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Palomar Mountain California,
by Brad Bailey
A Tourist’s Introduction
On the face of it, Palomar Mountain is one of the most striking natural environments in Southern California. Rising over a mile into the bright western sky; its steeply forested south face offers unparalleled vistas of the blue Pacific Ocean far below. It is a place of rich forests, dripping springs and the finest artesian waters on the planet.
The mountain is largely wilderness, and mostly under control of state and federal government agencies. Palomar is located about 30 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and 60 miles north of San Diego, California. The small population is dispersed along the southern summit and supports two private communities.
To the east the small enclave of Birch Hill is also known as Crestline for its single paved roadway. To the west is the tiny subdivision of Baileys. Northward is the Palomar Observatory compound which is a self sustaining community in its own right.
Just two paved roads service the area, running orthogonally north-
The mountain supports a little store, post office and restaurant, plus a state park, various federal and county campgrounds, and a few private camp and resort facilities. Several ranchers work tracks of lush, sheltered valleys behind locked gates accessible only by rutted dirt roads.
One Youngster’s Introduction
Yet to live on this remote mountaintop in southern California, along with a couple of hundred others in full time residence, is a singular experience within an equally rare environment.
Over a half century ago, my widowed grandmother lived here as the sole occupant of our family's former resort hotel. She always referred to it as “the home place.” To an impressionable youth (me), the view of Palomar Mountain through that nimbus seemed indeed a rarefied vision, simultaneously the stuff of belonging and beguilement.
For decades Grandma Adalind lived within what seemed to me like an old ghost town
In the drawer of the ornate brass cash register were little notes written on scrap
paper; perhaps a promise quickly dashed off by a neighbor short on change long ago.
From above the official Norman Rockwell Presidential portrait of “Ike” smiled down
like a kindly grandfather figure. The picture still dutifully hung in the tiny cubby-
In the evening we would sit before a massive stone fireplace in Grandma’s overstuffed
and faded chair, while our folks chatted in the tiny kitchen nearby. In the former
lobby of this turn-
Inside those pages, peering out from within tidy triangle boarders, were the old folks from days long past; one on horseback clothed in overalls, another behind the wheel of an open top touring car sporting a fedora, bow tie, and broad smile. At one time they had been a part of our mountain and had created the amazing world that remained decades later.
As documented in these black on white pictures, our mountain place dated back to
the late 1800s, and now seemed to be quietly sleeping off oblivion within our forested
mountaintop backwater; the terminus of three dead-
Here was a snap shot of six children who help paddy-
Education of this sort was not taught to us formally on the mountain. Local, stories,
traditions and legends were picked up piecemeal, usually through short, often funny
anecdotes and snippets of information told over Grandma’s kitchen counter or from
a her front porch rocking chair. What few collections survied were just a hodgepodge
of stories, photos, maps, postcards and all manner of bric-
Yet the true color of Palomar Mountain is more subtle and intriguing then mere collectables. It can best be found in the fabric of the lives and stories woven by those who have peopled this unique community in the past, and by those who carry on much the same traditions today.
In the series of articles to follow, I present a small collection of images and memorabilia
mostly from our families modest archive. The content has been arranged to help convey
a larger story which, due to the nature of the format, revolves around the images
I have at hand. Nonetheless, the effort is intended to be a tribute to the mountain
and its people, past and present, in appreciation of this truly unique, compelling
and timeless oasis in the sky.
About the Author
Brad Bailey is a fourth generation Palomar Mountain resident and president of the Bailey Historical Society, LLC, which operates Bailey’s Palomar Resort, the family’s century old destination resort.
He maintains an extensive private historical archive and museum on the site of the original 1888 township of Palomar Mountain, and is author of Palomar Mountain (Arcadia Press, 2009), which documents the mountain’s unique history with previously unpublished glass plate images, personal remembrances, maps, fliers and postcards that follows the fabric of this vibrant community’s past up to the present day.
Copyright © 2012 by Brad Bailey. All rights reserved.