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The Norco Experience

Take a ride with a hometown author through Horsetown USA

By Audrey Pavia | for the Horsetrader - October 4th, 2018 - Communities, Cover Story, Norco

EDITOR’S NOTE: Longtime Norco resident Audrey Pavia, an award-winning author and avid horsewoman, shares a slice of life in her beloved community by taking us on one of her favorite routes.

Norco residents pose for a 2013 community photo by photographer Brigitte Jouxtel at Pike’s Peak Park to commemorate an iconic Pedley Field Photo taken 15 years earlier.

Norco residents pose for a 2013 community photo by photographer Brigitte Jouxtel at Pike’s Peak Park to commemorate an iconic Pedley Field Photo taken 15 years earlier.

Brigitte Jouxtel photo

The sun is hanging low in the sky, and the gentle afternoon breeze has arrived. It’s time to saddle up my Spanish Mustang, Milagro, and go for a ride through Norco.

I step outside my back door and Milagro whinnies to me. He knows the drill. I saddle him up and lead him to the front yard. We pick up the trail right across the street from my house. That’s how easy it is to go riding in Norco.

We head south on the Hillside Avenue trail, passing an assortment of paddocks and driveways. Milagro takes a good look at a peacock perched on a fence in a nearby yard. He’s familiar with the flock of feral peacocks that live on this part of Hillside. He then glances up at a yard across the street, where a few alpacas, a miniature horse and two Haflingers are sharing their dinner. There’s always something interesting to see in Norco.

The trail curves and we are on Third Street, headed toward Norco High School. We cross third and walk along the narrow dirt shoulder skirting the high school football field. The field is quiet today, and we pass without incident, turning right on Second Street. This is the way we need to go if we want to pass our first landmark for the ride: Disney’s Circle D Ranch.

This busy road on the east side of Norco leads us to Valley View, and we turn right. We pass under tall trees that flutter in the breeze, and when the road is empty and void of traffic noise, we can hear the wind rustling in the leaves.

The trail narrows in places along Valley View as the street winds around. We pass corrals and front yards, but don’t see anyone outside. It’s a peaceful part of the trail even though Valley View is a well-populated street in Norco.

We get to the intersection of Valley View and Fourth Street, and are almost at our first destination. As we cross the street, we see a huge red barn on the east side of the road. Milagro wants to continue down the trail at his usual cadence, but I ask him to slow down. We have reached the Circle D, home of the horses of Disney. I can see some of the ranch workers grooming two large draft horses in the breezeway of the barn. They are probably getting those horses ready for their next shift as carriage horses on Main Street at Disneyland, only 30 miles away. The 5-acre property is meticulously cared for, and as we pass, I get a brief glimpse inside the barn, where a handful of draft horses hang their heads out their stall doors.

We ride on, passing so many small ranch houses that are characteristic of Norco. We go through the intersection at Fifth Street while cars idle as we clippity-clop through the crosswalk. We are making our way toward Sixth Street, the hub of Norco.

When we get to Sixth, the mood changes. Cars and trucks zoom quickly down the four-lane street. We turn right onto the Sixth Street trail, passing strip malls and store fronts. We then hit the “feed store strip,” where a tack and feed store can be found on just about every block. We continue north, past the intersections of Temescal, Hillside and Pedley. When we finally get to Sixth Street and California, we slow down to check out the Saddle Sore Saloon. The corral out front of the saloon has fresh manure, proving that some cowboy or cowgirl just finished having a beer with friends and had ridden back home.

We pass California and turn right on Crestview, the last intersection at Sixth Street. Milagro’s pace quickens. We are now moving in the direction of home. We pass George Ingalls Equestrian Center, where a horse show is taking place off to our left. Milagro’s head goes up when he sees a miniature horse pulling a cart in between the two covered arenas, but he soon settles down. Horses have to be prepared to see just about anything when they are touring around Norco.

Just past Ingalls, we leave the bridle path and head straight up the hill. The famous Norco landmark, Pumpkin Rock, is at the top, and I want to see it up close today. Once we reach the crest of the steep trail, I let Milagro catch his breath near the giant orange rock that has been painted like a pumpkin for decades now. Although Milagro would prefer we head south in the direction of home, I decide to take him one level higher. We are going to see the flag and the cross.

Milagro’s sides heave as we climb higher, but he’s a competitive trail horse, so I know he can do it. The trail is narrow and rocky in places, but he scrambles upward until we reach the top—the highest point in Norco.

The wind is fierce up here, and a giant American flag reportedly posted by a town veteran is tattered. A wooden cross just near it leans but seems strong against the wind. Milagro’s mane dances around his neck in the current while we stand quietly, taking in the view. We can see all of Norco from here, and part of Eastvale and Ontario too. It was worth the climb.

We head south on the hill trail and make our way down in elevation. The trail leads us back to the bridle path, right next to the Hidden Valley Golf Course. We step onto the manicured DG trail bordered with white fencing, and head back down Crestview to the lower part of town. We pass newer homes built in the early 2000’s on Wild Horse Lane, and the energy here is different from the rest of Norco. It’s quieter and more open, and has a feeling of newness. We continue our steady descent back toward Hillside.

Although Milagro would prefer to take the path that heads down past the Vaughn Street community arena, and I ask him to do a little more work and take the route that goes past Ridge Ranch Park, at the end of Cavaletti Lane. We have another scenic view from this trail, and I want to get one more look at Norco before we get home. We stop near some boulders at the crest of the trail and look out at the rooftops. Mt. Baldy looms high in the distance.

It’s time to get home. Milagro knows the way, and I barely pick up the reins. Within minutes, we are back home. It took two hours for our tour of Norco today, and we saw only a small part of this very special town. We will save the rest for another day.

More online: http://bit.ly/horsetowns

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