It occurred to me on the second day of my mini-vacation in Big Bear Lake how different my choices are now. Yes, there are small, subtle changes in things like my food choices [brown rice over white; side salad instead of fries, etc.], as well as lifestyle stuff, like taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator/escalator. But, more than that, I noticed a profound difference in how I experience vacations.
Travel has always been a passion of mine. I love discovering new places, whether it’s a medieval city in Western Europe (oh Bruges, how I long to see you again!), the hustle and bustle of vibrant Manhattan or London, soaking up the sun and sand in the Caribbean, or wondering at the awesomeness of nature (oceans, mountains and forests in any part of the world).
And while walking is something I’ve always enjoyed, and done lots and lots of, my vacations would typically look something like this: Drive to a super cool place, walk around the super cool place, drive to the next super cool place.
Was there activity? Yes. Was it a lot? No.
I realized my life was very different when I found myself planning destinations for this 3-day mini vacation based on which mountains/trails would provide me with the most challenge and excitement, versus cool touristy stuff that we would normally drive to/around.
I knew I wanted to have lots of activity options, be it walking, hiking, climbing, kayaking, etc., so I decided on Big Bear Lake, CA. At approx 3.5 hours drive time, it was close enough to justify for such a short trip (3 days), and in researching the area, I found that it did offer tons of outdoor/nature activity options. Done. Big Bear Lake it is!
We left a little later than anticipated on Sunday, and had failed to plan for the inevitable “heading home” traffic of all the LA folks who come to Vegas for the weekend and head back on Sundays.
The I15 South is generally a total shit-show on any given Sunday, so this was just poor, poor planning on our part. It took us about 4.5 hours to arrive and check-in to our cabin. The great views made the delayed arrival a lot easier to swallow.
And our first glimpse of Big Bear Lake from Hwy 18, the most sublime route ever. If you haven’t done this scenic drive, I’d highly recommend it. Stunning, stunning vistas and white knuckle twists and turns at 7,000+ ft elevation.
While we were checking in at the main office, the lovely man at registration provided some area maps, and lots of great suggestions about short hikes right around Big Bear Lake, including what he said was a 3.5 mile (one way) run/bike trail called Alpine Pedal Path. He also offered some good advice about which mountain we should climb Tuesday, as I was still debating among 3 tall peaks in the area.
After dropping our bags off in the cabin, I knew time was running short to get my daily sweat in, so I quickly changed into workout gear, laced up my trail runners, and headed out to the Alpine Pedal Path, which runs (depending on which source you believe either 3.5, 3.2, or 2.5 miles each way) along the lake.
I opted for a brisk power walk, as I was unsure how my body would react to jogging at 7,000 ft. The view was stunning, with water so blue and clear it made you want to jump right in.
The dichotomy was simply beautiful to me. I embraced this feeling and decided to try jogging a bit. Mr. Enthusiasm wanted to keep it to a more leisurely pace, but snapped this pic of me getting my jog on.
I made it to the end of the trail, checked my time, which seemed very fast (faster than I would have jogged on a treadmill), so my analytical brain immediately started questioning the actual length of the trail. No way this is 3.5 miles, I told myself. [Making a mental note to google it and find out what the real distance was as soon as I got back to the cabin.].
I turned around and made my way back to the start of the path, meeting up with Mr. Enthusiasm by the car park.
After a quick shower we headed out to dinner. (Another life change; my turnaround time in the shower/get-ready process is a fraction of what it used to be. Quick blow-dry, a bit of tinted moisturizer, some mascara and lip gloss and I’m out the door now.) That said, it turns out, despite my super quick change-a-roo, that there are not a lot of options at 8:30 pm on a Sunday night in Big Bear Lake. Most places were closed, or near empty, and we didn’t want the guilt of keeping the staff there just to serve us.
We settled on a quaint Mexican place, and managed to have a pretty healthy option (grilled sea bass with rice and black beans). A short walk after dinner was cut even shorter due to the cool temps that the higher altitude served up. So we called it a night.
The next day we woke up, had some breakfast, and set out for our first mini hike of the day, Castle Rock trail. At just 1.5 miles round trip, it’s a short and easy hike, aside from the 700 ft ascent in about a half mile, which would get just about anybody’s heart pumping, especially if they are new to altitude! As I climbed, I silently thanked myself for having done Mary Jane Falls and Mummy Spring in the days prior. Climbing those two peaks is likely what saved my ass!
The trail is mostly loose dirt, but offers some really interesting rock formations throughout the ascent.
The views down towards the lake were very pretty throughout the climb. A cynic would say that you didn’t actually have to climb right to the top of Castle Rock, as the views weren’t noticeably better than this at the halfway point:
But since I am nothing if not OCD about finishing things I start, I continued climbing. Eventually making it to the end of the trail and looking up at a jumble of rocks (Castle Rock), and had to decide if I was going to boulder-climb to the very top.
Hellz yeah, I’m climbing up there! The view must be better from the very top, right? 🙂
Well, marginally. If you add a cool instagram filter. 😉
All kidding aside, it’s at this point it dawned on me, how much my life had changed. And I had to share my revelation with Mr. Enthusiasm.
We’ve always enjoyed nature, I told him, and we’ve always loved seeing cool things like this view, but… the difference is this: We used to observe nature. Now we participate in nature.
And that difference is profound beyond words. I’m so glad I’m here now.