Exploring Big Bear (Snow Summit and Stanfield Marsh) - August 2013

I have lived in the L.A. area now for almost 8 years and I'd never been to Big Bear so A and I took a Saturday and drove out there to commune with some conifers. We'd been hoping to take a trip north for the weekend to Sequoia but schedules were tight and funds were sparse so Big Bear would have to do.

Here's where we were:

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The drive out there was really nice. I'm always amazed at how quickly California scenery changes. One minute you're on the interstate and the next you're driving up, up, up into the mountains, afraid for your life at every turn! Pretty exciting.

Unbeknownst to us, there was a classic car show in "the village" that day so traffic was horrible and it was a pain to find parking for the visitor's center, but we wanted to get a map and hear about the best spots for hiking. The staff at the visitor's center suggested Snow Summit Sky Chair which I'd had my eye on anyway so after a little lunch we decided to check it out.

Snow Summit is a winter park for skiing and snowboarding but in the summer it turns into Snow Summit Adventure Park where you can mountain bike, hike, zipline and golf. We decided to take the ski lift (called the Sky Chair in the summer) to the top of the mountain to walk around a bit up there and take in the views.

The parking is free and the Sky Chair ride costs $14 (round trip with no bike). If you think you might get lunch at the top you can get the Lift and Lunch deal which is $22. Although you can hike down to the bottom, the staff at the ticket booth didn't recommend it unless we had the proper footwear, etc.

Although A is a bit afraid of heights, the ride was great. Such beautiful views of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding area. It was even clear enough for us to see the desert in the distance.

Once at the top we had an hour to explore before the last lift returned us to the bottom. We took the Mountaintop View Outlook Trail which was an easy trail that took us past views of San Gorgonio peak.

This late in the summer most wildflowers are gone but we saw a few.

Rubber Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)
Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

We also saw a few birds that I'd never seen before.

Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)
Western Wood-Peewee (Contopus sordidulus)

The ride back down was even nicer than the ride up because of the lake views. Beautiful!

After we left Snow Summit we still had some time before we needed to head back to L.A. so we decided to spend a little time on the lake shore with the birds at Stanfield Marsh Wildlife and Waterfowl Preserve which is on the southeast side of the lake (about a 5 minute drive from Snow Summit). We thought we needed an Adventure Pass to park by the lake so we bought one on the way at a 7-11 (I'm still not sure this was necessary but it was worth the $5 even just to allay my worries about getting a parking ticket).

There is a nice boardwalk there and areas where you can walk around the lake's edge. There weren't as many birds as I'd hoped, but we saw some juvenile and adult American Coots, female Mallards with their ducklings and the ever-present Great Blue Heron.

Juvenile American Coots  (Fulica americana) and Female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Female Mallard and her ducklings (Anas platyrhynchos)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
"Take only pictures, leave only . . . shadows?"

We wanted to get down the mountain before the sun set so we headed home on the north side of the lake (which was much less crowded than the south side). There is so much to do in this area I would love to come back when we have more time to explore. Still, it was well worth the 2-hour drive.