And not a single bear in sight

| Phil was off work this week and wanted to go somewhere, so on Wednesday Phil, Bob, and I toured to Big Bear Lake while Ken and Réal toiled. It's amazing what you find when you're not looking.

Sophie's route narrowly missed the apple orchards

We told Sophie we wanted to go to Big Bear Lake and chose the scenic route (although to be sure, there was only a 1-mile difference from the quick route). "Right turn," she chirped, and we were off.

Shortly after leaving the freeway at Beaumont, we began seeing highway signs advising us of a museum ahead. What museum would that be? We were soon upon the Edward-Dean Museum and Gardens, of which none of us had ever heard. Hmmm, maybe we should stop and have a look....

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Rose garden at the Edward-Dean Museum

Museum. It seems that misters Edward Eberle and Dean Stout bought a cluster of buildings in Cherry Valley to house their collection of art and in 1964 donated the property and their collection to Riverside County, which now operates it for the enjoyment and "social, cultural, and educational enrichment" of people in the region. Although the collections themselves are closed for renovation this summer, a cheerful, chatty woman came out of the offices to welcome us and invite us to wander, enjoy, and come back again. "Bring a picnic," she suggested.

There is a wonderful rose garden in full bloom, and several en plein aire artists were clustered around the koi pond with their easels and sketch pads. "If you're not careful," warned one jocular fellow, "I'll have to put you in my drawing." Too funny.Besides the collections, the museum offers concerts and other events and caters to couples wanting their wedding en plein aire.

It was cool(er), and the views were terrific. We're talking about doing a picnic brunch up there.

Big Bear. The town of Big Bear was something of a disappointment. I had expected a more compact, village-y kind of place, but it is strung out along miles of lake shore, and the main street is set back inland so you can drive through town and hardly ever see the lake.

We decided that lunch at a lake-side restaurant with outdoor seating would be perfect, and with the help of Sophie ("Show restaurant icons") we located on the map what should have been the perfect venue. When we got there, however, it had clearly changed hands and been renamed since Sophie's maps were drawn, and it didn't look all that inviting, to be brutally frank. The sign said Open, but we considered the total absence of any cars in the parking lot a powerful clue.

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Bar in Little John's Pub

We found another place set up high with big windows and thought that would be a good place. It turned out to be closed. Just as well, because the first item I saw on the menu was $45. Then Phil noticed another place right next door was open, so we checked it out. Nottinghams was a perfectly charming place (Sherwood forest, Robin hood, Nottingham sheriff) done up with old fashioned oak furniture and two splendid bars (Friar Tuck's Tavern and Little John's Pub). We had lunch on the patio — no lake view but a charming garden area with water fountain — and the food was delicious.

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Who knew there would be pirates on Big Bear Lake?

The lake, itself, on the other hand, was beautiful. We took a drive part way around the north shore of the lake and found it very different from the south shore. There the road is right next to the shore; houses and resorts are spaced well apart from each other, and there is none of the strip mall character of the south shore. Some of the houses are immense (Who are these rich people?) — one of them is even on a little island sitting in the lake. We're not sure about the pirate ship: it looked too small to be a tour boat and much too funky to be someone's personal boat.

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Ahhhh!

Lilacs were blooming everywhere, and the distinctive scent permeated the air. Phil, who is phond of lilacs, just had to get out and smell the lilacs. At that elevation it is basically spring, and there were carpets of Spanish Broom along the highway. (Phil knows these things.)

Apples. At the museum, one of the people we talked to suggested that we should stop in at the apple orchards in Oak Glen: "It's just on this road." In the end that turned out to be true enough, but the orchards were not in Sophie's itinerary for the trip, and she had us turn before we got to them. So, we decided to include them on the return trip.

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Looks like New England, but only 40 miles from Palm Springs

Watchers of Huell Howser may have seen his show on the Oak Glen apple farms. The area is high enough in the San Bernardino mountains that the climate is more temperate — fall foliage, snow in the winter, etc. — and apples grow well there: "All of the fruit is sold directly to the public and is one of the largest operations of its kind in the US. So, for apples by the bag or by the bushel, baked in a pie or bottled as fresh cider – visit beautiful, mile-high Oak Glen."

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We stopped at the Parrish Pioneer Ranch (OK, it was the first place we came to) and immediately decided that Apple Dumplin's Restaurant would be a good place for a slice of apple pie and a cup of coffee. "Will that be à la mode?" But of course! It was good. The proprietress, who had recently bought the place, disavowed any responsibility for having baked the pie. "Oh, no," she said, "we have a baker who's been here twelve years and we know enough to just stay out of her way." Smart move.

Last updated on Jul 26, 2016

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