Wintertime Wonder at Big Bear Lake
By Ann Nelson



The world is full of beautiful places. The forests, lakes, mountains, canyons, and natural areas in Southern California are truly some of the most beautiful, and offer a welcome respite and quiet moments. If you're looking for a change of season, need a little "shot" of winter and want to save on gas, heading to the little town of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains can't be beat! 

Three thousand years ago Big Bear Valley was occupied by the Serrano Indians. In 1860, William Holcomb was hunting bears, and discovered gold instead. Since the filming of "The Call of the North" in 1914, so many motion pictures have been shot in Big Bear Valley that it has been referred to as "Hollywood's back lot."

My friend Susie and I decided to make our escape to Big Bear in the middle of winter and in the middle of the week. Prior to our trip we decided we wanted to stay at a bed and breakfast. I'm including a list of some of the best B&B's at the end of this article.

Ideally, we wanted our trip to be spiritual and soulful. We had heard about a "Soul Journer's Experience" offered by spiritual teachers in the community. The retreats are designed to heal the mind, body and spirit, and are personally tailored to meet the specific needs of individuals or couples. The "Soul Journers" meet in private one-on-one sessions with the experienced spiritual teachers and healers of Big Bear Lake.

The teachers offer guidance, as well as practical advice and ideas about how you might spend meaningful time in the mountains. Art, writing, music, and photography or recreational tours may be recommended. The personalized sessions were not only inspiring, but also powerful and enlightening. Robin Bradley specializes in "Life Reading and Energy Balancing" and seemed to have the ability to gaze into my soul and know just what I needed. Diana Guerrero gave Susie and me personalized sessions regarding discovering and nurturing our muse. 

Spending a few hours at a spa is an essential ingredient for the ultimate relaxing "soul journey." Elevations Day Spa was the perfect way to reward us after our deep emotional work. The spa offers just about any type of body treatment you would want, plus personal fitness training, yoga, nutrition and well-being counseling. The motto of Elevations Day Spa is "Your state of mind is yours alone. Enhance it. Experience it. Embrace it."  

Big Bear is the home to two of Southern California's largest ski resorts, and actually was the first mountain recreation area in Southern California. The first ski jump was erected in 1929. The ski slopes are generally open well into April. 

The ski slopes, the alpine slide and the tube rides were uncrowded, with virtually no waiting lines. I have to confess, Susie and I are both over fifty and the Alpine Slide in particular, may be better suited for eight-year-olds, but we really wanted to go. We checked our egos at the starting gate and took off up the hill on the chair lift. After a quick lesson, we were ready and safely strapped into our slides, and went flying down the mountain, screaming and laughing all the way. We felt as though we didn't have a care in the world!  

We wanted to make a point of visiting The Moonridge Animal Park. The zoo is the only alpine zoo in the U.S. specializing in alpine wildlife. It is home to 150 orphaned and injured wildlife, representing over 89 species. One "good citizen" of the zoo is Huckleberry, a three-legged bear cub who came to the zoo with a severely inured right foot. From what I heard, he was close to death and malnourished. Today he is in good health and romping around with two other Black Bears.

There are several fabulous restaurants in Big Bear. One is Malden's, an absolute favorite that has been part of the community for over 15 years. The owners of Malden's are actually two Le Cordon Bleu-trained chefs. It's a known fact around Big Bear that people actually drive up the hill just to have dinner, and take home the famous Jalapeno Soup. Environmental groups like the Audubon Society, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club work hard to preserve the scenic view, the land and the wildlife here. The Sierra Club sponsors outings to acquaint others with the mountains.

"The world is full of beautiful places that need saving," writes Ralph Salisbury, Sierra Club Outings Chair, San Gorgonio Chapter. "But our Southern California forests are our beautiful places. These are our stomping grounds; we know these summits and canyons. If we do not work to save these natural areas, who will?" 

Contact Information:

Apples Bed & Breakfast
(909) 866-0903
Set in a one-acre pine forest, this charming Victorian home is elegantly
decorated with country furnishings and features a grand dining room for
leisurely breakfasts.

Switzerland Haus
(909) 866-3729
European ambiance, spectacular views of the slopes, breakfast before a
roaring fire and afternoon relaxing In the Nordic spa are all part of the
Switzerland Haus experience.

Gold Mountain Manor
(909) 585-6997
Offering a return to the relaxed elegance of yesteryear, the Manor's
historic past as a movie investor's getaway resort is reflected in the
grandness of the common rooms and unique guest rooms.

Knickerbocker Mansion Country Inn
(909) 878-9190
Originally built in 1920 as a home for the Big Bear Lake dam keeper, this
magnificently restored unique log private home and carriage house is
transformed into a charming B&B of rustic elegance, quiet atmosphere and
exquisite personal attention.

The Inn at Fawnskin
(909) 966-3200
A graceful retreat of magical proportions, this beautiful log home is
nestled in its own pine forest located on the quiet north shore of Big Bear

Goldilocks Cottage Bed & Breakfast
(909) 866-6923
A storybook cottage, located on a forested lot, just blocks from the village
and lake.

Big Bear Visitors Information
(800) 4-Big Bear
The website and call center are great for up-to-the-minute weather reports
and road conditions.

Elevations Day Spa
(909) 866-7405

Big Bear Discovery Center
(909) 866-3437

"Soul Journers" 
Diana Guerrero 
(800) 818-7387

Robin Bradley 
(909) 866-4948

Ann Nelson is a freelance writer, presently living in San Diego, California.

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