I was lured to the Castle Rock Trail with sweet whispers of waterfalls and wildlife. Although my lover’s heart was partly crushed by not seeing either, I could’ve easily spent a whole day exploring every inch of this trail.
Mountains and boulders don’t exist in my Florida flat world—does Space Mountain at Disney count? The chance to explore the mountains near Big Bear Lake , CA by hiking upward on a scenic trail was my equivalent to winning the experiencer’s lotto.
The trail is begins off main road and can easily be missed. As soon as you enter the sandy and sometimes rocky trail, it goes uphill! Within ten minutes of walking our jackets from the cool morning were off and tied around our waist 90s style.
Trees everywhere… before long some were eye level with us! I briefly lamented over discovering the paths from previous streams and waterfalls—but it was late in the year… all the snow was melted and gone. Further on the trees seemed to step aside and boulders took their place. The nature-loving part of my heart leaped.
Mother Nature probably couldn’t take the lack of ozone layers and air pressure resulting in crapped huge rocks all over. (The more adventurous wanna-climbers are welcome to enter the “castle”) From there it felt like I had accomplished some life’s goal I never created—the views of the lake framed by the trees and mountains are spectacular. God bless!
Although I read mixed reviews stating the difficulty of the Castle Rock hike (how can one trail be shown as “easy for beginners” on one and “intermediate to difficult” on another?) My French-Fry-Loving butt was able to do the whole trail without ever feeling threatened for my safety. I was panting… but I did it!
Go ahead and ogle nature, but be careful where you step to avoid tripping, sprains or even the odd itchy attacking plant. A pack of water and sunscreen are a must—a hat helped too but kept getting in my line of sight. Allow a couple hours for your Castle Rock Trail round trip. Luckily Milkshake and I got there early because the nearby parking lot can only hold about six cars.
Click on any of my photos to climb the Castle Rock Trail with us.
Stay tuned for more entries helping you to enjoy Big Bear Lake after the skis have been stowed. Now if only Space Mountain had a hiking trail…
I didn’t think my almost-new economy car rental could look like it had climbed out of a quicksand pit– this is the cool mountains for gosh sake!—but it did in the name of history.
Holcomb Valley is one of those secret, hidden treasures offered by Big Bear Lake, CA. And I mean treasure literally… well, about a hundred years late.
The employee at the Discovery Center seemed momentarily stunned I was asking about Holcomb Valley—this freakin’ TOURIST from the Disney state is asking about HOLCOMB VALLEY??—but became a flood of information and tips once she handed me the self-tour guide.
Technically, you can hike throughout the old town formerly known as Belleville (I guess it’s labeled as a “ghost town” now), but Milkshake and I had just stepped off a plane, drove up a dizzying mountain road, four hours of sleep in the past 36 hours… we didn’t want to hike. We wanted to DRIVE through Holcomb Valley’s gold mining past from one historical marker to the next.
We quickly realized:
– 99% of the road is sand and dirt with the occasional violent pot hole or rock
– The guide’s map is barely helpful. A 1st grader with a measuring tape could’ve done better
– It’s easy to miss the road signs.
Our car was a slow-moving, bumpy wooden roller coaster ride throughout this off-roading experience. Now I can see why the locals were joyriding the opening roads in their Jeeps.
The first marker (designated by a green sign) led Milkshake and I on a short hike to get a great view of the valley. Grab your cameras!
The 2nd stop wasn’t as impressive—we’re still debating whether that shallow pit containing shrubs surrounded by a fence is the placer mine.
Afterwards, we become horribly lost for 30 minutes. Many roads branch from the main road, but none are shown on the map. When our path suddenly became strewn with rocks and burnt trees from a past wildfire, we said “screw it this is scary” and u-turned.
During our hasty retreat we noticed the small brown sign directing us in the correct direction. We were sleepy and discouraged from the road signs but decided to continue with the tour.
There was no sign of human life as we parked and hiked the dirt trails to see the remnants of a log cabin once thought to be a saloon (now only a mess of a dozen logs) then later on an ore mill (now just a single, rusted, machine-y piece). We were too scared (I’ll just say we were too tired) to get out of the car and walk the 20 feet to “Hangman’s Tree” a tall, looming tree used in the past for the execution of criminals.
Although there were at least six more markers to see (including a cabin and an old mine) time and vehicle type weren’t on our sides. We wanted to see the old gold mines but were already warned at the Discovery Center that a regular, little car like ours wouldn’t be able to handle the rocky road to the mines.
The road getting to and around the valley is peaceful with barely any human sightings and beautiful through nature. Sometimes you’ll wonder whether two cars can pass each other on the narrow path without one falling off the mountainside. Sometimes you’ll stare at the remnants of Belleville’s past and wish there was more to see… if you’re even looking at the right thing. But if you’re in the Big Bear Lake area after the snow has melted, I recommend visiting the Holcomb Valley—experience something off the beaten tourist path.
Stay tuned for more entries helping you to enjoy Big Bear Lake after the skis have been stowed.
Visit Holcomb Valley with us by clicking on any photos
Belleville at Holcomb Valley
Get self-tour map at Discovery Center (40971 N Shore Dr, Fawnskin, CA 92333 )
Around 12 miles round trip (if your car can handle the road)
I blame my parents for not teaching us how to relax. Massages, spas, or sitting back is not in our vocabulary. Life is short… experience!
So I wasn’t surprised when sis Milkshake wanted us to go on vacation—but “it has to be active!” Unlike our working friends who are sitting on top of money by still living with their families, Milkshake and I pay for everything—so we also needed to be money cautious.
BAM! Out of the sky drops our aunt’s offer of using her cabin in the Big Bear Lake area while she was out-of-country. Free room? Sure!
Big Bear California? “Why aren’t you going during winter?” EVERY SINGLE friend has whined to us. “So you can go snow boarding!” Good freakin’ gosh—it’s almost cliché. And then nobody can suggest anything else to do other than that exclamation point after snow boarding. (Typical tourists) Now my dear readers… EXPERIENCERS are different… we’ll find an experience in everything and we’ll enjoy it all.
Mountain biking, day hiking, visiting abandoned mines, jumping off boulders into the water—we have an active trip planned.
Not to mention my overly excited self went on a mild shopping spree—I’m sure I won’t use half of it. Plus Mother Nature gave us an extra defense boost as my sister and I will supposedly have our… uhh… gifts while there. Survival gear aside, I say WOE to any would-be rapists, growling bear, thief, or rabid raccoon who’ll try to cross two ladies on their… gifts.
Expect a few documents of the journey it takes to prepare for this type of trip– it takes a few weeks of planning. After all, this ain’t a relaxation vacation!
Hiking boots. Check
Whistle (you know…)
First Aid kit.
Good to go.
This isn’t about my geocaching experience—I’ll save my failure as a geocacher for another time. This is my attempt to be like the “cool kids” of geocaching– I attended my first local event (They exist!)
In honor of “MAY the FOURth be with you” (May 4 event) we were told to meet near the designated coordinates and pretend to be like normal park-goers. Although I’d never met any other geocachers before, from my point of view, we looked soooooo obvious—a bunch of random people hanging out near a hill, some wearing geocaching shirts, AND I saw the occasional flash of a lightsaber—but on this busy and packed Saturday, I guess we did just seem like normal people enjoying the park.
Suddenly— flashing lights as the organizer (“Jedireitz”) ran up the top of the hill (there’s hills in Pinellas County?) with his Darth-Maul-dual lightsaber in hand. The signal! The teen girls who were nearby had their mouths drop open as they watched a bunch of random people suddenly trek up the hill with “lightsabers” upraised. Thankfully I wasn’t the only person who’d never owned a toy Star Wars weapon as more than half of the attendees waved spatulas, brooms, umbrellas (a pair of Arnis sticks between Socs and me) during their climb.
At the hilltop it became a name drawing for GC prizes, group picture, Milky Way chocolate bars, a few words, and disperse.
Thus ended my first Geocaching event in less than 15 minutes.
The group really was random with a few teens, kids, young adults and middle-agers in the mix. Don’t be surprised thinking the “white haired-folk” didn’t know their technology because they made up a good half of the attendance; and obviously you need to know how to work the website and GPS to go geocaching.
Thank you “JediReitz” for allowing me to meet the other local nerds who get a high from finding random containers and depressed when we get stumped by a DNF. I was amused by all the camaraderie most of the GC-ers already had. My shy-ness prevented me from mingling well, but I totally intend on breaking that barrier during the next event.
Click on any photo to view my pictures of the event—well… most of them are of Socs and I enjoying the park.
Geocache Event: Bring Your Lightsabers!
May 4, 2013