CAMPING IN BIG BEAR, CA
Travel Date: November 2016
Location: Big Sur, CA
Accommodations: Serrano Campground
Activities: Castle Rock Trail, Amangela's Sandwich and Bagel House, B's Boathouse, Pine Knot Trail, Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake has become one of our favorite easy-to-get-to getaways. If we plan ahead and leave by 5 or 6 am we can avoid traffic and it is close enough for a day trip or perfect for one night camping trips. Our first camping experience in Big Bear with Ruckus was in November of 2016 and we’ve been dying to go back ever since!
To minimize the prep-work for camping, we have our camping needs pre-packed into plastic bins that are stored outside our back door in a shed. This way if an opportunity presents itself we are always ready and can take off at a moments notice. See our blog post for how we put these bins together and keep them stocked so even true type A personalities like us can rest easy and avoid running around like crazy people trying to get ready.
We had to work Friday, but we put all our gear including these bins in the living room Friday evening, so between breakfast, taking Ruckus around the block and packing the car we were on the road by 6 am. We were approaching Big Bear by about 7:30 so I bundled up in my hat, scarf, and gloves to let Ruckus hang his head out the window and breath in the fresh mountain air in my lap. Watching him take it all in was worth braving the freezing air. Our first stop was Castle Rock Trail. The trailhead is a small inlet on the right of Big Bear Blvd about a mile past the North Shore Drive intersection as it winds towards Big Bear City. After getting Ruckus set in his MountainSmith backpack we started up the trial which is a moderate uphill climb pretty much the whole way. The views from about half way up are magnificent panoramas of the lake so make sure to turn around frequently as you climb. We played on the giant boulders and were impressed at the ones Ruckus could climb himself. There were a few times we had to hoist him up, but he did most on his own. We made it to the top of the trail, about ?? miles up, but couldn’t make it to the top of Castle Rock itself. There were large smooth boulders that Ruckus couldn’t climb and they were to tall for us to hand him off to each other. As we ran down the hill we went exploring off trail, got sufficiently lost, but had a blast along the way. On about our third attempt we found the trail again and headed to the truck hungry for lunch.
We found the most delicious deli in town with giant sandwiches on thick slices of homemade bread, perfect for post-hike refueling. Amangela’s Sandwich & Bagel House has become our go to lunch stop whenever we’re in Big Bear and haven’t brought our own food. After lunch we headed to B’s Boathouse to have a play date with Ruckus’ brother, Bear. These two hadn’t seen each other since the day we took Ruckus home at 9 weeks old! At just over 1 year old they went right up to each other and after a quick sniff were running and playing together like true siblings for hours. It was so fun to see them chase each other around the beach and even through the restaurant at one point!! Oops! After our mini family reunion we started towards PineKnot Trail, our second hike of the day. This trail was much more wooded and allowed for fewer views, but the scenery was beautiful nonetheless.
Serrano Campground is on the North shore of the lake, allows dogs, and is very reasonably priced ($31 a night). With the prep-work we did before the trip setting up camp took us about 30 minutes total, including setting up our tent that is designed to fit in the bed of Tyler’s truck. With time to spare before dinner we took the short walk to the lake and explored the shore for a while as the sunset behind the mountains. Ruckus would have loved to swim after all the ducks in the lake but we kept him dry because it was already below 40 degrees outside and dropping! Once back at camp we had the ultimate body warming campfire meal - giant bowls of steaming chili! With every topping you can imagine of course, all prepped before we left home! See our blog post on making camping cooking fun and easy. After dinner, we looked through all the pictures we’d taken throughout day while snuggled Ruckus in between us on the picnic bench to help keep him warm. This was the first time we’d ever seen him actually get cold!! As the stars took over it became to cold to do much of anything but crawl in the tent and bundle up. Ruckus was very unsure of the tent at first especially because of all the sounds coming from outside of it, including coyotes howling (which was so cool!), but he eventually settled down when Dad let him in his sleeping bag and he warmed up (see the picture at the top of the page, it makes us smile every time we see it!).
In the morning the sun was out but the chill of the night was still in full effect. After coffee, eggs bacon, and avocado toast, we packed everything up in a matter of minutes and were ready to go. With the extra time we took another walk to the lake and part of the way around it before hitting the road and heading home. We were in Big Bear for no more than 24 hours but it was more than worth it. Getting to be outside in nature together with Ruckus all day long and watching him run and play with his brother were definitely the highlights of the trip. As quick as the trip was, it was still enough to remove us from daily life, allowed us to reset, and our favorite part of adventuring outdoors is it’s ability to help us refocus on what actually makes us truly happy: being together as a family.