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EAT, DRINK & PLAY   -   GET OUT OF TOWN
Get Out of Town!
Head to Pearblossom for Out of this World Scenery & Eats
October, 2012 - Issue #96
Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area is one of those places that leaves you wanting to come back for more. Each trip is filled with, "Where in the heck am I?" moments. It is so unlike its surroundings - or anywhere else in Southern California - that you can't help but want to keep exploring.

Located in Pearblossom, it is tucked into the foothills along the southern edge of the Antelope Valley and stands in dramatic contrast to the blurry flatness of the desert.
Massive slabs of dusky sandstone jut from the canyon floor. Some appear to be standing straight up. Others tilt dramatically to one side. Pinon pines and chaparral fill in the gaps, while a creek gurgles and winds through the canyon. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was inspired by Dr. Seuss.
"At Charlie Brown Farms, narrow, winding aisles hold a multitude of surprises waiting to be discovered. Forty varieties of bottled soda. Grind-your-own peanut butter. Organic candy. A stand-up cooler stocked with alligator sausage, kangaroo medallions and packaged
TURTLE MEAT."


The story of its origins is laid out in a six-part diagram on the back of the park map. Lacking a doctoral degree in geology, I couldn't interpret the finer points of the narrative. But basically, fault activity and erosion are credited with creating the scenic area we now enjoy.

The six of us - my wife April, and our four kids - set off mid-morning for a circuit of the mile-long Loop Trail. It starts near the nature center, offering views into the punchbowl. Then it winds down 300 feet to the bottom of the canyon. The kids moved quickly, sometimes sliding along the steeper sections of the dusty trail.

Reaching the bottom, we walked along the creek and traced its twisty path among the rocks. We then scrambled up to the top of a sandstone slab. A natural bench offered a place to rest. We sat for awhile, soaking up the sun and taking in the views of the punchbowl and the San Gabriel Mountains behind it.
The area is ripe for multi-day exploration. Trails wind deep into the San Gabriels, whose 8,000-foot peaks form a stunning (and sometimes snow-capped) backdrop to the punchbowl.

We were out just for a day hike, however. And as the kids began vocalizing their hunger, we headed for the car where our picnic lunch was stashed.

If you work up an appetite, but forget to pack a lunch, that's actually a good thing. It will give you a reason to visit another local curiosity.

Charlie Brown Farms bills itself as the Antelope Valley's largest gift shop, and you'll pass it on Pearblossom Highway driving home from the park.

What Devil's Punchbowl is to geology, this place is to retail. It has no equal, so make a point of stopping. And bring your appetite.
The cafe serves a little bit of everything. Ostrich burgers. Funnel cakes. Buffalo sausage. Texas-style barbecue. Bread bowl soups. Hawaiian shaved ice. More than 100 flavors of milkshakes. And, well, you get the idea.

Since nobody was in the mood for fresh emu eggs, we ordered milk shakes for the kids. All the flavors were tasty, but Brooke's hot fudge variety was amazing.

Just like the sprawling menu that covers multiple walls, Charlie Brown's is almost too much to comprehend. Narrow, winding aisles hold a multitude of surprises waiting to be discovered. Forty varieties of bottled soda. Grind-your-own peanut butter. Organic candy. A stand-up cooler stocked with alligator sausage, kangaroo medallions and packaged turtle meat.

I could have wandered the place all day and still not seen everything. Indeed, I missed the World of Betty Boop, Land of Dinosaurs and the House of Dolls. And the Village of Gnomes also will have to wait for another time.
Between Devil's Punchbowl and Charlie Brown's the possibilities for exploration seem almost endless.

I think I'll order a deep-fried Twinkie and ponder how to make the most of our next visit.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic. He has eaten both alligator and kangaroo. But not turtle.

Plan your Trip
Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area
944-2743
www.devils-punchbowl.com

Charlie Brown Farms
944-2606
www.charliebrownfarms.com

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