We wanted to get up to the forests and enjoy the spring flowers so we decided to go to Barton Flats since we’d not been there for a couple of years. We figured going there the middle of the week before Memorial Day weekend would be a good time. The drive up to Barton Flats is on state highway 38, which is scenic. When we arrived at the campground, there was just one other RV camper in our loop and a tent camper in another loop. It was good to be back in the San Bernardino National Forest and smell the wonderful pine trees!
This campground is always nice with a number of trees and enough space between camping spots to where you feel like you have your little piece of the woods for a few days.
The weather during our stay was perfect with high 60’s to low 70’s during the day and low 40’s at night. We explored the area around our campground site and found an ant mound nearby. It was about 2 feet high and 3 feet wide. We wondered how long it took them to build. On closer inspection, it looked like they were still building!
Our first evening there, we enjoyed the night stars and peacefulness.
The next morning after breakfast, we decided to hike from our campground to the Barton Flats Visitor Center, which was closed to the public. A volunteer was there getting the center ready for opening on Memorial Day weekend. We hiked back to our campground but stopped by the Council Group campground to peer over the overlook. We could hear kids yelling from a nearby YMCA camp and it sounded like they were having fun. It was a nice hike that whetted our appetite for lunch, so we drove to The Oaks restaurant (http://theoakson38.com) for lunch. It is family owned with friendly service and good diner food.
After lunch, we decided to drive down to the bottom of the hill to check out the little town of Forest Falls, which we had never visited. The town has a number of cabins along the main road and looks like a good-sized town for folks who love living in the mountains. One of them had a sense of humor with their outdoor display!
The end of the road dead-ends at the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. We decided to check the area out and do a short hike up the river wash. It had beautiful views of mountains, trees and rocks. It will be worthwhile to go back someday to take a longer hike.
That evening, we enjoyed a nice campfire, gazing at the stars and having the campground to ourselves.
For our last full day there, we decided to drive into Big Bear to have breakfast at The Grizzly Manor Cafe (https://grizzlymanorcafe.com) whose motto is “Send More Tourists…The Last Ones Were Delicious!”. A meal there is always good, filling and turned out to be our breakfast and lunch for the day. We like to sit at the counter since it is fun to watch the cook, who is very good at what he does!
We then drove around Big Bear Lake and stopped at the Big Bear Discovery Center. If you ever visit Big Bear, it is a worthwhile stop. The rangers and volunteers there are informative and want the public to learn about the San Bernardino National Forest. One can get Adventure Passes there, maps, etc. We explored the center a bit and then walked on its short nature trail. It was there that we learned that Jeffrey Pine bark smells like butterscotch, which is a pretty easy way to tell it apart from other similar looking pines. So when we got back to our campground and did a couple other hikes, it must have looked strange to see us smelling trees! The Discovery Center also has a replica of an eagle’s nest.
Once we left the Big Bear area, we did a detour off of highway 38 to drive on a 4 mile dirt road to Coon Creek Cabin. It is a deserted cabin, which we wrote about in our July 2016 Barton Flats blog. We enjoyed the great view, though hazy, of Coachella Valley.
It seems lately, almost wherever we hike, be that it is near home or away, we are seeing more and more stacked stones. We knew these have been used as trail markers in the past but nowadays they seem to be popular on clearly defined trails. Some trails seem to have a multitude of these which then make them seem more like a kind of nature-graffiti. But I suppose for some people who build them, maybe it is a zen or artistic thing.
When we got back to our camp site, we took a short hike on the Rio Monte trail, which has a nice overlook at the end of the trail.
That evening, we had our last campfire, smelling the wonderful pine trees and relaxing in the peacefulness of the woods. We definitely felt welcomed by Barton Flats and look forward to coming back here again.