Where Winter Wonderland Comes From


We have discovered where winter wonderland comes from! It’s from a tiny mountain village of Idyllwild in Southern California. For us, it is undoubtedly one of the most significant discoveries of 2017.

The place is exactly what is sounds like – Idyllwild. Say it. Taste it. Feel the tremble of expectation, the urge of discovery rising inside? That’s the subtle magic of Idyllwild.


img_20161231_120006Silence and grandeur enwrapped us upon arrival. For city dwellers like ourselves, silence was quite a unique pleasure.  And as if the majestic surrounding was not enough, there were squirrels and elks right at our doorstep. This squirrel is almost like a pet of our hosts – it comes daily at breakfast time for his share of peanuts.

Speaking of magic, Idyllwild sure enjoys a pun or two with a gullible visitor. For us, the Mountain Center pun was the best played. For you see, from its name, we expected it to be a Visitor Center of sorts, on the top of the mountain, of course. But what do we know?! It’s an actual geographical center of the mountain! Without a visitor center but with a lovely homey cafe (Mountain Center Cafe) and a gas station (with very reasonable prices).


The other trick – quite literally, the Riddle of the Sphynx type of trick – is getting to Idyllwild. Since Idyllwild in located in the mountains (on the Hill, as locals say), the road from the surrounding plateau (Valley, as the locals refer to) is winding (from Banning, CA). And believe me when I say it’s winding. The fact that the road is called a Panoramic Highway does NOT compensate for the stress of driving up along it. 80 miles of head-spinning up-going winding-ness!


The trick is to take a less winding route (through Hemet, CA), which is longer and therefore not suggested by the cursed GPS.

We, naturally, took a shorter route. And since we were going to celebrate the New Year there, it was winter as we drove from Las Vegas to Idyllwild, implying that it gets dark early. By which I mean that we got to Banning, the starting point of the 80-mile ascend, at dusk. Those of you with good imagination may easily envision how much we enjoyed the Panoramic Highway, driving in the dark, for the first time, not sure of the road conditions, slowly creeping like a turtle not to miss a turn. Oh, did I mention the screaming baby in the back seat? Well, now you have a full picture. Be happy you were not the driver that day 🙂

But it was all worth it! Idyllwild Nature Center, Humber Park and the downtown are a candy to the eye and joy to the heart!

The world’s largest pine cones grow at Idyllwild Nature Center grown  – at least that’s what we were told by the Canter’s ranger. Granted, those pine cones are ENORMOUS,  larger than those we saw at Big Bear Lake, and in this pic they are still closed:


The downtown is all rustic and wooden, with plenty delicious locally-owned restaurants and TWO huge Christmas trees! Both of which are a growing trees, a part of the community. Isn’t that precious?!

If you are not yet convinced that Idyllwild is the most idyllic place to celebrate winter holidays, I give you my ultimate reason: Wishes come true here.  Mine did. Idyllwild made my first wish of 2017 come true! I wished for snow. Seriously, having spent 5 winters in Vegas I longed for snowy New Year. And it happened! It started snowing on New Year’s Eve and on the first day of 2017 this is what we woke up to:     




Wind Horse in the Mountains

In Feng-Shui, the concept of personal inner energy and strength is referred to as personal Wind Horse. In any given year, a strong Wind Horse empowers one to notice, grab and benefit from the opportunities the year has to offer. However, if one’s Wind Horse is weak, there is no way to make the best of the year, no matter how many opportunities come along.  It’s quite simple, actually, (that is, provided that you believe in energy) – when you are weak, you can’t perform to the best of your abilities.


Tibetan prayer flags are widely used to strengthen one’s Wind Horse. It’s best to hang a string of these colorful flags with mantras and protective symbols somewhere high in your home or maybe even above the roof.

This year I’ve decided to go further, literally 🙂 I believe that adding a personal touch, like coloring the flags by hand, adds my personal energy to an impersonal store-bought flag. So, I got my string of Wind Horse prayer flags and made many-many black and white copies. Then I took my highlighters and colored the flags in yellow, green, red, blue, leaving some just plain white, according to the colors of 5 elements: Fire, Earth, Water, Metal and Wood. After coloring I made strings of flags, 10 flags on a string, 2 of each color.

On the first Saturday after the New Year, we went to the mountains to hang our Wind Horse flags as high up as we could get 🙂


I think I have already mentioned Mt. Charleston, the highest peak in Spring Mountains of Nevada. It’s a real mountain chain, tiny compared to some others, but significant on our Las Vegas plateau, with the elevation of 11,916 ft (3,632 m). There is even a Ski Resort there 😉 This grand mountain, with four natural seasons, is only some 30 minutes drive from Las Vegas downtown and it blows my mind every single time I go there. This is where we go to get our portion of snow and the feel of the Real New Year!  20121230_14350120121230_132025

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All that was last year, December 30, 2014. And you can tell I missed the snow!

This year, however, the purpose of our annual mountain walk was different from simply enjoying the snow. We went to empower our personal inner Wind Horses for the upcoming Year of the Sheep/Goat 🙂

This is how it looked:

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Love was grateful I had only 4 strings of those flags with me, as should I have had more, I would have climbed more trees to hang them on! This time only 3 trees got “Feng-Shui’ed” by my enthusiasm 🙂


20150103_145222I spotted these darling tiny pine cones by their smell – wonderful, fresh nutty smell of pine thus! They were all sticky and so delicious that I brought a handful home, a pity attempt to bring in real winter to the house.

Hope you had a good Real New Year yourselves!

Red Rock

In case you had no idea (which not many have due to the specific character of the Sin City), there are mountains in Las Vegas. Real mountains. 30 minutes away from the Strip.

Here is my proof:          Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada

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That up there is the tree we set up as our destination for this time:


We had a lovely lunch up there, and this is the view of the valley from behind the tree. It’s hard to believe, but the famous Las Vegas Boulevard, aka the Strip, is still visible from up here. It’s far in the distance, but feels like in a parallel Universe.



These mountains are indeed red in color,  with pleasant rough texture and remind me of a layered Napoleon cake, really! Really easy to climb, too. No climbing equipment necessary, besides good shoes, naturally and maybe a pair of slip-preventing gloves. I would even call it walking up the mountains, so layered and steps-like they are. Not comparable to the Carpathians or Georgian mountains I am used to!

Some rock formations are quite engaging. This one reminded us a toad or a dragon.



Another one looked like a horse:



This last  one needs no caption 🙂