There’s a beautiful place not far from San Diego or Los Angeles. There are pine trees, fresh water lakes and hiking trails galore. It looks like an enchanted forest from a fairytale where pine trees reach up into the clouds.
The San Bernardino Mountains rise up 7000 feet above sea level making the landscape below look like a satellite image. The air is thin and scented with the smell of pine. There are more pine trees than I can hope to keep track of and more pinecones than I could dream up. The cones are all different shapes and sizes and the Coulter Pine produces pinecones that can weigh up to 8 pounds. These cones are often called “widow makers” because they are big enough to be fatal if one drops on a lumberjack’s head.
The San BernardinoNational Forest is like a desert oasis to a girl from the Gunflint Trail who has spent a week in the populated area of San Diego. There are eight separate wilderness areas and lots of different places to hike and camp. Bald eagles spend the winter near BigBearLake since it is ice free all winter. Black bears call the area home as well as coyotes, mountain lions and a variety of other wildlife.
The views are spectacular and it’s a beautiful place to visit but again, there’s no place like the Gunflint Trail. There are lakes, but they aren’t filled with water you can drink. There is open space but there are also way too many houses and cabins stacked almost on top of each other. There’s traffic to contend with and fires are a part of their world up here too.
I loved the side trip to see the San Bernardino Mountains. The drive itself was incredible and with a road called the Rim of the Forest how couldn’t it be? It was fun to see people out downhill skiing and sledding down the hills. It was awesome driving through the clouds as they covered the mountains in a blanket of misty fog. I really enjoyed hiking in the forest and learning about the different flora and fauna in the area but there is still no place I would rather be than on the Gunflint Trail.
It’s nice to know places like the San Bernardino Mountains exist for the millions of city folks in California who need a taste of the wilderness. I’d like to introduce them to the real wilderness of the Boundary Waters but then they might like it as much as I do. If they do then they might tell their friends who would tell their friends and then my perfect wilderness wouldn’t be perfect anymore because there would be too many people around. So, I guess I’ll just be quiet and let them think this place in the mountains is the perfect place because for some people it might just be so.