By Stacey Kuhns
For the past year, I have been a passenger on my friend's motorcycle. In that year, I have discovered a number of places that I never knew existed in San Diego County. We have visited these places more than a few times because they are amazing.
I have been traveling to San Diego’s Iconic Bakery, Dudley's for many years yet never had taken the time to glance across the street. For those who love gems and minerals, or if you have children who are interested in gems and minerals; a great place to visit is Crossroads Treasures, located at 30219 Highway 78, in Santa Ysabel. It is just across from Dudley's.
The women who own this establishment are friendly, knowledgeable, and are never rushed when talking with a visitor. As you walk into the gravel driveway, you will see numerous minerals in wood containers. However, our favorite thing to do there is to purchase whole geodes and watch as one of the women cut them open on the wet saw. Every geode is an exciting treasure and the prices are so reasonable, it's crazy!
Crossroads Treasures would be an amazing place for a child's birthday party as the kids can pick out geodes and watch as the inside is revealed upon cutting. There is also a store that sells jewelry, gems, and minerals. This Hidden Gem is well worth the drive. As an added bonus, you can walk across the street and enjoy bread or pastries at Dudley's.
Crossroads Treasures Photos
Santa Ysabel Mission
If you continue down the street, passing Dudley's, make a left turn on Highway79. Located at 23013 CA-79 is the Santa Ysabel Mission. Established on September 20, 1818, the chapel is set back, on the East side of the road, about 300 feet. There are three structures and a cemetery.
The first thing you notice will be the cemetery. On our visit there, we were the only people around. The chapel and other buildings were closed (as it was after hours), but the cemetery was accessible. Old crosses and gravestones are adorned with flowers, balloons, and other items of meaning to the deceased. It is a very bright spot of color surrounded by fields and hills. You can hear cows mooing in the distance.
It was fascinating to walk around the cemetery and the mission grounds, looking at some of the sculptures and history. An interesting, peaceful place to visit.
Santa Ysabel Mission Photos
Himalaya Tourmaline Mine Dig
Also in the same area is Lake Henshaw and the Himalaya Tourmaline Mine Dig. It is located directly across the street from Lake Henshaw resort and directly behind the Roundup BBQ Grill at 26439 Highway 76.
To access the dig, you must first go into the store that is attached to the BBQ Grill and get the gate code. Signs will direct you to the dig. Wear old clothing as it is a dirt road and a messy, but exhilarating, adventure.
The dig is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.. You can pay for a whole day or half day of digging. My friend was charged $40 (with military discount) for a half day dig. An adult dig is $75 for a full day. I would strongly recommend you bring a canopy for shade, sunscreen, hats, plenty of water, and toilet paper or disposable wipes (as there is only a porta-potty by the dig). You should also bring baggies or something to hold the gems you find.
The Himalaya mine is a privately owned mine, but the public is allowed to dig from the mine ore. There is a large pile of ore. You are provided with buckets and shovels. You are not allowed to linger and pick through the ore. Just shovel it into your bucket, take it back to your assigned station, pour some of it into the screening and wash it.
Then you sort through it to find gems and minerals keepsakes. My friend found quite a bit of purple and black tourmaline. It is a lot of work, so be prepared, but exciting as heck when you find that special something.
The staff are extremely friendly and knowledgeable and willing to help out when you need it or to look at your find and let you know what it is. Another Hidden Gem in San Diego. (Also, the Roundup BBQ Grill has delicious food in large portions and wonderful service). There are also places to rent if you would like to stay the night.
Himalaya Tourmaline Mine Dig Photo
Pacific Crest Trail
The last place I want to let you know about in this article is the Pacific Crest Trail. This is a hiking trail that goes from Mexico to Canada, 2,650 miles, with some amazing views right here in our own county. I never knew this existed until I began going on the motorcycle rides and I was blown away the first time I saw it.
Spectacular is the word that comes to mind. The exact spot I am talking about is in the Mount Laguna area, off Sunrise Highway, in the Cleveland National Forest. Definitely turn off at Kwaaymii Point (To get to Kwaaymii Point, drive up Sunrise Highway from either Interstate 8 near Pine Valley or from Julian via Highway 79, and find the marked turnoff (mile 30.3, according to the mile markers placed on Sunrise Highway at half-mile increments).
There, you can access the Pacific Crest Trail by walking through giant beautifully colored slate rock walls, a number of interesting memorials packed together in the rock, and breathtaking views of the Anza Borrego Desert. If you hike along this trail, you will be able to view Cottonwood Canyon. There is a man-made wall to sit on that offers amazing pictures and views. Again, on hot days, bring plenty of water, sunscreen and wear protective clothing.
If you continue on the Sunrise Highway, there are a few overlooks of the forest and desert, a wondrous contrast seeing them together. I have been to the Kwaaymii entrance at least three times and never get tired of going there. I also have never run into crowds, which makes it a perfect place to sit and enjoy nature. You won't regret the trip.