On the road or on your toes, it’s all about the journey.
Keys Creek Lavender Farm.
We were all chatting and catching up with friends the evening of the Fourth of July, and Linda mentioned reading about the lavender farm in San Diego. Now, when I envision the rolling purple hillsides of lavender farms, I think of Provence. Something I had hoped to do whenever I get a chance to visit France again. The idea that there was one in my own county, well add that to my 50 Weeks list.
That weekend I tried to locate info about the lavender farm, and I was brought to the website of Keys Creek Lavender Farm. And what do you know, the season was extended into two more weekends in July (normal season is May and June). I took this as a sign that a visit was in order, so next thing you know I’m emailing Linda and Sharon (who was in on the discussion) and we made plans to go. Since we all had some weekend activities scheduled (we all have boys in summer sports, that should explain it all), we had to squeeze in a visit this past Saturday afternoon.
We know it will be hot, so we grab our hats and off we drive away. And you know when they say it’s not the destination but the journey, well that was partially true for this trip. As we ramble up the 15 corridor, we continue to chat away and get caught up on life. We unintentionally make a wrong turn somewhere, and didn’t realize it until we couldn’t find the “Yellow Deli” landmark as noted in the website’s directions. We decide to check our blue dot location on Google Maps and figure out our way back, which led us to one of the curviest roads I’ve ever been on in the mainland. (For those of you who have been on the Road to Hana in Maui, think of the road we took as the same pattern, but without the lush green waterfalls to your right and the deep ocean blues to your left.)
After driving this windy road, thankfully we all kept our stomach contents intact, we get to a main road and soon pass the Yellow Deli. We turn right onto a dirt road, and as we start to drive it I’m thinking “thank goodness my lease is up next month!” A mile and a half later of driving up and down short hills, passing through tree groves, we arrive at the entrance to the farm.
I will admit that I was disappointed at first at not seeing rows and rows of purple. But we soon realized that was because all the lavender stems in the lower fields that we first came upon had already been harvested. We did come at the end of the season, so that is to be expected. Now that we know about the place, we can visit earlier next year. As we continue walking towards the main visitor’s area under the hot sun, we soon get a whiff of the fresh lavender scent. Ahhh, here’s our journeys destination.
We pass the welcoming gate and you can immediately sense a feeling of calm. Quirky plant displays and repurposed furniture greet us. First thing we do — walk into the gift shop. Everything lavenderish you can think of, they’ve got. Oils, lotions, bath products, teas, candles, lavender. I try to sample the oil and accidently pour way too much on my hands — Sharon, do you need some oil? We leisurely look at all the products, and after a taste sampling — or two, or was it three — amongst us we take home a variety of goods (tea, lemonade, scone mix, sachets, caramel sauce, jelly, and of course, lavender sprigs).
We mosey up the dirt path to Mrs. Jones Tea House. Like the gift shop, the tea house is a cozy wooden cabin, painted in olive green with lavender trim that blends so comfortably with the surrounding fields. The wrap around porch provides views of the picturesque hillside, plus desired shade while we sip on lavender iced tea and lemonade, and munch on lemon lavender cookies and scones.
There was a very lovely couple from Germany, Clarissa and Marc, tending the tea house, who was helping out at the farm for a few weeks. They were part of the WWOOFing program which pairs volunteers to work at organic farms in exchange for room and board (sign me up!). Clarissa and Marc have been able to travel all over the world as part of this exchange. We kept chatting with them about the program, since it was so interesting to us, and we were all wondering if that lifestyle would fit into our retirement plans — I think so. Okay kids, hurry up, finish college, and start supporting yourself, cuz mom is hitting the road!
It was time to actually walk amongst the lavender bushes, where we can read about the different varieties. (They grow 20+ varieties.) There were lots of bees around, which the farm is trying to help preserve theri population. We walk around to the far fields where lies a bougainvillea archway leading you to a lavender labyrinth and meditation garden. The whole setting was so serene, so peaceful, so natural. When I think of living in the countryside, this is what I would envision.
As we head back home, on a shorter and less windier road, you can’t help but begin to think about ways to live like this. Maybe true innovation in the future will be a way to combine technology for use in smaller and less stressful communities. Not just for those who have the luxury to do so, because in my mind, living on a farm such as Keys Creek is a luxury.
There are lots of canyons around San Diego, and my neighborhood of University City is surrounded by Rose Canyon. The city maintains hiking trails in the canyon and for the almost 15 years that I have lived here, I am ashamed to admit that I have never been in Rose Canyon, until now.
Walking through Rose Canyon was on my 50 Weeks list because it was one of those activities that’s so easy and so accessible that you always think, oh I’ll do that next week, next month, next year. Our elementary school would have field trips into the canyons, yet for some reason or another those were dates I was unable to chaperone.
How did I finally get down into Rose Canyon? After our lively lavender seeking drive to Valley Center, I felt it was warranted to take a nap. Well, before I could get into the dream stage, Gigi texted me to see if I was up for a walk in the neighborhood. Sure, why not, I need the exercise and it was a lovely evening. And she too came back from a long drive to Los Angeles and wanted to move her legs about. So off we went on a typical walk through the UC hood.
At one point we came close to the trailhead on Regents Road, I had pointed us towards Starbucks, but Gigi wanted to know what was down there. We looked at the posted map, down the hill towards a hidden creek, and a asked a gentleman who was jogging down into the trail about how far a hike would it be. He said that he usually turns around at a certain point and comes back, but I knew there was a way out the other side — not only by looking at the map, but because my kids have been known to play in the canyons with their friends.
We each had a water bottle, the sun was still out, and you know I love these impromptu adventures. Plus it was on my list, the time was now.
Down into the canyon we go, first into a steep well worn dirt path. We seemed to have lost the creek. But we meet it up again at the bottom as we cross over it on a very nicely built bridge. The path then opens up onto a wide trail that parallels the canyon with the train tracks on the north side. We notice a huge tree that was either burned or hit by lightning. Tiny wildflowers decorate the canyon.
Quite a few people are down in the canyon, mostly of the running, sweaty types. Us, we walk. And we walk, and we walk. I assured Gigi there was a way out if we continue, and there was no need to turn around. (Gigi – I know you were questioning me.) But after a while I must admit I wasn’t sure if we would be out before dark, because I thought there would be a shortcut up the hill ending up at the west end of Governor Drive. If there was, it wasn’t visible from the path we were taking. So we walk.
We stay on the path and were rewarded with surprising rustic charm. Besides the beauty of the natural habitat, some of the trail was lined with ranch-like wooden fences, areas lined off for regrowth, and plank bridges. I loved part of the path that was enclosed by trees, kinda spooky. Eventually it leads up on a bare narrow ledge around the west end of the canyon, where you can wave to the train passengers and watch the freeway traffic. As we head down we once again encounter the gentleman we first talked too and his young son riding a dirt bike. He reassured us that we were almost there. He and his son were heading back the other way. We were happy we made it this far.
As we see the end leading back to our neighborhood, we also notice other paths that lead to Marian Bear Park and its trails — next time. Because right now the hardest part was ahead of us — the killer walk up the steep Bothe Avenue!
In both activities, the time spent with friends getting to the destination became what was cherished. In both trips, there were times we weren’t really sure where we were going, but we kept trudging along eager to get to the final stop…must have been the full moon. In both, we met wonderfully nice people who we chatted up and learned new insights. In both, we discovered places that seemed so remote, yet were in our own backyards. And in both, we ended up enjoying the excursions so much, we found ourselves planning for “next time.” Our children may have brought us all together in the first place, but our growing friendships have lasted. Here’s to more journeys together my friends!
Keys Creek Lavender Farm, 12460 Keys Creek Road, Valley Center, CA 760.742.3844, www.kclfarm.com. The season is over for now, which is usually during the months of May and June. Entrance fee is $5 per person. During the season they hold special events and classes such as distillation workshops, soap making classes, English High Teas, and Jazz Concerts. The farm is available for special events. Their products are also available at farmer’s markets, including Ocean Beach, Little Italy, and La Jolla.
Friends of Rose Canyon, www.rosecanyon.org. A non-profit volunteer-run organization which helps preserve Rose Canyon. They offer student field trips, bird walks, and volunteer preservation opportunities. The website contains some information filled videos.
City of San Diego, http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/oscp/ – useful info and trail maps.