Oddities of Big Bear Lake

It’s a strange place that I grew up in. The strangest thing is that it hasn’t changed at all since I last lived here 22 years ago. The same businesses, the same houses needing paintjobs, the same old time miner 49er beards on different quirky Big Bear types.

If anything, the place seems smaller but that’s just because I’ve seen a lot more of the world than I had when I was 15 years old. My childhood home looks the same, the same a-frame house next door, nobody is mowing the grass at Community Park still and the same grumpy guy works behind the counter at the Community Market.

My cousins and I used to go in there in the winter and stuff our moon boots full of candy and then go to the park and divvy up our ill gotten spoils.

People here still drive Pintos and most of the men seem to work in construction and grow what I call Mike Rafferty mustaches.

The main industry here still seems to be making ugly log furniture and carving animal totems with chainsaws. I haven’t had the chance to go hiking yet, but I’ll be sure to take some pictures when I do. In the meantime, this will have to do.

About 15 years (1860) after Bear Valley was discovered by Wilson , prospector Bill Holcomb discovered gold in nearby Holcomb Valley . After abandoning his prospecting and mining efforts in Northern California and Oregon where he spent 10 years searching for gold, Holcomb and his partner Jack Martin came to Bear Valley in the winter of 1859. Although the partners worked hard they made only a modest strike. Martin returned to Los Angeles to get his family.

Meanwhile, towards the end of April, while Bill was hunting bear, he crossed the meadow in the center of Bear Valley and climbed up the west side of Bertha Peak and saw what he described as “the most beautiful mountain valley I have ever seen”. A few days later, he returned to that valley with companions, and while tracking a grizzly he had wounded, along what is now Caribou Creek; Bill noticed glittering specks of gold in a quartz ledge.

News of his find spread fast and soon prospectors began staking and working their claims. The population of Holcomb Valley swelled to over 2,000; buildings and businesses sprung up, including a General Store, Saloon, Grocery Store, Blacksmith Shop and the famous Octagon House where the “glitter girls” danced and otherwise entertained men in small dimly lit cubicles. As more and more prospectors came to Bear Valley in the hunt for gold and silver ore, the Bear Valley Mining District was founded.



Vago Damitio

Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

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