HIDDEN GEMS OF JACUMBA
**THIS IS AN ONGOING PAGE OF UNIQUE HIKES AND PLACES TO EXPLORE IN JACUMBA**
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The land of Jacumba has been occupied by man for thousands of years. Prior to European settlement, the Kumeyaay called this land home, possibly due to the natural hot spring which reaches temperatures of 104 °F.
During the turn of the century, the healing claims of mineral hot springs was all the craze and drove every elite and famous Hollywood legend at the time out here. They hailed Jacumba as “a prime destination for relaxation.”
The spot they were visiting, the Jacumba Hotel, eventually went out of business once the Highway 8 was put in, driving business away from the town. In the 1980’s the hotel burned down.
Despite being a bit of a ghost town these days, there are still many hidden gems to find along the way!
1. BOULDER PARK
Across the parking lot from the Desert View Tower is a jumbled mass of boulders just aching to be scrambled. Random faces and animals are waiting to greet you at every turn. Certainly not easy for the claustrophobic. Boulder Park has been a fixture in the desert since the early 1930s. W.T. Ratcliff, an out-of-work engineer, carved into the granite during the Great Depression for a reported $1 a day… in desert temperatures. Ouch.
2. DESERT VIEW TOWER
Constructed by Burt Vaughn between 1922 and 1928, the Desert View Tower is an imposing 70-foot tall rock tower that provides an expansive view of the boulder-rific mountains of East San Diego County and the flat reaches of the Imperial County desert from a lofty 3,000 feet above sea level.
3. HIGH DESERT RETREAT
Having visited the Institute of Perception grounds before, I felt I had a decent grasp on the experience I would be getting myself into here. The second the High Desert Retreat’s doors were opened though, I knew we were entering a whole new level. The evening did not disappoint.
There is SO much to do and soak in here. We took advantage of everything offered: exploring the abandoned trains and taking the sacred walk, meditating in the pyramid, playing with the instruments, we cooked delicious meals, soaked in the outdoor tub under the stars, made a bonfire, appreciated the art gallery while making our own art, lounged in the indoor tub. This place is pure magic and it’s got to be near impossible not to feel that.
4. SMUGGLER’S CAVE
The oldest story of the Smugglers Cave actually has ties with another spot on our site, The Campo Stone Store Museum The Stone Store was the result of a raid by border bandits in 1875. The bandit was apparently shot in the shoulder and took refuge in this cave while hiding out and healing. Eventually he was found and murdered. News spread quickly with a sketch in a local newspaper of the outlaw laying dead outside the smuggler’s cave.
In the early 1900’s, Chinese immigrants were smuggled across the Mexican border and found refuge inside of the cave. They would camp here and were shielded from the harsh winds and weather conditions. Eventually border patrol was alerted to the smuggling in this area and has since kept a close eye on the area.
5. CARIZZO GORGE RAILYARD
The depot in Jacumba Hot Springs for the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad’s Desert Line was built in 1919 and handled passenger traffic until 1951. Although the adobe depot is now a private residence, you can still walk through the railyard and photograph some amazing railcars. Please do not disturb anyone and be courteous. This IS someone’s private property, after all- the Institute of Perception.
6. COYOTE’S UFO REPAIR SHOP
After visiting the Desert View Tower & Boulder Park, we were ready to head on down highway 80 to find some good abandoned homes & maybe even some ghost towns! WELL, that quickly changed when we noticed a few flying saucers on the side of the road with a sign that read “Coyote’s Flying Saucer Retrievals & Repairs”. Stop the car!
Heading over, we were quickly greeted by the “store” owner, Coyote. What a character this man is! I have never met anyone like him. He comes off as a very sincere man to me, quirky as can be, a forever-child at heart & just brimming with extraterrestrial humor. His store front not only consists of flying saucers, but also a “theater” in the back where they have movie night, projecting the films onto a huge boulder.
When we were bidding farewell, Coyote insisted that we all get inside the saucer for a group photo. Suddenly “Oops!” he hit the wrong button. Next thing you know we were going out for a ride! What an entertaining tour! Especially since this was all unplanned. One second we’re driving looking for abandoned homes, next thing you know we’re cruising around in a flying saucer! Coyote was an excellent tour guide, pointing out alien sightings & artwork & “portals to new dimensions”. It was loads of fun.
7. INSTITUTE OF PERCEPTION
The Institute of Perception is located in the beautiful high desertwithin the town of Jacumba. The surrounding mountains form a natural interior bowl, created from a prehistoric meteor that also resulted in very low specific gravity for the area. The Institute building is situated at the base of the sacred mountain Jacumba peak, allowing a panoramic view of the entire valley below.
The natural landscape is a wonderland of unique rock formations scattered with desert fauna and abundant wildflowers. The Institute of Perception is dedicated to the Evolution of the human spirit through the arts. They are forming an artistic family, magicians of the arts, to enhance, activate, and broaden perception for the individual and the greater community.
8. OSAMA’S MICA MINE
We stumbled upon these mica mines by sheer accident one day. They glistened so beautifully with mica. I found this on the internet about the minerals: “The lower hillside around both sites sparkles with mica chips that litter the ground. We also found a lot of cream colored feldspar along with lots of garden variety quartz.
A couple of very small quartz pieces exhibited a little rainbow, but it was probably just diffraction. We obtained a couple of nice specimens of mica on feldspar, but in general, this site is not worth traveling any great distance to visit. If you’re in the area though, give it a look.”
9. SAGE WINDS FARMS
If you’ve ever driven along Old Highway 80, you may have noticed the colorful sign that says “Sage Winds Farm” with mentions of tie dye, sage products and more! I noticed it many times on our drives to Jacumba. One time we even drove down the dirt road to check it out but were confused at the time and thought we had just ended up at someone’s home. That is halfway true. The owners of the farm do live there, but it is also a business you are welcome to visit!
The 40-acre property has been owned and operated by Ken Taylor and Ellen Woodward-Taylor since 2008. When they first moved onto the ranch, they noticed an abundance of white sage. White sage is considered sacred in Native American culture. In fact, we did an entire article on this plant which you can read here! White sage is not only known for ceremonial uses, but also has a ton of medicinal and external benefits.
10. ABANDONED RUINS OF OLD HIGHWAY 80
The first transcontinental highway, Highway 80, once stretched from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego, California and even included a portion made entirely of wood and iron across the dunes of Imperial County known as the Plank Road. Over the years, Highway 80 has been re-routed, re-numbered, bisected, absorbed by newer roads, decommissioned or abandoned in various places. The portion in eastern San Diego County has so much character that you should prepare to spend a full day poking through its nooks and crannies. Take your time, Fellow Explorers.