, but rather an attempt to show what I love about the trip. And, yes, you’ll notice there are no people in the pictures. Let’s go!
This is The Peace Bridge erected by the friends of Frank Augustus Miller in 1925. A brass plate on the tower wishes “Peace with justice for all men”. Nice, but more interestingly, on the bridge itself, is another brass plate dedicated to Lt. Colonel Sunzo Kido, who, during the equestrian games of the 10th Olympiad in 1934, “turned aside from the prize to save his horse” having heard the “low voice of mercy, not the loud acclaim of glory”. This tribute was provided by the Riverside Humane Society and its unveiling was actually witnessed by a Japanese prince!
I know, you thought this was just going to be a hike up a mountain, but you were wrong. There’s a lot to think about along the way. After pondering the notion of peace for all men and selfless equestrianism, unwary hikers will encounter those twin symbols of traditional WASP Americana, The Flag and The Cross looming large. Moving on …
But, first we must go under the Ben Lewis Bridge. The amazing timber bridge is named after the former Riverside mayor and was extensively repaired just this year. I love walking on it on the down-trip, the heavy timbers sound great underfoot.
Rounding the bend one can catch some really pretty views of the Santa Ana River as it courses along. See, there really is a river in Riverside, those of you who’ve asked.
And now for the heavy stuff: that cross. Dedicated to Father Junipero Serra, it acknowledges the mission contribution to Riverside, and cites Fr. Serra as a “legislator” and “builder”. The current cross is a much larger version erected in 1959. The original cross made its appearance in 1907, and in 1909, then-President William Howard Taft unveiled the second plaque dedicating the cross to Fr. Serra. Then, like many visitors to Riverside, President Taft had a meal at The Mission Inn. As you can see, hikers bring offerings of artificial flora to decorate the base of the cross, and in the last picture, though it’s hard to see, Jonathan and Amy have left their mark as well.
I understand medieval architects built grand churches and cathedrals with the express intention of provoking awe in believers. One shepherd has taken his flock to this rocky location for the same purpose — under open sky and atop massive boulders he presides over raucous prayers and singing. Here, he stands, looking down, I’m sure counting his followers as they make the climb up to their rocky pews. How powerful he must feel knowing that he’s awesome enough to draw them here, under the morning sky.
All along the way hikers can see Rubidoux red granite, sometimes bearing down overhead, teetering as if to come crashing down. Or, split and balancing, jutting this way or that. There are openings and caves and chasms and outcroppings. Huge piles seem to look like faces in profile or like mythic animals. I love the rocks — they’re always quiet.
In January 1906, Frank Miller (The Peace Bridge, remember?) and Henry Huntington, formed the Huntington Park Association, to acquire Mt. Rubidoux and build a road up and down the mountain. The road was completed about a year later and in summer 1907 this plaque was installed at a crossroads to honor Mr. Huntington. I use this crossroad so that I can gauge which way up I want to use. If I go left, the path is steeper and requires more energy. Right, and it’s a bit more leisurely a climb. Maybe I’ll start hiking the mountain again, we really enjoyed it. We just have to do it early, before all those other people — and their pit bulls — get up!