Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hiking Around Big Bear Lake, CA

Time for another flashback. Last summer we enjoyed a vacation in Big Bear Lake, California, a small, cute tourist town with access to some primo hiking. A year has passed, and I can still recall that fresh pine scent of the forest, better than any tree-shaped cardboard dangling from your rearview mirror. You just step out of your car, breathe deep and... Ahhhhh.

We began our trip with a day in Los Angeles before the breathtaking drive east into the San Bernadino Mountains. Our day included two things that make any vacation complete: a bike ride and a bookstore. We parked our rental car at a very reasonably priced garage in Santa Monica and walked to Santa Monica Beach Bicycle to rent a couple of cruisers.

The rentals came with locks, helmets, and even a basket for me. We rode the beach path from Santa Monica to Venice and back, stopping along the way to play on muscle beach and to check out the famous Venice Beach Boardwalk. It was a beautiful day, so the path, the playground equipment and the boardwalk were crowded but navigable. The huge expanse of beach was awesome and did not feel crowded. Now I understand why a former coworker said you haven't seen a real beach until you've been to a California beach.

Then, we visited The Last Bookstore, and if we're ever in Los Angeles again, we'll visit it again. It is too cool for words.

Yes, traffic in Los Angeles was heavy, and taking the highway out of the city was long and slow, stop and go, but the city has a reputation for awful traffic, so we expected it. And so, it seemed like no big deal. Before long (OK, after long), we were free from most traffic and winding through steep mountains, a thrilling view around every bend.

We did two different hikes at Big Bear Lake. First was the 2.4-mile Cougar Crest Trail, through the woods and up the mountain to connect with the Pacific Crest Trail, which is just like any other trail but with national status. Because it's really, really long. We hiked maybe a mile of the PCT before retracing our steps to be back in time for dinner.

Our next hike was on the other side of the lake, and it was the much shorter but much steeper Castle Rock Trail, named for a large rock outcropping among many other large rock outcroppings. This hike was so much fun we did it again on our way out of town at the end of the trip. It's a brief commitment for an excellent leg-stretch before the three-hour drive back to Los Angeles.

And those were just the quick highlights. Ah, memories.

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