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?

Cheers,
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 BigBear.com. 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.
Rebecca

Top 8 Summer Activities to Keep Your Kids Busy

Top 8 Summer Activities to Keep Your Kids Out of Your Hair Busy

Summer, it is almost officially here! The days are becoming slighter longer. The weather is getting warmer. The grill is getting fired up on a regular basis. My flowers are in full bloom. Actually, the neighbor’s flowers are in full bloom. I never can find the time to plant anything let alone flowers. I love summer just as much as the next person, but in two weeks my 10 and 8 year old sons will be out of school. Cue the horror music. Sure, they love the summer months too, but I can guarantee that within less than a week they will be bored out of their minds. All the moms out there you know what I am talking about. “Mom, I’m sooo bored!” “Mom, there’s nothing to do.” Usually when this happens, they then turn to bugging one another which then turns into irritating, you guessed it, MOM. So it is time to start planning out the summer. Unfortunately, I don’t live a lavish lifestyle but luckily we do live in Southern California namely Big Bear Lake! The main reason my husband and I moved to Big Bear, 11 years ago, was to start a family. We fell in love with all the activities and events that Big Bear offers and knew right away that this was the place for us. So as I mentioned, my main focus is to keep my kids busy!

Here are my Top 8 Summer Activities for kids and families:

1. Biking. As the over protective mom that I am, I do worry about my kids riding their bikes on our neighborhood streets. The Alpine Pedal Path is a great biking and walking path for everyone. It is paved and runs right along Big Bear Lake which is absolutely stunning this time of year.

Kids Fishing Catching a Trout Fish2. Fishing. I am not lying when I say this, but every time we have gone fishing we have caught fish from the lake. Of course, sometimes it isn’t the biggest fish, but it is a fish. We have caught blue gill, trout, bass and catfish. My youngest one day told us that we were fishing all wrong, because he wasn’t catching anything, and decided to bait his own hook and ended up catching the biggest fish out of all of us. Kids, they are smarter than we think sometimes. This year I think we may try a fishing charter to really find where the fish are hiding.

3. Alpine Slide. There is something about water that I believe almost every kid loves, at least my two crazy young men. If they could spend their entire summer in the water, they would. And hey, some water and some sun make them nice and tired too!

4. Hiking. Kids are natural explorers and learners. Some days we head on over to the Discovery Center to learn about the San Bernardino National Forest which is right in our own backyard, but we do learn something we did not know every time we visit the Discovery Center. Their volunteers are friendly and helpful. We also ride the Sky Chair to the top of Snow Summit. You get to have the best view of the entire Big Bear Valley and grab some lunch. If you get too tired you can always ride it back down too!

5. Zoo. So the more I learn about the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, the more excited I get when I visit the animals. Our zoo is one of only two alpine zoos in the nation! 90% of all the animals brought to the zoo for rehabilitation are successfully released back into their native environment. Those that remain with the zoo on exhibit are either too injured or have been imprinted by humans and cannot be released back into the wild to care for themselves. Our zoo is one of the best hidden gems of Big Bear. The zoo is going to have new occupants coming at the end of June, TWO snow leopards!

6. Kayaking. This is probably my most favorite thing to do on the lake, so I drag my family with me. Happy wife, happy life, right? I like to launch from the North Shore or Captain John’s Marina. When we got out there on the lake it is so quiet and serene that it just takes your breath away. With the sun shining down and the smiles of my family I wish I could just stop time for that moment.

7. Concerts. In the last several years Big Bear has become music concert central. Venues such The Cave, Music in the Mountains and Blues for the Zoo are just a few. The Blues for the Zoo is an annual fundraiser for the zoo that is held at Swim Beach. I love to just sit there and listen to the music while I watch my kids dance or try to dance. They got there moves from the father or should I say lack of moves. And did I mentioned the best part? Kids 10 and under are FREE!

Hiking via Snow Summit's Sky Chair with Family
8. Mining. Big Bear now offers mining made easy! At Gold Rush Mining Adventures we can pick a bag of rocks, minerals, gems, fossils, geodes and much more for the kids to explore. It is really a one one-of-a-kind adventure. And they get to wear a cool mining hat.

I only have two weeks left before I have to really set my summer plans into action and so do you. Plan your summer today. Over 300 days of sunshine, above the “clouds”, temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s and all there is to do?! It’s a no-brainer, Big Bear is where you need to be. Start making those memories and grab them before the moments are gone. Share your experience with us! How do you #LiveItUpBigBear?

Gathering memories,
Rebecca

Top Stars at Big Bear’s Alpine Zoo

When tourists or locals alike think of zoos in Southern California, one immediately thinks of San Diego’s Wild Animal Park or Los Angeles’s Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Yet, a little unknown gem resides just a short drive outside of LA and into the San Bernardino Mountains: Big Bear’s Alpine Zoo (formerly the Moonridge Animal Park)!

Big Bear Alpine Zoo Grizzly BearThe Big Bear Alpine Zoo organization has been saving wildlife since 1959 with dedicated volunteers and staff whom aim to rescue, rehabilitate and release hundreds of animals in need. This wildlife zoo offers an experience unlike any other, built into the National Forest of Big Bear Lake’s scenic atmosphere, guests are able to walk through the exhibits and view and learn about animals not normally seen in domesticated city zoos.

The zoo’s experience at 7,000 feet in fresh mountain air also includes special programs including “Adopt an Animal”, “Flashlight Safari’s” and Jazz Fundraisers year round. You will also find panels educating both young and old about animals placed into the zoo for rehabilitation and assistance. The zoo also offers public tours daily in the afternoon, consisting of feedings and speaking candidly about the animals, teaching you facts you wouldn’t know otherwise! It creates an entertaining and memorable atmosphere for everyone involved.

The Alpine Zoo also offers a varied gift store completes with stuffed (toy!) bears, necklaces, earrings, postcards and Big Bear Lake memorabilia to treasure. One of the knowledgeable volunteers will be more than happy to help you select the perfect treasure! You’ll also find a delightful snack bar with drinks and finger foods for the whole family.

Beloved animals in the zoo have been given names by the staff due to their unique and individual personalities! Listed below are 5 “Star” animals we think you’ll just LOVE to visit:

  1. Hucklebeary! The zoo’s most recognizable superstar bear has three legs and is a huge fan of cookies. In the wild, their diet consists of roots, nuts, berries and grasses.
  2. Shakespeare! At the zoo since just after its birth, this bobcat is loved by staff and fans alike. This animal is named for the short, bobbed tail.
  3. Aurora! Famously rescued from a roof in Beverley Hills, this Arctic Fox now calls Big Bear home at 7,000 feet. The unique feature of the Arctic fox is their thick fur that allows them to maintain a consistent body temperature.
  4. Tutu! Tutu resides at the Alpine Zoo and may just grin and BEAR it for the cameras! Tutu is the mother of the Alpine Zoo’s other two grizzlies, Harley and Ayla, and they are the only family of Grizzly Bears together in captivity in all of California, and possibly in the U.S.
  5. Nono! This adorable barn owl came to the zoo in 2007 and has made everyone his friend. You can find him by listening for his raspy calls, unlike the hoots of other owls.

You can also book longer tours (over an hour long) for groups/schools over ten guests for Docent led guides year round, mid-week. You’ll learn interesting facts such as how long a wing span is, what a lion’s tongue feels like and why the animals remain in their care. You’ll also learn how animals are released and what climate they are best suited for!

Ticket costs for guests 10 year and up is only $12 with smaller children and seniors only $6 per person. The Zoo also offers a military and group discounts along with free parking.

On your next visit to Big Bear, make sure to stop by Big Bear’s Alpine Zoo!

Kelly Garfield

Fishing is at Top of Mind

Southern California weather is one of the most sought after climates in the world. This winter proved it as the Midwest and East Coast got hammered with the polar vortex. Even though people from these regions are envious of our sun-kissed weather, the actuality of it is this season was very unusual weather, even for Southern California.

Spring in Big Bear LakeMy hat goes off to the Big Bear Mountain Resorts team for the ability to deliver good snow coverage considering the situation. The ski and snowboard season is still happening at Bear Mountain, so there are still opportunities close to home if you want to get in some turns. I still plan to get in one more day this week; however my way of thinking is starting to shift.

Fishing is now at the top of mind. I have already bought a new fishing rod, and plan to get a new reel later this week. I’m trying to get a head start on what is expected to be a fabulous fishing season this spring.

I’ve already spotted some anglers getting an early start on the season. Why not? After all the weather conditions are ideal for shoreline fishing. If you prefer trolling from a boat, then you will be glad to know the marinas in Big Bear Lake plan to open earlier than usual, so boat rentals will soon be available. Be sure to check back, and I will be sure to report when the marinas open for the season. If you have your own boat the public launch ramps will open April 1.

No matter if you choose shoreline fishing or from a boat, the one thing I do know for certain is the rainbow trout in Big Bear Lake are hungry. In the next two or three months trout will be chomping at just about anything that is thrown their way. If you like trout then Big Bear Lake is the best spot in Southern California. Not only do you get a great day of fishing, but the scenery that surrounds is superb!

I recently drove along the north shore to investigate and see what the early-season anglers are having any luck with. The very first fellow I approached was grinning from ear to ear. He had just reeled in a good-sized two-pounder five minutes upon my arrival. He said he was using Pautzke Fire Bait, and said it was his second of the day. The first one he caught was too small so he threw it back. I also ran into a group of guys from Pasadena that came up to snowboard in the morning and fish later in the afternoon. They had been fishing for a couple hours, but no one in their party had reeled anything in yet. They did however claim to get a few good bites. One of the guys explained to me that it doesn’t really matter if they catch anything because they got to snowboard in the morning, and he said now it’s all about enjoying the beauty of the mountains while trying to reel in a good-sized trout.

String of Trout Fish Big Bear Lake CAThe spots that seem to have the best potential right now are on the north shore from Juniper Point to the Solar Observatory. The other key spots are at the Dam on north shore side to Windy Point. These areas are well-known as hot spots during the spring months.

I plan to get a new reel this week, stock up on some bait, and possibly buy some new lures. Once I get all of my new gear in line, then I’m ready to catch some big holdover rainbow trout. The weather is great, and there is plenty of shoreline to find a good spot to fish.

Two of Big Bear Lake’s fishing tournaments are now open for registration. The May Trout Classic is May 17 and 18 and Fishin’ for $50K is scheduled for June 7 and 8. These tournaments always add to the excitement to the fishing season because they stock the lake well with trophy-sized fish and they give out some great prizes from rod and reel combos to cold hard cash. In fact, what could be more exciting than the opportunity to catch a trout with a tag on its fin that is worth $50,000?

My mind is made up; I plan to turn the next couple of months into a fishing frenzy in Big Bear Lake. I hope to reel in some big ones and get my barbeque fired up earlier than usual this spring.

Reel em in,
Daniel Pea

Girlfriend Getaway to Big Bear

I still remember my first trip to Big Bear on a girlfriend getaway weekend during the winter of 2003.

Snowboarding at Bear MountainA few of my girlfriends and I were in desperate need to take a break after finals and before we all headed home for the holidays. Rather than getting each other presents, we opted to take a well deserved and much needed girls snowboarding vacation to Big Bear since it was located close to San Diego. I grew up skiing but we decided to all try something new on this girls trip.

Before heading up to Big Bear, we searched online through many different types of lodging and found Northwoods Resort. It was our first time to Big Bear and we thought it was safe for us girls to stay in a full service lodge and it didn’t hurt that they were running a lift ticket and lodging deal that we gladly took advantage of! So there we were with a full tank of gas and hotel reservations and music on our iPod and headed up to Big Bear after school on a Friday night.

The drive was relatively easy and the hotel was easy to find since it was in the beginning of the main Village. We checked in and were pleasantly surprised with the hotel. It had ample parking, elevators (important to girls lugging a lot of luggage) and was decorated in a cute woodsy theme. After sprucing ourselves up a little after the long drive, we headed out to “play like the locals.” We really wanted an authentic Big Bear vacation. After asking a few friendly locals, we ended up at Teddy Bear’s Restaurant, which is an oldie but goody diner in the Village, partly because not many restaurants were open (Hey, it took us a while to spruce up, it was a long drive!). After eating some yummy sandwiches and pancakes, we headed to the recommended local’s bar Chad’s for some dancing and drinks. It was the exact type of mountain bar we were looking for with a good mix of locals and tourists rocking out to the live band, playing pool, killing it at darts and competing at friendly games of table hockey. Chad’s was a hit and killed two birds with one stone because we found some cool locals to take us out on the slopes the next day, after our beginner lesson, of course!

girlfriend getaway in Big Bear On Saturday, and us being…well girls, we decided to hit the local ski shops for cute outfits, I mean snow gear. We stopped at Blauers Board Shop and they had so many stylish options to choose from and try-on that we almost forgot we still had to hit the slopes at some point in the day. After some retail therapy, we finally headed to Bear Mountain where parking was a nightmare at the top parking lots (EEK! I guess we shouldn’t of shopped for so long) but it was no big deal since they had free shuttles from the lower parking lots to the resorts. Once we got there, we decided that we would trade in the lift ticket we received from the hotel package for some beginner lessons. I should rephrase “for some MUCH needed beginner lessons!” Our instructor was awesome and by the end of the lesson we were confident enough to ride the beginner lift but getting down that first run was another challenge. Snowboarding was so much fun even as a beginner and we felt like Big Bear was the perfect spot to learn because it was warm and the mountain isn’t as intimidating as the ski resorts I grew up skiing on. After snowboarding and many falls, we hit the Beach Bar for some much needed refreshments.

Once we got back to our hotel we were too exhausted to go out so we stayed in and had one big slumber party which included board games, hot cocoa, late night runs to the snack machine and we even hit up the arcade room downstairs! This is what makes a girl’s getaway so much fun for me and I continue to do them each year!

girlfriends trip ideas to Bear MountainThe next morning we were told that we MUST stop at this breakfast spot called Grizzly Manor Café. It’s one of those places you don’t really notice on the side of the main Big Bear Blvd but you do notice the line of people standing outside waiting for their table. Let me say that when I go to the mountains, breakfast is always my favorite meal. There is something about waking up early to hit the slopes and breathing in the cold mountain air and enjoying breakfast and coffee while talking about the new experience you are going to have or have had. The pancakes were enormous and the bacon came well done, my favorite! We made the mistake of ordering the Sissy’s and if you haven’t yet, then order one and wait for the reaction from the staff! After one of the best breakfasts we have ever had, we went snowboarding one more time for a couple of hours before heading home.

All in all, it was a great trip and a few weeks later the girls and I decided to do it again! But this time it snowed! Putting cables on was a cinch for us since my dad taught me over the holiday break because he knew I was hooked on snowboarding. Even as college students we were still able to put together the extra money and the experience was well worth it! Over 10 years later, I now call Big Bear my home. When I go out or hit the slopes, it is great to see a group of girls on vacation in Big Bear because I know it takes just one trip to affect how you enjoy the rest of your life. I hope my girlfriend getaway ideas help you plan your next trip!

Remember, memories last a lifetime.
Tina

Winter Olympics Fever Cured in Big Bear

The Winter Olympics are on for one more week, and the fever is really catching on.

There are many people who are watching the Olympics getting the fever to get out and participate in these winter sports, or at least get a feel for it. Some might even be happy to just watch winter sports live in person. Well, the only place in Southern California to get a glimpse of some of the winter sports happening in the Sochi Olympics is right here in Big Bear Lake.

Big Bear Family Fun Winter Olympics StyleFirst and foremost Big Bear has both of its mountain resorts open with about 80% of the runs open. This means great skiing and snowboarding are available. Some people are excited to try the Park at Bear Mountain to get a taste of slopestyle snowboarding and skiing. Bear Mountain is well known in the ski industry as one of the leaders in slopestyle park features. Another great option for slopestyle is at Snow Summit’s Westridge run. Now is a great time to come up and show your stuff, especially if you have Winter Olympics fever.

Big Bear is the only place in Southern California with a concrete luge track at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Another fun activity that is winter related, but not necessarily in the Winter Olympics, are two inner tube parks. Big Bear Snowplay has an excellent base with six open runs and Alpine Slide has a slicker surface with six open runs including the windy snake run.

My friend Bob called me last week and admitted he had the itch to do some winter sports because of all the Winter Olympics cover he had been watching on NBC. I invited him up so he could cure his Winter Olympics fever. He agreed and brought up his family.

We had planned out to do some inner tubing and alpine slide. We suggested that we would time our runs and the winner would win medals. We had every intention to time our runs with both activities, but once we got there and started to slide down the hill it became a free-for-all. Ask any parent and they will tell you when kids are involved best made plans can go awry because they tend to make their own rules. My friend and I put away our timers and joined in the fun with the kids.

Even though it turned into a non-competitive day it still felt good to get out and take part in winte rsports that are similar to what we had been watching on TV. After a day of sliding down the snow-covered hills an zipping down the alpine luge-style course we headed over to Bear Mountain to watch some of the snowboarders do tricks at the Park. We were there on a good day because some of these guys had natural talent. We got to see aerial tricks, rail slides, boxes and jumps. It was exciting for our entire group. It felt like we were watching a version of the Olympics live in person.

We ended the day back at my cabin for dinner and of course we turned on NBC Sports for more Winter Olympics in Sochi. It was a great day dedicated to the love of winter sports and the Olympics. My friend and his family definitely got their fix and best of all cured their Winter Olympics fever in Big Bear Lake.

Go USA,
Daniel Pea

Romance Abounds in Big Bear Lake

Romance blooms around the Big Bear Valley during this special time of year, and we want you to take advantage of the numerous deals and adventures to be had this Valentine’s Day weekend.

No matter your type of getaway – romantic, long weekend or just to experience the great outdoors, we have the top events and deals in the Big Bear Lake Valley this Valentine’s Day weekend!

Get Cozy in Big Bear on Valentine's DaySnow Summit and Bear Mountain ski resorts are offering THE deal of the weekend – get 50% off on Friday, February 14th – Valentine’s Day. The “Ditch your Date” special is the perfect start to your long weekend in Big Bear Lake! Make your reservation online ahead of time and get yourself a 50% off ticket for Friday February 14th! Valid for 50% off an all Adult, Young Adult, Child or Senior lift tickets on 2/14/2014 – reservations must be made online at least one day in advance. Unused tickets will be worth face value; restrictions may apply. Take advantage of this rare lift ticket deal by checking out snowsummit.com!

For those who want to ski or snowboard or go tubing, all day and all night, take advantage of night skiing sessions on Friday or Saturday this weekend and enjoy the cooler temperatures with your sweetheart! Sip cups of hot cocoa at the Bear Bottom Lodge dining area and enjoy the night with your favorite person at one of Southern California’s premiere ski resorts! Tickets for night skiing start at $35 and are available via snowsummit.com or at the ticket windows – take advantage of the slopes! If snow sports aren’t your thing but you still want to take advantage of the snowy fun in Big Bear, look no further than Big Bear’s Alpine Slide and snow play – priced at $25 per person from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. or night sessions priced at $20 per person from 5 p.m.- 9 p.m., you and your partner can toboggan down the hills all day for an adrenaline rush like no other! If this is a family outing, you’ll find your kids overjoyed to experience the snow with the mile-long toboggan run and fun!

Love is in the air! Going out for dinner remains the top choice of most couples over Valentine’s day weekend. In Big Bear Lake, you can experience an array of dining options no matter your style or taste. The Peppercorn Grille offers a limited Valentine’s Day menu located in the heart of the Village for a perfect romantic flair with ten different meal options! Reservations are highly recommended. You may find the perfect drink and entrée at Captain’s Anchorage, Big Bear’s popular vintage restaurant. – they will be serving a wonderful lobster dinner over the holiday starting at $50 per person. The Stillwells restaurant also offers a premiere dining experience and location in downtown with numerous menu options for the holiday.

Experience romance this weekend at the Wolf Creek Wine Room near the downtown Village area – enjoy a glass of bubbly and appetizers Valentine’s Day evening as the sun sets in Big Bear Lake, the perfect end to your day and the start of your night.

Big Bear Lake is fast becoming a popular destination for live entertainment! This holiday weekend features “The Comedy Bash” at the downtown events center, The Cave. Featuring an array of performers, including Grant Lyon, Matthew Claybrooks, Maronzio Vance and Bebos J. Rafael – you are sure to have a hilarious time this weekend! Show starts at 8 PM and tickets are available via bigbear.com.

If you and your loved one want to get away for the weekend, look no further than calling 1-800-424-4232 or visiting www.BigBear.com for lodging options – everything from cabins, rooms and bed and breakfasts are at your fingertips to create a romantic setting for your getaway.