There is so much magic in California, probably more than I will be able to experience in my lifetime, but nonetheless, magic. Endless adventures, hidden gems, infamous weather, stunning nature, incredible food and super amounts of creativity make up California and that's why people from all over the world flock here to live and vacation. Every Winter, I usually visit one of two California mountain destinations to get my boarding on: Mammoth or Big Bear. But I have a confession to make, I've never visited either of these destinations during any other season! What is wrong with me!? I lived in LA for 8 years! So when my friends decided to get married in Big Bear last week, I decided to make a trip of it and explore the Southern California mountain destination during the Spring. I grabbed a huge binder of old mixed CD's, terrible but hilarious CD's I might add, hopped in the car and road tripped from Phoenix, Arizona to Big Bear, California. The drive into the mountains is always one of my favorite drives and especially now as the bright Spring flowers line the highway and the lush green mountains. I stopped many times at the viewpoints to take some pictures and all the beauty in. Arriving in Big Bear has a certain charm about it as you pass endless pine trees and lake points, various antique stores, unique local spots and kayaking, biking, boating and fishing shops.
I arrived early Thursday evening at The Alpenhorn Bed & Breakfast Inn, located within walking distance to Big Bear Lake and one mile to Snow Summit which made for the perfect location to explore the Big Bear area. The Alpenhorn B&B in and of itself is a destination known for it's peaceful setting, incredible culinary delights, luxurious atmosphere and awesome innkeepers and staff! It is my new go-to when visiting the mountains and the people I met there have become like friends and family. I arrived just in time for one of the most delicious dinners I have ever had; A five star, three course, gourmet and homemade dinner and wine pairings by innkeeper, Johann for a mere $35. It was so incredible and had a unique South African flair showcasing Johann's roots. During my travels, I really love getting recommendations from locals on where to eat, things to do and any other tid bits of information they may have. Nothing is more true than the saying, "Do as the locals do!" And no one knows more about the area than the locals. Per the recommendations of the innkeepers at the Alpenhorn, I spent half a day on Friday hiking up Castle Rock Trail, a strenuous 2.5 mile hike to the top where it connects with other trails which made for an even more adventurous day with stunning viewpoints! I spent my time admiring the lake views, random rock formations, melting snow and green pine trees and capturing them on camera which is always a little more time consuming when traveling alone; i.e. setting up a tripod, using the right camera settings and wireless remote to take pictures of myself on uneven surfaces. But i actually really enjoy documenting the places I visit even when it's difficult and I'm alone! After my hike, I went into town to visit some antique and other charming shops and grabbed a poke bowl and a delicious smoothie from Local, just a short walk from the Alpenhorn. I headed back to the B&B to get cleaned up for delectable hor' deourves and libations where I was able to get some more recomendations and meet great people. I even met the owner of the local Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which I had no idea even existed!
Saturday morning, after Johann cooked a delicious breakfast and I happily devoured, I took off for the zoo with a few friends and was pleasantly surprised! We found out that the Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a rehabilitation facility offering injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe haven; temporarily while they heal or permanently as they are unable to survive on their own. 90% of all the animals brought to them for rehabilitation are successfully released back into their native environment which i found to be so amazing! Those that remain on exhibit are either too injured or have been imprinted by humans and cannot be released back into the wild to care for themselves. We saw bears, wolves, owls, bald eagles, hawks, raccoons, snow leopards, deer, foxes, just to name a few and some of which I had never seen before. It was neat! Then grabbed a great sandwich from Grizzly's Bear Belly Deli nearby and went and got ready for the wedding, which was a super laid back and fun party at a rented house in town with catered mexican food, pool, drinks and dancing!
Sunday was the least windy morning so I woke up at sunrise which was stunningly beautiful to get some drone footage of the area and ventured down to Big Bear Lake for some exploring and kayaking. I drove around the whole lake which was super scenic and something I hadn't done in Big Bear before. The lake is more full than it has been in years due to that California rain and quite a few people were out fishing, kayaking, and enjoying their day on the beach. I stopped by the Discovery Center and took a nice walk in nature. While I had the intention of kayaking, the wind picked up again and I resorted to plan B, the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. When you arrive in Big Bear, you will most likely pass by this spot and see signs for the slide and putt putt golf. I wasn't really sure what the slide was but I thought it would be super fun to give it a try! For a cheap $6, it seemed like a great cost saving option for some childlike fun. Your ride begins with a scenic chair lift up the mountain with panoramic views over Big Bear Lake. My initial thought was, "it's bobsled time!" If you don't know what movie I'm referencing, shame on you. When you reach the top, you grab a yellow sled with individually controlled brakes and ball bearing wheels and choose one of two quarter-mile long cement tracks, the slow track or the fast track, both filled with high bank turns and long straightaways. I also heard that each cart is different and can affect how fast or slow you want to go, but I'm not really sure how you choose the right sled! Either way, I had a blast and went a medium to fast speed and would go down that mountain all day if i could! Even if you're an adult, do it. It was so fun and a $6 bargain, or $25 for 5 rides should you choose to be awesome, and you get to act like a kid for a day! Sold for life.
In conclusion, I used to have lukewarm feelings for Big Bear, solely based on the snow conditions, but now I LOVE it. I will keep coming back and experiencing all four seasons from here on out. There is so much to do and see in this beautiful place. Spring is in full force so you should probably get in a car or on a plane now and get here while the blooms are blooming, the snow melting and the weather warming!