2014 Trip 7, Nov. 15, So. Cal and Thanksgiving in Flagstaff

Escondido CA Saturday Nov. 15

Driving to the rim of the world scenic byway

Driving to the rim of the world scenic byway

The cloud banks start to roll in on us

The cloud banks start to roll in on us

How variable weather can be. Friday was the heat and dryness of the Mojave Desert. Saturday we drove to our week’s lodging in Escondido. We left Barstow CA in sun and warmth. The Interstate goes through a series of ups and downs but primarily up. The weather change starts to make itself known as a bank of clouds gather in front of you. At Cajon Pass, elevation 3,776, we are enveloped in the clouds. We start descending and take the first exit after the pass and continue our route to Escondido along the Rim of the World Scenic Byway. This 100 mile scenic route goes through the San Bernadino Mountains, west of Los Angeles.

The Cajon Pass is similar to other mountain passes in that both trains and roads share the pass. Train spotters frequently gather along here to watch the trains work their way up the ascent and to slowly and carefully make the descent. In fact, in 1996 a BNSF train jumped the rails going downhill and two trainmen were killed.

Silverwood Lake

Silverwood Lake

We passed on the train watching and began ascending again, stopping at the Silverwood Lake overlook for some scenery time and picture-taking. The lake was formed by a dam, it is not naturally occurring. After Silverwood Lake, the road narrows, ascends more steeply, and the switchbacks become numerous. Over time, we will reach 8700 feet elevation; surprising to us given the nearness to such major population centers.

Mountain driving

Mountain driving

During the next few hours we will pass by two other lakes created by dams, Arrowhead and Big Bear. There is a large resort community up here, and traffic is constant. There are multiple turnouts and even given our experience in mountain road driving, I pull over frequently to allow faster cars (speeders) to pass by and get off our rear bumper.

Mountain driving

Mountain driving

When we are on the west side of the mountains, we are in clouds and cold temperatures. As we pass over to the east side as the road meanders around the mountain, the sun is out and it is warm. At 8000 feet, we stop at Heaps Peak Arboretum, a pleasant forest walk, but one that requires hats and jackets to stay warm.

Heaps Peak Arboretum

Heaps Peak Arboretum

Sequoia trees at Heaps Peak Arboretum

Sequoia trees at Heaps Peak Arboretum

Lunch is at a pleasant, small cafe in Fawnskin, on the north side of Big Bear Lake. A little further past the cafe, we stop at Big Bear Discovery Center, a wonderful center run by the US Forest Service and its non-profit local support group. We arrived in time for the 2 pm volunteer led trail walk; but had to cut it short as our time was running low to get out of the mountains before sunset. We had already made one or two wrong turns which were easily corrected in daylight, not so sure we could have done it in the dark.

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake

We did learn that the lake was created by a dam to provide water to growers in the valley below, there was only a creek here originally. When the European settlers arrived, the area was rife with grizzly bears-hence the name. The area became the first mountain recreation area in Southern California. Water from the lake is used to create snow for two ski resorts along the lake’s mountains.

View from overlook of Rim of the World Scenic Byway

View from overlook of Rim of the World Scenic Byway

Once down from the mountaintop, we finished off the drive on CA freeways; the traffic at 6 pm on a Saturday was not too bad. Our lodging is the Welk (Lawrence) timeshare resort north of Escondido; once we have time during the daylight we will check it out further.

Ed and Chris Sunday 11/16 8 pm

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