Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak in Big Bear Lake

Bertha Peak is a must when you visit Big Bear Lake. The peak is located north of the lake near the center so you get the panoramic view at the top.


Cougar Crest trailhead is located off N Shore Dr. Stop at the Big Bear Discovery Center beforehand if you don’t have an Adventure Pass already. You need it for parking at the trailhead. Soon, you will come to this sign. Stay on the Cougar Crest Trail for 2.25 miles.


Are you ready for an adventure?

The trail is a gradual but steady ascent except the last mile. The terrain changes from dirt to rocky then back and forth but it’s mostly rocky. I recommend proper hiking shoes for this hike.


This picture was taken when we were on our way back down to show you the rocky terrain.

After 2.25 miles or so, you will come to the sign below. To be accurate, you will see the back of the sign. Follow the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and take the trail on the right. From here to the peak, the terrain is very rocky. It’s easy to get distracted with the uncovered beautiful lake view on your right so watch your steps.


When you reach the Bertha Peak sign, turn right and go up the fire road. But first, you might want to stretch your legs. The most challenging part of the trail is about to begin. The last mile to the peak is steep. Hang in there. The panoramic view from the top will be worth it.


Xena waits for me. My sister? No.

Hello, Bertha Peak!


Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  10.2.16
  • Distance (RT):  7.3 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain:  1,289 feet, Peak at 8,201′
  • Difficulty rating:  Moderate
  • Time:  4 hours including breaks
  • Trailhead:  Google Cougar Crest Trailhead
  • Bathroom available at the trailhead
  • Adventure Pass is required for parking.  You can purchase it at the Big Bear Discovery Center. $5/day.


Happy Hiking!

Hammocking at Pine Knot

I love fall colors but unfortunately fall colors don’t come to L.A. so I had to go find it. Early October, we drove up to Big Bear Lake for an overnight trip with my sister. BBL is one of my favorite places to visit with Xena. There are plenty of dog-friendly trails for us to explore and the town itself is pet-friendly. At an altitude of 7,000 feet, the air is crisp and refreshing this time of the year. It makes a perfect fall getaway!

pineknot_1It took us little over 2 hours to get there and arrived around lunch time as planned. We drove to Blanca and Pierre’s to pick up some sandwiches to go. They have pet-friendly outdoor seating but our plan was to have lunch on the mountain. Well…we forgot that service is generally slow in BBL like any other vacation-y places. This is actually a good thing for me because it forces me to slow down as soon as I get there. Our supposedly 10-min stop actually took 40 minutes. By the time we got our food, we were starving. We decided to go to Aspen Glen Picnic Area and have lunch first.

The picnic area was spacious and it was right at the trailhead. Convenient. It was less than 1.5 miles from the restaurant. We were glad about the short drive because we both were getting hangry (hunger that turns in to anger, it is real). After we filled our stomachs to happiness, we began our hike. The trailhead was clearly marked as below and we could already see some fall colors from there.


The single track path was easy to follow and the incline was gradual.


I was absolutely delighted with the fall colors! This time of the year, I do miss the East Coast fall.. I could have liked to see more reds but I wasn’t going to complain.  🙂


As we gained elevation, the lake came in to our view.


So we began to look for a good spot to hang my hammock and found a perfect spot. Soon, Xena fell asleep on top of me and my sister with both of us gently petting her.


Xena cannot stay up any more when we hang out in the hammock. It is one of our favorite things to do together now. It is so relaxing, calming and almost meditative. All of us hung out in the hammock that afternoon, talking, napping, just hanging out until it was almost dinner time. It was a perfect fall hike, wouldn’t you say?


Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  10.1.16
  • Distance (RT):  4 miles (with an option to make it longer or shorter)
  • Elevation gain:  957 feet (max elevation: 7,717 ft)
  • Difficulty rating:  Moderate
  • Trailhead:  34.236322, -116.927192 (copy/paste to your GPS app)
  • Bathroom available at the trailhead
  • Parking:  Adventure Pass required for parking.  You can purchase a pass at the Big Bear Discovery Center.


What is your favorite thing about fall? 

Lost Horse Mine in JTNP

Unfortunately, this is not a dog-friendly trail. Please respect the trail rule.

For the history lovers:

Even before the California Gold Rush of 1849, prospectors were finding gold in southern California. As the take from the mines in the Sierras petered out, miners fanned out into the deserts. Hot summers, scarce water, limited wood sources, and the difficulty and high cost of transporting equipment and provisions created a challenging environment in which to operate a mine. But a few hardy adventurers persevered and about 300 mines were developed in what is now Joshua Tree National Park.  – Joshua Tree National Park

The trailhead is located off Keys View Road. Just follow the map you get when you enter the park. Once you make a left turn at the Lost Horse Mine trail sign from Keys View Road, you will be on a dirt road and the road will get narrower as you drive further in. As you get closer to the trailhead, you will see parked cars on this narrow road so drive with caution.


The loop trail wraps around the southwestern flank of Lost Horse Mountain. My sister and I had other plans afterwards so we decided on just hiking to the mine and back. Also from what we read, most interesting part of the trail is the first two miles to the mine anyway (if you do the loop clockwise). We decided to tackle the loop another time.

I was hoping to see some wildflowers in the desert. And I was not disappointed. Joshua trees started to bloom in the park.


We passed a section of burnt Joshua trees. A leftover from wildfires in 2009.



We walked by more wildflowers. How lovely!


Turpentine broom

As we got close to the mine, we started to see some old mine equipment near the trail.


Here are some pictures at The Lost Horse Mine.


The view of Lost Horse Mine trail from the mine

Fun Fact:

  1. The Lost Horse Mine produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver (worth approximately $5 million today) between 1894 and 1931. It was one of very few good producers.
  2. Here is a very short version of the story how the name was chosen:  Johnny Lang and his father drove their herd of cattle into the Lost Horse Valley in 1890. One night, while camped in the Lost Horse Valley, their horses disappeared. After they bought the rights to the mine, they named it Lost Horse. A longer version is available on the JTNP’s website. 🙂

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  3.5.16
  • Park entrance fee:  $20/vehicle for 7 days (FYI, annual pass per vehicle is $30)
  • Distance (RT):  4 miles, Out and Back
  • Elevation gain:  520 ft
  • Weather is pretty unpredictable in the desert, pack layers of clothing, hat and sunscreen.
  • Restroom is available at the trailhead but the one at the park entrance is much nicer.


Happy Hiking!

Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree

As you know from my last week’s post, I went hiking in Joshua Tree National Park in January. Sadly, dogs are not allowed on hiking trails so my sister and I went to the park ourselves to hike Ryan Mountain – the second highest point in Joshua Tree – and had to leave Xena at the resort. Luckily for me, Xena travels well except the car ride. She keeps herself quiet and relaxes in the room until I get back.

First, we stopped at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center on Park Blvd and picked up a map. After locating the trailhead, we drove to the park entrance. “Annual pass please.” A friendly ranger lady told me that passes were sold out in two days. I think it was something to do with the fact that this year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park service. She handed me the same map and a newsletter and told us to enjoy the park today for free and get my annual pass next time we visit. We got to visit the park free again next day with Xena. 🙂

I’ve seen the park in the pictures but they did not prepare me for the real deal. What an amazing place! Two desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. It was breathtaking. The surreal rock formations and the beautiful desert landscape are something you should see for yourself.

With nearly 750 species of vascular plants, Joshua Tree is renowned for its plant diversity. No wonder that when the area was first proposed for preservation in the early 1930s, the name suggested was Desert Plants National Park.

After driving for a while – look for the Ryan Mountain Trailhead sign, we reached at the trailhead right off Park Blvd. As the ranger lady warned us, it was much colder and windy. As we put on layers of clothing to keep ourselves warm, we saw a few other hikers doing the same.


The trail was easy to follow. It started out with steps then changed to an mildly rocky terrain. The rocks on the trail were vibrant with orange lichens. Later, I learned that they are called Caloplaca nashii. I found them so fascinating!

There are approximately 17,000 species of lichen worldwide and approximately 1500 lichen taxa in California. Lichens occur from the intertidal zone to the top of mountains. They grow on soil, rocks, on bark and wood, even barnacles and roofs. There are currently recorded 145 lichen taxa from Joshua Tree National Park.




The Summit


The view of Pleasant Valley below from the summit


Luckily, the hourly forecast was pretty much right on so we were able to avoid the storm. It started to rain when we were leaving the park.

Make sure to bundle up if you go to Ryan Mountain in winter. Some parts of the trail can get very windy. We saw a young family hiking with an infant. The baby was crying hard and they couldn’t make him comfortable. I am sure he was painfully cold. My ear hurt from the chilly wind inside of my wool hat! But as for me, the 360-degree view on the top made it totally worth it. I only wished my little adventure dog was with us.

Good to Know:

  • Hike date: 1.6.16
  • Restroom available at the trailhead
  • Distance: 3 miles RT
  • Elevation gain: 1070 ft
  • Dog friendly:  No

Happy Hiking!

Winter Desert

In January, I made my annual desert trip to La Quinta which is 2 hours from L.A. Rain storm was in the forecast for my entire trip but I didn’t care. I looked forward to this trip all winter and I wasn’t going to cancel it. I was ready for a break from the daily routines.

I was especially excited about the trip this year because I was going to visit Joshua Tree National Park for the first time! It supposed to rain on and off so I changed my hiking plans around the forecast.

Sadly, dogs are not allowed on hiking trails in Joshua Tree so on the morning of the 2nd day of our trip, my sister and I went to the park ourselves to hike Ryan Mountain – there will be a separate post for this hike – and left Xena at the resort.

The next day, the last day of the trip, we went to La Quinta Cove Trails for a little hike before we headed back to Joshua Tree. The surrounding Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains make this short walk (less than 2 miles) so memorable. There wasn’t much snow on the top of the mountains like last year – we need more rain! – but the scenery was still beautiful as I remembered from my last year’s trip. I was delighted to share it with my girls.


One of the nice things about hiking with another person is that you get to be in the picture for a change. I love this candid picture my sister took of us!





Next stop: Joshua Tree National Park

While pets are allowed in the park, their activities are restricted. They must be on a leash at all times and cannot be more than 100 feet from a road, picnic area, or campground; they are prohibited from trails, and they must never be left unattended—not even in a vehicle.

As I drove further in to the park, the temperature kept dropping. As we got close to Keys View (elevation: 5185ft/1581m), I noticed white stuff on the ground. SNOW!!! I screamed. What a nice surprise! It must have been the rain storm came through yesterday after we left the park because we didn’t see snow at the summit of Ryan Mountain (elevation: 5458ft/1664m). When we reached at Keys View, it was 36 degrees and windy but absolutely gorgeous!



Two desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. The landscape is something you have to see yourselves.



Panoramic views of the Coachella Valley

What an amazing fun trip we had at the desert this winter with rain storms and all! I already look forward to the next year’s trip. Until then, we will explore other places throughout 2016 and be awed by the beauty of nature.

Good to Know:


Never Stop Exploring XO~