The following article is scheduled to appear in RV Life Magazine.  It is published here with permission of the editor:

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Its elevation is over a mile, but the 3,500 residents of Idyllwild in Southern California call it “The Hill.”  As your RV plies its way up one of the three winding mountain roads leading to this village, you soon begin to realize it is essentially a remote island surrounded by desert and population centers.

This mecca of quaint, locally owned shops and restaurants is tucked away among the trees of the San Bernardino National Forest, bordered by high peaks that make this a favorite stopping-off spot, not only for recreational vehicle travelers, but for hundreds of weekend hikers and mountain bicyclists … and there’s lots more that make it a popular off-the-beaten-trail destination for RVers.

Idyllwild is a thriving village with no McDonald’s, Subway or, for that matter, any other chain restaurants or businesses, except for Shell and Chevron service stations.

His Honor Mayor Max

The mayor is Max, an 11-year-old golden retriever, elected by popular vote in a fundraiser for animal rescue.  The town mascot is the Idyllbeast – ferocious-looking but always a crowd favorite at local functions, of which there are many.

Idyllwild's Scary "Idyllbeast"


Once you’ve found your space in one of the RV campgrounds on or nearby the Hill, you’ll want to head for the center of town, where there’s usually some events happening sponsored by the Art Alliance, Rotary, the Chamber, quilters, private donors or one of the 50 or so community organizations.

Bluegrass by some of America's finest musicians fills the street at the annual Lemon Lily Festival.

Porsche’ and Mini-Minor owners clubs, hiking and biking enthusiasts, and upscale motorcycle riders all decked-out for a day’s tour are drawn from hundreds of miles around to San Jacinto Mountain.  All meld comfortably with the families and locals who wander in and out of shops, many licking ice cream atop waffle cones or sipping lattes.

Tahquist -- Pronounced Tah'Quist ... and differently by just about everyone here

Above all this stands “Tahquitz,” a formidable rock prominently jutting out from Mt. San Jacinto, highest peak in the chain.  Tahquitz is the rock of local Indian legends, the destination of many climbers and the symbol of the town, emblazing souvenir T-shirts and collectibles.

Since Idyllwild is considered one of the 50 top art towns in America, RV visitors often plan their stays to coincide with events at the heralded Idyllwild Arts Academy, breeding ground for some of the world’s most accomplished classical and jazz musicians, artists and theatrical performers.  Their concerts and shows, rivaling the excellence of top professional groups, are open to the public free of charge.

The parade on Independence Day is a tradition, Halloween is a scream, wine tastings, home and garden tours, street fairs and more all combine to make Idyllwild a happening place.  Highlighting summer evenings is the annual Thursday outdoor concert series, featuring world-renowned musicians playing big band, rock, jazz, blues, classical, Cajun-zydeco, folk … every one packs the community park – and it’s always free.

So much to do, but its what most visitors take away with them is the tranquility borne of the wooded mountainous surroundings.  It’s the joy of people they meet in this pleasant environment.  It’s the clean air, fresh mountain water and free spirit of the Hill that they carry away with them.  It’s the drive up Fern Valley Road to Humber Park, where the vision of Tahquitz Rock is awesome.

A couple of other characteristics set Idyllwild apart from the world off “the island.” There is no home mail delivery, just a post office that’s the daily meeting place to talk over community news.  No trash pickup – locals make the five-minute trip to the dump regularly and get one of the best views of the area lush hillsides while dumping their refuse.  And locals entering the Strawberry Creek Shopping Plaza know to be alert for the many visitors who enter at the exit.

There are rare encounters with celebrities who retreat to their cabins or mansions among the rocks and canyons, but once you get parked and saunter into town, you’ll quickly understand why they drive 150 miles from the Hollywood area to seek refuge in this remote oasis.

Fishing and boating are popular at Lake Hemet

There are several local parks welcoming RVs.   A large Thousand Trails resort campground complete with swimming pool is just up the road from the center of town.  In the heart of town is Mount San Jacinto State Park with hook-ups available and a major upgrade underway (the maximum length for campers is 24 feet).  Two county facilities provide RV campsites:  Idyllwild Park and Hurkey Creek Park.  And Lake Hemet Campground, about 8 miles east of town, provides sites with full and partial hook-ups, plus fishing and boating.  Current information about all five can be found on their websites.

The peaceful environment of Hurkey Creek Campground

The closest well-known city is Palm Springs, just off Interstate-10., but when you’re heading west on I-10, take the “Palms-to-Pines Highway,” California 74 at Palm Desert.  From that desert community, it’s just 40 miles through the mountains, the Cahuilla Indian Reservation and ranchland into another world, one of trees, peace and a few snowy days during the winter.

“The Hill” — a unique destination.


P.S.  If you’re a local or frequent non-RV visitor, I know what you’re thinking — “You didn’t mention the many inns and weekend rentals!”  That’s because RV owners prefer to stay in their own rigs comfortable in their own beds and with clothes and toothbrush close at hand.

All Photos by Barry Zander.  All rights reserved.

Barry and Monique Zander full-timed for five years before pausing long enough to buy a small cabin in Idyllwild and having closets added and other modifications needed to make it livable for when their travels end.  You can contact them at

Categories: California, Life In Idyllwlid, On The Road, RVing | Leave a comment


The Scenic Drive Neighborhood Watch is Up and Running! 

Deputy Barney Brause answers questions from residents eager to form a Neighborhood Watch program for Scenic Drive.

Having heard about the rash of break-ins on the Hill, I talked to a neighbor, who is very involved in and knowledgeable about the who, what, when and how of Idyllwild and Hill communities.  He directed me to Charlie Wix, who has organized a Neighborhood Watch in Upper Fern Valley, and to Reserve Deputy Barney Brause, the Sheriff’s Office man on the mountain for getting locals to start up Neighborhood Watch programs.

Our first meeting not only surpassed expectations for numbers of interested neighbors, it was all that was needed to launch a Neighborhood Watch for Scenic Drive.  Following is my report about the first meeting, held August 2, 2012:

You will be getting more information in the near future, but here are a few highlights:

18 residents or their representatives attended.

We decided to open participation to all residents along Scenic Drive and its outshoots [Hillsdale, Circle Way, Circle View, Rising Glen, Sunset View and Shady View].  Darryl, which has a different traffic pattern, will not be included.

Our next meeting will again be at our home, 25525 Scenic, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 8.

Barney Brause, right, and Charlie Wix, top left, talk with Scenic Drive residents about how the Neighborhood Watch program works.


We will be preparing more materials to get to you very soon, but in the meantime,

The number to call if you see suspicious activity is 951-776-1099.  Use 9-1-1 if it is an emergency.

“I SAW …” is the key to making this work.  If you see something suspicious, report it to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office at that number and tell the deputy what you saw with as much detail as possible without taking a risk.

When I said it is “Up and Running,” I mean that you can look out of your window or be aware if something is different while you’re driving up Scenic.  Do that, and you are doing what the Neighborhood Watch requires.

The group wants to get official Neighborhood Watch signs up as soon as possible.  I will contact you with a suggested donation amount needed to purchase signs and other materials that will indicate that we are ready to protect our property (and lives).

What you can do today to make this program effective is to be alert, inquisitive, nosy and aware of what’s going on around you.  There are break-ins happening in the area, including on Circle View this week.

The meeting was an excellent chance for neighbors to get to know each other.

If you see anything suspicious, call the neighbor (you’ll receive phone numbers soon) to check out the activity.  Limit your involvement to calling the Sheriff’s Office to tell them what you see.

Thanks to all who came and those who indicated their support.  Our effort could be helpful in getting more Neighborhood Watch groups together in other Idyllwild areas.  Special thanks to Reserve Deputy Barney Brause and Upper Fern Valley organizer Charlie Wix for getting us started.

You’re welcome to call or email me for additional information and suggestions.  Barry Zander, 949-292 -8578, .


Categories: Life In Idyllwlid | Leave a comment


By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

It’s 1,300 very interesting, often thrilling miles from the Silver Strand below San Diego to Whidbey Island in Puget Sound north of Seattle.   I picked those two spots because they are among our favorite places to camp and represent the north-south extremes of the western contiguous U.S.

After getting ourselves involved in putting an addition on the 1937 vintage Idyllwild cabin we bought last year, which had limited our days in the travel trailer to about four months, we finally had a chance to shake off cabin fever for a road trip from Southern California up to Washington State for my daughter’s college graduation.

I’ll save you the agony of reading about a father’s pride in his daughter’s day in cap-and-gown, focusing your attention on those marvelous snowcapped peaks that we passed on our 2,900-mile round-trip.

First, I want to assure any readers with “Eastside loyalties” that I have great respect for your chain of mountains, which we will travel along next spring.  Did you know that while the Rockies and Sierras get most of the ooohs and ahhs, going back in geologic time, it was the Appalachians and Blue Ridge Mountains that towered the highest above America for millions of years?  Matter of fact, in those days the San Jacinto Mountains were underwater as was most of the West.

Time, volcanic occurrences, weather and wind took its toll on the eastern chain, as it is doing on its cousins to the west.  And, incidentally, I’ll remind those who have forgotten, mountains with sharp peaks are youngsters; those with rounded tops have matured at the urging of weather for eons longer.

As we drove up California 395 in mid-May, we followed the flow of the eastern Sierras through a variety of scenery – farmlands and ranches, lakes and rivers, picturesque towns and miles of highways in varying degrees of comfort.  It could have gotten a bit boring, except for those mountains to our left, many topped with snow, some climbing until they disappeared into the clouds.

MT. WHITNEY — One of those peaks was Mt. Whitney, which, at 14,505 feet, is the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S. (and, incidentally, only 85 miles from the lowest spot in Death Valley).  Mt. Whitney is not, in itself, a beautiful mountain, even when the skies allow for a view of its jagged crest.  It is, at least to me, just another extremely impressive peak in a chain of monster mountains.   If it comes into view as you pass it, you’ll first see it at about Mile 250 of your drive.

I will point out that there are some incredible camping areas in the Bishop-Lone Pine area with the kinds of recreation that fill the pages of outdoor sporting magazines; e.g., fishing, kayaking, rafting, hiking and trail-riding on bikes and horses.

MT. SHASTA — You may quickly forget about Mt. Whitney when you see the incredible vista offered as Mt. Shasta gloriously appears at the southern end of the Cascade Range.  Now that is a magnificent sight!   At 14,179 feet above sea level, it is always a thrill to see this white pyramid shining in the early evening light.


An awesome sight -- Mt. Shasta

Allow me to insert some quotes from Wikipedia:

Said poet Joaquin Miller:  “Lonely as God, and white as a winter moon, Mount Shasta starts up sudden and solitary from the heart of the great black forests of Northern California.”

Naturalist and author John Muir said of Mount Shasta:  “When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.”

Theodore Roosevelt said:  “I consider the evening twilight on Mt. Shasta one of the grandest sights I have ever witnessed.”  Right on, Teddy!  I agree.

Mt. Hood with its numerous glaciers

MT. HOOD – Our drive northward took us through the luscious hills and curvy roads of Oregon, beautiful in itself, rustic with its grazing livestock, all framed by the brightly colored spring wildflowers that line the roads.  Then, a glimpse of something special appears on the right.  It’s another snowcapped peak, home to 12 glaciers that keep Mt. Hood’s gown of white glowing year-round.  Like Shasta and the next two mountains I’ll mention, Mt. Hood is spectacular partly because it stands alone high above the Oregon terrain.

MOUNT ST. HELENS –This one is my favorite mountain.  You remember it from all the hoopla surrounding its eruption in 1980 (wow, can you believe that was 32 years ago?) .  We drove up

Washington State’s Mt. St. Helens a few years ago, going to where the road disappeared under the

My favorite Western peak -- Mt. St. Helens – as seen from I-5 in Portland

snow.  Then we got out and froze our little tootsies off cavorting in its beautiful whiteness.  I didn’t want to leave.  This trip we didn’t get a chance to visit my favorite, but just seeing it in the distance caused a bolt of electricity to surge through my veins.

MT. RAINIER — This massive mountain is not only “the most topographically prominent in the contiguous United States” (again, quoting from Wikipedia), it’s Monique’s favorite.  I remember one perfect autumn afternoon walking across the parade grounds at Fort Lewis by Tacoma and startled when Monique stopped suddenly, freezing like a statue at her first sighting of Mt. Rainier.  It is one of those rare sights that we in America are so blessed to have, one that truly takes your breath away.  It dominates central Washington State.

Mt. Rainier left Monique awe-struck.

And one more worth mentioning:  MT. OLYMPUS on the Olympic Peninsula.  It doesn’t dominate like its cousins to the south, but it is the highest glacier-covered mountain on this beautiful rainforest peninsula.

I hope you don’t do what I have done as you drive along California 395 or I-5 through the contiguous Pacific Rim states.  Don’t try to rate one mountain against the others.  Each has a

In Castle Rock, Washington, is a memorial to and film about Harry R. Truman, who refused to leave his beloved Mt. St. Helens before it erupted

splendor all its own.  Each provides visual excitement enhancing the pleasure of traveling the roads northward.

Each etches incredible memories on the brain, which is why we are always Happy RVers, but At Home on The Hill

Barry & Monique

We invite your comments below or you’ll welcome to email me at


© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Categories: California, North American Travels, On The Road, Oregon, Washington State | Leave a comment