One of the best things about living in San Diego County is its bio- and eco-diversity.
Of course, there’s the coast with its beaches and amazing rocky intertidal zones and tide pools. Inside the harbor, there’s the marshlands and Tijuana River estuary, a haven for shore birds of all types. Head north along the coast to the rare coastal sage scrub plant community at Cabrillo National Monument and the Torrey pines near the famous golf course of the same name. Move inland and you’re in the foothills on your way to the Cuyamaca and Laguna mountains, all part of the Peninsular ranges. Another hour to the east and you’re in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Go a little farther out of the county and spend some time below sea level on the shores of the Salton Sea.
The biodiversity here is among the greatest in the country.
So if you get bored with where you’re at, drive an hour–two at most–and you can be in a completely different world.
I needed a change of scenery today. I also needed a slice of apple pie. (Well, need is perhaps a bit strong. Hankered for might be more appropriate.)
Heading east out of the city, it was a perfectly sunny, mild San Diego afternoon, and it wasn’t long before I was lumbering along CA 79 towards the town of Julian. The two-lane road twists and turns as it climbs from 2,000 feet elevation to 4,000 feet in Julian.
As I was cruising along just south of Lake Cuyamaca, I saw a flock of a dozen or so wild turkeys feeding in the bone dry grasses on the open range. The effects of our extended drought are quite visible as you pass the lake–its level is lower than usual.
Julian is an 1850’s gold mining town that’s now famous for the apples grown in the area and, more specifically, for the apple pies produced from those apples. It has a main drag that’s about five blocks long, filled with quaint gift shops, stores, and the two major competing pie places in Julian: Mom’s Apple Pies and the Julian Pie Company.
When I first discovered Julian, Mom’s became my go-to place for apple pie, but a year or so ago, I went to Julian Pie Company for a trial slice, and I’ve been going back to it ever since. (Sorry, Mom’s.)
After my Dutch apple pie (a la mode, of course), I headed to the 6,000 foot summit of Mount Laguna.
Mount Laguna has always been one of my favorite escapes. It can be so quiet and serene, especially on a weekday afternoon. And, with only a modicum of effort, you can find a quiet place completely to yourself.
Unfortunately, one of my favorite places to just hang out was burned in a wildfire last year. It was surrounded by long-needled pines that whistled in the wind gave off a pleasing fragrance. The tree trunks are scorched black, and the needles that didn’t burn are brown and still whistle in the wind, but the fragrance is gone. The view into the Anza-Borrego Desert below is unmatched.
A strong wind and cooler temperatures at the summit made me wish I had worn more than a T-shirt. But the cool air and the low afternoon sun bouncing off the yellow oak leaves definitely reminded me that we’re in the middle of autumn.
It was a great little afternoon escape.