Autumn is my favorite time of the year. It’s not just because I got married and had my twins in this season, it is the beauty of it. Leaves falling, cooler weather, and the fun activities. So, when my son told me he would like to go tent camping for his birthday, I agreed. I have to admit, I tried to get him to chose to go in the trailer instead, however he was adamant, tent camping! Now, where to go?
It was then the idea came to me. Since our family tradition is to makes a pilgrimage to the Mountain Valley Pumpkin Patch in Ramona each year, why not combine the two activities! That’s when I started to get excited. Our family could camp in Julian, go apple picking, eat some apple pie AND go to our favorite pumpkin patch all in one trip!
After some research on where to camp, I came upon website for San Diego County Parks. There are some really good choices for camping here, but I zeroed in on William Heise County Park. Not only did it have some good reviews, it was only a few miles to downtown Julian.
The park is big (over 1,00 acres) with lots of hiking trails and a playground. They offer one loop just for tent camping and another two loops for the RV sites (some with electrical hook-ups). There are still limited reservations available for the month of October so if you are interested, book now for tent or RV sites. (Good choices for RV sites no services are 22, 24, and 46, and with electric, try sites 3 or 8).
For those you do not have an RV, but want to experience the park, there are 14 rustic “Wilderness Cabins.” Each cabin comes with a propane fireplace, table & chairs, food pantry, and bunk beds (sleeps 6). There is no kitchen so you get to experience the beauty of cooking outdoors. Don’t forget to bring your own bedding including mattress pad/inflatable mattress! Cabin reservations may be hard to get on the weekends in October, check website for availability.
We arrived at William Heise County Park Thursday at nightfall which is not the ideal time to have to set up camp. We had tent site #62 which was not bad except the bathrooms were far from our site which was inconvenient. As Troy put up the tent, I cooked up a quick dinner of Carne Asada burritos. After dinner, we turned off our lantern and spent time gazing at the carpet of stars above. The Milky Way seemed to be right above us. Such a nice way to end the day.
Friday morning we awoke to the chattering of birds. It was a beautiful morning and the wildlife must have thought so too. From our site we spotted rabbits, deer (with little fawns) and wild turkeys. The kids were also excited to see a woodpecker pecking a nearby tree for it’s morning meal.
After breakfast we decided to take the .5 mile Nature Walk. This short hike takes you through oak, pine and cedar forest before a easy climb to a viewpoint where the evidence of the 2003 Cedar Fire is visible. It was already getting warm so we opted not to continue on the Desert View Trail but maybe next time.
Next on the agenda was a trip into Julian. On our drive we had more animal sightings including a coyote. We found a shady spot in town to park right near the entrance to Pioneer Cemetery. This cemetery, dating back to the 1870’s was fun to walk around and read the gravestones. We then enjoyed a walk on Main Street. Old buildings and homes have been turned into plentiful shops, restaurants and even an old fashion Soda Fountain. I love to stop at Julian Cider Mill for samples of their delicious cider and pick up some candy and other snacks.
We decided that we wanted to picnic out by the apple orchard so we headed just a couple of miles to Volcan Valley Apple Farm. J. Jenkins Winery is right across from the apple orchard and for the cost of a glass of wine, we grabbed a table and picnicked under the shade of an oak tree.
Volcan Valley Apple Farm is the largest U-Pick farm in Julian and is open daily. For $10 you receive a bag that you can fill to the brim with apples. There were three types available this weekend; Jonathon, Empire and Golden Delicious. As we were walking through the orchard, we happily sampled each variety. Apple picking is truly a highlight for my kids. They get so excited running around in search of the largest apple. I can’t think of anything more perfect than the simple pleasures of eating apples right off the tree watching my kids be kids.
Now that we had picked our apples, we had worked up our appetite for pie. We made a stop at Julian Pie Company, one of the many pie shops in Julian. My favorite is Dutch Apple so I ordered two slices. Now, did we want Vanilla or Cinnamon ice cream? We tried both and I have to say, the Cinnamon ice cream was the family favorite and the perfect topping on our warm pie. The cute backyard area with its tall oaks and dappled afternoon light made it the ideal location to enjoy our treats.
We headed back to camp for an afternoon of relaxing while watching for wildlife. The wind had kicked up which cooled off the afternoon to just the right temperature. While the kids were busy setting up an “Indian Store” that consisted of acorns and tools they were making from wood, I had the pleasure of some quiet time spent in my camp chair reading a book. Every once in a while the kids would yell, “turkeys” and sure enough, there would be five or six running past. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
As the sun began it’s decent, the wind really started to kick up and it was getting chilly fast. Did I really want to cook dinner in the wind? The answer was no. We opted for dinner at nearby Wynola Pizza. We ordered a couple of their wood-fired pizzas and a salad, then found a spot on their outdoor patio (strangely no wind here). We enjoyed some live bluegrass music while we noshed on our pizza.
It was a windy and chilly night in the tent. Thank goodness for good sleeping bags! Who knew it was going to get down to the high 40’s? I certainly was missing the trailer right about now as well as when we had to eat a quick breakfast outside and make the trek to the bathroom. Burr! After breakfast, we packed up camp and headed to Mountain Valley Ranch!
Oh how I love our visits here each year. If you love taking photos, this is truly the place for you. What is better than taking pictures right out in the field, vines and all? So picturesque! This was opening weekend and it was early so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We took a trip through the corn maze ($4 per person if they are collecting) which is always a kid favorite! They also have some farm animals including goats, pot-bellied pigs, chickens and a turkey. The resident buffalo is very friendly. He welcomed our pats on the head and gave the kids a big wet lick.
There is also the Corn Cannon (2 ears for $1) where you aim for targets out in the field and Pony Rides. Besides the pumpkins in the patch available for purchase, the barn has an assortment of all kinds of pumpkins and gourds. They accept cash only.
That was it for our weekend in Julian but note that there ware many other activities available such as the Smith Ranch & Julian Railroad, California Wolf Center, wineries, horseback riding, hiking and carriage rides to name a few. Enjoy the splendors of Autumn in Julian, even if it is only a day trip.
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