Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. Here in Southern California, it takes a bit of effort to find the sights, sounds and smells of fall, but fortunately, we don’t have to go too far.
A couple of hours to the northeast of North County is the Village of Big Bear Lake, surrounded by mountains that bring forth foliage of gold, orange and red at this time of year.
At 7,000 feet-plus, the Big Bear area provides that crisp autumn air and color weather that we don’t get at lower altitudes.
There also are more than 100 miles of trails and forest service roads to hike and bike, and the lake for fishing, kayaking, jet skiing or cruising in a pontoon boat. Nearby Snow Summit has the only lift in Southern California that serves mountain bikers. Visit bigbear.com/.
And then there’s the 46th annual Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest.
Visitors come from around the country to enjoy lots of German beer and food (think 5,000 potato dumplings, 2,000 slices of apple strudel, and thousands of pounds of German sausages, potato salad and sauerkraut); oompah-pah music; log-sawing and yodeling competitions; dancing; and the crowning of the Oktoberfest Queen — the woman who can carry the most 5-pound beer steins a distance of 30 feet. The event runs weekends through Oct. 29. Visit bigbearevents.com/oktoberfest/. For other events, visit BigBearEvents.com, or call (909) 585-3000.
For all things pumpkin, Half Moon Bay, about 35 miles south of San Francisco, has everything you could imagine at its 46th annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival Oct. 15 and Oct. 16.
The town celebrates autumn and the fall harvest with giant-pumpkin weigh-ins and carving contests (watch local celeb carver Farmer Mike transform a 1,200-plus pound pumpkin); pumpkin-flavored food and drink; pie-eating and costume contests; a haunted house; live music; and a parade.
There also are plenty of pick-your-own-pumpkin patches. For information about shopping, dining, lodging and other activities in Half Moon Bay, see youtube.com/visithmb or visithalfmoonbay.org.
It’s a long way from North County, but if you have the time, head to New Mexico’s Jemez Mountain Trail, northwest of Santa Fe. It’s perfect for an autumn road trip.
This 163-mile scenic mountain artery offers plenty of gorgeous landscapes and lots of history. The byway takes trippers past ruins of Native American villages and ancient cliff dwellings; a national monument and preserve; hot springs; artist enclaves and wineries.
If you happen to hit this trail on the weekend of Oct. 15 and Oct. 16, you’ll find clusters of booths set up along the roadside for the annual 26-mile-long yard sale known as the Jemez Mountain Trail Sale. The event begins at San Ysidro (at the intersection of NM-550 and NM-4) and continues to La Cueva and beyond. Information booths, which provide maps of seller locations, are available at the north and south ends of the route. Visit jemezsprings.org/.
Not far off NM-4 is the town of Los Alamos, where the first atom bomb was developed during World War II. The site was chosen for the top-secret Manhattan Project because of its remote location. Today, however, thousands of visitors annually come to learn about Los Alamos’ history — both ancient and modern — via its several excellent museums, and to enjoy year-round outdoor activities and New Mexico’s spectacular scenery. Check out this video — visitlosalamos.org/science-museum/ and this website: visitlosalamos.org/.
E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at firstname.lastname@example.org