The Red Chair is a symbol, a movement, a phenomenon, a happening. Not just a simple wooden chair, this bright red vintage objet is moving from place to beautiful place, exploring the best of America over the upcoming months.
Move aside Flat Stanley, lie down garden gnome, hang yourself out to dry traveling pants… the Red Chair has arrived and captured the hearts and minds of America. This humble desk accoutrement, crimson paint peeling and wooden legs wobbling, will journey across the whole USA building connections, meeting innkeepers and generally exploring some of the most beautiful corners of our country.
I am the Red Chair, and this is the Idyllwild installment of The Red Chair Travels.
When my road manager told me we were headed to a place not too far from Los Angeles and San Diego, I couldn't have imagined what I was in for. On the way up to Idyllwild there was nothing but stunning forested vistas, pristine wilderness, and clean pine-scented air. I had to stop the car and get a closer look.
I could have sat here all day (I'm very good at sitting). As cars whizzed by up the winding mountain road I was mesmerized by the otherwise quiet and untouched view in front of me.
Of all the stops I demanded on the way up the mountain, the last was at the southern gateway into town. "Welcome to Idyllwild--Home of Adventure, Music, Art & Harmony". I'll be the judge of that. The Red Chair has seen it all.
The first stop on my Idyllwild adventure was my home away from home during this leg of my journey: The cozy and welcoming Strawberry Creek Inn Bed & Breakfast.
Ian and Rodney greeted me at the door and got me settled into the San Jacinto Room. They told me that not only is this one of their most popular rooms, but that somehow it seemed to fit my personality best. I must say I agree on both counts.
When I asked what was the first thing I should do in Idyllwild, Ian and Rodney didn't hesitate with a response. A walk along the creek that runs behind the Inn was in order. I was instantly calmer when I heard the babbling of the creek beside me, and it was the perfect way to make my way into town.
My first stop in town was the two-story collection of quaint shops affectionately known as The Fort. Tahquitz Peak, shown behind me as I posed on the second floor of The Fort, is famous among rock climbers and overlooks the friendly, vibrant town.
A little parched and needing a treat, I picked up a few old favorites at Idyllwild Soda Pop & Sweets/Remember When Toys. If you're looking for the nostalgia of long-forgotten soft drink, candy, and toy brands, here's where you'll find them all.
At The Fort I stumbled upon a wonderland of color and surprises, a unique store called Himalayan Treasures. I couldn't resist picking up a few things from their selection of hand-crafted jewelry, fabric art, wall hangings, Tibetan bowls, clothing, music, crystals, books, prayer flags, scarves, and jackets. They even have raw silk yarn for knitters!
And what's this? This looks promising!
Coyote Red's--Delicious Jerky, Amish Foods, Jams & Preserves, BBQ Sauces, Hot Sauces, Rubs, Snacks, Popcorn. Yes, please!
I decided to head back to the Strawberry Creek Inn to spend some time among their 1 1/4-acre grounds overlooking the creek while I could still enjoy them in the daylight. It was early Spring, and the native wildflowers were just starting to make their appearance.
There were plenty of sitting areas nestled among the sprawling grounds (although I've pretty much got that covered). The Strawberry Creek Inn has been certified as a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat, and as I looked closely at many of the trees on the property I discovered that they were showing the first signs of what would soon be peaches, pears, apples, berries, grapes and other delectable fruits.
Ian and Rodney were nice enough to give me an up-close view of one of their honeybee hives. Turns out bees can get a little testy when you're this close to their precious honey, so safety first!
Next I spent some quality time with the Inn's supermodel laying hens. There's nothing like eggs--laid this morning--for breakfast!
It pays to be The Red Chair. Ian and Rodney also gave me a private tour inside the chicken run. Hens, it seems, are a little more understanding than bees. No special clothing required.
Although Idyllwild has a fine collection of world-class restaurants, after the candy and soda and snacks earlier I decided to end the day with a glass (or two) of specialty wine chosen just for me by the staff at Idyll Awhile Wine Shoppe. Just a few appetizers perfectly paired with my wine and I was good for the evening.
I even met some new friends at the bar. . .
. . . and got to sit in with some of the local musicians.
After an amazing breakfast at the Inn, I wandered back into town where I ran into a couple of Pacific Crest Trail hikers. This 2,650 mile trail runs from Canada to Mexico across some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable (including the area in and around Idyllwild). Hikers often quit their jobs, give up their housing, and spend six months or so of their lives completing the trail. The Red Chair can relate to that.
Idyllwild is all about art. In fact it was named one of the 100 Best Small Art Towns. Idyllwild's seriousness about its art was evident as I strolled through town and spotted the colorful sculptures known as the Idyllwild Deer Sightings. Scattered throughout town, these unique works of art were orchestrated by the Art Alliance of Idyllwild.
The Acorn Gallery is one of the many galleries in Idyllwild, but it was clearly one of my favorites. Featuring the work of over 45 artists (most of them Idyllwild locals), the gallery offers for sale a variety of jewelry, paintings, ceramics, photos, wood turnings, lamps, and more.
Idyllwild is just as serious--if not more--about its connection to nature, and Lily Rock Native Gardens aims to promote sustainability in landscaping, one garden at a time.
Jackie and Bronwyn are the charming proprietors of Lily Rock Native Gardens. I think Jackie has a bit of a crush on me.
Sky Island Natural Foods is Idyllwild’s source for local and organic foods. They host a farmers market every Saturday featuring locally grown produce, artisan foods, local artists, and live music. They even produce their own line of raw, organic nut butters, nut milks, nuts, seeds, olives, sauerkraut, trail mixes, and crunches. More snacks to take back to the Inn with me!
Dore's Mountain Art Garden combines Idyllwild's two main passions--art and nature. An expansive property of rolling hills dotted with outdoor metal sculptures by Dore Capitani and environmental photography by Trish Tuley, this outdoor art garden is truly something to behold. I could have spent all day there. In fact, I almost did.
On the way home from Dore's Art Garden i passed through a harrowing reminder that ten months ago this gem of a town came within inches of being burned to the ground by the 26,000-acre Mountain Fire. Much of the wilderness around the town did burn, and the evidence of the fire's destruction can be seen from the road along a short stretch of the main highway into town.
But closer to the road, the evidence of new life springing up from the charred remains is also evident.
I wish I could show you more of my visits to the amazing restaurants and attractions in Idyllwild, but much of the time I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to stop for photos. You'll just have to visit yourself and fall in love like I did.
I did snap a few more photos around the Strawberry Creek Inn.