My daughter's name, Marissa, means of the sea. It's proved to be fitting considering her lifelong obsession with The Little Mermaid (including being a Disney Cast Member at Ariel's Undersea Adventure) and having spent her tween and and teen years living down the street from the ocean.
Born and raised in Southern California, not once in her twenty-three years has she ever been more than a few hundred feet above sea level. I have never took her up to see the mountains (nor has she ran for them either) — until last week on Sunday.
It was the beginning of Marissa's weekend and I wanted to take her somewhere, do something. Mike said he was up for anything — just name it. He'd mentioned after our last trip of wanting to take Marissa to Lake Arrowhead next time we went up and OH MY GOD COULD WE GO TO LAKE ARROWHEAD AGAIN TODAY? And could we get McDonald's?
Before I could say "Big Mac" we were heading back to the mountain — but this time taking a different route so we could pass through Big Bear! Big Bear is around ninety miles from Anaheim and about thirty miles away and higher up from Lake Arrowhead. When we got to the end of the freeway, Siri told us to get out and walk to our destination. Siri seems bitter.
Fortunately the freeway eventually flowed into a narrow, two-lane road with the mountains surrounding us on all sides. The colors of the landscape, along with the landscape itself, were breathtaking! There was a brief moment of berating myself for all the years I let fear keep me from experiencing such natural beauty in my own backyard. I was blown away by what we were beholding.
We also noticed a lot of people were coming down off the mountain. Like, a non-stop stream of 'em. I was checking to see if they looked panicked or were motioning for us to turn around and save ourselves. But was hard to tell while they all sped over the speed limit past us.
When I was a kid (and even later as a young mom traveling with my family up to Oregon), one of my favorite things to do on a road trip was to stop, specifically at turnouts and gas stations (but not fast food restaurants and rest stops — stories for another time). There is something about pulling up to the pump before hitting the road that invokes a sense of excitement for me. An adventure awaits! The next time we fill 'er up it will be in another town far from where we started. Also, there will be snacks. I had my eye on the peanut M&Ms the minute Mike stopped at the 76 Gas Station Mini Mart. By this time we were just a few miles from Big Bear Lake.
Each time we read aloud an elevation marker, we clapped and cheered. We were at over 7,000 feet when we reached Bear Bear Lake. I had not been this high since I took Percocet in 2010. Marissa and I were also absolutely stoked by glimpses of the smallest patches of snow (more like blocks of dirty ice) that had yet to melt in the spring-like temps.
I felt more like the alien in Big Bear, though. Big Bear Lake Village is bustling with boutiques, eateries and mountain resort vacation services. It reminded me of Disneyland's Frontierland on steroids. It is a bit too ski-centric for my taste. Alpine sports never appealed to me. Plus, I wasn't quite feeling the area that day. It was a little too crowded and a little too warm to want to get out and look around. What I was feeling was car sick. So much that I couldn't even lift my camera.
Mike picked up on the vibe I was putting down and piped in: "Let's go to Lake Arrowhead Village!"
I was bummed, worried by the time we arrived at Lake Arrowhead I'd be barfing. When we finally parked, I precariously made my way out of the car. I don't know if it was the healing powers of clean air, or I simply got my land legs back, but all symptoms of motion sickness were gone. To celebrate, Mike treated Marissa and me to Irish Cream truffles and having our ears pierced again at Claire's.
We visited the village during such a photogenic time of day. The sun was starting to set low in the sky, shining its light on the water and casting shadows on the beach. It was stunning! Marissa fell in love with the lake at first sight.
I admit, I became a bit emotional while we ate our much-anticipated mandatory McDonald's lunch (a Big Mac tastes way better eating outside in the mountain air). I appreciated so much how Michael and I could take Marissa somewhere new together and do fun, silly stuff — like buying a My Little Pony plush. It's so overwhelmingly awesome when I think of how Mike saw me pregnant with Marissa at the mall and now twenty-four years later, we're buying toys for her!
We stayed a little longer than last time, until just before dusk. Again, we wanted to get off the mountain before dark. As we were driving down, we witnessed a spectacular sunset! Marissa and I saw some pretty astounding sunsets when we lived across the street from the Pacific Ocean, but we've never seen one with a view of the horizon that far up.
We all truly love it up in Lake Arrowhead. Immediately upon arriving, Marissa remarked how she understood why I felt so drawn there, since it reminded her of how Washington looks.
There's a good chance for one more trip up in the spring, before the summer crowds. Then we'll start planning our wintry week vacation in the snow! So I better get back to crocheting blankets!