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Alpine a study in mountain life, history and beauty

About a half-hour drive east of San Diego along Interstate 8, nestled beside the Cleveland National Forest, lies a quiet little town that many motorists just drive by. It has history and charm, neighborliness and natural beauty, yet perhaps it's not as familiar as other mountain spots that attract streams of visitors.

The former stagecoach stop is a suburb of small subdivisions on cul de sacs, ranch-style houses on gravel roads, and custom homes reached by winding driveways. In May 2015 the median price of single-family home in Alpine (91901) was $495,000.

Houses in Alpine
More than 17,000 people now live in the broad Alpine planning area that stretches along Kumeyaay Highway (I-8) west toward Lakeside and east past the Viejas Indian Reservation..

"Julian's got apple pies, but what does Alpine have?" asks Shelly Walsh. That's an important question for Walsh because she owns The Enchanted Village Workshop & Mercantile, a collection of shops here that sell candles, soaps, jewelry, tie dye clothes, fine art and other work by a dozen local artists.

Searching for a formula to attract shoppers, she also gives art classes, rents out the place for private parties, and opened a juice bar and coffee shop. "Everybody who lives down the hill thinks it's far away," says Walsh. "Getting people up here" is her biggest challenge, a challenge that the local business community shares.

Alpine Village
The Enchanted Village Workshop & Mercantile in downtown Alpine sells arts and crafts by local artists. Photo by Ron Ham.

Alpine has a rich history. Europeans first visited the area in 1782, when Spanish soldiers looked for a better route to San Diego, according to Carol Morrison, president of the Alpine Historical Society.

"Most of the people who settled here from the 1870s to the 1950s were farmers and ranchers...land was cheap," though the rainfall and water supply were limited, she writes on the society's website.

More than 17,000 people now live in the broad Alpine planning area that stretches along Kumeyaay Highway (I-8) west toward Lakeside and east past the Viejas Indian Reservation, and includes smaller communities to the north and south.

Aline photos
LEFT: A golden eagle is one of many sculptures at the Viejas Outlet Center. RIGHT: Located only a half-hour drive east of San Diego, the peaceful area around Alpine feels like it's a world away.

It has a post office, county branch library, sheriff's substation, Forest Service station, and even a community center, but no movie theater, no high school (until 2013, that is), and no big shopping mall - though the Viejas Outlet Center is just one freeway off-ramp east.
Morrison says native Americans have lived in the area for more than 12,000 years, and many families from European stock for six generations and more.

A 21-year resident whose organization maintains three historic buildings, she says Alpine is "a unique community. It's sort of isolated, but it's really not far from the city...I can go anywhere I want to go in 30 minutes."

Casino
The Viejas Casino and Turf Club, here seen from the Viejas Outlet Center outdoor mall, is just east of Alpine, on the Indian reservation

Morrison thinks the community's biggest challenge is the Sunrise Powerlink project, which aims to build high-power lines from Imperial County to San Diego, including underground wires through Alpine. Work has already begun locally, and she fears that the noise and construction will disrupt local businesses.

No matter what the future brings, the mild weather and the national forest will always give residents good reasons to call Alpine home. "I like that it has seasons - there's more trees, more stars, more seasons, and trails" says Walsh. "Sometimes it snows."

Beaty House
The Adam and Caroline Beaty House, built in 1899, is one of three historical structures maintained by Alpine Historical Society. Photo by Ron Ham.


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ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Alpine Elementary
4300 Allen School Rd.

Boulder Oaks Elementary
2320 Tavern Rd.

Shadow Hills Elementary
8770 Harbison Canyon Rd.

Mountain View Learning Academy
8770 Harbison Canyon Rd.

Alpine Christian School K-8
267 W. Victoria Dr.


RESTAURANTS


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