September 11, 2016

Photo Essay: A Pumpkin Smiles Down Upon Horsetown USA

We were pulling into the dirt lot of the equestrian center for the Norco Fair. But the first thing we saw—before the kettle corn, before the swing ride—was an orange pumpkin smiling down from atop a hill, directly above us.

It seemed a little early for a Halloween decoration, though it was already Labor Day weekend.

I couldn't make it back East for the Great New York State Fair, so I figured any carnival would do. But once we'd walked around and passed on the games, the tiny tot roller coaster, and the camel rides, we looked back up at the hill and said, "Let's try to climb up there."

I checked my map, and it turned out that the pumpkin "up there" wasn't a decoration at all—but an attraction actually called "Pumpkin Rock."

So after a bit of creative navigating, we parked by the trail marker of the "Norco Hills" and walked up an equestrian trail, with the Hidden Valley Golf Club looming green in the distance behind us.

The City of Norco is known as "Horsetown USA," but it's actually pretty developed down below. It's only when you get up above the housing developments that you can really imagine riding a horse around. It still looks like the Old West.

We didn't see any horses that day on the trail that leads from the Norco Hills to the La Sierra Hills, but we saw a cat.

Unfortunately, there's lots of graffiti on the rocks and boulders along Pumpkin Trail.

You've got to watch where you step, too.

But if you plod along, keeping an eye out to the north, there it is: a bright dash of orange in a sea of sandy brown terrain.

At first, you might think it's just an elaborate graffiti project, considering how vandalized the rest of the trail is.

But it's actually somewhat of a local landmark, once known as "Elephant Rock" or "Elephant Butt Rock." Apparently, it could've been quarried for granite in the early 20th century, but it was left on the trail for its ability to provide shade. (Read more here.)

It got its paint job about 20 years ago, after being so heavily graffitied that it had become an eyesore.

It used to be painted as more of a traditional pumpkin with the triangle eyes and nose, but now it's more like a "Day of the Dead"-style skull rock (or, as some say, an orange-and-black Jack Skellington).

And that's because unfortunately, the makeover didn't stop the vandals from tagging it. So periodically it's got to be repainted all over again.

Pumpkin Rock has caused a bit of controversy because it doesn't really "belong" to anyone. Some local groups have helped maintain it on a volunteer basis, but the City of Norco's Parks and Recreation department doesn't want to spend any money on it.

So far, the consensus has been to keep the rock painted as a pumpkin all year long—which is just fine by me.

If only people would stop spray-painting hate symbols and phalluses on it.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Getting a Little Closer to The Eagle Rock
Photo Essay: Trippet Ranch to Eagle Rock
Photo Essay: Rise of the Jack o' Lanterns

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