“It’s been a struggle. We say things come in sets of three. I hope [the pandemic] was the last one,” says Raj Panchal, owner of Idyllwild Bunkhouse, a 74-year-old fixture in the San Jacinto Mountains. Panchal bought the inn in 2018, just in time for the 13,000-acre Cranston fire, and then, a year later, the floods that washed out and forced an extended closure of Highway 243, the main route into the mountains. About the time the road was finally repaired, the pandemic hit.
“But the community has beautiful energy,” he says. “God sent ways, and I survived. We say that if you want to stay up on the mountain, it will [find a way] to make you stay on the mountain.”
The mountain has since been good to Panchal. These days, with a steady stream of Pacific Crest Trail trekkies and Angelenos, San Diegans, and Coachella Valley residents escaping the heat, congestion, and claustrophobia, he’s fully booked…”