Big Bear Village is a vacation getaway for more than just Californians

By Chris A Hale

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, July 12 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

There is nothing quite as refreshing as a swim in a mountain lake. Big Bear was no exception. Although it took me several minutes, and the making of several commitments to my kids, I eventually submerged myself enough to swim out to a giant inflatable slide a few hundred feet from the beach. Yes, a literal beach with sand; something Californians can’t do without. Before the lifeguards allowed us to make the journey, they tested our swimming ability and made sure we wore life vests. There is nothing more invigorating than a dip in melted snow.

I found out the strange white building I mentioned before was a solar observatory. I never found out if it welcomed visitors or not, but it was interesting to see from a distance.

Big Bear was named for the numerous grizzly bears that were present when the lake was first explored by Benjamin Wilson in 1845. Up to that point, only the Serrano Indians had occupied the area for the previous 2,000 years. Bears can still be seen if you hike on one of the many trails that course through the mountains.

You never know what you might see at Big Bear. Numerous movies and television shows have been filmed there, including episodes of "Bonanza" and "Lassie" as well as movies such as "Paint your Wagon." Many of the lakeside summer homes are owned by celebrities whom you could find yourself standing behind in line at the Kmart.

During the weekend we spent there, there was a dune buggy gathering. The kids enjoyed keeping track of how many they could spot throughout the village parking lots and on the roads. Big Bear also has a museum, a performing arts center, a golf course, a zoo and a terrific Discovery Center, where you can pan for gold, throw hatchets, make crafts and go canoeing.

For eating out at breakfast, I'd highly recommend the Grizzly Bear Cafe. The cramped and busy setting was well worth the enormous breakfast we ate. No kidding, the pancakes were bigger than the dinner plates they were served on and came in lots of delicious varieties.

Whether it’s the alpine slide, a frigid dip in the lake, a walk through the tree-shaded village or a cruise on a pirate ship, visiting Big Bear was an extremely rewarding adventure, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks for opening my eyes, Kim!

Chris A. Hale is an aviation maintenance technician for a major airline who has traveled extensively with his family. In his spare time he writes novels inspired by places he's been. Find out more about his books at www.Chrisahale.com

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