A second series is being planned for fall ◆ By Mike Hiles
Steve Lopez is the Lead Recreation Aide for the Soboba Parks and Recreation Department and is also an avid hiker. When he noticed via social media that many adult and teen Soboba Tribal Members were taking up more outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking and running, he realized that his department didn't have any programs in the local area that could satisfy these pursuits.
"Not everyone has a mountain bike and not everyone can run at the same level, so hiking seemed to be an activity that everyone could enjoy," Lopez said. "That is why we organized the Spring Hike Series."
Hikes to Eagle Rock in Warner Springs, Murray Canyon in Indian Canyons (Palm Springs), Mecca Hills Painted Canyon/Ladder Canyon in Desert Hot Springs, Potato Chip Rock in Poway and Borrego Palm Canyon in Borrego Springs took place in April and May. Lopez chose trails located within a couple hours' drive from Soboba and coordinated transportation and provided sandwiches, fruit, granola bars and water that was paid for by the Soboba Parks and Recreation Department.
There are a few groups of families and friends that regularly hike on the reservation and a few annual events such as the Elders/Youth Walk and the Trail Race that take place on site. The idea of the hike series was to get these same people together to enjoy some of the outstanding trails that Southern California has to offer.
"We also wanted to show those who might have wanted to hike off the reservation but maybe didn't know where to start, how to find a trail or were worried of going alone and getting lost, how easy it is to get out there and enjoy these trails," Lopez said.
Lopez said he chose hikes that would be challenging to all abilities but also enjoyable. Scenery, streams, rock formations and other sights were all considered in hopes that everyone would enjoy the hike for one reason or another. All trails are open to the public year-round though some are best hiked before or after the summer season.
"I hiked all the trails in advance to ensure we didn't get lost and to assess the difficulty of each of them," Lopez said.
Alyssa Reina took the 5.3-mile Mecca Hills Painted Canyon/Ladder Canyon hike with Mica, Cammy, Tekla, Eric and Piet Diaz.
"It was helpful having a guide," Reina said. "Steve actually hiked the trail the week before our trip and he knew his way around."
Reina, who tries to hike about once a week and more often in cooler weather, said this was the first time she hiked in the Palm Springs desert area.
"I really enjoyed the hike," she said. "The trail had tall canyon rock walls and the beginning was very fun. There are actual ladders in the canyons that we had to climb."
Reina enjoys hiking with anyone who is willing and ready to have a good time out on the trails.
"The best way to plan for a long hike is to stay physically fit all year long," she said. "Stay fit and hydrated and bring snacks."
The Nevarez family, which included Regina, Mike and 12-year-old Abbie and Ellie, went on the 7.5-mile Potato Chip Rock hike in Poway.
"We really enjoyed the scenery, the view and the crazy inclines," said Regina, who usually hikes daily but less when the weather heats up. "We definitely try to make it out as a family when we can."
She said it was very helpful and motivating to have Lopez as a guide.
"Our children liked the view, wildlife, challenge, snacks and the conversation provided by Steve Lopez," Regina said. "He was pointing out plants our tribe used for food and medicine and they really thought that was cool. It encouraged them to want to learn more about our tribe's history. Him knowing the trail helped tremendously."
Lopez said that as a kid he used to love going out into the hills of the reservation to just walk around and enjoy the scenery and wildlife. "Now as an adult I enjoy hunting, which requires lots of hiking," he said. "Getting out and exploring the canyon on the reservation with my kids is another thing that I love doing."
Lopez is currently compiling an interest list for a Fall Hike Series and can be contacted at email@example.com or through the Soboba Sports Complex at 951-654-1319. At this time, the hikes are being offered only to tribal members, their spouses and their guests.