Get Out of Town!
On Being Idle in Idyllwild
November, 2012 - Issue #97
New Spirit Vacation Homes rents unique Idyllwild properties, like "The Dome," featured here, starting at only $150 per night.
New Spirit Vacation Homes rents unique Idyllwild properties, like "The Dome," featured here, starting at only $150 per night.
Idyllwild is the antithesis of the typical Southern California mountain get-away destination. No golf. No skiing. Nothing remotely resorty. And frankly, that's a good thing. It's an unscripted, come-as-you-are, kind of place free of hurry or worry. You don't need to do anything in Idyllwild (unless you want to). You can just be.

That suited April and I just fine. We were weary of the go-here, rush-there schedule that comes with parenting four active children. We had a 48-hour respite and we just wanted to catch our breath.

We pulled into the driveway of the Upper Rim Rock rental booked through New Spirit Vacation Homes, and I knew we were in the right place. The airy three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath get-away sits about two miles northeast of town in the shadow of Suicide Rock, a granite monolith that is a landmark visible from almost anywhere in Idyllwild.

Smart design and strategic window placement give the home the feeling of a sophisticated tree house. The living room and kitchen open up to a deck suspended over the bank of Strawberry Creek. Upstairs, one wall of the master bedroom is almost entirely windows. It reveals a stunning tableau of the iconic Suicide Rock framed between soaring pine and cedars.

We opened the windows to let in the fresh mountain air and the soothing sound of the splashing creek and then settled in the living room to simply sit.

Hunger and curiosity finally led us back to town for some exploration. And, inspired by the scenery, we decided to plan a hike for the following day. Our stops included Mountain Harvest Market for snacks for our hike, as well as trail tips from the super-helpful clerk. Higher Grounds Coffee House supplied us with lattes to fuel our shopping. We found the freshest, tastiest beef jerky imaginable at Grandpa's House of Jerky. And Nomad Ventures was still open in time for us to grab hiking gear we'd forgotten at home.

After snagging the required permit from the Forest Service the following morning, we hit the Devil's Slide Trail in time to take advantage of the shade for the early part of our hike. The altitude was noticeable immediately, but our lungs soon adjusted and we made good time along the switchbacks. We soon found ourselves picking our way up the last few stone steps to the Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout. No longer in use, it is now a museum. The set-up inside the single room, with its bed, simple kitchen and desks, is much as it was when the tower was in use.

The views stretch away in every direction. Hemet sits in the valley below, while the Palomar Observatory was a shiny bump on a far ridgeline. What a job that must have been, sitting and enjoying the view.

As tiring as the hike was, we still found enough energy the next morning to walk to town for breakfast at Cafe Aroma. It gave us an excuse to indulge in another of Idyllwild's trademark pastimes - dining alfresco. Most restaurants feature patio seating. And it's easy to understand why. With a mild climate, and stunning vistas, who wants to sit inside? We lingered over our coffee. It would soon be time to drive home. But for the moment, we reveled in the simple satisfaction of just being in Idyllwild.

Eric Harnish lives in Castaic, which is sorely lacking a good jerky shop.
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