The University of Redlands is nestled in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. On a clear day, the R is visible as an emblem of bulldog tradition and spirit. It is one of the largest collegiate letters in the nation, standing about as tall as the university quad is wide.
An alumnus of the University and current environmental science professor Tim Krantz ‘77 said “It is the largest letter on public lands in the U.S. The federal government no longer allows such things, but because this was a ‘grandfathered’ use, the Forest Service has allowed it to remain.”
Through a collaborative effort in 1913, men from the student body trekked up the mountainside to clear away the bush and create the R. The hike to reach the R is a strenuous steep hike, taking a bit over an hour. Upon arrival, maintenance work had to be completed, clearing away plants to create the shape of the R. This is no easy feat, as the vegetation is stiff and woody, and can be up to two meters in height depending on recent fires and vegetation management, according to Krantz.
David Heis, alumnus and a local reporter states in an email:
“It seems like we have an R hike at least once a year. The purpose isn’t to just go up to the R for the sake of being able to say we’ve done it, though there are certainly a number of folks who do that, and it’s an admirable thing to cross off the bucket list–the intent it is to keep it clear of the overgrowth.”
He continued, “The Forest Service seems to look the other way when it comes to our hacking away at endangered species such as manzanita and yucca, which would take over the R if we did not do that.”
Traditionally, each freshman class braved the arduous hike to complete their “mandatory” maintenance each year. The R would be lit on fire during homecoming, as a blazing emblem of bulldog pride. With changing times, it is now a tradition for current students, alumni, faculty and friends of the University to take the hike up to the R during homecoming weekend. This years homecoming hike was postponed to this weekend, as the Forest Service had a maintenance issue.
On Nov. 17, the University Office of Alumni and Community relations is offering a facilitated hike to the R for a maintenance trip. They will be leaving at 8 a.m. from the front of the Chapel. It costs $15 for pizza, maintenance equipment, and a t-shirt stating “I hiked the R.” Registration information can be found at this link.