Tourist First

Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Califorina: Idyllwild, a Mountain Retreat

The "town monument" is a large piece of chainsaw art on Village Center Drive.
 We were told that wildlife in the area includes mountain lions and bobcats.
The only wildlife we saw were squirrels, chipmunks and loads of birds.


We spent a couple of nights in September 2019 in Idyllwild, a mile-high Riverside County community in the San Jacinto Mountains about two hours northeast of our home in San Diego.  The drive was about half on Interstate 15 and half on twisting, two-lane mountain roads, complete with switchbacks and the risk of falling rocks on the left and sheer drops on the right. The kind of road made for Lambos and Porsches but navigable in an aging Chevrolet.

We stayed at Grand Idyllwild Lodge, which is more a small inn than a grand anything, but still very nice (click HERE for its website).  The only real drawback is that on weekdays it offers only a "continental" breakfast in which the only bread is an airport-quality bagel, along with no dry cereals, little or no fresh fruit, and supermarket yogurts.  Our room had a private deck, which would have been nicer had the chaise lounges had cushions clean enough to sit on. All that aside, it's a lovely building with a nice mountain view set among tall trees full of hummingbirds, blue jays, woodpeckers and more. Aside from the outdoor cushions, everything was spotlessly clean. There's a small gym, massages by appointment, a dry sauna, and a tiny nine-hole putting course. And it's within walking distance of several good restaurants.

We had our Wednesday lunch on our way into town at the Mile High Cafe (click HERE), which offers standard diner fare along with several Asian-fusion dishes. I had a BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado) sandwich; Jane had a salad, both very good. During the afternoon, we stopped in for tastings at Middle Ridge Winery (click HERE), which makes wine from grapes brought in from other parts of California. As with most small wineries, the bottle prices seemed high, but $15 for three nice pours in a tasting was a good deal. All the wines seemed well made and we were happy to have tried them. I particularly liked the red blends. Dinner that night was at the Aroma Cafe (click HERE) where Jane had ribs and I had half a duck, a very generous serving, with a slightly too-orange orange sauce.

Our other meals in town were lunch Thursday at Idyllwild Brewpub (click HERE) where I had a double-hopped IPA and a hamburger, and Jane again had a salad. The beer and burger were good, as was a side of charred brussel sprouts, but the salad's lettuce wasn't very good. Dinner was at the somewhat kitschy Gastrognome (click HERE) where the "gnome" refers to garden gnomes, which adorn the 1960s-lodge-style dining room. Again, though, the food was decent, both my trout almondine and Jane's hamburger.  No complaints about the bread pudding that we shared for dessert.

What most visitors do in Idyllwild between bouts of overeating is hike. The main road, State Highway 243, is lined with parking spots for trail heads. We did our hiking on well-marked trails near the Idyllwild Nature Center. We also spent some time driving on side roads wondering why people would build wooden houses in an area where forest fires are a major concern for maybe half the year. On the drive to Idyllwild, we passed several areas that had burned recently.

Apparently, another attraction for many visitors is shopping, particularly for art. Paintings and photographs are sold at restaurants, the Middle Ridge Winery, and at several galleries. There's abstract art, traditional landscapes, rusty yard sculptures, and more. And, of course, a weekend destination like this offers tons of tee-shirts and baseball caps.  The town center is where several small strips of commercial buildings create a critical mass at the convergence of State Highway 243, North Circle Drive, Village Center Drive and Ridgeview Drive, with free parking areas connecting the different mini shopping centers. This area was about a 15-minute walk from our inn.

Here are some photos.
This third-floor deck at Grand Idyllwild Lodge looks east
toward a ridge in the San Jacinto Mountains.
 /t
Part of the common space at Grand Idyllwild Lodge.
Our room, "Harmony," is to the left of the red painting.

The main entrance to the lodge is on the second floor.

A signpost near the center of Idyllwild.

North Circle Drive, on the walk between the town
center and our inn.

Motorists have to keep an eye out for Sasquatch or Bigfoot.

Manzanita trees (more like bushes) are everywhere around Idyllwild,
with dead sections turned gray and living sections a distinctive red.

Manzanita berries.

A manzanita tangle of dead and living branches.

Trails at the Idyllwild Nature Center have great signage.

Huge boulders are strewn everywhere in the San Jacinto Mountains. Perhaps this one
got cracked when some ancient god flung it down from the heavens.


The presence of huge old trees seem to indicate that
this forested mountainside hasn't burned in a long time.

I tried to count the rings and got to around 40
before I lost my place.

The Hillside Trail gets narrow when it cuts between boulders.

Natural landscaping.

A log bridge is hardly needed when the creek is dry.

Gnarly is the word that comes to mind here.

I think this is a view to the east. If it is, then Palm Springs is somewhere
in the desert on the far side of these mountains.

The pines most common
here are called Jeffry pines.

This land is my land. This land is your land.

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