... is Silverado Canyon.
For those of you who are not acquainted with the South Eastern edge of the OC, the way to Silverado is to turn off Santiago Canyon road where Silverado Canyon Road connects to it about halfway between Irvine Lake and Cook's Corner.
The two lane road twists gently toward the base of Saddleback Mountain with only a few structures along the way. Without fail, I can feel myself relax a bit as the simple road pulls me deeper into what feels like another time and place far, far away from the Orange County beehive.
After a few miles, I gently roll into the town center. There is little more than a small post office, a tiny convenience store, a simple library and a few other buildings before you arrive at the dirt parking lot of the Silverado Cafe.
I first stumbled onto this funkiest of cafe's in the 1980's when it was still called the Pali Cafe. Nowadays, Felix runs the place. He is the owner and also the cook. Inside the Silverado Cafe you are likely to find a few locals chatting about this and that while drinking out of one of the mugs they just leave there to be washed and hung from a peg on the wall until their next visit. A "tab" is posted on the frig, just inside the front door, where the accumulated dining bill of some of the regulars is updated until the time comes for them to pay up and start over again. Oh, and just in case you're wondering: everything at the cafe is good, but the pancakes kill.
Once back in the car, the Canyon road twists on from there deeper into the heart of Silverado. In the wet season, the creek runs strong as it plays hide and seek with the roadside. Eventually, I find my special spot and pull the car just off the pavement. My cell phone is useless here. It's just me, the aspens, the creek and -- often enough -- a quiet breeze. I pluck my way down to where the water is running, Bible in hand. It's a great place to pace back and forth among the rocks and talk out loud to God. It's a great place to read the Word and to journal a few thoughts and insights, too. Once back at the car, the thought crosses my mind that it is a perfect day for a quick nap. More than once, I have given in to that temptation (without regret). Eventually, the time arrives to turn and head for home again.
Reluctantly, I pass the Cafe -- now from the other direction -- and emerge into the wider places of the Canyon until I arrive again at the junction with Santiago Canyon road. My cell phone, now alive again, may show that the larger world is awaiting my return. It makes me miss "my" Canyon all the more.
Often, I have dreamed of renting a room or buying one of the rustic homes along the simple roadside. I covet the privilege of having a mug of my own hanging on the wall of the Silverado Cafe -- a true local at last. But I don't suppose the Canyon will ever be my first home. But, whenever I can, I will be return there to talk to God, say "hi" to Felix and grab a bite to eat, and maybe fit in a little nap, too. If you ever come to the Canyon, look for me in one of these places. Don't worry: if I'm there, it won't be hard to find me.