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Pine Mountain, California ( 34.856" N, 119.175" W ), Pop. 2,315, depending on who's home.


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Pine Mountain, elev. 5,500-ft, is a splendid little retreat completely surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, 100 miles north of LAX, 55 miles from the nearest traffic light, 20 miles west of the Grapevine off the I-5, near the hinge of the San Andreas and Garlock faults, on the northern edge of the Chumash Wilderness. There's something here for nearly everyone - golf, tennis, swimming, hiking, horseback riding, camping, cross-country skiing, fishing, mountain biking, poker, Parcheesi, to say nothing of the 70+ member Pine Mountain Scrappers quilt guild and the Babes-in-the-Woods Walking Club. It's always the first day of camp, and you don't have to go home Sunday.  
 
There are rumors Pine Mountain is a Witness Protection enclave. It's probably not true, but then again the town is less than 40 years old, it appears on few maps, the highway has no number, and the zip code is for a city 17 miles down the mountain to the east. Whatever it is, everyone smiles a lot. Anyone moving here after, say, 25 years in the city finds it a little unsettling at first. Customary urban ingredients are missing - belligerence, rage, drive-bys. While local Association politics tends to attract the chronically shallow and repel the more sagacious, the village is clean, beautiful, inexpensive, and safe. Mostly. Cars on surface streets pass so seldom everyone waves - even the geezers.

Terry and I have been here eight years and we're still waiting for the first shoe to drop - the delegation with lifeless eyes to appear on the porch, lead perhaps by someone who looks a little too much like Stephen King, and then we'll know.  Probably it will turn out that all who dare live this close to the Fault - which runs directly under the 9th fairway then passes less than 300 paces from our front deck - have bartered their existence with the Geology Gods and in return are required to smile - all the time. The smiles somehow hold the plates in place.  Any truculence and the fault lets loose. We're not taking any chances - we haven't stopped smiling since we got here.