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SCALE THE HEIGHTS OF NATURE AND ART: MILE-HIGH IDYLLWILD ELEVATES THE SENSES IN THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Story and photos by Susan Cohn

High on Adventure, May 2018

 

Idyllwild town center
“Harmony” by artist David Roy stands in the center of the town of Idyllwild
in Southern California's San Jacinto Mountains. Made from pieces of old growth
Cedar trees, the monument is carved with scenes of town life and depictions
of local flora and fauna.

  Idyllwild monument detail   Idyllwild welcome sign  
 
Idyllwild monument detail
Idyllwild welcome sign
 

It’s not unusual to spot a herd of colorful deer right in the center of Idyllwild, the famously art-hearted small town (pop. 3,874 year-round) in the mountains (elevation 5,413) above Palm Springs. Not your ordinary deer, mind you, but 22 fabulously painted aluminum bucks, does and fawns, each decorated to reflect a part of Idyllwild’s history (the Native American legend of the spirit-demon Tahquitz) or activities (rock-climbing) or events (Jazz in the Pines).

  Idyllwild painted deer "herd"  

 

 

 

Idyllwild film deer

 
Each deer was painted by a different artist. The herd of deer, installed in a dozen small groups,
is connected by a trail that leads visitors on an easy walking loop from the village center.

Deer Sighting Maps are available from the Idyllwild Historical Society (54470 North Circle Dr. Idyllwild) and the Town Crier, Idyllwild’s local newspaper (54405 North Circle Dr. Idyllwild).

FIND YOUR INNER ARTIST AT THE IDYLLWILD ARTS ACADEMY

Idyllwild is home to Idyllwild Arts Academy, the only independent residential arts high school on the West Coast. It hosts 300 students from 30 countries.

Idyllwild Academy of Arts
Idyllwild Academy of Arts

The Academy’s Summer Program offers a Family Week (June 16-22 in 2018) combining creative arts and outdoor recreation. Participants can choose classes in a variety of disciplines including basketry, glassblowing, weaving and painting. Evenings offer live performances, concerts, lectures and games. On-campus dorm housing and meals are available. 52500 Temecula Road, Idyllwild. idyllwildarts.org. 951-659-3168 or 951-468-7265.

IDYLLWILD ARTS PRESENTS JAZZ IN THE PINES 25TH ANNIVERSARY

Music is an important part of Idyllwild’s art scene. The 25th Annual Jazz in the Pines Festival from August 10 - 12, features two dozen bands on the campus of the Idyllwild Arts Academy, a family-friendly weekend of fun and smooth jazz as famous musicians and up-and-coming artists show off their talents, 52500 Temecula Road, Idyllwild. Information at 951-468-7210 or idyllwildarts.org.

EARN YOUR VIEW: CLIMB, CLIMB, CLIMB

Idyllwild is one of the places where the sport of modern rock climbing took hold in the 1930s. The town is flanked by two large rock formations: Tahquitz Peak (8,846 feet) and Suicide Rock (7,510 feet).

Tahquitz Peak
Tahquitz Peak

Tahquitz Peak has long climbing routes, is shaded most of the day, and offers good crack climbing. Suicide Rock has more climbing routes on its face (over 300 described) and is in the sun most of the day.

Idyllwild get out and hike sign

Rock climbing schools and guided rock climbs operate in June, July, and August at both sites under special use permit of the U.S. Forest Service, Idyllwild. 

Idyllwild mountain directional signs
Idyllwild mountain directional signs 

PLACES TO STAY

Innkeepers Nathan DePetris and Marc Kassouf like to offer their guests choices. Strawberry Creek Inn, their historic craftsman bed and breakfast, has rooms decorated with mountain themes and a large, comfy living room with reading alcoves filled with books and board games.

Idyllwild Straberry inn, room 2
Idyllwild Straberry Inn, room 2

Breakfast is served in a light-filled, enclosed sunporch, 26370 Highway 243, Idyllwild. www.strawberrycreekinn.com. Nearby, their Quiet Creek Inn has 10 studio and one-bedroom cabins, each with a fireplace and private deck, on 7 wooded acres. A large meadow, enclosed barn loft and several Creekside areas are available for special events. Quiet Creek Inn has pet-friendly accommodations in designated rooms, 26345 Delano Dr. Idyllwild. http://www.quietcreekinn.com.

PLACES TO EAT

Fresh mountain air is sure to give you an appetite, and this little town has a lot of places that can satisfy a smorgasbord of appetites. The Mile High Café serves American and Korean dishes including its signature Smokey Mountain Burger with homemade Whiskey Bacon Jam, fresh spinach, sliced onion, fired egg, homemade patty, swiss cheese and Garlic Aoili.

  Idyllwild Mountain Cafe counter   Idyllwild Mile High Cafe burger  
 
Mile High Cafe counter
Mile High Cafe burger
 

Or try the Bibimbap with white rice topped with sautéed beef, carrots, mushrooms, onions, seaweed, spinach, fried egg with spicy Korean vegan chili sauce.

Fratello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria offers an extensive menu including wood fired pizzas, pollo piccata and spaghetti carbonara. Outside seating in fine weather lets you watch the world go by, 54295 Ridgeview Dr. Idyllwild.

OH, AND DID YOU KNOW?

Elvis Presley’s 1962 musical Kid Galahad was filmed in Idyllwild and vicinity. A display about this and other movies filmed in the area (Modern Romance, The Wild Angels, and Kotch among them) can be found at the Idyllwild Area Historical Society. info@idyllwildhisotry.org.

AND REMEMBER:

Take a detour. Discover small towns and friendly faces that don't grow along the highway. (Khang Kijarro Nguyen) 

  Idyllwild sunset
Idyllwild sunset

Susan Cohn is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, Bay Area Travel Writers, and the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. She may be reached at susan@smdailyjournal.com. More of her stories may be found at http://ifwtwa.org/author/susan-cohn.

     
 
 
 
 
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