Ohio

One of the most important aspects of my life is found outside the confines of my personal empire. It had been a discussion for quite some time that I should fly out and reconnect with this missing half, encouraged by a loving grandmother and my desire, the trip was booked. Badly sunburned from a previous adventure, packed for the unfamiliar, and ready to meet family I had not seen in too many years, I was off. Two planes and six hours later I was greeted, with open arms, to Ohio by my grandmother and great aunt. The one-week reunion consisted of, among other things, great barbecue, late night family gatherings, scorching humidity, and a two day trip around Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie. If you had asked me what I expected to gain from this trip, or why I am taking a week out of my So-Cal summer to visit what one person described as essential strangers, the answer would be a blank stare. In all honesty, I didn’t fly six hours across the country with an agenda, I just kind of did. I did it for family. What I learned, and ultimately gained from this trip was an elevated sense of understanding, compassion, courage and love from a new perspective.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager

Different Side of Skyline

Very few personal challenges lie within the confines of Skyline, a hiking area around my inland-empire neighborhood. Once one hikes the designated trails and discovers the little differences, little interest is left in this area. While debating what activity to embark on with one of my best friends, we decide to take a trail I had not yet fully explored. I do not have a name for this trail, but I definitely didn’t follow it nor adhere to the boundaries. We came to find that this path held the life of this area that has not been seen in years. The drought in Southern California has stripped this area of unique beauty and life. Deeper and deeper into this trail, bat shelters, tadpoles and interesting rock placement began an intrigue. Eventually we came on the recognized ‘end point’ of this trail and kept going. A small dam held back the water that allowed for a trickle to fuel the miniscule creek that sustained life. This area, once far enough in, and shaded by the trees does not transform itself into a place of beauty, so much as an enchanted space to understand. Since this first experience, I have returned after a much needed rain and the area was full of life and the sound of running water made me think that everything is going to be ok, and skyline will prevail.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager

The Rope Trail

It’s about midnight and I am unable to sleep. I text my friend for added entertainment and end up convincing myself and him that a 4am hike up the notorious yet familiar ‘rope trail’ was a great way to start the weekend. I stumble out of bed before dawn to pick up my friend on about three hours of sleep. The moon guided us along the dusty main path in a hiking spot known as Skyline. We make our way through the trail on the lookout for the entrance. This concealed rabbit hole leads any who know of it into a fantastical path that is notorious in my area. This arduous hiking path is not for the faint of heart, for it requires bouldering, coordination and sometimes a miracle. Reach the top and you feel accomplished and alive while looking out into adjacent towns. At the peak we like to pick out our favorite spots, our high school, In-and-Out by the 15 freeway and the all too familiar traffic of the 91. Debatably harder than the ascent, is making your way down. There are two options, either go back down the way you came or go around, both equally sketchy. How we got through about a four hour hiking adventure on little sleep, without breakfast will always be a mystery but that hike will always be one of my favorite spontaneous adventures.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager

San Onofre Adventure

Breathtaking. Never before had I experienced a beach quite like this. Just off the freeway is a parking lot campground full of people and not a care in the world. No one really seems to regulate the behavior here but there is an unspoken sense of respect. My friends and I decided it would be a fun experiment to camp here. After weeks of planning, a tent-building session, and hours spent packing my convertible Sebring we were off. Three friends, packed in a two-door car with loads of gear and Christmas music blaring created the quintessential environment for kicking off an exciting couple of days at the beach. Once we set up camp, we set out on our adventures along the trails and into the unfamiliar. Towering bluffs lined the coast and created unique canyons among the tides. We did a lot in our time here. Nights were spent together in the ocean watching the descending sun and days were spent exploring and appreciating the little things this territory had to share with us. We didn’t look at our phones outside of playing music, we gagged the hours by the signs of the sun and lived each day according to our free will and judgements. Learning about ourselves and each other through the weird things we experienced was all the entertainment we needed. The challenges with assimilating into society after days spent aimlessly and blissfully away hit us with full force. It doesn’t help that the first stop of this crazy train back home was a coastal Starbucks and my dreads at the time were woven with seaweed. None-the-less we returned home and I was more refreshed and happier than ever. You never know what you can gain from something so seemingly simple as a trip to the beach.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager

The Warehouse

In the middle of horse trails in Norco, a city just up the freeway from Corona, lies the abandoned and crumbling remains of a building unknown, dubbed by those who visit, the warehouse. An escape from the ordinary, a myth, the embodiment of youthful expression. This building has become a piece of art and apart of Norco. Boredom struck, so, naturally my friends and I started thinking about what we were going to do about it. Hiking, yet again, skyline or the falls sounded mundane so our sights were set on this fantastical building coated in imagination somewhere unbeknownst to us. A friend in the group had been a while back and new the general whereabouts. That was good enough for us. Off we went into Norco without really a clue what we sought out or where it would lie. It wasn’t one of those “you can’t miss it” places – this took some effort. Eventually, after walking a dusty horse trail near a nursery that became our only reference point, we found it. We took time to marvel in awe at the structure, the colors, its art. The amount of artistic talent showcased throughout these off-shoot cities continue to intrigue me. Where and who are these rebel artists? After looking around and having a mini photoshoot we said our goodbyes to this place. We have yet to return but one day, maybe with the same or other friends, I am sure we will return to add a piece of ourselves, and leave our mark on the vibrant walls of our sinner cathedral.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager