Summer is settling in at last upon the hills and dales of Julian, bringing with it the toasty smell of sun-dried grass and the cool, vanilla-like fragrance of Jeffrey pines. Bicycling is a good way to appreciate the sensory feast of our local mountains -- and summer isn't bad, especially if you take advantage of early sunrises or late sunsets. Sunday mornings and weekday evenings (say, from 6 to 8) are great times for avoiding the midday heat and much of the local and tourist traffic.
Several back roads around Julian offer superb cycling opportunities, provided you have a low set of gears to negotiate occasional steep grades. Arrowed on the accompanying map is a figure-8 pavement tour of about 18 miles, but you can certainly improvise with extensions or abbreviations.
Park off Highway 78/79 in the tiny community of Wynola and cycle east on Wynola Road. This excessively sinuous country road rises gradually through oak and pine forests, punctuated by all too many pine snags, the casualties of the recent string of drought years. The lay of the roadway recalls early road-building techniques that emphasized gentle grades and hardly any disturbance of the natural contours of the land.
After three miles, turn right on Farmer Road and begin struggling over a sharp summit toward Julian. When near the top, look back at the tidy rows of apple trees spread below the imposing wall of the Volcan Mountains. When you reach Julian, skirt the crowds by hanging a right at Highway 78/79. Coast a mile down to Pine Hills Road and turn left.
Now glide through some of the finer rural scenery in the county. As you pass Eagle Peak Road on the right, consider extending your tour by way of a circuitous exploration of the Pine Hills community via paved and partly unpaved roads (it's best if you have a detailed street map of that area). Our main route, however, continues south to Frisius Drive, the gateway to the magnificent William Heise County Park. You can tank up on water there and tool around a bit through the park's shady camping areas.
Return to Highway 78/79 by way of Deer Lake Park Road. On the way, notice the fine specimens of red-barked manzanita. Manzanita berries (manzanita is Spanish for "little apple") might be thought of as Julian's original apples. They're marginally edible when reddish ripe.
The final stretch down the highway to your starting point at Wynola is almost entirely downhill.