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Alpine's Secret Valley

Alpine - Image by Alan Decker
Alpine

When I moved into Peutz Valley, this deadend, oak-lined community in Alpine, my family consisted of two boys still living at home, craving a country atmosphere. Here we could raise animals and grow a garden, learn the old arts of canning, butchering, milking, and cheese-making. The '70s provided this back-earth movement, and our few neighbors, like my family, immersed themselves in it, regardless of the distance between our homes. We learned the pleasure and the necessity of being good neighbors — we were there to transport trick-or-treaters to houses that sat at the top of steep driveways, when the alternative would be for valley kids to miss out on Halloween. We were willing to repair a roof or raise a barn when Santa Ana winds howled through the valley sending chickens, roofing shingles, and old barn sheet metal flying through the air. We counted on neighbors when there was trouble, enjoyed their company at Christmas and summer gatherings, but for the most part allowed them their privacy.

My private moments were spent dangling my legs off the old bridge that crossed Chocolate Creek. I watched the sycamore branches sway and dreamed poetry of this new world that I had discovered:

  • Implicit simplicity
  • Is being off the map
  • Knowing where you are
  • But no one knowing
  • where you're at
  • But, then your
  • endeavors
  • and your pleasures
  • make you boast of
  • this or that
  • And soon you find
  • you've fallen
  • in suburbia's tender
  • trap

And so time passed. My boys grew up, went off to college, married, all stronger for the values learned in this small replica of a working ranch. The two children, now grown, who did not benefit from growing up in Peutz Valley, were now bringing their children to the ranch, taking from it that specialized knowledge — how to trim the hooves of goats, to recognize that this is not just brush that covers our hills, but sage, and deer weed, ceanothus, and a thousand other distinct plants that have their own smell, herbal use, and beauty.

Generations now enjoy a rural community in the middle of this populated county, and they are joined by bicyclists and hikers who abide by the signs that indicate where to park their cars and put their trash. And we, the elderly and younger residents, savor every moment in our secret valley, perhaps made more visible when we talk about our home but especially treasured since the fire that swept through our hills on October 26, 2003.

Yes, we lost homes and animals, ancient oaks and yucca, and saddest of all, we lost a neighbor. The fire did not kill our spirit, but renewed our sense of community. We recognized again the experience of hard times and saw it draw us closer as we worked through the monstrous job of recovery. Like most historical lessons, we learned that it is not place or setting that make a community, but the need for human contact and a sense of belonging.

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Alpine - Image by Alan Decker
Alpine

When I moved into Peutz Valley, this deadend, oak-lined community in Alpine, my family consisted of two boys still living at home, craving a country atmosphere. Here we could raise animals and grow a garden, learn the old arts of canning, butchering, milking, and cheese-making. The '70s provided this back-earth movement, and our few neighbors, like my family, immersed themselves in it, regardless of the distance between our homes. We learned the pleasure and the necessity of being good neighbors — we were there to transport trick-or-treaters to houses that sat at the top of steep driveways, when the alternative would be for valley kids to miss out on Halloween. We were willing to repair a roof or raise a barn when Santa Ana winds howled through the valley sending chickens, roofing shingles, and old barn sheet metal flying through the air. We counted on neighbors when there was trouble, enjoyed their company at Christmas and summer gatherings, but for the most part allowed them their privacy.

My private moments were spent dangling my legs off the old bridge that crossed Chocolate Creek. I watched the sycamore branches sway and dreamed poetry of this new world that I had discovered:

  • Implicit simplicity
  • Is being off the map
  • Knowing where you are
  • But no one knowing
  • where you're at
  • But, then your
  • endeavors
  • and your pleasures
  • make you boast of
  • this or that
  • And soon you find
  • you've fallen
  • in suburbia's tender
  • trap

And so time passed. My boys grew up, went off to college, married, all stronger for the values learned in this small replica of a working ranch. The two children, now grown, who did not benefit from growing up in Peutz Valley, were now bringing their children to the ranch, taking from it that specialized knowledge — how to trim the hooves of goats, to recognize that this is not just brush that covers our hills, but sage, and deer weed, ceanothus, and a thousand other distinct plants that have their own smell, herbal use, and beauty.

Generations now enjoy a rural community in the middle of this populated county, and they are joined by bicyclists and hikers who abide by the signs that indicate where to park their cars and put their trash. And we, the elderly and younger residents, savor every moment in our secret valley, perhaps made more visible when we talk about our home but especially treasured since the fire that swept through our hills on October 26, 2003.

Yes, we lost homes and animals, ancient oaks and yucca, and saddest of all, we lost a neighbor. The fire did not kill our spirit, but renewed our sense of community. We recognized again the experience of hard times and saw it draw us closer as we worked through the monstrous job of recovery. Like most historical lessons, we learned that it is not place or setting that make a community, but the need for human contact and a sense of belonging.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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