As a travel writer, it’s making me CRAZY to not be traveling this year. I missed out on planned trips to Sedona, San Miguel de Allende, and Hawaii.

Itching to go somewhere, I decided to journey up to Julian, a mountain town an hour northeast of San Diego. But unlike previous trips there, which centered around shopping and eating, I planned something totally different: a stay at Quiet Mind Retreat Center, a sanctuary overlooking Lake Cuyamaca.

The retreat center opened just before COVID-19 changed everything, and while its objective is to host mindfulness retreats, right now it’s more of an Asian-inspired AirBnB. Kind of a make-your-own-retreat experience. Which is exactly what I did!

Step Into Nirvana

quiet mind retreat center

I’ve aligned with Buddhism for years. I do meditation and yoga every day. So as soon as I took in the Tibetan-style Buddhas and artwork throughout the center, I felt at ease.

The center is run by husband and wife team, Michael and Davita Gregory. Michael was an ordained monk in the Thai forest tradition, the Burmese Mahasi tradition, and the Tibetan tradition, so I knew the art and statues were legit!

As soon as I arrived, I explored the property. There was a large meditation (and yoga) room with pillows available for anyone who wanted a few minutes of quiet (yes please!). There was also a gorgeous library filled with thousands of books on spirituality, religion, and self-development. One afternoon, I grabbed a book and a cup of tea and curled up on a couch overlooking the lake.

lake cuyamaca view

Climbing Great Heights

stonewall peak

You see that mountain in the photo above? It was my destination on my second day. The hike to Stonewall Peak was moderately difficult and took about three hours round trip (note: there’s a $10 parking fee at the campground where the trail starts).

The real payoff was getting to the top of the peak, which had a viewing platform overlooking every direction. (Deep breath here.) It was a moment of sheer joy where I was able to forget about the pandemic and the world beyond those mountains…until a couple came up to the platform and we quickly scrambled to pull our masks up.

Top it Off with Nourishing Food

julian pie company line

As part of the package I selected at Quiet Mind, I opted to have plant-based gourmet meals delivered to my room. Now, I know what you’re thinking: vegetarian food! But it was top-notch. I had an amazing, moist quiche one meal and then a polenta with vegetarian sausage and lentils the other.

Oh, and did I mention the apple pie? Julian is known for its apple pie, and though we were several miles from town, there was pie to be had! I didn’t know there would be a communal pie I could snag a slice from so I picked up my own slice before arriving, so needless to say, I got my fill. I also stopped at Julian Pie Company on the way home, a tradition whenever I go to Julian. In true COVID-style, there was a long line of people waiting to get their pies.

I may have only been an hour away from home, but Quiet Mind Retreat Center felt like another country. It helped me rejuvenate and disconnect from the chaos of the world. I can’t wait to return once the retreats recommence.