Backcountry hidden pleasures: Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry
By Francine Phillips
May 25, 2018 (Valley Center) -- Tucked among ranch lands of Valley Center in northeast San Diego County is a space of peace and tranquility that offers the perfect getaway for San Diegans who want to set aside the hustle and bustle and reconnect with land, fragrance, and beauty.
Keys Creek Lavender Farm is a working farm where sloping hillsides grow rows of lavender, which is harvested, distilled and transformed into essential oil, medicinal creams, ointments, food ingredients and bouquets. Guests are transformed through yoga classes, cooking classes, gourmet meals, a walk on the labyrinth and vistas of native plants and palm trees.
Overnight guests take the transformation a step further, with a pleasant swimming pool, hot tub and sleeping in a luxury yurt or a charming cottage.
Getting to Keys Creek Lavender Farm is the beginning of your “journey is the reward” adventure. Driving up the I-15, you come upon Gopher Canyon Road. Make a quick right and then left on Old Castle Road, where you leave traffic behind. Check-in begins at 1 p.m., so there’s no hurry through the winding six miles, passing landscaped homes and ranches. Road signs are small and handmade, so be sure to have written instructions as a back-up for your GPS. I went about a couple miles out of my way, but people were friendly and happy to get me going in the right direction.
The one milestone not to miss is The Yellow Deli on Lilac Road. Not only is there great relief as confirmation that you are almost there, it’s a delightful stop for delicious food, a place to purchase homemade breads and jams and a take rest room break. I made a mental note to stop for breakfast in the morning, sit on the patio and drink in a last bit of relaxation. So glad I did. Best pancake ever.
The very next road past The Yellow Deli is the last lap to the Keys Creek Lavender Farm. Turn right on Keys Creek Road and then make your way another mile and a half until you see the farm entrance with a welcoming, rustic sign directing you to the overnight accommodations. Park in the paved lot and check in at the back patio of the house.
Alicia Wolff is originally from South Africa and moved to Southern Califiornia in 1989. She first saw the lavender fields in 2008 and recognized it as home. Since she purchased the land, she and her staff have worked tirelessly to make her vision of a healing sanctuary come to life.
"We work hard," Alicia told me. "After all, it's a farm, a manufacturing plant, a guest retreat, event venue and a home."
Still, the calm atmosphere and the love of the endeavor makes it a place of tranquility that melts away stress.
Alicia introduced me to my yurt and its heaters (which were easily lit), the salt water pool, outdoor showers and the rest rooms. The yurt had two double-sized memory-foam mattresses with Moroccan linens and room for sleeping bags. There were candle holders and small lights, all elaborately decorated with bright Indian fabrics and several pillows. Yurt guests also have full access to an aromatherapy spa and other amenities. I would suggest a small bench to help with dressing and putting on shoes.
If a cottage is more to your liking, the romantic two-story cottage features an outdoor rainshower and clawfoot bathtub with views of rolling lavender hillsides.
The sunset was spectacular and it was nice to hear the birds and other animals after dark, under the stars. I had a rest room call about 4:30 a.m., which made me grateful for the flashlight feature on my cell phone. A flashlight is a must. But I immediately went back to sleep.
About 8:30 a.m. I was awake and dressed and ready to take photos and walk the labyrinth. Here was my insight:
We think we are walking through life in a straight line forward, but actually there are switchbacks and times when we are only thinly divided from paths that we’ve walked before. We need to keep moving forward, even though we may end up only a step away from where we started.
Alicia greeted me with an offer of coffee or tea on the large dining area behind her house. I filled my cup and wandered to the veranda overlooking the purple flowers of the farm. The view was so peaceful.
After the car was packed, I hiked down to the gift shop and enjoyed stocking up on lavender products – arthritis balm for my sister, lavender bread mix for my pastry chef daughter, lavender honey, two sachets. There is an online shop on the website https://www.kclfarm.com/.
Classes and events are available May – June and by appointment the other months of the year. Accommodations are managed by Airbnb and event (celebrations, weddings, photo shoots) information is on the website and available through the e-newsletter. The website and Facebook page offers photos, reviews and links to videos.
Keys Creek Lavender Farm
12450 Key Creek Road
Valley Center, CA 92082
Mailing address is P.O. Box 2690 Valley Center, CA 92083
Francine Phillips is an award-winning author and writer and editor of California Garden magazine. She lives in La Mesa, California.
East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the County of San Diego for providing a Community Enhancement Grant to support our “Backcountry Hidden Pleasures” weekend getaways coverage.