Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Lake Arrowhead

On a recent visit to the mountain communities less than an hour's drive from their home base, John and Laureen learned that Lake Arrowhead is known as 'the Alps of Southern California.'

Are those the Alps? Nope, just John and Laureen at Lake Arrowhead
One drive through the forested mountains in this region easily confirms the moniker. Tall green trees on steep slopes overlooking a marvelously blue mountain lake reminded the duo of trips they had ventured during trips to Europe. The crisp winter air mingled with the whistling of the slight winds through the evergreens had a definite Alp-like feeling - even if one only watched the film Sound of Music. The resemblance  of Lake Arrowhead to a bit of the Swiss Alps was confirmed.

This looks more Alpish - wintry with beautiful trees
A three day weekend is always fun and even more so when visiting a place so close to home but so different. Living in the High Desert of Southern California one gets used to the brown of the desert,  beautiful on its own, but the forest with snow in the mountains - that is a picturesque respite from the everyday life in the desert.

Bring warm clothes in the winter

The water fowl, mainly ducks on this day seem to enjoy the winter water
This small mountain city of just over 12,000 inhabitants at an elevation of 5,174 feet above sea level has a very interesting part in early California history.

People living near what would later be known as Little Bear Lake date back hundreds of years when members of the Paiute and Serrano Indian tribes would use the area for hunting and gathering during the non-winter months. The Paiute, who actually were from further north most of the year, were more war-like than the Serrano and kept out of each others way most of the time. But then came the white settlers who changed things up a bit.

Native American locations in Southern California prior 1900's
A partner of the famous adventurer, Jedediah Smith is recorded as the first white male to visit the mountains in 1826 of what would become known as the San Bernardino Mountain range. This is when Grizzly Bears roamed in the hundreds but would, within a few decades, no longer exist in Southern California and then the rest of California by 1922. In fact, William F. "Grizzly Bill" Holcomb loved to hunt the bears in the mountains and finally eradicated the magnificent beasts from Southern California. Holcomb Valley is the reward this man received on future maps of the area just north-east of modern day Lake Arrowhead.

Things went well between the first white settlers and the natives until one of the miners, the locale was loaded with gold, made unwanted advances toward a Serrano maiden. Skirmishes occurred leaving both a number of settlers and Indians dead. The Paitue had never trusted the newcomers and peace was never a number one priority for either white or Indian. They never got along.

Then, as is the case in most of the history of California more newcomers discovered lands of interest and took it upon themselves to develop such lands to their liking. The Mormons began a road up into the mountains from San Bernardino in 1852 for the lumber located there. In the 1860's flat land was located in various parts of the mountains and turned out was good for raising cattle. In the winters most people hunkered down for the snow but business would pick up as soon as the snow melted and the sun appeared daily.

Mormon Road in the 1920's to Lake Arrowhead
By now the mountains were dominated by miners, ranchers, loggers, and people that realized the mountain top could prove to be a marvelous place to install a reservoir for the building population of San Bernardino and west to Los Angeles.

In 1893 work began on a man-made reservoir named Little Bear Lake. Quarters were built for the men constructing the reservoir and through the years as construction continued the area become better known to the people down in the valleys below as a place of quiet solitude. As more and more tourists visited the mountains small encampments were erected, mainly camping sites, and eventually permanent places to welcome guests who wanted to escape the hot summers and enjoy the coolness of the pines.

Before the dam was erected creating Little Bear Lake
By the 1920's a village had taken shape with a golf course, vacation rentals, an outdoor theater, a pavilion, and many other attractions making it a wonderful get-away. Soon private home sites were offered by the Lake Arrowhead Company, out of Los Angeles, and the area was renamed Lake Arrowhead. The homes went up at record speed and became a well known destination for the more financially well off to have a place to retire to for a short time from the ever growing valleys below the mountain tops of Southern California.

UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center
The village of Lake Arrowhead has grown into one of the secret gems not only in Southern California but world wide having tens of thousands of visitors coming here each and every year. The lake is inundated with locals and visitors during all months and with snow falling the sight is something to behold in the winter. Home to many varieties of water fowl and fish makes this a favorite spot for everyone to stand on shore and marvel at the beauty of nature.

Water front at the Lake Arrowhead Village
It is a place for family and friends to spend a day, a week, a month, or a life time enjoying. Great shops, restaurants, events, hiking trails, and anything else an explorer or not could relish. It is a location for whatever the traveler would make of it.

Many famous people have made Lake Arrowhead their home. The likes of Tom Selleck, Sammy Hagar, Michelle Kwan, John Candy just to name a few have graced the waters and watering holes throughout the area.

Sammy Hagar's home - it's for sale 5.9 million

This was Tom Selleck's boat house to his house - we'll take the boat house
These fabulous lake homes and the history of the lake itself is told almost daily, weather permitting, aboard the paddle wheel, Arrowhead Queen. A hour long cruise on the lake highlighting many of the details which made the area what it is today.

Arrowhead Queen paddle boat tour
Braken Fern Manor in the village of Lake Arrowhead is now a Bed and Breakfast but it was originally opened on July 4th, 1929 as the Club Arrowhead in the Pines by the mobster Bugsy Seigel.

It was here that many famous and infamous people would venture to get out of the limelight and possibly the police spotlight to mingle with each other. As would befit the ghost of Mr. Seigel - the place is believed to be haunted by those suffering the wrath of the gang boss - who knows but makes an interesting stay for those interested in such other worldly adventures.

Braken Fern Manor - is that Bugsy looking out the upper right window?
No wonder Lake Arrowhead is truly a hidden gem. And all this time it was just in our backyard.

Lake Arrowhead at its best - nice and warm
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