At Home with David and Nancy travel blog

The South Pinyon Mountain Road

The beginning of the descent into the hidden valley

Looking back towards our campground. See the water tower on the hill?...


Although the map location says we are in Julian, we are really in Shelter Valley (pop. 200 but we've only seen 8 people). It's about 12 miles east of Julian. No one from Julian ever comes here and few people from here ever go to Julian. The reason? Julian is up a giant mountain with 10 of those 12 miles twisty enough to make you car sick in five minutes. Forget that.

We've been here three weeks and the place kind of grows on you. We have learned the names of many of the plants we pass everyday on our walks and runs out into the desert. Yes, we walk straight out into the, well, the 'nothingness' I guess you could call it. It can only be described as absolute silence (when the wind isn't blowing; when the coyotes aren't howling; or when the military helicopters aren't going over on their way to catch someone at the border or whatever they do). No, really, it's just an immense quiet that somehow presses on you so you feel so small, yet feel vibrantly alive. There are also mountains completely surrounding you and when you walk far like we do on some days, you end up cutoff from all roads, cars and structures. When we get that far and the wind isn't blowing, we can only hear ourselves breathing; the rocks, cactus and cholla we see continue on for miles and miles until.... the black tailed hare run across our path and makes us jump six feet high!

I rode up the South Pinyon Mountain Rd the other day on my mountain bike. It's about 3-4 miles up hill, a lot of it in soft sand (not good for any type of bike) and only wide enough for a very narrow car. After the long up hill, you drop down into this hidden canyon with fairly steep sides. The canyon closes in on you as you descend the twisty road. Cresting that hill and preparing to go down into that canyon produces shivers down my spine for some reason. It has to be the fear of being in such a remote location. It's a love/hate feeling. Very strange. I've been up there several times now and have been unable to descend all the way to the bottom. Knowing from the map that it's a dead end trail in another couple miles doesn't help matters. Also, it has always been late in the day and the sun drops extremely quick when you're in a place surrounded by mountains. Even when I know I can scream back down the 3-4 miles in about 20 minutes, I'm still apprehensive to make the descent on the other side. Hmmmmm.

To get an idea of where we are, check out this map: http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/638/files/ABDSPmap.pdf



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