It is surprising that certainly one of Southern California’s favorite movie star haunts also is a location that puts emphasis on family values. At Lake Arrowhead, the stars blend right in with everyday small-town American families.
We were walking the waterfront trail in front of the Lake Arrowhead Resort and went into one of the town fathers – a man whose job it had been to walk some 20 miles across the lake, checking to make sure the tracks were not only passable, but perfect as any semi-exclusive enclave ought to be. He discussed the movie stars who live in Arrowhead as every-day, great people. He discussed his child winning the national water-ski championship, and how water-skiing was followed just as closely here as baseball or basketball might be followed in the Heartland.
Well, ok, Lake Arrowhead is not just Des Moines, Iowa. But it has a small-town feel – in a Southern California kind of way.
We went to Lake Arrowhead to spend a weekend at the newly renovated Lake Arrowhead Resort, the greatest and best-located resort in the region that’s just taken a quantum leap in its overall appeal to escape tourists. Prior to the recent restoration, the hotel was finding a little tired and needs to show its age. However it is amazing the things you can do with $17 million — the resort’s undergone a complete change.
The reconstruction was enormous and included most of the 173 guest rooms in addition to the restaurant, spa and bar. New swiveling plasma TV’s, walk-in baths and only an overall sense of luxury and class are evident within the guest rooms. A number of the rooms have attractive views of the lake; others look-out around the alpine forests. The new cafe, BIN189, also is at least a notch or two better than its predecessor, partially due to the attempts of Stewart Redhead, the new executive chef who was competed in New Orleans before serving in the same city as Executive Chef of the W Hotel.
It’s no wonder that June Lockhart makes her home to the Lake Arrowhead Resort when she visits her youth haunt of Lake Arrowhead. Her buddy Peter Henry is General Manager at the resort, the newest in some up-scale lodgings where he has presided.
Irrespective of the obvious charms that come with a mountain lake plopped in the middle of a scenic forest, Lake Arrowhead features a fun company district called the Lake Arrowhead Village. Whatever you want, you’ll find at the Village: high-end retailers, tourist shops, restaurants and even carnival rides. It is a five-minute walk from Lake Arrowhead Resort for the town, where you are able to also find many different eateries and, while in the hotter months, listen to live music in a fairly elaborate concert area. While we are there, the crowd was kept by the Rockit Scientists rocking while they swigged micro-brews just footsteps from the dance floor.
To have an even better view of the lake, readers can board the Arrowhead Queen, a Louisiana-style paddle-wheeler that takes guests on a tour of the lake. On the active summer day, you’ll see a lot of small boats, most of them towing water skiers. And, it’s fun to check out the expensive waterfront homes and imagine what it’d be like to have a lake in your backyard.
There also are plenty of hiking trails in the Lake Arrowhead region – visits of various lengths and quantities of difficulty. The lake are at 5,100 feet elevation and is situated in a forest of pine, cedar and dogwood giving way occasionally to excellent views of the San Bernardino Mountains. A really easy path in the first place is at the Heap’s Peak Arboretum, easily accessed on Highway 18. This half-mile interpretive trail identifies a few of the 2000 species of flora and very nearly 400 species of fauna present in these picturesque mountains. You’ll enjoy views offering a reminder of why the Lake Arrowhead region is chosen as a foundation for so many movies. There is a special children trail that shows what different dog paw images look like.
Obviously you can still find more trails just a couple of miles further in to the mountains where the Big Bear Lake hotel group provides many recreational activities of an unique. You can find lots of lodging facilities in the region also – many more than Lake Arrowhead – developing a different environment and experience entirely. Big Bear has more actions and lodgings; Arrowhead is quieter, more residential and a great deal easier to reach from Los Angeles.
While looking through the local magazines, we noticed an ad for a place named Wildhaven, a ranch devoted to the treatment of sick or wounded animals. It is perhaps not the type of place you can start to see the animals, pay your entrance and just fall in. You’ve to call beforehand and find out if they are scheduling their displays and tours – which often is on weekends.
It’s worth this little hassle to go to Wildhaven. It is only a three-mile drive from Lake Arrowhead Resort to Wildhaven and you’ll go through some ‘backwoods’ residential areas, then through the woods and finally up some mountains until you reach a place destroyed by fire in October 2003. Here on a hilside the 30-acre Wildhaven substance was destroyed by fire — and owners Roger and Diane Williams took great pains to rebuild it into a facility capable of housing various animals native to the San Bernardino Mountains.
The Williams provide a complete demonstration in a small theater where they draw out various small animals and explain where they originated from and how they are progressing within their rehabilitation. Most interesting will be the personal details that Diane provides about how, as a young girl growing up in a troubled house, she found that animals helped give her solace and grounds for living. She knew then that caring for animals could be her life-long work.
Most of the animals at Wildhaven won’t be capable of re-enter the wild because they might have limited physical ability – such as a bird’s inability to travel – or because they have become too domesticated. All through one demonstration, the person mule deer was eating out of the trainer’s hand and showing no concern of the band of human onlookers. As Roger explained, ‘he would maybe not last an hour during hunting season.’
Owls, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, eagles – there were a lot of species to see or watch throughout our visit. Specially entertaining were the 2 black bears doing their tricks and enjoying in their bathtubs while visitors watched from just a couple of feet away outside their cage. All and all, this turned out to be a perfect family activity which was both fun and informative.
Include Wildhaven to the number of explanations why Lake Arrowhead makes a great spot for a family trip. There is plenty of environment and luxury for the adults, but it is also an opportunity to go to the Great Outdoors – and show the kids slightly about how it all got there.
AT A GLANCE
WHERE: Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear are situated about two hours east of Los Angeles and reached by driving a lovely, albeit shapely, road northeast out of San Bernardino.
WHAT: Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear share the same woodsy sense and plunging winter temperatures. Arrowhead is a quiet romantic get-away and is smaller, somewhat unusual. Major Bear offers a larger town, but many more options for dining and lodging. Both provide a number of shops and shops.
WHEN: Year-round. The neck months are less crowded, but both summer and cold weather are common because of the area’s many outdoor activities.
WHY: A complete contrast from the Southern California climate and lifestyle, yet only an hour or so from places like Palm Springs.
HOW: To find out more on Lake Arrowhead, contact the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce at 909-337-3715 or visit www.lakearrowhead.net. To learn more on the Lake Arrowhead Resort, phone 800-800-6792 or visit www.laresort.com. To find out more on Wildhaven, telephone 909-337-1391 or visit www.wildhaven.org.