IdyllWild!!

A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with friends about the ultimate tips for summertime survival in the desert, and they enthusiastically told me how they love camping in the San Jacinto mountains, specifically by the quaint village of Idyllwild, about 40 miles away from here, high in the mountains.

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I made plans to go visit it right away, but sadly, had to cancel them when coincidentally the raging fires that started in Mountain Center began spreading near the town. Well, I’m happy to report that the fire not only is 100% contained, thanks to the 3,000 firefighters that worked around the clock to extinguish it, but also Idyllwild is perfectly intact and open for business as usual! You can’t imagine the relief I felt today when I went to visit it and saw that this beautiful and unique town and the surrounding bucolic area were not damaged at all.

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Idyllwild is home not only to many outdoor activities (including rock climbing, mountain biking and horseback riding) and cultural events such as the Jazz in the Pines Festival, but it is also considered one of the best 100 Art Towns in America with different initiatives to promote the arts and crafts. In short, it’s a dynamic town that values education and culture, a mountain-top oasis that offers relaxation and magic with lodging and restaurants that seem to have emerged from a fairy tale. I couldn’t stop marveling at the sweet little doll houses and Victorian homes that host dozens of cafes, eclectic galleries, clothing and souvenir stores.

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I enjoyed driving back through the serene scenery and stopped at Hemet Lake to put my tootsies in the cool sweet water. I nearly died while passing through horse country; back to back ranches with the most beautiful horses and sweet little barns and chalet style homes in tow.

Once again, California never ceases to amaze me. Here we are, in the hot hot desert but yet, up highway 74 through the rocky hills and mountains of San Jacinto; you literally drive through the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway where everything turns magically into another kingdom of every shade of green and coolness. I thought I saw unicorns, when in fact I saw  gorgeous horses living and breathing the best air there is. Can I please move here now?

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Kern River Goddesses

My best friends are as nature loving as me and it was just a matter of time before we organized a “ladies only” camping trip filled with lots of fun and adventure! We left on a Friday evening with two packed cars with Kern River as our destination. We read some reports with chances of rain and floods up there, but nevertheless, we just decided to go, there was nothing stopping us (consulting the local rangers who reassured us that it was fine to go, was crucial in our bold decision, too!) Driving through the Sequoia National forest alongside the river at night was so eerie, especially on the winding road leading to lake Isabella and Kernville. It was so mysterious and exciting driving through the pitch dark, right besides the rocky wall and see the landscapes or villages revealing to us just through our headlights.

We arrived at our campground around 11 and we were amazed to find that our site was literally right by the river! We set up our tents in the hot and humid night (yup, no rain or floods) with our headlamps and flashlights in record time. Seriously, who needs men? We sat by the table and sipped our well deserved wine and chatted late into the night. The next day, the hot sun woke us up at 8 o’ clock, we were just stunned to see how everything looked around us in the daylight; the river is so much bigger than we thought (although the noise should have been a good indicator that it wasn’t exactly a stream!) and there are small mountains covered with pine trees; there’s nothing like opening your tent and see all this beauty revealed to you!

Saturday was all about exploring, so we drove up the mountains in search of some natural water slides that Lynde heard about. We had some directions downloaded from the internet, which were a little cryptic but we trusted our girl scout instincts and we kept going. We knew we arrived at the right place when we spotted a large group of tattooed shirtless guys with a big cooler walking out of a rocky parking area; when asked, they were more than delighted to confirm that, yes, we were close to the water slides and that we should waste no time and follow them. We were confident of our directions now, so we climbed the mile long road in the hot sun on our own; we had to rest a couple of times in any little shade we could find, but once we arrived at the much sought after destination, all the pain was gone and we started sliding down the fun chiseled and slippery rocks. The water was freezing cold, with the worst part being the little pool at the end of the slide, but so worth it!!

We dried up on a large rock where we also had a small picnic, it was so delightful and relaxing. We stayed for a couple of hours and then walked back to the car grateful that this time we were going downhill and that we were able to admire the sequoia trees all around us. By the time we descended the 5000 feet to our campground, the heat intensified leaving us panting and thirsty. We stopped to get some ice for our coolers and a refreshing drink at a fun little restaurant called McNally’s. The decor is Old West with fun little figures representing various cowboy and Indian scenes.

We felt the need to be in the water and cool off again, so we embarked on yet another expedition; this time in search of some natural hot springs by the river. We followed more directions downloaded from the internet but made some wrong turns and I was actually wondering if we were ever going to make it…but we did and felt like there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish when we set our minds to it! After parking, we walked down a cute little hill, we had a clue that we were approaching our nature made jacuzzis when we saw some women walking back in their bathing suits. I really felt like we won a scavenger hunt when we saw the three tubs right in front of us; we immediately tried them all and it was the most rewarding and magic time of the day. The temperature of the water varies from lukewarm to super hot and it’s filled with minerals that soothe every inch of the skin. Combine that with the sunset colors, the relaxing flowing sound of the adjacent river and wine with your besties, that’s paradise!

We are ready to conquer the river!!

Back at the campsite we grilled some delicious dinner on the fire and passed out under the starry sky. The next day we decided to ‘take it easy’ by just inner tubing on the river; if you’re in Kern county, you must get an inner tube, the river is low enough and safe for anyone to cruise down in the ‘big donuts’. You can find them everywhere for a mere $11 and you can blow them up right outside the main store or gas stations (also recommended are a pair of water shoes, as the river bed is usually rocky and slippery; these can also be found everywhere for less than $10.) We made fun of Melissa’s super deluxe inner tube, as it came with a headrest and cup holders, so much so that she deserved the title of “The leader of the ladies rat pack!!!”

We had a blast!! We launched ourselves into the river from the next picnic area by the grocery store. The river there is so calm that we tied all of our inner tubes together and we happily floated with our beverages and sun hats… I was chit chatting away when I bumped into a few rocks with my tush, I realized that I had to keep an eye out and lift my royal booty in order to avoid any contact with them especially in the small fast rapids. Some of the rapids were so much fun, we decided to go for a second run.

Before leaving, we went for a small stroll in Kernville, we behaved ourselves and didn’t shop. I personally, didn’t need any souvenirs, I had a collection of small purple bruises on my behind but precious memories to carry forever!

Thank you river goddesses!

Happy campers!!

Camping is one of life’s simpliest and purest joys.

If you have never tried it before, go get your tent and sleeping bag now or you’ll miss out on adventure, the wonders of nature and marshmallows by the fire!!
What makes a camper even happier is a bunch of friends to share the experience with! We celebrated our friend’s birthday in Leo Carrillo last weekend and it was super fun!
This camping site is north of Malibu and sits across highway 1 from the ocean and tide pools. The best sites are by the hills where a single lot offers multiple spaces to set up tents; each lot comes with a firepit and grill and a picnic table with benches. Dogs are allowed, so a bunch of us, with much delight, were able to bring our four legged children!
We spent time running and playing at the beach; we explored the marine life and spotted many star fishes, urchins and crabs. We also jumped through the rocks and adventured into a cave.

The marine life explorers!

The cave


When the sun set, the temperature at the camp dropped considerably so we all bundled up and gathered by the fire where we grilled steaks, hot dogs and burgers. For dessert, our friend came up with a special recipe; the ‘cananas’ (sliced banana sandwiched between Chips Ahoy cookies) which was a nice alternative to the vegan marshmellows (also delicious, but variety is priceless!)

The sky is always so pitch dark when you’re away from civilization (or just plain city lights) that a myriad of stars and constellations are visible with the naked eye. This invariably leads to long discussions on the workings of the universe, quantum physics, aliens… and of course, to the ultimate philosophical question “why are we here?” but by then we have drunk too much wine or beer and wait it’s only 10pm but it feels like 2am and we will have to postpone the answer until tomorrow…..But tomorrow brings another fun sunny day at the beach and we’re just living it!

The whole gang

Arianna