The Falls

Hidden in the rocks on the border of a drought-ridden big city adjacent to mine lies a secret. Free flowing water over the edge of towering painted rocks. In this parched residential area the waterfall has been reduced to a steady flow that struggles to maintain a creek running along the length of a dusty trail. Pass under the branches of two trees coordinating the natural tunnel to the rocky staircase and the myths come alive. An artist’s paradise, a sinner’s grotto; The Falls are a sanctuary for any young person feeling trapped. Towering rocks displaying years of painted imagination surround the flow. The experiences I have had at The Falls facilitate my desire to return. Outside of spontaneous sunrise hikes before an eight hour workday and semi-planned mini-adventures with friends, I enjoy solitary trips here as a means of escape. Getting knee-deep in the pools of water, bouldering up the rocks around dusk to chase the sunset, finding those little areas off the beaten path and coming home with the battle wounds are what I live for. The view from the top accompanied by trickling water frees my mind and fuels my passion.

Content and Photograph by Alex Rager

Mount Rubidoux

A mountain seeping in American pride and the love of God. Captivating views of the city make the long ascent worth it. Sleep deprived sunrise chasers – I don’t know why my friends join me on these adventures. Awake in the early hours of the day and at the peak before dawn we waited for the morning sun. It seems like we have climbed, hiked and adventured our way through every crevice of our inland empire. Mount Rubidoux had yet to be conquered together so it had to be the first adventure over the short break we all shared. Thinking that the sun rose at 6 we set off around 5 to meet up and reach the peak. Taking in the sweeping views of a slumbering city as we climbed, we knew the sunrise would be a treat. We reached the peak right around 6 in the morning but the sun wouldn’t greet us for another hour. Huddled up we avoided the wind and got a chance to catch up with each other and communicate the latest chapter of our lives. As if the fall semester had never occurred, as if we had ever gone our separate ways to Arizona, Colorado and respective areas of Southern California, we joked and laughed and the cool windy morning felt like summertime. The sun finally rose and in all majesty painted the sky. This was about more than a sunrise or a hike or sore calves, this was about reconnecting with the friends who have withstood the tests of time and distance.

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

Pingree Park

Entertain the idea for a moment how you felt standing in the most gorgeous place you have experienced. On a hike through Pingree Park, Colorado I found my bliss. Official freshman orientation was over and while some were going home, I was setting off on the next adventure. Long group hikes, team building exercises, and solitary nature walks constituted the basic schedule of this trip. I didn’t enter this experience with preconceived notions of what to expect, I had never even heard of Pingree. The moment I entered the park, I became a child eager to look, touch and adventure my way through every crevice. I finally understood the excitement of my peers who had been here before. This flourishing green landscape, bordered by mountains and nourished by flowing veins allowed me to examine nature in its purest form. The abundance of visual stimulation became the catalyst for interpersonal thought that would later change my perspective. I never expected the strangers I camped with would become some of my favorite people, that Pingree would become my hidden gem, and those memories would be the ones to share.

Photograph and content by Alex Rager