I think its pretty common that when people think of San Diego, they think of the pleasant coastal weather and “big” attractions – SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo. And while those things are certainly a part of the area’s identity, San Diego County is actually quite large and incredibly diverse.
As large as the state of Connecticut, San Diego county includes both mountains that exceed 6000 feet, and a huge swatch of the Anza Borrego desert. While my brother was here, I wanted to give him a taste of these different sides of greater San Diego.
We left on a gorgeous but windy Friday morning (temp ~ 65), and drove eastward up into the foothills, taking a little more than an hour to reach the little mountain town of Julian. David seemed a little queasy at the twisty-turny mountain roads, though maybe it just the way I was driving them.
Julian is an interesting little town – originally founded as a gold mining town – turns out there’s not much gold in these thar hills. It has since given over to ranching, a little farming and these days it yielded to “shoppes” (I always say “shoppies”). There are a couple of good stores mixed in amongst the too-touristy ones. We arrived to blustery winds, leaden skies, a little drizzle – it was probably 45 degrees. But it’s a good place to get a slice of apple pie – something else that its become notable for – in fact, the apple festival was going to be that coming weekend, I hope it cleared up for them.
From there it was down down down more twisty roads to the desert floor of Anza Borrego State Park. ABSP is the largest state park in the continental US – and its gorgeous in its desolation. (It was ~90 degrees there.) More of a rock-desert than really a sandy one, the earth here is just scorched – and yet, poke around and life clings here.
One of my favorite plants is the ocotillo – which sends its thorny branches skyward, and gets little “candle-flame” red flowers in the spring.
We stopped at the State Park visitor center and had a great tour of the grounds and learned a lot about how native Americans in the region used the plants (agave, ocotillo, mesquite, creosote). It was also blustery here – occasionally dust devils and clouds could be seen on the desert floor.
We wound our way back through the high country – we had a great day, and I encourage anyone that comes to San Diego and has some extra time to take one day away from the beach and see the mountains and deserts of our county.