Searching online, Jeff discovers a 483-acre wilderness park named for a former mayor, James Simpson, in the Santa Rosa Hills south of Hemet, CA with hiking and mountain biking trails.(visitsanjacintovalley.com)
Unfortunately the website informs us that Simpson Park is closed until further notice due to hazardous fire conditions. (cityofhemet.org)
Since the park is only 10 miles away from us at Diamond Valley RV Resort in San Jacinto, we decide to check it out anyway.
From the intersection of Stanford Street and Crest Drive, We take Vista del Valle to Rawlings Road and wind uphill for over 2.5 miles to the park’s gate. A small parking area awaits. And there are cars parked here even though the gate to the park is closed and a sign explains why… due to the potential of fires.
But we see people walking, joggers jogging, and babies being strolled in strollers beyond the closed gate. So we park and get out of the car to investigate. We watch a man and a woman climb over the rocks next to the closed gate. The man carries a shovel and wears an adhesive wrap around his knee and calf. The woman looks like she is taking pictures of him walking up the hill beyond the gate with her call phone. As we approach them I ask if we can still access the trails even though the park is officially closed.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time… The man, Jeff Slepski tells us to follow the Lichen Trail avoiding the smaller “rabbit trails” shooting off every which way. There’s a 5 mile loop trail that crosses the uphill road into the picnic areas and continues around the crest before descending again across the road and eventually back to where we began, at the Lichen Trailhead. He shares his email address with me so that he can send me a trail map.
Did I forget to mention that yesterday, January 23, 2018, Jeff Slepski underwent knee replacement surgery? And here he is walking? His wife is filming a “mockumentary” of him walking a few steps up the park road headed to the trails with shovel in hand.
But wait, it gets even better. According to the Press-Enterprise, a local Hemet article from 2014 written by Bob Pratte shares info on Jeff Slepski. The 19 trails in this 483-acre landscape of ridges, canyons, boulders, brush, and scattered oaks were built by Jeff and his friends.
Here are some pics from the trails as we discover Simpson Park without a map.
The park road ascends and we look back before entering the Lichen Trailhead which starts out as slabs of rock.
Mt. San Jacinto rises in the distance.
The path is well marked with footprints and bike tracks.
It’s a gorgeous day for a hike.
Mt. San Gorgonio shows off its snow cap as we climb higher. Look closely just beyond the trees in the foreground. The sliver of gray running from the center to the right is the road to the picnic area.
By now we have lost the Lichen Trail. It was supposed to lead us across the park road. There are trails jutting every which way, so we literally walk around in circles enjoying the scenery.
That’s Diamond Valley Lake and the East Dam below.
Mother Nature sure knows how to create stunning arrangements of rocks and trees and shrubs.
Ah, X marks the spot where the horn rock basks in sunshine.
Where does this path lead?
We wander for an hour and head to the top of the road and picnic area before walking back down the hill leading to the parking area.
We plan to return here often. I will wait a few days and email Jeff Slepski for the trail maps.