The wide wheelbase of Jeep Rubicons kicks up age-old dust as they trundle across the dry open vistas of the desert. Inside, Borrego Jeep Photo Tours' guides describe local flora and fauna as they reveal the arid land's most spectacular natural formations such as Coyote Canyon or Split Mountain. They provide passengers with complimentary bottles of cold water and snacks on tours that last anywhere from two to six hours. Professional photographer Aaron Dennis accompanies every tour on their journey, providing guests with in-the-field photographic instruction as they capture their own images as keepsakes.
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Like his father, the former governor of the Argentinian state of Mendoza, Alejandro Orfila chose a life of diplomacy. From 1946 until the early 80s, his various public service roles included Argentine Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States and Argentine Ambassador to Japan. But like his grandfather, a winemaker whose 1905-established winery stands to this day, Alejandro harbored a lifelong love of viticulture. In 1994, Alejandro finally pursued that passion by founding Orfila Vineyards & Winery, a 70-acre hillside estate nestled within a 10,000-acre agricultural preserve in the San Pasqual Valley.
These days, winemaker Justin Mund oversees production on the estate, where grapes grow only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Using both the estate's grapes and others from the California coast, Justin crafts wines that have earned more than 1,300 medals in national and international competitions since the winery's founding. Guests can sample said wines in a tasting room overlooking the estate, as well as a second located at the Wynola Farms Marketplace in Julian. Besides tastings, Orfila hosts events ranging from live concerts to the annual Grape Stomp festival, where folks gather to watch traditional wine-making and grapes gather to hold their annual Shirley Jackson-esque lottery.
In choose-your-own-adventure-style trips, Julian Gold Expedition's staff leads small groups on gold-hunting tours that last anywhere from two to eight hours. During outings, groups can choose to hike through a secluded mine, which was discovered in 1870 and features a 150-foot tunnel, and pan for gold. Or, they can hop on Julian Gold Expedition's 4x4 and have one of the guides bring them to a different mine that has been credited with producing $800,000 worth of the precious metal. The day's work at either or both sites could pay off, too, since prospectors take home any gold they find as a keepsake.