Each year, thousands of tourists from all over the world visit La Jolla for its beautiful beaches and sunshine. One wouldn’t think this particular area of San Diego would house any shred of mystique, let alone secret monuments and legends of munchkin houses. La Jolla is just a tourist destination with some great weather – right? Not quite. Keep reading to learn about the myths and secret spots of La Jolla.
1. The “Munchkin Houses”
Legend has it that there are one or two “miniature houses” squirreled away on Mount Soledad that were built a long time ago by the little people who appeared in the Wizard of Oz film; they allegedly came down to San Diego and built themselves a small (literally) colony to maintain their privacy. People say a normal-sized person can actually touch the roof of these houses, and would have to crouch down to even fit through the doorway.
Alright, so what’s the real story here? Well, unfortunately there aren’t really any midget houses, although the movie did come out around the same time that the homes were constructed. The homes (there were originally four) are themselves very real: they were built by famous architect Cliff May, who often built homes to accommodate the lay of the land – in this case, an incredibly steep hillside that, when built upon, could provoke the very real danger of landslides.
There is only one remaining home, the one shown above, and it’s unoccupied as of recently. It does have features that a vivid imagination could interpret as “munchkin,” such as cobblestone floors and a round, small fireplace. The hill’s geography, however, explains the optical illusion of 7477 Hillside Drive: Houses that side of the mountain are built on the hillside just below the road, so from it, the structures appear shorter than normal – even though they are of normal dimensions for the time (late 1930s in this case, when the average height was about 5’8 for men and 5’3 for women).
If you’re interested in a little folklore, it’s worth a trip up the mountain for a visit! To find the house, simply take a right onto Hillside Drive from Torrey Pines Road and keep left to stay on it until you reach 7477.
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2. The Troll Bridges
There are three old stone bridges hidden among the windy roads of Mount Soledad. Those who were convinced of the “munchkin” legend’s veracity dubbed these small secluded bridges “troll bridges” to continue with the mythical theme. To find these little curiosities, follow Exchange Place onto Soledad Road and make a right onto Al Bahr Drive; travel the road until you see a structure you can’t possibly miss – a miniature arched bridge that looks oddly out of place and strangely similar to the Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park.
Follow the hairpin turn past the bridge and make a right on Crespo Drive. Continue on until you get to Hillside (entering “Midget territory” again!) and make a right, then another right on Castellana Road; there you’ll find the 2nd bridge. Then head over to Puente Drive to discover the most beautiful and exotic of the bridges – and a spectacular view!
3. La Jolla’s Very Own “Gravity Hill”
Gravity Hills are locations at the base of a slope or hill where, supposedly, if you park your car and leave it in neutral, it will roll up the slope of the nearby hill. La Jolla’s very own rumored spot is located on West Muirlands Drive between Nautilus and Fay Streets. There’s a sharp left curve on Muirlands, and the Gravity Hill is shortly after it.
The road is best tested by traveling from Nautilus towards Fay St.; once you’re on W. Muirlands, line up your right rear tire with the telephone pole on the right side of the street with the fairway (it has three yellow stripes). Put your car in neutral and roll away!
SEE ALSO: The Most Unique Gardens in San Diego
4. Ho Chi Minh Trail
Known mostly by UCSD students and surfers, the Ho Chi Minh Trail got its name in the 60s when students named it for the infamous Trail of the same name in Vietnam. During the war, it was a heavily trafficked footpath that meandered through sparsely-populated region of rugged mountains (some up to 8,000 feet), triple-canopy jungle and dense primeval rainforests. Though much less well known, La Jolla’s trail is full of its own intrigue: wild life, strange cliff formations, and a peculiar smelly stream that runs down to the ocean.
The most interesting part of the trail is the “Sand Steps,” which are a group of small sand cliffs that have been carved out by erosion from hikers’ feet over the years. The trail from there leads to an opening in the ravine and down to Black’s Beach. To find this tucked-away secret, just go to the end of Salk Institute Rd and follow the pathway.
5. The Mushroom House
This oceanfront house was designed and built in 1968 by Dale Naegle for Sam Bell of Bell’s potato chips. Bell instructed him to build a futuristic-looking, fully earthquake-proof structure as a quiet beachside retreat nestled into the cliffs. Bell actually had 2 houses constructed – the main house at the top, and the oceanfront retreat at the bottom. There was originally a tram that carried people from the roadside house down to the mushroom structure.
Sadly, it was removed just a few years later, leaving visitors to fend for themselves and trek to the house on foot. The house stands on a concrete column 10 feet in diameter, with high concrete walls to protect against high surf and tides. The Mushroom house also features an expansive 180-degree view all the way from Torrey Pines State Park to La Jolla. Needless to say, Bell’s ocean retreat was a perfect getaway – not to mention unique!
[information courtesy of sandiegotraveltips.com, roadsideamerica.com, & sandiego.about.com] [photos: zillow.com, bikeridesandiego.com, waymarking.com, pinterest.com]
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