The holidays always bring various levels of pain and pleasure. Seeing your daughter ride her new bike for the first time: pleasure. Watching your brother in-law wince as he tries to drink a little spiked eggnog: pleasure. Driving into a tourist town at any moment between December 20th and January 2nd: pain. A whole heck of a lot of it. However, some times the pain is necessary…

We live on the outskirts of town and can usually avoid the craziness of the supermarkets, the boulevard, and the village if we plan ahead. However, when the family comes to our house, and our town, for the holidays, eventually we want to show them something cool (especially when they are from Colorado…).

The first day after Christmas was relatively easy: escape the cold. We jettisoned down to Lucerne Valley and wandered over to Johnson Valley OHV area. It took 5 minutes of hard pedaling, but we quickly got off the beaten path and went on a fantastic mountain bike ride on a wild ridgeline with crystal blue skies and empty trails. If you haven’t explored the desert north of Big Bear, give it a try; it’s a short hop away and is one of the big draws of this area.

Second day after Christmas was a little bit harder: hike the Pine Knot Trail. It seemed like a great idea until we started driving through town. Snow plus visitors from the Los Angeles area equals first time sledders…everywhere. And if you think you’ve seen it all, head over to the Aspen Glen Picnic area right after Christmas.

As our battle hardened group of 4 adults, 2 children, 3 dogs, snowshoes, poles, gaiters and goretex pushed its way through the parking area, we counted 78 cars, 216 adults, 347 children, 47 small dogs yipping, 22 broken sleds and 6 stuck cars. This is, of course, only a (just slightly overstated for comedic effect) estimate. We have but one solid, completely hard and verifiable statistical fact to offer: the number of other people seen once we started hiking up the actual Pine Knot Trail.

Zero. We had the forest to ourselves. Not another soul. All the way up Pine Knot to Grandview Point and back. This is why Big Bear is cool.

Tourists are an absolute necessity and a true gift to our local economy. The folks that endlessly complain about them need a swift and harsh reality check; without visitors to our valley we have nothing. Fortunately, days like this show that we can eat our holiday cookies and burn them off too. Want crowds? Stay within 100 yards of a paved road and you can sled all you want. Want solitude, beauty, nature and serenity? Start walking into the woods. It really doesn’t take much to get the heck out of Dodge and into your own absolutely incredible backyard. And our relatives from Colorado? If only they could find a job in Big Bear, they would be here in an instant. Really.

Authors Note: We actually did get out of a Dodge at the trailhead. How else are you going to fit everyone in unless you have a really big truck?