I am lucky to call San Diego my home. It is a beautiful city with an infinite number of unique places to explore. But every once in a while, I feel the need for a change of scenery. Yesterday was one of those days. Luckily, the small mountain town of Julian is only an hour away. I like to call Julian the perfect mix of Stars Hollow (any Gilmore Girls fans out there?) and that town in Washington where all the vampires hang out.
Historic Julian is listed as California Historical Landmark. Settlers first arrived in Julian in 1850 but it was gold deposits found in 1870 that put the area on the map. But today, Julian is not known for its gold. It is known for its apples. During the mad dash to pull gold from the earth, James Madison planted apple trees in the mountains. They flourished, beginning the legacy of Julian’s famous apples.
After a relaxing morning consisting of sleeping in, my boyfriend and I grabbed our coats. Until two weeks ago, Julian was a snowy winter wonderland. Spring chased away the snow but at an elevation of 4,000 feet, the chilly air tends to stick around longer, especially after the sun goes down.
Julian is about an hour and a half drive from where I live. For anyone located closer to downtown San Diego, the drive can be around two hours. The barn where I keep my horse halfway between my house and Julian, making the drive even more convenient for me. After a quick hello to my horse, who was happily enjoying his day off, we continued on.
The drive to Julian is beautiful. Much of the land is working ranch or farmland. Cows, horses, goats, and the odd pig dot the fields. But there is one field I look forward to seeing more than any of the others. I look for the field filled with camels. That’s right. Camels. The Oasis Camel Dairy offers open barn days where people can go and meet the camels. It is a functioning dairy farm so it is possible to buy camel milk products.
If I don’t have time, or if it’s not an open barn day, a short drive from the camel dairy farm is a little green shack that sells farm fresh chicken eggs via drive-thru. Since we had started our trip later in the day, we decided not to stop at either. But, we did stop at several of the roadside vistas overlooking the farmland and canyon.
I get somewhat hyper-vigilant when the road begins to wind through the tree-lined mountains. On more than one occasion, rogue deer have jumped in front of my car. Once, a young buck used the hood of my Jeep as a springboard to reach the other side of the road where his family was grazing, unbothered. Every time this has happened, the deer walked off without a scratch. But, I do like to have the number of the local animal rescue team just in case.
Julian Apple Pie
Julian is famous throughout the United States for their pie. The moment we arrived, my boyfriend and I walked right into the Julian Pie Company. The line was out the door, but that was not surprising. Like most of the buildings in Julian, it is small. The freshly baked pies of the day are displayed by the register. My favorite is the boysenberry apple crumb with a perfectly round scoop of cinnamon vanilla ice cream.
Unfortunately for me, a lot of people share my opinion. Since the Julian Apple Pie Company bakes their pies fresh every day, they have a limited supply of each pie. The supply of apple boysenberry crumb had sold out for the day. But I definitely wasn’t going to say no to a generous slice of Dutch apple pie. The cinnamon apple doughnut holes were a perfect follow up.
Because pie is in such high demand, Julian’s picturesque main street is packed with places offering pie. Mom’s is one of the most well-known. It always has a line snaking down the block. Just like the Julian Apple Pie Company, Mom’s serves pies made from famous Julian apples.
Julian Book House
My favorite place in all of Julian is the Book House. It was once a home but now it is filled with mazes of shelves overflowing with rare and out of print books. The entire place smells like old book pages. The floor creaks with every step I take. There are five rooms to browse through, not including the shelves arranged on the front porch. I have spent hours rifling through a single room.
A few years ago, I bought a tattered first edition of Anne Rice’s The Mummy and it’s still sitting on my bookshelf today. This time around, I bought four books. This is about an average haul for me. I may have a book addiction. There is a sack of books on every available surface in my apartment. I have a problem, I know.
A Quaint Dinner
The Julian Grille is more formal than the well-known Julian Café. I usually go to the Julian Café after a day of hiking and exploring for a burger bigger than my head and a mountain of French fries. But that day we were mostly clean and feeling classy.
We finished out our day by grabbing dinner at the Julian Grille. Just like the Book House, the Julian Grille looks as if it was once someone’s home. We were seated at a beautiful table in the sunroom looking out on to Main Street. We were early for the dinner rush. The restaurant was almost completely empty.
He ordered the pasta primavera. I, feeling full after eating more pie than I care to admit, opted for a prime beef appetizer. Of course, after I saw my boyfriend’s order I immediately became hungry and ate half of his food. But don’t worry, I shared my tender and flavorful cuts of prime rib. It all evened out.
When we left the Julian Grille, the sun was just starting to sink behind the mountains. Up until that point, it had been warmer than I anticipated but now the cold was setting in. We headed for the warmth of the truck. Even though we were done for the day, Julian’s Main Street was still bustling with activity.
Day trips to Julian are easy, inexpensive, and stress-free. It’s a versatile trip. I can take a trip that lasts the full day, or I can put aside a few hours to stop and the Book House and get some dinner. There are also a few hotels in historic Julian. I could extend my day trip to a weekend getaway. That’s why I go as often as I do. I have already planned several small trips next fall for apple picking season!