On our way home yesterday from a trip to the West Coast, we decided to stop as usual in Julian, this time for a casual lunch. Julian is a small, isolated old gold-mining town in California, up narrow and snaking state 78 to a high point in the Cuyamaca Mountains. The town is now noted in these parts for a different kind of nugget. Its apple pie.
As we approached town from the west, passing the Apple Tree Inn on the left, I voiced concern about our timing. Nebra said, “How busy can it be at noon in Julian?” Seemed logical. It was a Tuesday and the town has a population of only about 1,500 with a half dozen or more dining possibilities.
So much for assumptions.
Julian was swamped by visitors. There was virtually no parking spots left. Main Street was filled with pedestrians. Restaurants sported long wait lists. We couldn’t believe our eyes.
We finally discovered a parking place high on a hill near the cemetery in the northwest part of town. It was a quarter-mile stroll into the business center. It was sunny but a breeze made the 60 degree temperatures seem frosty. Couldn’t be the weather attracting these crowds.
Nebra hopped into a fairly long line at the Julian Pie Company and after 10-15 minutes ordered two apple pies to go. Outside, I saw a woman seated on a low wall with a child.
“We’re just passing through,” I said. “Do you know why all these people are in town?” By then I had started to believe a popular bluegrass band was playing nearby.
“I don’t know,” she said. “We live in San Diego and come up here every year about this time to get pies for the holidays.”
Like a bolt, it struck me. It was two days before Thanksgiving. Everybody was here for the pies. What’s Thanksgiving without Mom and apple pie?
“It gets worse about 1 o’clock,” someone told Nebra about the crowds.
With that piece of news, we walked back up to the car with our boxed pies and headed down the mountain toward home — but without lunch.