To escape the overcast sky of the coast, we dress in sneakers and shorts and pack a cooling box with some iced tea. Then we head north on HWY 15, via Poway to Ramona and further up towards Julian. At Wynona Road we take a left and bypass Julian. Soon after we get to HWY 78 again (actually just after the road takes a 90 degree left turn) we leave it and take a gravel road. It’s a road without a name which is quite easy to drive. It leads through the mountains that separate the coast from the desert. Part of the road leads through Anza-Borrego State Park. After about 5 miles we get to an intersection where we turn left on the Mason Valley Truck Trail. Not far into this road we see a sign “4 wheel drive recommended”! Indeed, from here the road (trail) gets worse and worse, more and more rocky and in parts quite steep – the first real off-road challenge for us with the Toyota 4Runner! At one point we have to wait for some Jeeps that are making their way up the hill and despite having Wranglers (real off-roaders) some of them struggle a lot. But, as driver and 4Runner are excellent and work together very well, we master the (about) 5 miles through Oriflamme Canyon to HWY S2 without any critical moments and scratches (as expected)! The Toyota is a far better off-road car than the Jeep we had and we are still very happy with our investment!
Even though it is fall and hasn’t rained for months now, the landscape wasn’t as dry and bland as you could think. It was very nice and surprisingly colorful: