Home -> Grafton Publishing -> Out of Doors - California and Oregon -> A Motor Trip in San Diego's Back Country

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A Motor Trip in San Diego's Back Country.

Come, you men and women automobilists, get off the paved streets of Los Angeles and betake yourselves to the back country of San Diego county, where you can enjoy automobile life to the utmost during the summer. There drink in the pure air of the mountains, perfumed with the breath of pines and cedars, the wild lilacs, the sweet-pea vines, and a thousand aromatic shrubs and plants that render every hillside ever green from base to summit. Lay aside the follies of social conditions, and get back to nature, pure and unadorned, except with nature's charms and graces.

To get in touch with these conditions, take your machines as best you can over any of the miserable roads, or rather apologies for roads, until you get out into the highway recently constructed from Basset to Pomona. Run into Pomona to Gary avenue, turn to the right and follow it to the Chino ranch; follow the winding roads, circling to the Chino hills, to Rincon, then on, over fairly good roads, to Corona. Pass through that city, then down the beautiful Temescal Canyon to Elsinore. Move on through Murrietta to Temecula.

Three Routes.

Beyond Temecula three routes are open to you. By one of them you keep to the left, over winding roads full of interest and beauty, through a great oak grove at the eastern base of Mt. Palomar. Still proceeding through a forest of scattering oaks, you presently reach Warner's ranch through a gate. Be sure and close all gates opened by you. Only vandals leave gates open when they should be closed.

Warner's ranch is a vast meadow, mostly level, but sloping from northeast to southwest, with rolling hills and sunken valleys around its eastern edge. A chain of mountains, steep and timber laden, almost encircles the ranch. For a boundary mark on the northeastern side of the ranch, are steep, rocky and forbidding looking mountains. Beyond them, the desert. The ranch comprises some 57,000 acres, nearly all valley land. It is well watered, filled with lakes, springs, meadows and running streams, all draining to its lowest point, and forming the head waters of the San Luis Rey River.

You follow the road by which you enter the ranch, to the left, and in a few miles' travel you bring up at Warner's Hot Springs, a resort famed for many years for the curative properties of its waters. The springs are now in charge of Mr. and Mrs. Stanford, and are kept in an admirable manner, considering all of the difficulties they labor under. The run from Los Angeles to the springs is about 140 miles, and can be made easily in a day. Once there, the choice of many interesting trips is open to you.

Past Temecula.

After leaving Temecula, another road much frequented by the autoists is the right hand road by the Red Mountain grade to Fallbrook, either to Del Mar, by way of Oceanside, or into the Escondido Valley by way of Bonsal, Vista and San Marcos. The third route, the center one between those I have described, leads to Pala. With a party of five in a six-cylinder Franklin car, I went over the latter route on April 20th, 1911. Every inch of the road was full of interest. We passed through Pala, with its ancient mission of that name, and its horde of Indian inhabitants. The children of the Indian school were having a recess, and they carried on just about in the same manner that so many "pale-faced" children would. Leaving Pala, we followed the main road along the left bank of the San Luis Rey River - where the San Diego Highway Commission is now doing work, which will, when finished, bring one to Warner's ranch by an easy grade - until we had gotten a few miles into the Pauma rancho. We crossed the Pauma Creek, and some distance beyond it we left the river to our right, turned sharply to the left, and ran up to the base of Smith's, or Palomar Mountain. Then came the grade up the mountain.

If you are not stout-hearted, and haven't a powerful machine, avoid this beautiful drive. If you are not driving an air-cooled car, carry extra water with you. You will need it before you reach the top. The road is a narrow zigzag, making an ascent of 4000 feet in a distance of from ten to twelve miles of switch-backing around the face of a steep rock-ribbed mountain. To add to its difficulties, the turns are so short that a long car is compelled to back up to negotiate them. About an hour and a quarter is required to make the trip up the mountain. We did all of it on low gear. When the top is finally reached, the view of the surrounding country is simply beyond description.

Belated Spring.

The mountain oaks of great size and broad of bough, were not yet fully in leaf. Pines and cedars, and to my astonishment, many large sycamores, were mingled with the oaks. A gladsome crop of luscious grasses covered the earth. Shrubs and plants were bursting into bloom. As we moved on we saw several wild pigeons in graceful flight among the trees. After traveling the backbone of the mountain for some distance we came to a dimly marked trail, leading to the left. The "Major Domo" of our party said that this road led to Doane's Valley, and that we must go down it. It was a straight up and down road, with exceedingly abrupt pitches, in places damp and slippery, and covered with fallen leaves. At the bottom of the descent, which it would have been impossible to retrace, we came to a small stream. Directly in the only place where we could have crossed it a log stuck up, which rendered passage impossible. After a deal of prodding and hauling, we dislodged it and safely made the ford.

Doane's Valley is one of those beauty spots which abound in the mountains of California. Its floor is a beautiful meadow, in which are innumerable springs. Surrounding this meadow is heavy timber, oaks, pines and giant cedars. Pauma Creek flows out of this meadow through a narrow gorge, which nature evidently intended should some day be closed with a dam to make of the valley a reservoir to conserve the winter waters. We followed a partially destroyed road through the meadow to its upper end. Then as high and dry land was within sight we attempted to cross a small, damp, but uncertain looking waterway.

Wheels Stuck.

The front wheels passed safely, but when the rear wheels struck it they went into the mud until springs and axles rested on the ground. Two full hours we labored before we left that mud hole. We gathered up timbers and old bridge material, then jacked up one wheel a little way, and got something under it to hold it there. The other side was treated the same way. By repeating the operation many times we got the wheels high enough to run some timbers crosswise beneath them. We put other timbers in front and pulled out.

We soon reached Bailey's Hotel, a summer resort of considerable popularity. We continued up the grade until we came onto the main road left by us when we descended into Doane's Valley. We got up many more pigeons, graceful birds, which the Legislature of our State should protect before they are exterminated. We moved on through heavily timber-covered hills, up and down grade, and finally came out on the south side of the mountain overlooking the canyon, some 5000 feet deep, at the bottom of which ran the San Luis Rey River. What would have been a most beautiful scene was marred by a fog which had drifted up the canyon. But the cloud effect was marvelous. We were above the clouds. A more perfect sky no human being ever saw. The clouds, or fog banks, were so heavy that it looked as if we could have walked off into them. I never saw similar cloud effects anywhere else except from Mt. Lowe, near Los Angeles, and Mt. Tamalpais, in Marin County.

Warner's Ranch.

We now began our descent to Warner's Ranch. It was gradual enough for some distance, and the road and trees were as charming as any human being could desire. Finally we came out onto a point overlooking the ranch. The view was simply entrancing. Imagine a vast amphitheater of 57,000 acres, surrounded by hills, dotted here and there with lakes, with streams of water like threads of burnished silver glittering in the evening light, softened by the clouds hanging over the San Luis Rey River. There were no clouds on the ranch; they stopped abruptly at the southwest corner. This vast meadow was an emerald green, studded with brilliant colored flowers. Vast herds of cattle were peacefully completing their evening meal. The road down to the ranch follows a ridge, which is so steep that no machine has ever been able to ascend it. I held my breath and trusted to the good old car that has done so much for my comfort, safety and amusement. We were all glad when the bottom was reached. We forded the river and whirled away to Warner's Hot Springs, over good meadow roads, arriving there before 7 o'clock p. m.

Some day these springs are going to be appreciated. Now only hardy travelers, as a rule, go there. Their medicinal qualities will in time be realized, and the people of Southern California will find that they have a Carlsbad within a short distance of Los Angeles, in San Diego County. We slept the sleep of the tired, weary tourist that night.

Hot Baths.

The following day we passed in bathing in the hot mineral waters, sightseeing and driving around the valley.

Saturday morning at 7:30 o'clock we bade adieu to Mr. and Mrs. Stanford and left the ranch by way of the Rancho Santa Isabel. The rain god must have been particularly partial to this beautiful ranch this season. Nowhere on our trip did we see such a splendid growth of grass and flowers, such happy looking livestock, such an air of plenty and prosperity as we did here. Leaving the ranch at the Santa Isabel store, we took the Julian road, which place we reached after a few hours' riding over winding roads good to travel on, and through scenery which was a constant source of enjoyment. Julian is one of the early settlements of San Diego County. Mining has been carried on there with varying successes and disappointments these many years. Now apple raising is its great industry. The hillsides are given over to apple culture.

The trees are now laden with blossoms. As we topped a hill or crossed a divide before beginning an ascent or descent, the view backward of the apple orchards, peeping up over slight elevations in the clearings, was extremely beautiful. Leaving Julian, we whirled along over splendid roads through a rolling country, given over to fruit farming, stock raising and pasturage. We next reached Cuyamaca and visited the dam of that name, which impounds the winter rains for the San Diego Flume Company. The country around the lake showed a deficiency of rainfall.

The lake was far from full. We took our lunch at the clubhouse near the dam. After resting in the shade of the friendly oaks we then pursued our journey to Descanso. We passed through Alpine and finally entered the El Cajon Valley, famed far and wide for its muscatel grapes, which seem especially adapted to its dark red soil. The vines were in early leaf, and not as pleasing to the eye as they will be when in full bloom. Then came Bostonia, a comparatively new settlement, Rosamond, La Mesa, and finally we whirled off on a splendid road, through an unsettled country overgrown with sage and shrubs, to Del Mar.

The sky was overcast all the afternoon. A stiff ocean breeze blew inland, cool and refreshing. The entire day had been spent amid scenes of rare beauty. The wild flowers are not yet out in profusion, but enough were there to give the traveler an idea of what can be expected in floral offerings later in the season. It was early Spring wherever the elevation was 3500 feet or better. The oaks were not yet in leaf, the sycamores just out in their new spring dresses, the wild pea blossoms just beginning to open and cast their fragrance to the breezes.

Far Below.

Yellow buttercups adorned the warmer spots in each sunny valley. Way below us in the open country great fields of poppies greeted the gladdened eye. The freshness of spring was in the air. Each breath we inhaled was full of new life. The odor of the pines mingled its fragrance with that of the apple blossoms.

Del Mar is the Del Monte of Southern California. We arrived at Stratford Inn, at that place, which is as well furnished and as well kept as any hotel on the Coast. A small garden, an adjunct of the hotel, shows what the soil and climate of Del Mar is capable of producing. Tomato vines are never frosted. The vegetables from the garden have a fresher, crisper taste than those grown in a drier atmosphere. How good and comfortable the bed felt to us that night! Sleep came, leaving the body inert and lifeless in one position for hours at a time. The open air, the sunshine, the long ride, the ever changing scenery, brought one joyous slumber, such as a healthy, happy, tired child enjoys.

The next morning, after an ample, well-cooked and well-served breakfast, we took the road on the last leg of our journey. Over miles and miles of newmade roads we sped. Soon the long detour up the San Luis Rey Valley will be a thing of the past. The new county highway will pursue a much more direct course. We passed through miles of land being prepared for bean culture. Miles of hay and grain, miles of pasturage, in which sleek cattle grazed peacefully, or, having fed their fill, lay upon the rich grasses and enjoyed life. Near the coast the growth of grain and grass far surpasses that of the interior.

Santa Marguerita Rancho, with its boundless expanse of grass-covered pasturage lands, its thousands of head of cattle and horses, its thousands of acres of bean lands, ready for seed, is worth going miles to see.

At noon we reached San Juan Capistrano. We drove into the grounds of the hospitable Judge Egan. At a table, beneath the grateful shade of giant trees, amid the perfume of flowers, the sweet songs of happy birds, we ate our lunch. After a short rest we took up the run again. We passed El Toro and finally came onto the great San Joaquin ranch, every acre of which is now highly cultivated.

Then came the Santa Ana region, thickly settled, rich in soil and products. We passed through beautiful and enterprising Santa Ana, through miles upon miles of walnut, orange and other fruit groves, through a solid settlement extending far on each side of the road, to Anaheim. And still on through more walnut and orange groves, more wealth-producing crops.

Through the orange and lemon and walnut groves of Fullerton, extending to and forming a large part of Whittier, I could not help exclaiming to myself, "What an empire this is! Where is the country that yields the annual returns per acre that this land does?" At Whittier we got into one of the newly constructed county highways, and at 3:30 p. m. we were home again, after four days in the open, four days of pure and unadulterated happiness.

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