9 January 2016
Temecula Creek Trail, City of Temecula, California
2.5 miles, 100 ft. climb to 1200 ft. maximum elevation
I spent most of this weekend in stiletto heels celebrating the nuptials of a lovely couple down in Southern California. With my husband as a groomsman, my primary duties involved managing the interests of my hiking buddies both in and out of formal wear. The wonderfully scheduled events gave the girls plenty of opportunity to dance, twirl and run around in their party frocks and sparkly shoes. So, on our only free morning the day of the wedding, I decided to take them beyond the tourist settings to explore the natural beauty of Temecula.
Within just a few minutes drive from our hotel is Temecula Creek Trail Park. This city park hosts a play area for children and a flat multi-use trail, popular with mountain bikers and joggers alike. Now that El Nino has finished gracing Southern California with its angry torrents, this morning’s weather was perfectly crisp with nothing but clear blue skies above. At 50F degrees, it felt like autumn back home in the Pacific Northwest – my favorite hiking season!
Once we got to the park entrance, I challenged my hiking buddies to a race to see who could reach the “official” trail first. Of course, Big Hiking Buddy took off with Little Hiking Buddy chasing after her, until BHB was kind enough to let LHB “pass for the win.” From there, we followed the sandy trail up the ridge along the Temecula Creek. With the prolonged drought throughout California last year, the Creek was nothing more than a dry, sandy groove winding through the foothills of the Palomar Mountains. Unlike the canopied forests of the Cascades Mountains back home, the terrain here was exposed with just desert brush and cacti adorning the trail.
Once the girls exhausted their initial burst of energy, we slowed our pace for easier exploration of the surrounding area. BHB immediately noticed how the recent storms affected the surface of the ground, carving waves into the sand beneath our feet and leaving behind unique patterns of color and mixtures of stone. LHB pointed out the prickly brush mixed with the golden leaves of balding deciduous trees, which greatly confused her as only white blossoms of snow now exist on the timbers back home in the PNW. As always, my hiking buddies were filled with curiosity on the trail; this time they were intrigued by the environmental differences between the two latitudes of Washington and Southern California.
As we continued tracing the curvatures along the Creek, the snowy peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains soon highlighted the distant panorama. Mount San Jacinto itself crested high above the horizon, in a surrealistic vision of white, leaving below it a stark contrast of dusty desert darkness. Compared to the jagged snow line of the evergreen-fortified Cascades to the north, this southern oasis filled the dry landscape with rolling hills dotted with boulders and bare shrubs. BHB couldn’t fully express how the scene before made her feel – a surprising loss for words from such an eloquent mind. I can only guess her love of nature unfolded another petal of – what I hope will be – a lifelong cycle of appreciation and exploration.
A lone tree in the middle of the creek bed marked 1.25 miles into our journey. It was a fitting turnaround point as this single source of enduring life in the midst of the stale topography seemed to represent my hiking buddies’ continued growth and desire to learn regardless of the challenges. As we headed back towards the park entrance, the girls and I chatted about life, death, marriage (we were going to a wedding in a few hours’ time), babies, animals, survival and everything else in between. I’m always intrigued by the connections my hiking buddies make in life using the analogies learned on our hikes. Nature is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
Once we returned to the park itself, my inquisitive hiking buddies transformed back into sweet little girls playing without a care in the world. They swung and climbed with reckless abandon, as well as built towers of sand and rock as high as can be. I know they grow with each hike, adventure and exploration we undertake together, but I am comforted by their youthful exuberance through the simple freedom of play. After a short bit, we returned to the hotel for lunch, clean up and dress up. It was time to enjoy another first for them: a fairy-tale wedding joining two of our favorite people. With that, I traded in my summer approach shoes and water reservoir for a pair of bejeweled stilettos and flutes of champagne to relish a memorable evening with my family.