THE JUNIPERO SERRA CENOTAPH. Unveiled on Oct. 10, 1924, the cenotaph was designed and executed by renowned local artist Jo Mora (1876-1943).
THE JUNIPERO SERRA CENOTAPH. Unveiled on Oct. 10, 1924, the cenotaph was designed and executed by renowned local artist Jo Mora (1876-1943). (Herald Archive/Vern Fisher)

1. ON A MISSION

A magnificent musical venue, the starting point of European history in California, a tourist destination, an elementary school and a very active parish church.

That is but a quick summary of San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmel, arguably the most splendid of outposts founded by the Rev. Junipero Serra. So splendid, in fact, that the founding father of the entire California mission system is interred beneath the church altar.

The mission was established in 1770, renovated in the 1930s, and is about to undergo another major renovation in the coming months.

As an historic architectural structure, the Carmel Mission has no peer in California. Most of the furnishings in the basilica — including statues, paintings and artifacts — are the originals.

THE CARMEL MISSION BASILICA. The Carmel Mission Foundation is currently raising funds for a multi-million seismic retrofit scheduled to begin next spring.
THE CARMEL MISSION BASILICA. The Carmel Mission Foundation is currently raising funds for a multi-million seismic retrofit scheduled to begin next spring. (Herald Archive/Vern Fisher)

The recent history of the Carmel Mission is almost as storied as its beginnings. It has been the site of some of the more memorable musical performances staged by the annual Carmel Bach Festival and it is now a favored site for many hundreds of weddings each year.

More important, in 1987 Pope John Paul II visited the church and laid a wreath at the foot of Serra's grave during the first Papal visit to the United States.

Carmel Mission Museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Mass: Services are held at 7:30 a.m., 9:15 a.m., 11 a.m., and 12:45 p.m. on Sunday; and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Basilica. Mass is held at 7 a.m., noon and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday in the mission's Blessed Sacrament Chapel. www.carmelmission.org

2. PARKLAND VARIETY

There is a peaceful oasis situated nicely in the middle of the rancherias and the rural subdivisions of Carmel Valley called Garland Ranch Regional Park.

With easy access — parking right off Carmel Valley Road — Garland Park presents a glimpse of the region's native landscape, with biodiversity displays at elevations from 200 to 2,000 feet.

The park offers hikers, bikers and horseback riders plenty of trails with thrilling views. The trails meander along the Carmel River and Garzas Creek, and past the occasional reminders of local history, including Rumsen Indian habitation sites; a homestead, livestock trails and Rancho Don Juan.

Garland Ranch is free and open to the public, though an access permit is required to enter the Kahn Ranch portion via Hitchcock Canyon Road. The park is located at 700 West Carmel Valley Road, about 8.6 miles east of Highway 1. www.mprpd.org

GARLAND RANCH REGIONAL PARK. Visitors stop to smell the bay leaves during a nature class at the park. Garland Ranch offers an extensive program of classes
GARLAND RANCH REGIONAL PARK. Visitors stop to smell the bay leaves during a nature class at the park. Garland Ranch offers an extensive program of classes and activities. (Herald Archive/David Royal)