What is it that brings us back twice each year, year after year, to the mountains? Not just any mountain, but why to the mountains around Big Bear Lake, California, a place that some benighted souls might dismiss as just another resort town, replete with cheesy souvenir shops (“Stupidiotic” – where one can purchase a DVD rewinder), quaint diners (“Teddy Bear Café”), and a hangout for long-haired L.A. teens seeking winter thrills on snow boards (“Bear Mountain Resort”)?
I can honestly say that I’ve done some of my best writing here, early in the morning, sitting on our back deck while it’s still in the shade, laptop where else but on my lap, sipping coffee from a mug. But writing alone doesn’t begin to explain my strong attachment – and that of my wife, Laurie – to these hills 70 miles to the east of Chavez Ravine. After all, I write for only an hour or so each day while we’re here.
It must be the thin air, which forces one’s lungs to work harder, galvanizing inner energy. It must be the inevitable sunlight and pure blue sky, the tall pines playing catch with the warm rays and hiding flower-bordered paths in deep shadow. It must be the trails that lift us 1000 feet or more to the surrounding peaks. And it must be our cabin, fondly called “Pine Cone Lodge” for commercial reasons, where our family can enjoy simply being together, cooking dinners, playing pool and Scrabble, and painting deck furniture and Berger Bear, the massive carving that guards our front door, to protect them from the weather.
It’s all of these things, and it’s the fact that Big Bear Lake is so far away from that other more mundane and yet frenetic life from which we take refuge.