So I’m doing something big this September: hiking the Dolomite mountains in Italy with a friend. Now, I’ve told you that I’m not Cheryl Strayed, so this is something pretty out of my character. But it’s one of those opportunities I just can’t ignore. (Plus I’m getting a divorce, so this trip is turning into my Eat Pray Love/Wild moment.)

I’m not an avid hiker, especially at high altitudes, so I need a bit of practice. My super hiker friend and Dolomite companion Debbie suggested we hike at Idyllwild to acclimate me to the altitude and longevity of a several-hour hike. Done.

Mini Road Trip

Idyllwild is just 2 hours northeast of San Diego, but you feel a million miles away. We dropped in Temecula for a wine tasting at Leoness Winery (because we could), stopped at a non-impressive roadside restaurant/bar/grocery store, and then ogled giant rusty sculptures designed by artist Ricardo Breceda.

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We eventually made it to Idyllwild and settled into the Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse, the perfect base for our getaway.

Idyllic Idyllwild

I’d never been to the mountain town of Idyllwild, but I’ll definitely be back. There are several restaurants (recommendations coming in a minute) and great shops.  It only took an hour or so to meander around the tiny town, but I could do it again and again.

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A few highlights:

Idyology was a phenomenal restaurant, and one more at home in sustainable/local/organic San Diego than a town who, until recently , considered burgers and fried chicken the epitome of great food. The atmosphere was inviting; it was like your grandma’s house after she went through her Native American decor phase. We cozied up by the fireplace, guarded by a cow’s skull.

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Drinks were great. I’d been sad at a Mexican restaurant in town that offered such beer delights as Corona and Bud. But Idyology had a nice selection, so I chose a stout. We shared a hefty burger and sweet potato fries, and it was plenty for us both.

I adored Idyllwild Bake Shop & Brew. I mean, who wouldn’t be turned on by the potential of both beer and baked goods? I bought a chocolate peanut butter stout to try later and had the best scone (and really great coffee) of my life.

The Hike

Oh yea, this trip was supposed to be about hiking. We took a short hike the first afternoon, but the big hike (about 3.5 hours) was for the next morning.

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A cool sidenote: I occasionally blog on Perfectly Provence, and had struck up an online friendship with Carolyne, the owner of the site. She lives part time near Palm Springs, just an hour away from Idyllwild, which is one of the reasons I planned this trip: to meet her face-to-face. Debbie and I met her for the hike, and it was lovely to meet someone I’d interacted with on social media and via email in person. (That’s Carolyne on the left and Debbie on the right.)

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The hike to Suicide Rock was challenging, I’ll give you that. But I survived the 7 miles roundtrip, and had energy to spare. As the climb grew steeper, the air got colder. At the top, we hit a patch of snow! But the views? Oh, the views. Stupendous. They make me want to hike more.

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After our descent, where we smugly smiled at people just starting their hike as the day warmed up, we had a hearty lunch. Carolyne had to go, and we browsed the shops a bit more.

My trip to Idyllwild was a respite from the stress of my life, the chance to connect with two amazing women, and the opportunity to show myself that I’m pretty tough when it comes to hiking!