Celebrating July 4th in Big Bear (Mountain-Style)

Did everyone have a fabulous 4th of July? Did you check out my instagram? I was in Big Bear for the 4th of July an it was AWESOME! A bunch of friends chipped in on renting THIS cabin from HomeAway and boy was it fun.

Only 2 hrs outside of LA, it felt like a real getaway without being too difficult to get to. I drove up after work on Thursday the 3rd. I stopped off at a Ralphs to get some food essentials to share with the gang. I arrived around 10pm on Thursday evening to see our awesome bear-themed cabin. Everyone was in the hot tub when I arrived.

The house had a master suite, 1 bedroom with a queen bed, and a bedroom with full size bunk beds and another queen bed. We also had two sitting areas, each with fold out couches. Lets just say our huge group fit comfortably. Everyone brought some food along and we ate each meal at the house (a money saver) plus it was super fun cooking and helping prepare the food. I’m not a good chef, so my way of helping was on the cleaning end.

The cabin was also so full of activities: a hot tub, ping pong/pool table, picnic table on a big deck, foosball table, and giant dining room table which was perfect for boardgames. One of my favorite things to do on any vacation is get up early and do a neighborhood walk. This was especially nice in Big Bear, as we were on the south side of the lake in a great walking neighborhood. There were several spots with views of the lake.

On Friday our first big activity was renting a pontoon boat! We walked to the docks, then realized we made a reservation at a different dock and raced over to the right dock (on the north side of the lake).

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By the first dock was a pirate boat for rent! That was a bit more than we needed, but I still needed to take a picture with my boyfriend (above), Black Beard.

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After making our reservation at the right dock we took the boat out on the lake for 2 hours of pure boating bliss. We packed sandwiches and snacked out on the water. Our plan was to swim (technically not allowed) but the water was so cold we just put our feet in. The clouds came and went and we even saw a rain storm brewing on the mountain.

At 2pm we made our way back to the cabin where it became hot tub/shower/nap time for most of us.

Around 5pm we walked to the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain where for 4 dollars you ride a chair lift up he mountain and sled your way down.

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Here’s a shot (above) of some of the group preparing to sled down. Super fun and super cheap! I highly recommend this even for young kids visiting the lake. We also had tremendous views from the top while waiting in line.

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After Alpine Sledding, and a bbq at the house, we packing up our to-go drinks and walked to the water for an excellent view of the fireworks show over the lake.

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The next morning while making breakfast we experienced a pretty big earthquake! The cabin was a’shakin! After the quake, some rain storms rolled in so we decided to have a big game of 7 Wonders at the giant dining-room table. It was a lot of fun, especially playing in teams due to the large number of people participating.

Another great group game we discovered on this trip is Quickwits. It was developed by a coworker of mine and is a great party game. We ended up playing this multiple times throughout the weekend. It’s got a similar vibe to Cards Against Humanity, is super easy to pickup, and doesn’t take too much focus/time so it was a great “lets play around while the food’s grilling” game.

Once the storms passed, we made our way out for a short hike. Turns out the hike required pretty much off-roading in order to reach it. My Mazda 3 was SUPER not happy about it. But we did get some exercise eventually, which was the goal. And it was on this hike where I took the above photo. You can see the clouds started rolling back in again.. we even heard thunder! It was exciting for us city-folk.

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Here’s a shot of the hikers above. When we made our way back to the house and rejoined the rest of the gang, we had a fun bbq’ing night. After dinner I had to take off to try to beat the sunset down the mountain and head back to LA. The group continued on for another day, kayaking and picnicking out by the water.

I think it was unanimously a fun weekend full of good times. Especially given our large group, it was great to find so many activities we could all participate in. I’m loving these staycations! Big Bear for the 4th was a big hit and I totally recommend it to people looking to get a taste of the mountains.

Mountain Weekend IV: Lake Arrowhead

At this point in the trip we are leaving Lake Gregory and heading back to Lake Arrowhead, where we had dinner the night before. Since it’s a larger lake (14 mile circumference vs. Lake Gregory’s 3.5 mile circumference) we thought that would be a better way to spend the last few hours of our weekend.

It was a beautiful drive back to Lake Arrowhead. So many layers of mountains in the distance.

The day before we saw Belgian Waffle Works while walking around the town center and decided that we had to have a Sunday brunch there. It was cute and right on the waterfront of the lake.

Since it was noon, we all ordered sandwiches and split a half order of one of their signature dessert waffle dishes. The was the perfect amount of food for three people and gave us a taste of their yummy waffles without going overboard. Their batter had notes of almond in it. After lunch we shopped in a bunch of the outlet stores and got some good deals.

I can’t go into details but… we talked with a local who gave us the code to a gate along the lake. This gate leads to the path that follows Lake Arrowhead. It’s meant for locals to go for walks and also provides a nice walking path to get to the center village. So we began walking around the lake. We didn’t have a plan, but 14 miles didn’t seem to challenging (I was with 2 marathon runners, and as you know I’m a walker). Plus after 10 minutes of walking it felt like we were so far from town, we thought, lets just keep going. So we did.

The lake is lined with docks. Docks covering every inch. It was at this moment that we realized that winter is not Lake Gregory’s prime season (like for Big Bear), it’s summer when people can take their boats out. One disappointing/disturbing thing about the lake is that there were signs everywhere saying that the water was contaminated. That’s such a bummer. A pristine looking lake that you can’t swim in. It’s one of those just-for-looking-at lakes.

Homes are stacked on one another, up the steep earth leading down to the water. Usually there is an elaborate series of stairs connecting the homes to this path, and then further down to the docks. In some cases we saw chairlifts that could bring people down to the docks. It was a cool walk.

It was at this boat storage facility that we used the restrooms and decided it was time to head back. A security guard told us the path doesn’t completely follow the lake, which is what we worried about. Would we hit a dead end? We were technically trespassing on this trail to begin with. We gave in and decided to abort our mission and retrace our steps.

What a scenic view! The boat does a loop around the lake. We deiced to pass, as we did our own loop.

These castle looking homes on the steep hillside were beautiful. We finished our walk back and decided to call it a day and begin the drive back. We were all exhausted and still had a drive on our hands. We got back into LA at 6pm on Sunday, which was nice. Lindsey and I went on to Tony’s Darts Away that night which was the perfect end to our getaway.

Mountain Weekend Part I: Big Bear

If you’ve been following along, you probably know that this past weekend was supposed to be a ski weekend where my sister, friend Lindsey, and I escape into the San Bernardino Mountains to use a Groupon and try cross country skiing for the first time. Since snowfall (and rain) have been nonexistent this winter season, there was not enough snow to use our Groupon. We predicted this would be the case and turned our skiing weekend into a hiking weekend. We met early on Saturday morning, loaded all of our gear into my car, hit-up Subway (to have a sandwich for later) and Starbucks (caffeineeee!). We hopped onto the 134 and we headed east on our adventure.

It was smooth sailing on the 210 East, given that it was early on a Saturday. Before we knew it we were ascending the 330/18 up into the mountains. We stopped a few times along the way to take pictures as the city below disappeared into the clouds. This is an odd analogy, but it’s like driving up into the sky, where the earth fades away and you’re now on this new world high above the inner world. Okay, I’m bad with analogies. But you get what I mean, right?

We passed Lake Gregory, and the Lake Arrowhead until we finally reached Big Bear. We drove along the north side of the lake where we stopped into the Big Bear Discovery Center. This is like a ranger station/ information booth/ children’s museum. The lady behind the desk inside was very helpful. She gave us maps and confirmed that our afternoon hiking plan was a good one. She also told us about the bald eagle nest and family that is on display along the Big Bear Lake.

This was a really great center and I highly recommend stopping in if you are visiting Big Bear. It’s clearly meant for kids but I loved it. They had animals, maps, things to touch and play with, and most importantly very clean restrooms. Ah yes, and a fun bear statue out front.

After we all got pictures with the bear, we drove further along the lake until we reached an area with picnic tables all along the water. We unpacked our Subway sandwiches and some other goodies we packed, and enjoyed a celebratory meal with this view:

After our meal we decided to check out the eagles that the ranger lady was so excited about. We finally found the eagle viewing station by backtracking a few miles. I couldn’t get any photos of the birds, because I wasn’t able to find them without the aid of a telescope. The rangers set up a bunch of telescopes (in the photo below) to help the public see these birds from a distance, so as not to disrupt their nest. We got to see 2 eagles, the mother and father, while the baby eagle was deeper in the nest out of sight.

Although I couldn’t get a photo of the birds, I was glad we stopped and saw them. The telescopes gave a crisp view of them. After bird-lurking time came to an end, we decided to begin our afternoon hike of Cougar Crest Trail (hike #36 in my 101 Hikes in Southern California book). The trailhead was right by the Big Bear Discovery Center.

This trail gave great views of the lake and people of all ages were climbing it. The closure you got to Bertha Peak, the more challenging it got. It’s great for people to go whatever distance they feel comfortable with, take some great photos and then turn and head back as there were beautiful views along the whole hike.

We made our way up to the Pacific Crest Trail (which runs from Canada to Mexico). We started to go up to Bertha, but grew concerned because of time. It was probably 3:45p (?) and the north (shaded) side of the trail had snow covering the path. The later it got, the colder and more shaded that part of the path became, and the icier and more treacherous it got. We turned back choosing the safer (and smarter) option.

Once we got back to the car, it was time to backtrack to Lake Arrowhead for a well earned dinner. Up next, dinner in Lake Arrowhead and Saturday night in Lake Gregory!