The Other San Diego

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.

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27 thoughts on “The Other San Diego

  1. I love Julian. The drive out is always so pretty, the apple pie is delicious, and there are a few really good used book stores. This reminds me that I need to get out of the city more, and not just during proper holidays. I think a weekend day trip to Julian is in order.

  2. Neat to see a part of the area where you live. Don't you just love state/national parks? My husband and I have said that would make an incredible vacation road trip – to travel around, by RV of course (or maybe tenting it but I'm a little too high-maintenance to tent long-term) and to visit state & national parks all over the country.
    Too funny about "shoppies" – I say that too! :) Just said it the other day, actually. There's a new commercial development in Roch that's been named "Shoppes on Maine" (as in Maine Street). You look up from the sign and what do you see behind it but Lowe's. Not exactly what I think of when I think of shoppies.

  3. I miss the beach:) But you are right, not many people realize how diverse (in people and geography) California is in general. Ahhh…I am trying to get home for a few days at Christmas. You know, to go to the beach:)

  4. Did you have pie in Julian? My neighbor actually drives up there just to get pies, and I must admit when he has brought one back for us, we are always quite happy about it. I admit I've never been to Julian, though when the kiddo gets older I'd like to try out one of those apple-picking farms where you can pick them yourself.

  5. Mello — I took a vow in my 30s not to sleep on the ground again. We love road trips. Apparently, so does my brother — he was already talking about he and his wife renting an RV and driving west (from NJ everything is west almost).
    Maybe you can think of it as Lowe-ees… ;)

  6. Grandma-P — the devil on my shoulder was encouraging me just to see how good my car could do on those roads — the angel on my shoulder was suggesting that I take it easier and enjoy the ride.
    I, of course, listened to the angel.
    Most of the time. ;)

  7. Sarah — it was really enjoyable to go on a weekday (even if it was a Friday) — the traffic was light and the town wasn't too crowded as all like it can be on the weekends sometimes.

  8. Rob and I visited Julian back in the late 80s when we lived in El Cajon. I think we visited during the apple festival too! I do remember sharing a piece of apple pie, and it sure was yummy.Great desert photos – I don't think we ever went there. Will definitely be a must-see next time around.

  9. When I lived in L.A., I'd ride my Honda to SD then ride to the top of Palomar. I miss those days! We were in SD last week but it was on business just enough time to attend the seminar and go to Croce's. I always go to Croce's when I can get to SD. Good commentary and photos.

  10. Great Photos! I haven't spent any time in San Diego or San Diego County, but would love to get there someday as CA is one of my fave places to visit in the US. Thanks for sharing with us.

  11. Lovely post. I didn't have any preconceived notions about San Diego to begin with ;o) and now I have both sides of the picture before me already. Looks like a great place. Love the photos — makes me feel like I was right there too!

  12. So, I've often told people that San Diego is the only place I know of where you can go surfing in the morning, hiking in the mountains at noon, dune buggy riding in the afternoon and have dinner in a foreign country. BTW, I'm in Ocean Beach. We should hang out some time.

  13. Wow, I really had no idea! When I was scanning the pics I thought, "Steve went to New Mexico, cool!" Love the agave pic. I've never been to the desert, it looks really beautiful. MUST – VISIT!
    ps Does that mean we can expand Massachusetts if we take Connecticut and transfer it to San Diego? ;)

  14. Funny — we were just down in OB the other weekend — dog beach, Hodad's and Cow Records. There's been a bit of momentum for a SanDVox meet-up again — might be good to try before people get busy with the holidays.

  15. Believe me, SD doesn't want the Nutmeg State, or the Constitution State or whatever it is (got that Jay??)
    Maya — I think you'd totally love the desert. Really wide open and mostly un-intruded upon. You SO gotta get out of New England!

  16. Jay, I like nutmeg. Which by logical argument, must mean that I in fact DO have something against Connecticut…. and I don't even have an ex- from there. <glares at Kentucky>

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