Once we were a little rested and relaxed we loaded up and started back up the steep trail in pretty much the same one by one procession that we had earlier. Up ahead of us another, larger rock formation jutted from the dark mountain, but we gave it only a cursory pause before pushing onward toward the peak. The trail ahead of us grew only narrower and steeper as we drew farther up the mountain. Soon the scraggly desert bushes were closing in around me and I was beginning to think that the trail would close in on us and dead end when suddenly the trail broke free and we were climbing up onto the side of a wide paved walking trail.
This was obviously the main trail and we had made a mistake but who really cares, and all in all I enjoy the scenic route. We made a right on the blacktop path and continued up the mountain. Now we walked side by side, each step taking us closer to the summit. Only a few yards away from where we emerged we found a bench along side the trail where we sat for a moment and had a smoke. As we sat enjoying the shining cityscape and the comfortable night a group of high school kids, like six guys and only one girl, passed us by, beer and a hookah in hand. Apparently ghosts aren’t the only thing that haunts Mount Rubidoux late at night.
Soon we got moving again, it wasn’t long before, as the trail curved alongside the mountain something strange came into sight. Reaching into the dark night sky was a medieval Spanish tower, from the lone window at the top of the tower glowed an eerie light. As we got closer to the tower it became clear that we were nearing the mountains peak, from above us we could see a man-made plateau, an American flag waving in the night breeze, and up beyond that the huge cross that crowned the mountain.
We decided to climb up and explore the plateau a little, which under examination proved to be an amphitheater carved into the mountain. From the looks of things the mountain was some sort of a holy ground and that the large stone cross that loomed above us was more than just decorational, it was devotional. I walked around the stone and sand clearing examining a few informational plaques that were set up and tried to learn what I could of the place. Cassandra and I walked the dark mountain hand in hand, alone while Hector and Adam went off to explore the rest of the mountaintop and maybe meet the kids with the beer.
We met back up with Hector and Adam and then made our way to the tower, whose name, I had learned from one of the plaques, was Peace Tower. At the tower we met the kids who had passed us earlier, I had right about them being in high school but I had been wrong about them being locals. Though this was just one in a string of nights that they had recently spent partying on the mountain, none of them claimed to have seen any ghosts. One of them actually knew a little of the mountains history, probably from some of the plaques around, and told me that the whole mountain had been set to be developed for housing but the plans fell through some time in the twenties. A plaque on Peace Tower said it had been erected around this time by a man named Frank Miller, later when I got home and did a little research I found out that this was the same man who built the Mission Inn, and possibly half of Riverside.
After hanging out with the mountains more vivacious tourists we made our way to our final destination, the true summit: the foot of the cross. All around the mountainside, hidden away only slightly, lay small man made caves, sanctuaries that circle the mountains peak. The cross rose triumphantly from a mound of stone, as if it had forgotten the gruesome history of the symbol; we sat at its foot. The city offered itself up to us completely, the panoramic view it offered almost enticing as the black fluttering shadow of a bat that circled us and the mountains peak clockwise, engaged in a hunt of its own.
It was then that I experienced the only strange thing of the night, or well, the only strange thing to happen to me. I put my arm down on a piece of stone and then a dark form about the size of a baseball, what I first took to be a tarantula, ran across the stone, right past my arm, and then just vanished. At the least a strange optical effect caused by my brain or the night, at most a ghost or spirit, I don’t know. I don’t want to be quick to jump to a strange conclusion or ignore Occam’s razor, but that was no tarantula.
After one last smoke we started to head down the mountain. At first we took the wrong way and made an extra loop around the mountain, passing a few more man made alcoves, before finally following the trail back down the way we came. Once we came to where the dirt path we took diverted from the main trail Hector turned to me and asked what we had been looking for. You see when I had looked up the ghost stories they mentioned shadow people playing and hikers with bright flashlights being shoved by an invisible force, but I had chosen not to anyone else in our party to keep observations as unbiased as possible.
No sooner than I had said this Cassandra’s eyes grew wide with fear, quickly and irrationally she turned off her head lamp and ushered for us to go, obviously quite unsettled. After a few minutes warning I got her to ignore the danger of ghosts for the danger of stumbling on the steep path back and turn her head lamp back on. After that the walk back seemed rushed, and before I knew it we were back at the car, and though we had hiked for hours I wasn’t the least bit tired.
It wasn’t until we were in the car and on the way home that Cassandra told me her own experience, that on the way up she had felt an unseen force pushing her along. Is Mount Rubidoux haunted? I don’t know, the only thing I know is what I have seen, and this is what I present to you.