The sleepy, rural community beneath the Santa Lucia Mountains is a great place to nestle in and savor the season of autumn. We took pictures to convince you.
We’ve provided pictorial tours of various areas in proximity to SSCS, namely, Pacific Grove, Monterey, and Carmel, but we haven’t had the opportunity to highlight Carmel Valley. It’s an oversight of some seriousness, because the Valley is every bit as enticing as those other locales. If you like warmth, horses, or seclusion—even in tourist season—you may like it even better.
The Valley runs parallel to the Carmel River, and is nestled beneath the towering Santa Lucia Mountains. The setting is remote and peaceful and still. Magical, even. It’s agricultural, not in the commercial sense of the much larger Salinas Valley, but in a boutique sense, as any number of wineries and country inns with locally sourced produce will attest.
Carmel Valley Village, the commercial hub (in a rather loose sense of the word) of the region, is only about 12 miles inland (east) from Carmel-by-the-Sea, but it might as well be a world away.
Though the Village is deep in the Valley, you start your descent miles before, not far from Carmel-by-the-Sea, actually. Several vista points off of Carmel Valley Road, the area’s main thoroughfare (there are no others), allow you to take measure of the world you are about to enter. This photo barely does justice to the scope of the view, but it does hint that you may be on the threshold of something hidden and maybe a little bit special.
Our first stop on our way inland is Hacienda Hay and Feed. This is a kid friendly place and they do the fall season up right (the photo that leads off this article was taken there). One of the reasons families love this place is they have a small zoo where you can find, among more traditional farm animals, an emu:
Okay, we know this is supposed to be an article about autumn and maybe a turkey would be more appropriate, but come on—no way a turkey is as cool as an emu, right?
Next to Hacienda Hay and Feed is perhaps our favorite spot in the Valley Earthbound Farm:
Earthbound has have a tee-pee, a labyrinth, and until a few years ago, a pretty nice corn maze. They also provide student tours that educate guests on the ins and outs of organic farming. When autumn arrives, you can find every kind of pumpkin or gourd you can think of. We posted a photo a few days ago to prove it.
We also found the somewhat stylish scarecrow pictured at right, when we were walking out in the crops. The herb garden smells wonderful, by the way.
Getting back in your car and continuing your journey down toward the Village, you might almost miss a small commercial enclave just off of Carmel Valley Road that evokes the flavor of the area as well as any. It’s called the Farm Center and it’s made up of former ranch buildings. You’ll find Carmel Valley Mercantile there. We stopped by to take a few shots because we thought it looked pretty cool:
The Farm Center is located in a general area known as Mid-Valley, which makes plenty of sense since the location is approximately half-way between Highway 1 (which runs right by Carmel-by-the-Sea) and Carmel Valley Village, our next, and final (for today) destination.
The Village, with just a hair over 4,000 people, is unincoporated (residents are a fiercely independent lot: they voted down incorporation only a few years ago).
Visiting the Valley is like visiting another time, when life was simpler and quieter, and people lived in closer proximity to the land. You might get a sense of that as you first approach:
While a picture of downtown Carmel Valley may not do much more than reinforce its sleepy character and offer a glimpse of the breathtaking backdrop provided by the Santa Lucias…
…if you zoom in close enough to an individual business, say The Corkscrew Cafe, the flavor comes through a bit more strongly:
And yes, we know that this is a blog for the industry, and we haven’t forgotten. The reality of the matter is Kasey’s, the premier (and only) C-store in the Village is the nexus of community activity, a fact to which we can attest since we have visited it again and again, for gas, ice cream, donuts, coffee, and the occasional nip of an adult beverage. They even have the occasional raffle for a fully functional chainsaw…but then that’s the Valley for you.
That’s all the time we have for now. Tomorrow we’re going to feature a special short Friday blog post with a few more autumn photos, this time shot in the Salinas Valley. We promise plenty of pumpkins and gourds.
For now we’ll leave you with this really nice poster for the Cowgirl Winery and Tasting Room, just a short walk from Kasey’s.