Apple pies and other wholesome fare
These days it’s apples which bring visitors to Julian: orchards cover the rolling hillsides around the town and the cafes grouped along the homey community’s main street – which is called Main Street – do a roaring trade in apple pies, as well as other wholesome fare. A century ago, however, Julian was a gold-mining town and one of the largest and most prosperous settlements in the area. Off C Street, the Eagle & High Peaks Mine Museum stores vintage mining equipment and keeps an old mine-shaft open to the public. Many more varied artefacts from Julian’s past are gathered inside the Pioneer Museum (http://julianpioneermuseum.org), 2811 Washington Street.
There’s not much to do or see in Julian, though its rural setting and preponderance of bed-and-breakfast inns – plus the historic Julian Hotel (http://www.julianhotel.com)– make it a pleasant place to pass a night.
Detour – The Anza-Borrego Desert and the Salton Sea
To the west of Julian, forested hills slope gently downwards towards the coastal flatlands. To the east, in contrast, high ground prevents rain-bearing clouds reaching the Anza-Borrego Desert, which covers 600,000 acres of bone-dry, lizard-inhabited terrain.
Though simple to reach from Julian on Hwy-78, the Anza-Borrega Desert is not a place to visit on the spur of the moment and not at all during summer. Sensible desert visitors only come here during the winter or between March and May, when colourful wildflowers bloom across these otherwise severe vistas and serve as a reminder of nature’s gentler qualities. The oasis community of Borrego Springs (http://www.borregospringsresort.com) holds the desert’s only accommodation. 3.2 km west at Palm Canyon, a visitor centre is an essential call for maps and general information.
From high points in the desert, you should be able to see the Salton Sea lying to the east. One of the world’s largest inland seas, the Salton Sea was created in 1905 when an unusually severe winter in the Midwest caused the Colorado River to breach the canals directing it to southern California’s farmlands. The sea is much appreciated by water sports enthusiasts, anglers, and by thousands of gulls, herons, and other migratory birds, often viewable from the observation tower at the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/sonny_bono_salton_sea/), off Hwy-111.