Lore of Mount Rubidoux shared by expert during tour – San Bernardino Sun

Climbing Mount Rubidoux in Riverside doesn’t require any special equipment, like goggles, crampons or an ice ax. Not only is there a path, it’s paved. Cars used to motor up. Try driving up Mount Everest.

At 780 feet from base to summit, Rubidoux is a mountain almost anyone can ascend. In 2016, the most recent figures I’ve seen, up to 5,000 a day were going up. Some walk it daily. Its accessibility is one reason Rubidoux is justly beloved.

Even though you don’t need a guide for this trek, I arranged for the best: Glenn Wenzel.

If you want to know about Mount Rubidoux, Wenzel is your man. A volunteer board member of the nonprofit Friends of Mount Rubidoux, he wrote a book, “Anecdotes on Mount Rubidoux and Frank A. Miller, Her Promoter,” and now has a second book (with a punchier title), “They Climbed the Mountain.”

“He is the ultimate source to go to for the history of the mountain,” fellow board member Nancy Cox told me last year.

Glenn was game, so he and I meet up Wednesday morning in the Ryan Bonaminio Park parking lot after I fueled up with breakfast at Little Green Onions.

The temperature is a chilly 46 degrees, but the sun is shining as we head north up San Andreas Avenue, uphill all the way, toward what is officially known as the Frank A. Miller Mount Rubidoux Memorial Park.

“The incline to get to the park,” Glenn says, “is the steepest part of the walk.”

Like I said, Mount Everest this ain’t.

The bearded Wenzel, 70, is wearing a Friends of Mount Rubidoux shirt, binoculars around his neck, and he’s toting a walking stick for balance. If he’s going to be my Sherpa guide for the morning, he came prepared.

This will be my second time up Rubidoux. My first, in January last year, was full of rookie mistakes, but it was a rite of passage after adding Riverside to my column territory.

It’s now a city of Riverside park, but can you believe Mount Rubidoux was once private property?

The mountain was owned by Frank Miller, developer of the Mission Inn and tireless promoter of Riverside. He bought the mountain in 1906, put in roads and made an auto tour of the mountain one of the perks for guests at his hotel, Glenn tells me.

As we press on, walkers, joggers and people with strollers pass us coming or going, often with a friendly hello.

Until modern times, few people walked up the mountain, in part because the narrow roads were busy with auto traffic. When the roads washed out in 1992, pedestrians and cyclists took over. And by the time repairs were finished, the public had spoken with its feet, and cars were banned.

Glenn and I pause at Huntington Rock, one of several boulders with plaques for notables who had a hand in Mount Rubidoux’s improvements.

You might remember Henry Huntington as the railroad magnate behind the Red Car trolleys or as the man whose house is now the Huntington Library. He was also one of two partners with Miller in the mountain’s purchase and development.

The rock also bears a plaque with a quote from naturalist John Muir, who once climbed the mountain. I’ll come back to that story sometime soon because it’s such a hoot.

As our path loops around to the north, Glenn points down to Loring Park, a tiny green space on a hill on the other side of the quaint stone bridge over Mission Inn Avenue. Charles Loring was Miller’s other investor in the park.

A gray house with a red-tiled roof is east of Loring Park. That was the home of Ike Logan, who climbed the mountain daily from 1910-39 to ring a bell seven times at 7 a.m.

“This is probably the path Ike Logan took,” Glenn says of the switchback dirt trails up the mountain’s north face. That’s roughly the path I took last year, not knowing about the civilized route from Bonaminio Park.

He directs my attention to a metal flag stand embedded in a rock. This and others like it are reminders of the Armistice Day services held most years from 1919-35, in which flags from a dozen nations were flown in a call for peace and world understanding.

We come to Ben Lewis Bridge, which separates two paths. Before its installation, a police officer would be posted at the mountainous intersection on Easter Sunday to direct vehicle traffic.

Another loop and we’re at the Peace Tower and bridge, built in 1925. Inside the tower is the second-oldest bell in Riverside, courtesy of the original Methodist Church. The tower was built around it.

“I got to go in it once and touch the bell,” Glenn says. “There’s no way to get it out without tearing down the tower.”

We pick our way across dirt and rocks to get to the summit quicker, Glenn using his walking stick for balance, me doing my best while holding a notebook and pen in one hand.

We climb to the cross and enjoy the view before beginning our descent.

A Lutheran pastor, Glenn grew up in Wisconsin and pastored in Florida, Rancho Cucamonga and then at Riverside’s Cross and Crown before retiring in 2018.

He first went up Rubidoux by car with his daughter’s classroom on a field trip in 1988 and was hooked. He researched and wrote “They Climbed the Mountain” as a pandemic project.

(In his book’s greatest typo, his bio says his first climb was in “the spring of 1886.” “My one son caught that,” Glenn says sheepishly. “He said, ‘Dad, I know you’re old, but…’”)

Our walk back is downhill all the way. Especially once we get to San Andreas Drive. I couldn’t resist teasing the expert by asking: Is Rubidoux a mountain or a hill?

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