Last night I drove around the De Luz area at sunset and it was beautiful. I decided to come back at sunrise, even if it required waking up at 0500.

As I headed down the 15, I noticed fog beginning to form in the Lake Elsinore valley. The eastern sky was getting brighter, but a good 50 or so vertical feet of fog had formed in the valley before the sun had even appeared on the horizon.

South of Murietta and Southeast of the Santa Rosa Plateau is a dirt section of De Luz road that leads up from the valley floor into De Luz Heights. Fully prepared for a rutted, washed-out mess, I started up the incline and found it to be pleasantly not shit. There were some large, sharp rocks in the road, but nothing I couldn’t either drive around or over. The incline was smooth and consistent for the entire length of the dirt section and I never had any problems with traction that I didn’t intentionally cause.

The fog started to wane as I reached the pavement again, and by the time I drew near to the main road, I could see the sky.

Wisps of fog floating gently by in the glow of the predawn sun near the intersection of De Luz Road and Calle Capistrano.

Wisps of fog floating gently by in the glow of the predawn sun near the intersection of De Luz Road and Calle Capistrano.

I headed slowly east along Rancho California, enjoying the tide of soft fog lapping up against the hills on either side of the road.

All along the road are private driveways and fire roads running off into the distance, and it’s quite rare to see a driveway without a gate. I noticed one such opening to the east and kept driving on for a while until I decided to make a U-turn to get back to it.

I was glad I went back.

The small, dirt turnoff emptied into a place which Google calls Rancho California Scenic Overlook .

It may have been private at one point - there were the remnants of a sign and cord that may have been stretched across the driveway at some point in the past - but the site looked like it was open to the general public nowadays.

I arrived precisely at sunrise, as well.

For a few minutes, I sat on the hood of my car and watched the sun come up over the switchbacks that carried Rancho California into De Luz heights from the valley below. The fog was on the move now, fleeing from the sudden sunshine into the ever-narrowing shadows.

The gas station coffee I had wasn’t very good, but it was better than nothing.

To the east, I could see the thick bank of fog covering Murietta and Temecula.

At a leisurely Sunday’s pace, I made my way along Via Vaquero, Sandia Creek, turned back north on to De Luz, and then took Carancho westward.

If you’re a fan of scenic, winding roads, I highly recommend this area, especially at sunrise or sunset. It’s tempting to speed up for the dips and turns, but keep in mind that people do live here; it’s best to fight that urge.

Early-morning fog filling the low-laying areas of De Luz Heights and Fallbrook, California.

Early-morning fog filling the low-laying areas of De Luz Heights and Fallbrook, California.

From a bend on El Calamar , looking south roughly an hour later, I could see much of the low-laying areas were still shrouded by fog.

The fog began to burn off as I crested the Santa Rosa Plateau, and from then on, it was like any other late-summer/early-fall day in Southern California, except for the fact that it was the beginning of December.