For some, it’s tough to leave San Diego, even for a weekend, but what’s in the hills an hour away is awesome. At a 4,500-foot elevation, the air is refreshing, highways are picturesque and it’s where many locals are entrepreneurs. In Julian and nearby towns, all sleepy enclaves, visitors are the mainstay industry, which translates to pampered guests.
What To Do in Julian
Run, don’t walk to the Eagle Mining Company and its two remaining gold-mining sites left to explore with a guide (760-765-0036). Go in 1,000 feet at the Eagle Mine entrance and exit 1,000 feet later at the adjoining High Peak Mine. Panning for gold with make-shift troughs pleases the kids. The on-site dusty museum holds Indian arrowheads; photos of 1800s townspeople; a vintage barber’s chair and a pot-belly stove. The Folklore & Legends “Hot Spots” Paranormal Guided Tour on Friday and Saturday nights ($20) occurs within a darkened mine for optimal effects and goosebumps. Residential haunting areas are pointed out during the one-hour event. Reservations not required or call 888-795-3475.
Historian and volunteer Haven of Rest cemetery keeper, David Lewis, is a fourth-generation Julian resident who’s devotion and mapping skills discovered 20 historic and long-forgotten graves in the local cemetery. Many belonged to the town’s late-1880s black residents and where Lewis restored their markers. He believes most of Julian’s written history is “superficial,” and offers personal tours to back up his 9,000 hours of town research. Contact Julian Cemetery.
Check in to Observer’s Inn, wait for a star-filled sky, walk to the on-site observatory and what happens next is a mind blower. Or arrive as a paying visitor and also be guided through the galaxies by Michael Leigh, the Inn’s owner and astronomer extraordinaire. His research-grade telescopes and high-powered binoculars reveal the Moon and millions of stars up close. Plus, his easy raconteur style makes the overhead universe come alive. There’s a small gift shop on the grounds.
Wolves still howl in and around Julian, unlike their disappearing cry elsewhere, thanks to the California Wolf Center. The facility houses several packs of gray wolves and encourages the animal’s preservation and increased public awareness of their role in biodiversity. The Center is reintroducing the highly endangered Mexican gray wolves into the southwest United States. Paid private tours, educational programs and a wolf photography tour are offered. Contact 619-234-9653.
Eating apple pies in Julian is akin to a pilgrimage. The surrounding orchards and nearby states help meet the demand for the thousands of apple products baked and consumed year round. Big names such as the Julian Pie Company and Mom’s Pie House sell from their Main Street shops and ship to outlets. Town visitors can purchase slices or whole pies (around $12.95). A favorite with locals is the four pie selections at The Candied Apple Pastry Company, located on a side street in an historic firehouse building.
Where to Stay in Julian
First-class accommodations and staff are at the Orchard Hill Country Inn. Its 22 rooms include a main lodge and cottages, many named for apples, have high-end furnishings, gas fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, plus wild turkey and deer roam throughout the nearby oak and pine trees. The Inn sits atop a secluded hill yet is steps from tiny and historic Julian. A full breakfast and afternoon hor d’oeuves are included with the stay. Dinners highlight local products and are usually selected at check-in. The gracious and original owners are on-site and eager to share tips about the town.
A yesteryear ambiance, original parlor games, rose-patterned rugs and afternoon tea time continue on at the Julian Hotel. Located on downtown Main Street since 1897, this beautiful hotel keeps rolling on. Special season packages complement the apple-pie fall season and the springtime windflowers and daffodils events. Contact 800-734-5854.