This weekend, my sorority went on a retreat to Alpine Meadows, in the area around the mountains of Big Bear Lake, where I have always grown up vacationing for winter to hit the slopes or summer to take a jump in the lake. I had never been here during fall though, and was amazed on the bus ride up to see that Southern California was actually able to appear like how you would imagine real autumn weather, with colorful leaves left and right. Upon arrival, we were surrounded by log cabins and complete with a mess hall, activity centers, and woods to explore – it reminded me of summer camp all over again.
Throughout the day of playing games and learning more about each other, we also wandered around the grounds and found a spot with a great view of the surrounding mountains. Lunch and dinner took me back to reminiscing on those old cafeteria days – except the food was substantially better tasting with restaurant level multiple course meals. At night, following some old fashioned girl talk and Never Have I Ever, we joined in roasting s’mores around a campfire and a necessary cabin dance party. After some of the girls started getting ready to go to sleep, a couple of my friends and I decided that it was too beautiful of a night to not take advantage of a sky full of stars. So, we took out a hammock and set it up between the trees to look for constellations, which I had used to do all the time while camping in the desert. I had forgotten just how astonishing the amount of stars could be and we stayed for hours talking and taking in the never ending night sky, with shooting stars and even a falling meteor.
5:00 AM rolled around, and after a few hours of sleep (or more like a power nap), we rustled around in the dark of our cabin, trying not to wake up the other 15 or so girls, then began our attempted trek to Jenks Lake. With the stars still shining high up in the dark sky, we had wrapped ourselves up in layers to try to ignore the sharp chill of the wind. Equipped with my flashlight and iPhone hiking apps that I had used to first hear about the trail, we successfully made it to the top of a long road atop a hill where we could see the lake down below. But, we wanted to actually get lakeside – so, with the sun starting to peak its rays through the cloud cover, and through some trial and error attempts down the hill, we were able to make it down to the shores.
We were right on time to witness the sun rising into the sky with the most amazing colors and reflection from the lake – it seemed almost as if there were two sunrises at once. It was one of the few times in life I’ve actually been speechless. We set up a hammock and just hung out (literally) for a while, taking in the indescribable beauty that could only come from nature itself. After the three hour roundtrip, we headed back to the mess hall for breakfast (and coffee, of course), then sadly packed up our bags and had to retreat to our buses. I can’t wait to go back sometime and be able to spend more time in such an incredible little part of the world that I could’ve so easily overlooked.