Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wrightwood Ride

A nice day for a bike ride - just take some Advil first!
A quaint small village of a little over 5,000 people hugs the sides of the San Gabriel Mountains which is only a fifteen mile drive west of Highway 15 and five miles west of Highway 138 on Highway 2 in Southern California (that's a lot of highways to remember). It is one of the easiest, but sometimes rather busy, drives to local skiing in California - when drought conditions don't linger on and on that is.

But Wrightwood is much more than simply a place to visit when the snows fall making all the fun happen at Mountain High Ski Resort - it's a community rich in history and a place where families can visit any time of the year for pure enjoyment.

A tenet of J and L is to visit local places. A short drive here or there can pull out gems for a family to explore and remember for a lifetime. A picnic beneath pine trees on a hot summer afternoon, a hike through natural mountain trails or just sitting bar side in a small saloon with friends wiling away a few hours with good conversation makes these short jaunts so worthwhile.

A family member once told John that they had taken a trip of a lifetime - but every trip is a trip of a lifetime.

Our intrepid friend, Paul Bakas and John decided to break their routine of bicycle riding along familiar paths and peddle their way up some rather steep mountain roads to visit this friendly little town less than twenty minutes from the abode of J and L. That's twenty minutes in a motorized vehicle - a lot longer by human muscle power working the calves, thighs and heart of both riders. A short five mile nearly two thousand gain in altitude took forty-five minutes but the return same five mile trip took an astonishingly eight minutes - it was all down hill.
Maybe 2 forties!

"Dude! That was quick - I'm not sure I peddled at all on the way back."

"Good thing we didn't take a header over the bars - we were hitting forty."

"I need a forty after that."

Something cold to look at during the hot summer
Anyway, the original inhabitants of the area now known as Wrightwood were the Serrano Indians who lived here before the first settlers made their way past the Mormon Rocks and north up through the Cajon Pass.  In the 19th century cattle ranches started to develop by the hard work and tenacity of a couple brothers - Nathan and Truman Swarthout. A larger ranch was created a short time later by Summer Wright (hmmm, Wright is right on with the name of the town) but in the 1920's others found the beautiful location to enriching and started building residential properties within the tall trees as a way to beat the heat from down the hill (that's what we call going into the Inland Empire, Orange County and beyond (or the I.E. or the O.C. if you are truly a hipster).

A nice place for Paul to get a bite to eat.
Soon some ski bums learned that the north facing San Gabriel Mountains had some wicked slopes and with a little back breaking work lifts were starting to pull (rope lifts at first before the high speed chairs) up during the snow season for hours of skiing fun. Big Pines Park was the original name of the ski area located in Swarthout Valley before it was changed to Mountain High in 1975. A bit of fascinating history was that the 1932 Winter Olympics were to be held at Big Pines Park but after visiting the Olympic Committee decided the area didn't have the experience or facilities for such a large event and instead awarded Lake Placid as the host of the 1932 Winter Olympics.

There's a Catch-Twenty-Two. You don't have the experience and we're not going to allow you to gain any either.
And maybe grab a beer too - just saying

Thousands of skiers visit the area each winter allowing the city at nearly 6,000 feet above sea level a chance to show off its' friendliness and warmth. But as stated earlier - Wrightwood is a place for all seasons as the boys proved with their bike ride on an early Tuesday morning.

Restaurants, parks, small fishing lakes, quaint shops are just a few reasons to go out and explore this mountain town with clean air and cool temperatures. It is a place which breathes 'relax' and 'enjoy' yourself.

And isn't that what sometimes an explorer just wants to do?

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