Before the holiday weekend my family and I were debating what to do. We thought about heading out of town…maybe taking a trip up the coast to Santa Ynez or San Luis Obispo. Then we checked out hotel rooms. Most were sold out but there was always Motel 6 for a mere $176 per night. Deciding we’d rather save our pennies we opted for a couple of day trips. On Saturday we went coastal hitting up various Northern San Diego County towns (more on that later) and on Sunday we hit the mountains and headed to Idyllwild.
Idyllwild is a small town nestled in the San Jacinto mountains of Riverside County. My only previous visit was almost 20 years ago when I was kid safely ensconced in the backseat of my parents car. This time I was the driver and the winding mountain roads weren’t exactly easy on the nerves. Of course, an oncoming car losing control and nearly hitting me didn’t help at all. But, we survived the drive and soon found ourselves in the center of town.
Idyllwild is considered an artists’ retreat and there’s a new age/hippy vibe about the place combined with some down home country. There are quite a few restaurants and, famished after the car ride, we settled on some good old fashioned BBQ at Uncle B’s.
After some brisket and beans we continued to tour the town stopping in some shops and the local museum.
The museum, housed in a 1920’s era cabin, was a real highlight featuring the history of the area. In the early 20th century it was a resort town home to multiple idyllic vacation spots. Unfortunately, due to their timber construction and lack of a true fire department they all eventually burned down. It’s also long been used as a filming location and was the setting for one of Elvis Presley’s features, Kid Galahad.
Outside the museum are several quaint seating areas and we spent a lovely time relaxing and enjoying the mountain air.
The temperature that day hovered in the 90’s but under the trees there was a lovely breeze and we were nice and cool. We relaxed there for quite a bit enjoying the surrounding birdsong.
We next headed to Mt. San Jacinto State Park located just outside of town. Now, it’s hard for me to pass by a state park without stopping in so I was excited to check this one out. Well…it’s very small with about 90% of it devoted to campsites. There’s a small nature trail that mostly follows the adjacent highway.
Weaving in and out of campsites with the rush of passing vehicles always in our ears wasn’t exactly idyllic so we soon moved on. Heading down the highway we were greeted with the most magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and the valley below. As the driver I could barely see them but luckily there was a turn out and we stopped to check out the scenery.
Simply incredible. This is one of the many reasons I love California.
A few miles down the mountain we came across Lake Fulmor. More an oversized pond than an actual lake it’s about the quaintest spot in the entire area.
Despite the late afternoon there were a number of families picnicking and fishing. It’s crazy to imagine that this beautiful place is less than two hours away from the hustle and bustle of LA and its environs. Southern California is truly a magical place.
Eventually, we made our way down the mountain and I survived yet another series of winding roads. Going to Idyllwild we took the route through Hemet and leaving we headed toward Banning. Now, Banning is but a stone’s throw from Palm Springs and after that car ride I NEEDED a drink.
One Tonga Hut Painkiller and Pupu Platter later I was ready to head home. It was a wonderful day spent in the mountains and the desert. Who needs to head north when this is right at our fingertips?