First lesson learned: Don’t go to a major tourist destination on a holiday weekend if you expect to experience much of anything other than crowds and lack of parking.
Up until yesterday, my only experience with the San Bernardino Mountains was either driving over the Cajon Pass on Interstate 15, or viewing them from a distance driving along Interstate 10. Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake sit high in the mountains, and it was time I explored one of them.
I left San Diego mid-morning yesterday headed to Big Bear Lake to check it out on a reconnaissance trip for future exploration and photography. The drive up went well, and California Highway 330 (CA 330) out of Highland was quite scenic.
The small town of Big Bear Lake was jam-packed with other holiday weekend travelers, and there was some sort of event or festival going on in the middle of town that made finding a parking place in this lifetime next to impossible. I slogged through the traffic and did a counterclockwise loop around Big Bear Lake.
I have to admit that I was disappointed in the lake. The water level was down (it’s a reservoir) much to the chagrin of waterfront property owners and, the water itself, was murky and not all that photogenic. (Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Lake Tahoe.) Still, there were plenty of people enjoying the lake on their personal watercraft, which made it even less photogenic to me. I didn’t take even a single photo of the lake.
I did, however, stop at the Big Bear Discovery Center, a visitor center run by the Southern California Mountains Foundation, and hiked one of its nearby trails. (Second lesson learned: Slow down when hiking at nearly 7,000 feet / 2,133 meter elevation after leaving your sea-level home 3.5 hours earlier.)
For the return trip, I drove California Highway 38 (CA 38) out of Big Bear, over the 8,443 foot / 2,573 meter foot Onyx Summit on my way back to Redlands. This was a little easier to drive and I think has more potential for future photography.
Would I go back? Yes, but probably on a mid-week trip during the off season, and certainly not on a holiday weekend again.
Here are a few snapshots from the day.