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Best of 2003: Best Roadside Attraction

    Boulder Park
    At the Desert View Tower, Jacumba (80 miles eastof San Diego; from I-8, take In-Ko-Pah Park Road exit)

    Although the Desert View Tower grabs your attention and is worth a visit, it's the outcropping of granite boulders located across the parking lot that captures the imagination. As you climb the concrete steps that are wedged between gigantic rocks, you notice larger-than-life creatures carved into granite. A turtle, bison, salamander, crocodile, and yawning dog are rendered in the softly rounded style of 1930s cartoons. Up the pathway a fallen rock is transformed into a ceremonial Indian head. A gigantic skull looms ahead, inspired by the boulder's natural shape. It was during the Depression that folk artist and out-of-work engineer W.T. Ratcliffe sculpted these boulder carvings, which still show remnants of black, white, and red paint used to accentuate teeth, eyes, and tongues. Sensible shoes and limber bodies are recommended for negotiating the wind-weathered nooks and crannies. Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Adults $1, kids 50 cents. Purchase tickets at the tower gift shop.

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