Big Bear Offers A True Cabin Experience

Big Bear Lake has some of Southern California’s biggest and greatest adventures, and there may be more adventure in where you may stay in Big Bear Lake than in most any other resort community. If you are looking for a break from the basic hotel or motel lodging options, nothing can beat the experience of renting a private cabin for a charming getaway or a longer stay any time of the year. Private home rentals offer you the warmth of home but the experience of a new, exciting location to make all your own for your vacation – away from the city hustle, work and daily grind of life.

Inside Big Bear CabinI wanted to have easy planning and little heartache when booking my vacations for my extended family, which included very picky aunts and uncles and don’t forget Grandma’s opinion! We can all relate to the difficulties of making someone happy, especially your family, and a vacation is not any different than any other family gathering. Big Bear Lake was our destination of choice and we wanted the full cabin experience.  The private home experience is something new to us and I had no idea where to start! After checking out Big Bear’s website,, I decided my ambitions to plan our vacation on my own was too stressful and I felt overwhelmed by the amount of options afforded to me. After glancing over the website (and finding a plethora of great activities!) I decided my best bet was to call the toll free number listed on the site, 800-424-4232, for some expert advice.

Much to my surprise, I was placed in touch with a person who lived in the Big Bear Lake area. We chatted for a while about my expected arrival dates, guest size and wish list. We spoke for a long time and she answered all my questions I had about the weather and local happenings. We sorted through a small list of private homes and I decided I wanted to investigate a little more into the companies of private homes/cabins that offered. It was not an easy task, but I began to note the many and varied selections offered by the private home rental companies.

It seems that Big Bear Cool Cabins and Big Bear Vacations offered the largest selection of all, over 300 cabins each, the latter including a luxury home with a pool! We did not need anything quite that fancy for our vacation, but if YOU do, they seemed likely to have it, along with smaller dwellings. Village Reservation also offered me a varied selection of over 125+ properties in various areas of town.

Gold Rush Resort Rentals offered me several home choices and the added amenity of FUN – next door to their office, they run a gold mining experience for gold and gems that both children and adults will love participating in. You can take home both the treasures AND the treasured memories.

RS Vacations and Big Bear Luxury Properties have a list of homes inside and around central Big Bear Lake and Big Bear City. You can find homes with grand foyers, hot tubs and even luxurious converted game rooms! Resort Town Rentals offers a friendly front desk and even a huge home topping off at 9 bedrooms! It seemed like any one of these places would provide me with a true paradise in the Big Bear Valley.

Big Bear Lake offers resort cabins too, and some of those companies manage larger personal homes adjacent or near their resorts, including Grey Squirrel Vacation Homes and Cal-Pine Chalets. What so great about that? You have the luxury of using the resort onsite facilities AND staying in a private Big Bear cabin typically just blocks away. Grey Squirrel even has a seasonal pool! Resorts can offer you and your guests BBQs, washer and dryer access, concierge services and even a playground for the kiddos. If you want a private home with the bonuses of a resort community, this may be the route for you!

After reviewing the amount of information, needs, locations and bedroom layouts, I finally decided on a rental and it was worth all the emails, time and even money spent to secure the perfect vacation for my family.

Snow Sports and Outdoor Adventures Await

Big Bear is filled with treasures; the gorgeous mountains, the shining sun, towering pines and the fresh air. Treasures of Big Bear Lake extend to the offerings in Big Bear’s grand and popular winter season, which include a variety of snow sports and outdoor adventures. Spending a weekend or enjoying a longer trip in this charming mountain destination is always on my winter list!

To start, check out the extensive zip line experience offered by Action Tours. When the snow hits or before, see Big Bear suspended high in the air and soaring through the pines. You’ll get the best view in town! Guided daily (weather permitting) you’re certain to enjoy the forest and all the sights, sounds and excitement of wintertime. After checking out those stunning aerial and forest views, you may want to start playing in the snow! Take a short drive down to Big Bear’s downtown or Big Bear City and tackle the friendly and safe snow play areas, The Alpine Slide or Bear City Snow play, specifically setup to maintain the runs and areas for you to play in several feet of fresh powder. Typically, the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain is open from Thanksgiving weekend to April and Big Bear Snow Play is currently operating daily to April, both kids and adults will have a blast tubing down the snowy hillside or sledding down the icy toboggan run. If you enjoy a few rides or a hundred, checking out this designated snow play area is the place for you!

Segway Tours in Big BearSegway tours are also offered during the winter season, giving you a quick and relaxing off road or city tour via motor powered segways. Guided with friendly local experts, the segways are for both adults and kids and offer a quicker-than-on-foot way of seeing several of the high points throughout the valley, especially if there has been recent snowfall to marvel at. Tours can be made over the phone or at the village office in Big Bear’s downtown, and will accommodate your group all winter long.

Big Bear Lake has a variety of indoor activities for visitors who may be trying to entertain themselves or children during the more stormy days and nights of wintertime. Big Bear’s Funplex offers exciting laser tag, arcade games, amusement center, black light miniature golf and pizza for the whole gang to enjoy. Just across the street, you’ll find a local favorite – The Bowling Barn. The kids can enjoy several games of glow bowling toward the evening and the adults can enjoy the bar and karaoke open late. Enjoy the old fashioned fun and games as a storm or colder weather passes through – you’ll be thankful for that cup of hot cocoa!

Do you enjoy westerns? Ever dream of a horseback riding adventure? How about horseback guided tours? Check out the Baldwin Lake stables, offering horseback tours all year long. In the summer sun is one tour, and the winter affords you a whole new experience! Dress warmly for the adventure and prepare ahead by booking reservations in advance.

Big Bear Snow PlayThe Big Bear Alpine Zoo (formerly The Moonridge Zoo) is a favorite visit among many new or return vacationers, especially in winter where visiting the animals in their more natural environment brings out better reaction and play time for the creatures that call Big Bear their home. Admission to the local zoo is low cost and goes toward the organization that assists the rehabilitation of animals in the local mountains and beyond, every season. Your whole group will remember viewing the animals in the snow for years to come and when the snow clears you can return to the zoo in summer or fall to visit your new animal friends.

As you can see, Big Bear Lake’s array of activities in wintertime extend beyond the sports of skiing and snowboarding and can take you on a new adventure or two during the months when Big Bear can turn into a winter wonderland.

Enjoy your stay!

Kelly Garfield

Big Bear Winter Flash Sale – 48 Hours Only

Big Bear Winter Flash Sale$25 Lift Tickets and 25% OFF Lodging On Sale Now

Do you feel the chill in the air? That’s right, the winter season is fast approaching! It’s time for you to think about your next skiing or snowboarding trip to Big Bear. Once in a while a special deal comes your way that you just can’t pass up. Starting today, November 12th at 10 a.m. t0 Friday, November 14th at 10 a.m., you can take advantage of a WINTER FLASH SALE on, which will get you $25 ski tickets with the purchase of discounted lodging at 25% off! That’s right, you read that correctly, ski tickets will be $25 each during this 48 hour sale and this low price will get you access to both parks, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain!

Keep in mind both mountains have their benefits. Snow Summit offers family friendly areas and runs, while Bear Mountain caters to the young adult crowd with their high energy resort. The popular Bear Mountain offers a trick park consisting of jibs, jumps and ramps perfect for testing your shredding skills. Want to experience a more relaxed vibe? Check out Snow Summit’s runs, all in the same day for $25 a ticket – access to both mountains can’t be beat!

If you need help booking or want more information, pick up the phone and dial directly at 1800-424-4232 (1-800-4-BIGBEAR) and speak to a local vacation specialist about this awesome deal. This is the lowest price in years! We’re talking about 60% off the regular rate, and it may never happen again! The sale started today, Wednesday, November 12th at 10 a.m. and ends on Friday, November 14th at 10 a.m.

Availability will be limited, and restrictions may apply, including blackout dates and holidays. This offer cannot be used with other promotions or specials.

Unique Lodging Options Found at Big Bear’s Top Resort Lodges

Crisp air. Fresh pine. Cool water. Perfect sunshine. Awake your senses at 7,000 feet! Big Bear Lake offers an expensive playground high above in a picturesque landscape just perfect for escaping the daily grind. In order to start your adventure, one of your first thoughts may be: where will I find lodging? If you are a single person looking for a weekend adventure, a couple looking for a romantic getaway or a family looking for fun – you’re bound to find a place to stay at Big Bear Lake’s Resort Lodges.

Just like Big Bear’s various seasons, you’ll find that each lodge has their own unique, friendly vibe and atmosphere. Resort Lodges are typically mountain-style resorts with studio rooms and larger suites, some even featuring similar themed resort cabins on the same land. You’ll encounter friendly front desk staff, typically landscaped grounds, well-equipped amenities and most locations are centrally located.

Take Honey Bear Lodge, for instance. Located just behind the Village – Big Bear’s dining and shopping hub – is this charming lodge complete with bridge entry way and hospitable owners who take care of their facility and make it more charming with each passing year. Just across the way in downtown, is The Big Bear Village Lodge which offer suites in the heart of downtown’s most popular area, customized with larger beds and spas. Just next door, you’ll find the unique Robinhood Resort, which offers a full service restaurant and bar (with a lake view!) and has the capacity to combine their other two resorts on the same property – the newer Sherwood Forest and the classic Wishing Well Motel, perfect for a casual stay if you’re looking to snowboard during season or hike in the summertime.

On Big Bear Blvd you’ll find The Fireside Lodge, offering suites with kitchens, separate bedrooms and even a seasonal pool! If you’re looking for a more intimate atmosphere, the hosts of the Kleine Haus Lodge offer deluxe rooms with jetted spa tubs and private balconies – all within a short walking distance to beautiful Big Bear Lake – a great choice for couples celebrating a special occasion. Should you be looking for an affordable stay for yourself and friends, Motel 6 or The Travelodge may better appeal to your budget. If you have a large group or retreat planned, The Guhos Ranch and their grounds will offer you a fantastic escape from the city dwelling life.

Located just west of The Village and walking distance to the Alpine Slide (fun for both kids and adults!), you will find the charming Hillcrest Lodge whose kind owners will make your stay comfortable with newly redecorated rooms and décor, opting for mountain charm and easy access to location and activities.

No matter the season, Big Bear Lake offers a gorgeous view – stay lakefront at Big Bear Lakefront Lodge in a lakeside room and allow the view to take your breathe away. You can also stay at Lakefront For Less, where you will find perfect studio suites walking distance to downtown.

Clearly, your options are varied but the results are the same: a memorable trip to THE destination located in your So Cal backyard.

Here’s Why You Should Consider Staying at One of Big Bear’s Hostels.

Many people spend their days working, only to dream about their next vacation. With tight budgets in the forefront of most people’s minds, sometimes finding an affordable vacation that works for you can be tough! Well, Big Bear Lake has the answer: Hostels.

No, we’re not talking about the scary, 2005 film directed by Eli Roth which features hostels as nightmare hunting grounds. What we are talking about is a family friendly, couple friendly or a single person friendly lodging option complete with knowledgeable hosts, fun grounds and an array of activity ideas.

The experience of a new or familiar destination changes everything and secures new memories for all involved. For many, the more unique the locale or experience, the anticipation for a return visit heightens. Guests choosing to vacation in Big Bear Lake CA will typically find it a charming and unique destination in itself; featuring four gorgeous seasons, a lake, two ski resorts and fall colors along with many outdoor activities for all to find enjoyment year round. Big Bear Lake is also a short drive away from major Southern California destinations, such as Los Angeles and San Diego, making it perfect for anyone looking for a quick getaway.

Having opened its revamped doors in 2014, “The Mountain Adventure Lodge” ITH (International Travelers House) Hostel located in central Big Bear Lake offers a spot to enjoy the mountains with their facilities in an inviting and pleasant atmosphere, all within an affordable nightly rate! Offering shared or private rooms, free meals (breakfast and dinner – plus a sack lunch if you ask) along with free entertaining activities during the evening (poker tournaments and jam sessions) and daytime (they will soon have a spa) catered to their current residents, which hosts James and Bob treat like family. As your hosts and tour guides, they showcase the best of Big Bear Lake: downtown, eateries, bars, zip lines, boating, camping, hiking and more. They have insiders’ tips for everything to make your getaway and trip to Big Bear Lake more than a vacation, it becomes an EXPERIENCE! Guests also staying at the lodge will be centrally close to The Village and Lake if you prefer to spend the day soaking up the rays or finding a local massage parlor. The grounds offer free WiFi, fresh towels, yummy hot tea and even musical instruments to play! Children are welcome at the Big Bear location, as long as they are accompanied by parents.

Inside The Lodge, guests can take advantage of lounging in front of the oversized fireplace and speaking to others about their travels. If you prefer to stroll outside, there are plenty of gardens and local wild life to occupy your interest. The food offered is excellently prepared: blueberry waffles, homemade pizza, grilled sausages, breakfast sandwiches, garden salads and vegetarian options as well as roasted dinners. Care is taken with everything, even The Lodge is cleaned twice a day and the kitchen is well preserved and fresh. Speaking of fresh, many of the produce edibles offered are straight from the on-site garden. Hosts James and Bob also run the San Diego Adventure Hostel and are frequently updating their amenities and service ideas as well as combining the two hostels to create frequent off-the-mountain trips depending on your length of stay and desired adventure.

The Hostel offers lockers, access to a washer and dryer, iPads to use, private parking and even a full kitchen if you would like to cook your own meals (seriously though, check out their awesome meal offerings). You’ll feel secure and at home at the hostel location and each room is issued a private key code when you check-in. There are a total of 5 bathrooms on-site, some being shared (the usual set-up with any hostel) and some are privately connected with rooms. Don’t worry, there is plenty of privacy!

Travelers touring Big Bear Lake will soon learn that this smaller, welcoming city is a gem among tourist destinations – not only in Southern California, but beyond. In cold weather destinations, very rarely can you ski Big Bear’s slopes in the morning and surf the San Diego beaches all in the same day, and when you return to Big Bear Lake after an exciting adventure, you’ll find a breathe of fresh air awaiting you (and probably a cup of hot cocoa).

The ITH isn’t the only hostel in town to enjoy your vacation – also consider The Big Bear Hostel, another low-key and low-cost lodging source. In consists of two larger, renovated cabins. Many guests return yearly with favorable things to say about the hosts (Grayson and staff), the cleanliness and the central location near Big Bear’s Village area. This hostel features price friendly crash pads, private bedrooms and group quarters complete with bunk bed setups. They even have a special “Penthouse” styled room featuring an epic lake view other resorts would make you pay a pretty penny to stay in, but not this hostel! Rates are affordable and you’ll be staying in a fun and spontaneous environment.

The Big Bear Hostel can also house larger groups up to 50! Maybe its time to start planning your family reunion or retreat because this is THE place to enjoy Big Bear Lake year round. Pacific Crest Trail hikers are also frequent and friendly guests, stopping along their travels of the iconic trail via Big Bear Lake’s North Shore. You can also inquire with their staff about staying all season in accordance with their policies if you really want to get away from it all and snowboard or ski or work at the famed slopes of Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. The goal of The Big Bear Hostel is to provide a friendly world for folks looking to have fun and chill out among the pines, slopes or lakeside environments Big Bear has to offer.

As stated above, if you’re looking for a lower cost but FUN and convenient lodging, a hostel is the way to go! Besides, you’ll never know who you will meet and what you’ll learn during your stay. I hope to see you there!

In Search for the Best Location to Capture Big Bear’s Fall Colors

My favorite season is fall, for many reasons,  you’ve got pumpkin flavored items and scents in abundance, fall colors, cool weather, warm-toned skies and the high amounts of eager anticipation before the holidays.

As a frequent visitor to Big Bear Lake, I check their website weekly for new contests, specials and their infamous Flash sales and I happened to notice a new contest being promoted online, a photo contest that best captures the gorgeous Fall Colors of Big Bear Lake running through November 1, 2014. The contest gives anyone a chance to capture the best of Big Bear’s Fall season.

The winning photo gets published in the 2015 Big Bear Lake Visitor Guide and also receives a $50 Shell Station gas card. Immediately, I called 1-800-424-4232 and a friendly local specialist helped me pick lodging that suited my budget and my newfound adventure. The staff had some ideas on great photo opportunities in the San Bernardino Mountains; including a zip line tour which I made reservations for. We also discussed various scenic hikes, dining options and great spots to best photograph Fall colors at their finest in Big Bear Lake.

The contest is for novice and professional photographers alike and the photo can be taken with your choice of equipment – digital, film, Smartphone, tablet or any other device that allows photos to be shot at high resolution. All images must be submitted via hashtag (#FallForBigBear) through either Instagram, Twitter or Facebook so it makes it easy to enter and you can even enter as many photos as you like! When I started my journey to Big Bear I arrived armed with my Nikon digital camera, iPhone, toy camera and plenty of location choices. I started my morning by walking the Alpine Peddle Path on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake. If you are not familiar with this trail, it is mostly paved and runs along almost 2 miles of gorgeous shoreline.

In preparation for winter, the trees have started to scatter their pine needles everywhere and I captured a great shot of the sun peeking through their branches. The surrounding mountaintops hold their own majestic glory and I spent a great deal of time finding the perfect display of colors to shoot. I spent lunchtime in The Village area, Big Bear’s popular downtime location. The Village has a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, tours and fire pits with seating areas for people watching. The local trees in the area were golden yellow and orange, so I spent time collecting more shots for the contest.

I ran into a couple of other casual photographers who told me that local trail “Castle Rock” would make an excellent photo opportunity. I had hiked the location years ago, so it was about time I revisited the spot with one of the best views in Big Bear Lake! I purchased an “Adventure Pass” at the Visitor’s Center on 630 Bartlett Road in The Village and headed west toward the trail off of Highway 18/Big Bear Blvd and parked in the suggested turnout just past Talbot Road. The trail consists of a path among boulders and trees, taking you up to a higher elevation where you can take a look at the entire valley, the lake, the serenity, the mountains. Castle Rock Trail offers a view unlike any other in town or in Southern California, for that matter. After capturing several shots of the spectacular mountain range and the various colors dotting the tree line, I retired to my lodging in Boulder Bay to prepare for my morning zip line tour.

The following morning, I charged my camera and headed to The Village for a quick bite to eat and a few shots of the falling leaves in Veteran’s Park. Afterwards, I headed to the Action Zip Line offices on Big Bear Blvd where the friendly tour guides greeted me and the rest of the group with basic training and equipment use. After the quick session, we headed off to their private property to go zip lining! I was greeted by a wealth of warm colors and an array of scenic shots upon arrival. Of course, I had to put my camera away for much of the tour in order to safely zip line but there were plenty of stop-and-go moments for me to capture the fall colors many feet in the air. The array of colors in Big Bear is amazing and awe-inspiring; at every turn you’re greeted with a new kaleidoscope of color. The zip lines featured several different tour stretches with majestic views, colors galore and inspiring landscapes. Quite frankly, it was an experience unlike any other. I plan to make it a yearly trip!

When I returned to my lodging, I uploaded over 200 photos to my laptop! I spent a couple of hours picking out the best fall photos from my experience and narrowed it down to three that I submitted to the’s official Instagram contest using #FallForBigBear when I got home. I was surprised at the varied amounts of colors and scenes I captured in just two days in Big Bear Lake’s picturesque mountain community. Everything from kids playing in a pile of leaves, colorful tree branches, shades of colorful foliage and flowers, sunsets and sunrises. Big Bear runs the gamut of bountiful color schemes to capture, not just in fall, but year-round too! My Big Bear vacation was a great experience and I was able to get away from the City and spend time in a more personal, nature dominant community complete with small town charm. Capturing fall colors, family moments and going on an adventure is just a part of the enjoyment, it’s the memories that will keep you coming back to experience all of the beauty Big Bear Lake has to offer more than once. Capturing photos comes easily to some and in this contest it doesn’t matter how skilled you are, the colors and scenery in Big Bear speak for themselves and creates the ultimate photography experience for any age participant. Join the contest and join the fun!

Kelly Garfield

Bike Ride on the Wild Side

One of my favorite outdoor activities in Big Bear is mountain biking. With over 100 miles of trails and U.S. Forest Service roads to choose from the sport of mountain biking naturally fits Big Bear’s mountainous terrain.

I often ride deep into the woods, and every once in a while I encounter some kind of wildlife. I feel it’s a privilege to see animals in their natural habitat. It’s fascinating to watch wildlife in action, and it’s interesting to see that they have different reactions when I ride by.

Mountain Biking on the Sky Like TrailThis past weekend I got my fair share of various fauna sightings. At one point, it felt as if I was on some kind of safari. There are bike rides, and then there are wild rides. Without a doubt this was a wild ride with a variety of different wildlife running across the trail or peeking through the trees. If you ride your bike on the trails and Forest Service roads in Big Bear Valley be sure to stay alert, because there is a chance you will see different critters roaming the forest.

This past weekend, I chose to ride route that consisted of Forest Service roads. I started with a four-mile climb at Van Dusen Road on the North Shore in Big Bear City. Van Dusen road turns into 3N09 and leads to 3N16. I chose to head west on 3N16 to 2N09, which is another Forest Service road that stretches for about four or five miles of pure downhill fun.

My first encounter during my trek up the mountain was an alligator lizard. One thing about nature is one can never predict when one is going to encounter a creature of the wild. I have to admit the lizard scared the bejeebers out of me. As I was riding I could see something slithering near my right pedal. My initial reaction was, “oh lordy! A snake!” So my gut instinct was to pedal faster. Well, as I pedaled faster so did the mysterious slithering reptile. I looked down to get a better glance of what was keeping pace with my bike. I was relieved to see it was a 12 to 15 inch lizard, not a snake. It was long, but I know it was not a threat. It eventually veered off the road and into the brush. This was just the beginning of an adventurous safari-style ride.

As I got closer to the summit of 3N09 I was fortunate to see two female deer cross my path about 20 yards ahead of me. It’s always a pleasure to see deer in the wild. I must have spooked them though because they shifted into a high gear and vanished into the woods. I witnessed their athletic ability and nimble prowess as they navigated over rocks, shrubs and stumps to ensure safety from the intruder on two-wheels.

When I reached the intersection of 3N09 and 3N16 I noticed it was rather quiet. I pedaled west toward Holcomb Valley Campground, and realized most (if not all) of the campers had departed for home. The only active camp I saw was the campground host’s campsite.

As I passed the campground I felt a calming, peaceful feeling, yet at the same time there was something uncanny about the surroundings. My natural instincts seemed to kick in, which gave me a boost of alertness. I was a little more alert than usual. I looked off to the south side of the trail, and sure enough I could see a coyote had stopped in its tracks to watch me. The brave canine did not seem to have any fear of my presence. In fact, it looked as if it was curious to figure out what I was and why I was in its territory. I made a howling sound as I passed the coyote, which seemed to baffle it. I saw it sniff the ground and then it went on its merry way. As I pedaled another 30 yards I looked back just to make sure it didn’t decide to follow me. Sure enough it was clear.

On my stretch toward 2N09 I saw a few different birds including a robin, some blue jays and a raven. There were some smaller birds too that flew directly in front of me just barely missing my helmet. It makes me wonder of these birds were doing this for kicks and giggles.

Next, a jackrabbit appeared on my left. The quickness of the rabbit startled me a bit, but I saw right away what it was. Once again, I got to see a very athletic performance from a critter that has natural skills to dodge its predators. Even though I was not its predator it sure did act like I was. It darted into the forest faster than Jamaican Olympic sprinter Usian Bolt.

I finally reached 2N09. This is my favorite part of the ride because it’s all downhill from here. It was right about dusk when I started my downhill descent. In Big Bear it’s only natural to see bats flying around during this time. Although these bats are harmless they are a bit distracting for mountain biking because of their erratic flying behavior.

I reached the bottom of 2N09 in seven minutes flat. I basically flew down the mountain. It was starting to get dark so I turned on my light and made my way toward the Alpine Pedal Path. I headed east on the pedal path toward home. I figured my safari ride was over, but much to my surprise there was one more creature that I encountered. My bike’s light shined toward the paved path, and right in the middle was a toad. It just sat there and let me pass by.

I was amazed at how much different wildlife I witnessed on my bike ride. I felt it added an extra element of wonder to the ride. In a way the animals provided entertainment along the way, which I was very appreciative. Wildlife is part of mountain biking. So remember to respect wildlife during a ride, and you’re certain to find an enjoyable ride amongst the critters that reside in the forest.

Take a bike ride on the wild side,

Daniel Pea

Big Bear Renaissance Faire – An Experience for All Ages

What do history, art, science and hand crafted goods have to do with a typical vacation? You can find all of these things at the annual Big Bear Renaissance Faire.

As a Renaissance Faire veteran, there isn’t much I haven’t seen at these fun, yet educational, events. That is, until this year. My wife and I had the pleasure of showing friends from out of town around the faire grounds, and helping their children on The Quest!

Big Bear Renaissance Faire- Passado Action Theatre

Big Bear Renaissance Faire – Passado Action Theatre

This was the first time visit to a Renaissance Faire for all of our visitors from out of town, so it turned our tradition of attending the Faire into a very different experience. Our group was about as diverse as you can get, with children ranging in age from 5 to 17, and adults of numerous and varied backgrounds. Each year, my wife and I make an attempt to attend the Faire in period attire (known as garb to the initiated). In doing so, we have the chance to create our own clothing by hand for the event is something we look forward to. We were even able to get one family of friends to join in on the fun!

Most Renaissance Faires are at least two days in length. However, we wanted to try and cram in as much of the experience into a single day as possible, especially considering most of our group could only attent the Saturday session of the Faire. As such, we got our young friends started on The Quest right away. The Quest is an educationally focused scavanger hunt for children of most ages. Even the teenagers had a blast! We spent the morning learning about the Romani (or Gypsies) people and their culture, how the economy and government of Elizabethan villages worked, and about the Guild of Torc Dubh’s function as a work military unit that would serve as the first line of defense in royal castles. I also managed to learn some new things while helping the kids on their quests. Did you know that the Gypsy word, “mishto” means good? We learn something new every day at the Renaissance Faire!

As for the adults, most of us were excited to see handmade clothing and leather goods. I managed to find a hat that my wife had been looking for during the last two times to the Faire, as well as a custom made drinking horn. Our friends who attended in full garb also purchased items such as leather belts, swords, and even custom made books! All-in-all, we brought home an excellent haul of original items that could even be used in our day-to-day lives.

The morning went by very fast, since we were all so focused on the kids having a good time. Just before lunch, one of the youngest boys in our group was awarded a special suovenier coin from the Lord Mayor of The Shire (yet another period term, used in regards to our local Faire grounds), for asking a number of questions about his duties and life. This happened just before one of several jousting tournaments, featuring the Kights of Mayhem. These men and women (yes, there were lady jousters) charge along the lists at eachother, aiming their hemlock lances in the hopes of connecting with a specially plated area of armor known as the Grand Guard. If they strike any part of their opponent’s body other than this specially designed shield, they earn no points and must ride again!

This was the first time the Knights had female jousters, and those women were able to take a beating and dish one out as well. It was a great tournament and we managed to attend to all of them, the second just as exciting as the first; complete with spear throwing and $5 horse rides to all takers – young and old. The action of the tournament went well with our lunches that were bought for a reasonable price within the confines of The Shire. The food was excellent, and was only topped by the dragon’s ale that we got at the ale stand nearest to the tournament field. I managed to convince the serving maid to tell me the secret recipe for this cocktail-like brew. Alas I can not repeat it, for I was sworn to secrecy! Needless to say, it is worth enjoying of the beverages if you enjoy a good beer or mixed drink.

As the joust came to a close and we finished our lunches, we resumed The Quest. The day was winding down and we had so much to complete on the quest list, we split into two groups to try and tackle them faster. My group moved onto an area known as the Wunderkammer or “Wonder Room”. It was a shop of curiosities that very from an Alicorn which was sold by Vikings as a unicorns tusk, to a Fiji mermaid. It was the first year that our Faire had a Wunderkammer, and it made for quite an eccentric but entertaining section of the Faire.

The questing party, including myself, was particularly enraptured by the scale replica of a trebuchet that actually works! We were taught about its inner workings and how they were used during the period in history where they were one of the most predominant seige-engines in the world. There was so much to do at the first of three weekends of the Big Bear Renaissance Faire that the teenagers weren’t able to complete their quests. This was unfortunate, when you consider the prize for completing The Quest…

Big Bear Renaissance Faire - The Climb Nottingham

Big Bear Renaissance Faire – The Climb Nottingham

You become a knight of Queen Elizabeth! Two of the young men were so determined to be knighted, that they intend to return to the third weekend of the Faire and complete The Quest. As our friends departed due to the youngest of the children needing to be put down for naps, my wife and I remained behind with my teenaged brother-in-law. We missed a regular stop for us, which was the very entertaining Gypsy magic show; but managed to experience another first.

An actual Shakespearian play, complete with sword fights! The show was put on by Shakespeare Unplugged; a group of performers who started their troop with the mission of increased educational resources for schools that are seeing their budges being reduced in areas such as the arts. They put on an audience participation show, that consisted of a mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and (my personal favorite) Hamlet. The sections where audience members were brought onto the stage was hilarious and had all of us in stitches. My brother-in-law found to be the sword fight that serves as the climax of Hamlet particularly riveting.

This year’s Faire was loaded with so many activities that we weren’t able to enjoy all of them in a single day. As such, we plan to return with our friends during on the next two weekends to enjoy the things we missed. Some of these include; The Queen’s Tea and Warrior’s Table where you can enjoy a bit of social time with the royal court of the Faire or even rub elbows with the Knights of Mayhem themselves. We also intend to participate in a regular Ren Faire tradition of ours, Ciran the Gypsy Magician and the musical styling of Birds of a Feather.

This trip to one of my favorite events was splendid experience for both my wife and I. Having been to numerous Faire’s and even volunteered at this year’s Faire, we were so excited to see both children and adults having fun learning about a period in history that we no only love, but recognize as one of the most important periods in human development. It was a time when art entered into a new era of mastery, and science shed light on a world that was just beginning to recover from the Dark Ages. It was a point in time, where a person could be anything and everything they wanted if they had the talent and skill to do so. And to share that with the people we love was the best part of all.

It’s an experience that I can’t wait to have again. So much so, that I’ll be joining my young friends again to help them complete their quests. After all, who would be better than someone who completed the quested and was knighted themselves?

Matt McCabe

The Trail of Enlightenment – A Nature Hike with Kids

My good friend Geofry (with one “F”) and his family recently visited me in Big Bear. He suggested that I pick out some activities to do with him and his family during their two-day trip to Southern California’s favorite mountain resort.

Of course Big Bear has many choices for outdoor recreation for families, but it was an easy decision for me. In the past Geofry’s two daughters, ages eight and 11, have shown an interest in outdoor exploration and seem very inquisitive about nature. So it was a no-brainer to take the family on a hiking adventure.

I left it up to Geofry to do a little research to pick out a trail for a day hike that he found fit for his family. I emailed him a link to a hiking trails map on He picked Cougar Crest Trail located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake, just a half mile west of Big Bear Discovery Center. It’s approximately a five-mile round trip hike and is rated moderate to upper moderate. However, this rating should not dissuade anyone from hiking this fabulous trail, not even newbies, because the reality is the Cougar Crest Trail is a trail that the majority of casual recreationists can handle.

The first mile of the Cougar Crest Trail is easy breezy. After the first mile, the trail begins to show more obvious signs of ascension. There are a few areas on the trail that are rocky, but easily manageable. The gain is gradual with maybe one or two minor steeps. It really is an ideal trail for a family outing.

The reason I enjoyed this hike so much however, is I had the opportunity to introduce Geofry’s daughters Karri and Kiara to the captivating world of nature. On this trek I had the honor of trail guide and all-around naturalist. The one thing I like about hiking with kids is their overall interest to learn about Mother Earth. The great thing with any natural environment is there is always something to learn from a scientific standpoint or even good old folklore about an area.

Over the years I’ve become very adept of the San Bernardino Mountains. Along the way I’ve picked up a nature books and have keenly listened to lectures from both Big Bear Discovery Center naturalists and US Forest Service rangers about the surrounding environs.

One of the most enjoyable types of hikes anyone could take is with a knowledgeable source that knows the area very well. On this hike I had the pleasure to introduce my party to interesting facts, tidbits and some history about the flora, fauna and native people of the San Bernardino National Forest. This was my moment in the sun to enlighten both the kids and parents about our wondrous forest.

I started the nature walk by explaining why some trees have fallen to the ground. Of course there are various reasons from natural erosion to termites to lighting strikes. I also explained that sometimes The US Forest Service deliberately cuts trees down to thin the forest, which helps create a healthier forest. I explained how the down trees continue to play a role in the forest by providing natural shelter for animals. In fact, we saw some mischievous chipmunks playing along some stumps near the trail.

Nonetheless, Karri, Kiara and their mom Kyoko were more inclined to get a hands on experience by climbing and walking on the down trees. This playful timeout showed that the trees had another purpose, which of course is to give hikers a fun diversion during a hike.

We also saw a tree with a large, very noticeable scar at the base of the tree. The scar had some visible black char. I asked the group why they thought this tree looked the way it did. They were perplexed and did not have any reasonable guess. However, once I explained that it was from a lightning strike and how lightning travels through solid objects they understood, and were amazed with this natural occurrence.

Next, I found a few different pine cones along the ground, and explained how to tell the difference between a Jeffery Pine Tree and a Ponderosa Pine Tree just by feeling the surface of the pine cones. When rubbing the pine cones in the opposite direction of pine cone’s scales it will either be smooth or it will be rough and prickly. The difference is the Jeffery Pine is known as the Gentle Jeffery because of its smooth surface and the Ponderosa Pine is known as the Prickly Poderosa because of its rugged edges.

After the lesson about Ponderosa and Jeffery Pines I introduced the family to Pinion Pine Trees. I explained how Pinions produce pine nuts in its pine cones. I then explained that the pine nuts are edible, but only when picked directly from the tree and not off the ground. I told the family that they could create some exceptional recipes using pine nuts including pesto sauce.

We continued our walk and I could tell I had a captive audience, especially the two girls. Their eyes were much wider than when we started the trek and they were finding things on their own, and inquisitively asking questions along the way from what type of rocks were on the ground to the lizards and birds that they saw near the trail’s path. Some of the birds we saw included chickadees, nuthatches, stellar blue jays and a northern flicker.

Kiara pointed out a tree that looked different than the pine trees that we had seen, in which case it was an obvious difference. The tree Kiara pointed out was a Juniper Tree. This tree also has some interesting tidbits. I told the girls that the native people called Yuhaviatam, which translates to the People of the Pines, used the bark of the Juniper Trees for various reasons including skirts for the women of the tribe. I also explained that some of the early settlers discovered that the Juniper berries could be used to make bathtub gin.

There were some things along the trail that man put up to help guide other hikers, including the most common directional signage known as the cairn. I explained why three or more rocks were stacked on top of each other to show hikers the direction of the trail so that the trail becomes easier to identify. I then asked the girls if they wanted to build a cairn to help fellow hikers along the way. Their eyes lit up and immediately started gathering rocks to create some cairns to put in a spot that needed a trail identification reference point. This was a very engaging and fun activity for the whole family.

All in all, the hike on Cougar Crest Trail was enlightening for both kids and parents. It was also a thrill for me to teach them about the marvels of nature. It’s very rewarding to have the opportunity to share the things I’ve learned about the forest, and I’m hopeful that Karri and Kiara will continue the tradition of teaching their friends and someday to their kids about the natural wonders of the great outdoors.

Nature at its best,

Daniel Pea

High Altitude Training: A Personal Journey

As I get older, I realize that my time to accomplish my “To-Do” list keeps on getting shorter and shorter. I have been thinking for some time now of becoming a “real” athlete. The word “real” of course has different meanings to different people. For me, it means accomplishing a marathon, a mud run or some other kind of athletic competition. Luckily, I live in Big Bear where year-round there are many athletic competitions.

Lately, I have been looking at the competitions that Open Air Big Bear promotes. They offer not only the extreme events, but they have many that seem doable for my skill level. First, let me give you a little history of my journey in becoming a healthier me and someday an athlete with some fun high altitude training in Big Bear.

High Altitude Training in Big BearI grew up in the era of pre-Internet and pre-handheld electronic days which meant I was usually outside climbing trees or riding my bike. When I wasn’t outside, I would go to my dance classes. Basically, I was moving all the time. Then as time continued on and I grew up, got a job, a husband, a home, had a family, responsibilities and about 90+ lbs. Somewhere in between childhood and now I had lost me and what I like to do. About five years ago I decided I needed to take some time and give it back to me. I was exhausted of doing everything for everyone and nothing for myself. I joined Weight Watchers and lost about 50 lbs with just eating right. I maintained that weight for the next few years, but I still wanted to lose more.

About a year ago, I started working out in the gym. I started with some of the classes like Zumba, Piloxing and Boot Camp. Since the weather in Big Bear is absolutely gorgeous during the summer months, I’ll ride the Sky Chair at Snow Summit to the top of the mountain and then hike down. Or talk a walk on the Alpine Pedal Path or rent a kayak at Captain John’s Marina. If you are visiting Big Bear, we have many gyms that charge per day usage fees as well. Exercising, what a life changer! For one hour a day I actually get to escape reality and just focus on me. For that hour, I don’t think about work or billings or any other responsibilities. I focus on me getting stronger and leaner. I am in control of what I what to become, an athlete. I still don’t consider myself an athlete just yet, but soon. I am not saying it is easy nor am I at my full potential, but I am saying it can be done. Eat smaller meals more often that are healthy choices, move your body, drink more water than you think you can and try to get some sleep. You have to do them all if you want results. I do track everything I eat with the app My Fitness Pal. If I can do it, anyone can. You can sit there and make excuses or you can make it happen. I made all those same excuses as you do and some were so ridiculous, I can’t even mention them. I was not ready to commit to myself. Since I started working out, I have lost another 40 lbs. I am now officially a healthy weight and feeling great! This is just how I was able to get healthy again. (Always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.)

So, even though I am feeling great, I still want to be stronger before any of participating in any of the Open Air Big Bear events and continue my high altitude training. I know right now I could do several of the competitions, but I want to win or at least place. I guess that is the competitive nature in me. I thought about the Memorial 5K Fun Run. Only 5K! We all can at least walk that one. Then I thought about the Big Bear Paddlefest. At the Paddlefest there are three different courses, 5K, 10K and 20K. It is really cool that basically you don’t have to be an extreme athlete to participate in an athletic competition in Big Bear (unless you want to). New to Big Bear this year is the Big Bear Mountain Bike Gran Fondo. This event has three courses 30K, 50K and 100K through trails and forest roads. Maybe the Tour de Big Bear cycling race on August 2nd, would be a great event for me to participate. They also have several levels of courses to choose from; 25, 50, 70 and 100 miles! In September, Endure the Bear Trail Run also has many courses for the whole family; 5K, 15K, 30K and 50K. If you are an extreme athlete and need a challenge I would suggest the Kodiak 100. This trail run is through the San Bernardino Mountains and you have a choice of either 50 mile or 100 mile course. The entire run is at an elevation of anywhere between 5,100 to 10,000 feet. It is required that you must have completed at least one 50 mile run within the past year before participating in this event. I think I may have to wait on the Kodiak for now.

Big Bear, in my opinion, is one of the best places to accomplish one or all of these events with some high altitude training beforehand. With the beautiful landscape of the lake, the pine trees and just maybe you will get to see an animal or two. When you do decide on an athletic event in Big Bear, you must remember a few things if you are coming from a lower elevation. Try to take it easy on the first day. Talk a walk or a nap to help your body adjust to the elevation before a full workout. Also, remember to drink lots of water before you even begin to travel to a higher altitude. Your body will dehydrate faster at higher elevations. Eat some pasta because pasta produces extra CO2 which helps your breathing. Good luck on your journey and remember to give yourself the time you need.

Live It. Up.