Tag Archives: Big Bear

[Traveling Tales] Take it to the Top: Conquering Gray’s Peak Trail

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“You might not find any wifi in the forest, but I promise you’ll find a better connection”

For the better part of the last decade,  any weekend with time to spare and sun to catch magically evolved into a festival fueled adventure somewhere along the West Coast.  Over the last few years, our festival family reunion and pre-Summer kickoff was Lightning in a Bottle – delightfully and delectably getting us ready for the rest of festival season.  When the time came this year to figure out where we wanted to lounge lavishly and enjoy each others company, we took a long hard look at the growth we’ve elicited from ourselves at Lighting in a Bottle – which comes easily when you’re surrounded by the prismatic love, light and laughter of the event.  Each year, though challenging for individually unique reasons, provided the perfect platform to acknowledge myself in the moment and grow from it.  Paired with sweeping landscapes and myriads of magical music, I almost dare you not to be moved – because I have been, over and over and over again.

Even as I describe what we didn’t experience this year, I feel blessed and gifted with my past experiences.  As I marinate in my own newfound maturity, I amuse myself in what I’ve become – knowing full well that growth is synonymous with growing pains, and I effectively feel like I’ve graduated from a phase of my life, and of myself.   All together, these thoughts synthesized themselves in a way that made me opt for a new journey for Memorial day this time around the sun. So, instead of feverishly packing our apartment to fit inside a tent, we packed an overnight bag and it was off, off and away to Big Bear for a weekend of sun and fun with a few friends that have become a hell of a lot more like family over the last few years.

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Just a hop, skip and a few hour drive into San Bernadino, Big Bear already sits at an elevation of nearly 7,000′ – even before you head out on your hike or snow inspired romp through the woods, and has a little bit of something for everyone – granted that everyone’s a bit of a nature nut.   We might have cut our lodging options short by not planning our trip until literally three days before the weekend, but thanks to AirBnB finding an a beautiful place to stay  – fully equipped with patios and a hot tub on a budget – was super easy.

After to getting into town late Friday night, on Saturday morning the group made a bomb little breakfast and got to packing for our hike.  Several sandwiches, a few mixed drinks and some salacious snackables later and we were off, off and away for what turned out to be an intense but well worth it hike up Gray’s Peak Trail.   All together, the hike up Gray’s Peak is about Seven Miles each way with 1300′ to climb in elevation.  One thing we didn’t know beforehand, but damn well are sure of now: at about 8000′ in elevation is when people start toying with altitude sickness and at approximately 8300′ – at times, you could really tell that we weren’t in Kansas at sea level anymore.

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Even though the few websites we found on the hike claimed that it was great for kids, my friends and I can attest that those kids must be jacked up on Mountain Dew because we all had our collective asses handed to us.  There were a lot of fun ‘turnouts’ – if that’s what they’re even called if you’re not in a car – that got us to jump off the beaten path and forge our own trail, but in a respectful way – of course.  There were a few places with tiny streams, stemming from the base of the mountain and loads of little lizards running amuck every which way.  Near 8k’, you could tell that the trees were starting to be weathered under the altitude but that all changed when you got near the pinnacle, it literally felt like you’d walked through a portal and into Fern Gully.   There’s a couple things that make this a Summer hike in my book – like the incline and the potential weather, but it also turns out that the trailhead is closed for public use between December and April because it’s in the middle of a bald eagle wintering habitat area – how effing neat!

Packing Pro Tips

Make sure everyone has enough water, and a backpack between two people is perfect.  Layers, extra socks, hiking shoes cause you want your ankles.

Things I’ve learned as a novice hiker, but expert adventurer:

  • Cameras are always a must, sure your phone has one – but point and shoots are fun, too! Make sure you take at least one group photo before you head up the trail and into the sweat zone – yeah, now you get it.  Extra points if you remember to bring a collapsible tripod – you’ll really be your groups MVP, most valuable photographer.
  • Your phone has a compass on it, don’t be afraid to use it – but also, put that thing away and enjoy the hike!
  • Hydration is key, super key. Drinking and hiking is fun, but in the Summer it’s not the smartest – make sure you’ve got enough water for the walk up, and the walk back; plus, being more hydrated makes the drunk more fun – if you’re into that type of thing 😉
  • A bag per every two people is appropriate, that way you can also switch off with carrying duty – make sure you toss in some sammies and full bars for meals, and for snackables both nuts and dried fruit have a lot of protein.  Last, but not least if you’re weird like me and don’t really enjoy chewing – throw in a few ensures to top it off.
  • Everybody loves layers – especially for hikes.  Bring an change of socks in case you encounter water, shorts / pants depending on what you start off in and a hoodie.
  • Do a gut check with everyone before the hike starts and make sure everyone’s comfortable with the adventure ahead, you never know who’s in super great shape, or who might have some hesitations about an all day excursion.
  • Leaves of three, let them be. Poison Oak is no joke and usually it’s kept off the trail – if you’re like me and like to forge your own path, know what it looks like…or better yet, just wear pants.

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[LA Life] Say Yay to Snow Days!

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Halfway between a creature of habit and victim of circumstance are a multitude of reasons that I’ve barely ever visited the snow.  Growing up as a swimmer in the Bay Area, I loved the sun and water more ways than I could count; while on family vacations we constantly favored beautiful beaches with their sandy waves over the glistening snow-capped mountains.  I barely ever made it to the snow as a child and can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen it in person.  Not to mention, I can be quoted as saying “I’m a Image may contain: tree, snow and outdoor‘Hawaii’ kind of girl” more times than I can count, because bless my parents – they still like to remind me of all those years before I turned into such a nature nymph. To them, it’s any wonder that I’ve turned from a self-professed city kitty into a rough(er) and tumble(r) snow bunny, but here I am – ready for business, and by business I mean nature-inspired personal pleasure.

One of the many, many fantastic things about living in Los Angeles (Southern California…and just California in general),  is that on any given day you can make a trip to the sand or a trip to the snow; if you’re feeling frisky, you can even get a delightful dose of both! Beach days, though beautiful, are proverbially a dime a dozen in the land of palm trees, blue skies and power lines and let’s get real – everyone flocks to the sandy shores: your housemates, your neighbor, your landlord, celebrities and vacationers all come for the beach – which makes hitting those pearly slopes significantly sweeter.  There are near trips and far trips, day trips and trips you should probably make a whole weekend out of. Don’t quote me on exact travel times because, HELLO Los Angeles traffic, but if you’re in the mood for a fantastic day trip – Mt Baldy and the defunct Mt Waterman Ski Lifts make for excellent treks and are just an hour outside of LA proper in the San Gabriel Mountains, while Big Bear in the San Bernadino National Forest is a little over two hours away.  If you’re feeling like an adventure is in the works, Sequoia National Forest is a few hours away and makes for an epic Winter weekend journey.

Pack + Play

For as fun as a snow day is, being fully prepared for your snow day will make things go a hell of a lot smoother (and, warmer!). First things first, make sure you have enough hydration and nutrition to last the day – and then some.  Make some sandwiches, grab some snacks get a good combination of both salty and sugary foods; in case anyone’s body starts going into a bit of shock – it’ll bring them right back! When it comes to water, even though the weather might be a big frightful and frigid, it doesn’t mean your body isn’t working overtime – especially if you head out on a hike.  Make sure you have twice as much as you think you need, and enough for any pups (or, brave cats!) that are along for the ride. Just like in the movie Shrek, when it comes to clothes in the cold – it’s all about layers, so snag a scarf, get a beanie, and a hoodie – or two; if you’ve got fur, this is the perfect time to rock it.  Because of the nature of snow, if you’ve got waterproof pants, socks and or shoes, bring ’em out. Basically, waterproof everything is a plus – GoPro, iPhone 7, you name it – it’s perfect for the snow.  Also, booze…responsible boozing also makes the snow a whole lot more fun.


[Oh, Snap] Celebrating the Elements of Winter Solstice in Big Bear

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Perpetually enraptured by the bright lights, booming sounds and the effervescent buzz of humanity within the heart of a giant metropolis like Los Angeles, or San Francisco where I was raised, I’m constantly dazzled, delighted by and devouring each and every detail of my surroundings like a fine wine.  With a step-mother from the North East and a father from Oregon, every now and again they’d toss in a dash of Corvallis countryside, assorted camping trips with my pre-school, some hikes here and there and some family vacations in locations I now wish I could’ve appreciated in their entirety. Almost two decades ago when I was a wee 5th Grader (…at 5’10″…), I accompanied by my Grandmother to an ‘Elderhostel’ in Mount Denali, Alaska over the Summer Solstice.  Sure, I knew that it was the day of the year with the least amount of darkness – but had I understood then what I know now about the solstice, changing of the seasons, position of the stars and angles of the planets, I would’ve had a much deeper, greater appreciation for mother nature and all of it’s offerings.IMG_5202

Yesterday at 3:03 PM Pacific Time, Winter Solstice hit the West Coast – wondrous, wild and incredibly elemental.  Contrary to (my…) popular belief, Solstice doesn’t imply that the sun is setting at it’s earliest for the year – in fact, due to discrepancies between our modern Gregorian calendar and the actual cycle of planets, the majority of the Northern Hemisphere delights in the earliest sunset a few days before and the latest sunrise a few days after Winter Solstice occurs. But, what it does mean is that we’re getting the least amount of sunlight (conversely, the lengthiest amount of darkness) of the whole year as the Sun reaches it’s lowest vertex – around -23.5°.  Often referred to as Yule, December Solstice and the first day of Winter, the Winter Solstice ushers in the new moon in Capricorn.

Be it my love of a man befit for the mountains, a rapidly growing disdain for the ‘fast life’ or my commitment to adventuring through a healthy proportion of our countries National Park system – but I’ve been on a mission to conquer at least one new park a month, if not more.  Our friend’s adorable puppy was having his 3rd (or, 21st) birthday depending on how you look at those types of things and he invited us to tag along up to Big Bear.  As someone who can count the number of times they’ve seen snow fall on one hand – I couldn’t help but squee with glee. We were heading up Sunday and after a few quick calculations, I realized that I’d be truly in the elements for Winter Solstice.  I’ve never skied, gone snowboarding and definitely don’t own many snow appropriate pieces of clothing – but how could I pass up a chance to really welcome Winter and celebrate the Winter Solstice? Of course we were in!

If you’re heading up to Big Bear for the weekend, I vote you check out Air BnB for some gorgeous one night rentals; but if you’re going up for the day, like we did, meet up with your friends in the Stater Brothers parking lot before you head into Redlands.  It’s right between the 38 and the 330, so you can mash the whole mountain – plus, you should probably stock up on some power bars, water, whiskey (don’t forget the whiskey, and a flask…), fruit roll-ups and any other crucial snackables you might want as you gallivant throughout the mountains.   We started at at the Thurman Flats Picnic Area, but seeing as the snow is incredibly frozen – there wasn’t much runoff at the moment.  So, we slowly wound around the mountain – first hitting the Forest Falls Waterfalls which was a beautiful hike off the beaten trail.

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After reviewing the tread on the bottoms of our shoes (aka there wasn’t any), we decided to rent some snow shoes (knock that one off my life bucket list!) and head up to Green Valley Lake. It was definitely a hike, but so worth it. Nature fueled, wonder filled – as I looked into the vast, white beyond I felt humbled and happy, elated and insignificant.

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I absolutely loved spending Winter Solstice fully immersed by Winter: ice, snow, snowmen, children scream laughing while their parents threw snow balls. Not only that, but the drive was gorgeous and the sunset – doubly so.

How to you celebrate the changing of the seasons?

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