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 III: Lake Gregory

Where I last left off we were in the Sleepy Hollow Motel making s’mores via candle (ghetto, I know) in the town of Lake Gregory. The next morning we woke up at 8am (stupid time change!) and decided to get some delicious coffee from the Lake Gregory Coffee Company. We walked down the road from our hotel, snapping photos along the way.

You can see the Bear Claw has its “open” sign on… at 8:30 in the am?

I love the small town graphics.

I work in a field all about replicating reality. Seeing these real small town graphics and building is so fun for me and great research for future work. I kept an eye on the details.

After consuming our delicious caffeinated beverages, we headed back toward Lake Gregory and decided we should walk the loop of the lake. We found out later it was about 3.5 miles. It was a delightful way to spend a Sunday morning. It was a tad chilly, but walking in the sun felt nice and right along the water with beautiful lake views.

On the north side of the lake, we paused to look around and before we knew it tons of birds were headed toward us. It’s like they are trained to know when people are there to feed them. We had nothing for them, but it didn’t stop them from running a full speed towards us. It was a little frightening. So many were all black with white beaks. So unusual.

After we finished the loop we decided it was time to move on to Lake Arrowhead. We had dinner there the night before, but didn’t get a chance to see it in daylight and really explore. Up next: Lake Arrowhead and the conclusion of our mountain weekend!

Mountain Weekend Part II: Saturday Night

Where I last left off I was with my sister and friend Lindsey, on my way to Lake Arrowhead from Big Bear Lake after hiking Cougar Crest Trail. None of us had been to Lake Arrowhead or Lake Gregory (our final destination) so we decided to have dinner at the larger (and closer) of the two lakes, Lake Arrowhead.

We got into the Lake Arrowhead town center before sunset, which is recommended. You don’t want to be on those curvy sections of highway once it gets dark out. We walked around town and scoped it all out.

It was the perfect time for photos by the lake, although it started to get breezy. Since we were staying the night in Lake Gregory, it was a pleasure to be able to take our time and not worry about having to make it down the mountain before dark.

Every store in this cute Swiss looking town (lots of tudor buildings) closed at 6pm, so we did some window shopping. I needed to include the image above, as I was drooling over the carmel apples when I looked through the door to see this:

In the front of this candy sweet shop was an obese looking bear missing limbs. I’m sorry but that is probably not the best advertisement for a sweet shop. A diabetic bear as the mascot for a candy store? It wasn’t even a clean bear. It looked dirty and his clothes were stained. All he needed was a voice bubble saying “GIVE ME ALL THE CANDY!!!” in a gravelly desperate font above his head.

After stopping at the towns grocery store, we put in our names at the Mexican restaurant in town, Papagayos. This place was packed as it was only 1 of 3 restaurants open in the center of town. The place was filled with locals celebrating with friends. They even had a guy going around making elaborate balloon animal hats. We were starving and had a lovely meal. I took the photo below in our booth.

When we finished, I made the 20 minute drive in the dark to Lake Gregory where we checked in at our adorable hotel, Sleepy Hollow Motel. I would happily stay in this place again as the room was very clean and they offered a ton of amenities. Each room has a working real-wood fireplace. The attendant left board games for us on our table. They even have a pool and hot tub for summer time. It was 8:45p when we unpacked into the room. We were tired, but it was too early to go to sleep so we walked over to the bowling alley next to the motel.

At 9pm on Saturday nights it’s $20 to cosmic bowl all night (pizza and soda included). Since we just had a big meal and only wanted to bowl one game, this was not cost effective. After our attempts to get them to lower the price, the cashier said “this is the only thing to do in town”. He was right. They could be expensive because this was all there was to do. My friends teased me, as I had wanted to go to see the locals and then felt excluded for being a non-local. This sign summed it up:

Turns out Saturday is for locals too.
We decided not to play and instead headed back toward the hotel. Lindsey and I contemplated paying a visit to the local bar a block down, Bear Claw, but passed when we got close and saw there was a super drunk guy laying across the entrance. Keep in mind it was 9pm at night.

We headed back to the hotel room where we got into pj’s and I shared with everyone a special dessert I brought: SMORES! It would have been awesome if we brought wood for the fire, but we failed. Instead I brought a candle, chocolate bar, sticks, big marshmallows, and low fat graham crackers (we have to watch our girlish figures). It was really fun. We all enjoyed the sweets and hung out. We were all so tired we didn’t even crack into the board games before we decided to hit the hay. We also lost and hour of sleep that night and we had to be up early on Sunday to make the most of day 2 of our mountain adventure.

Up next: Exploring Lake Gregory in the Sunday morning light.

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!