Updated: Nov 23, 2021
The mountains have always been a place of pleasure, adventure, and exploration for me. Everything is different up there: the air, the smells, the sounds, the colors—everything. I am grateful that I live in southern California where I am so close to the beach, desert, farmland, and mountains. I love each of these, but the mountains have always been special to me.
When I was young, my godmother had a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, which is located in the San Bernardino mountains. Everything about this cabin was magical, and I feel grateful that I was able to spend so much time there. My mother and I would spend the weekend—just the two of us—on a regular basis in this second home to me. Excitement would build in me as we were driving up the windy road; I knew that we would stop in Blue Jay, the village next to Lake Arrowhead, to go shopping at Jenson’s for our weekend food. I would always get my favorite raspberry turnover in the bakery, my special treat that I looked forward to each time. Across from Jenson’s was the ice- skating rink, and next to the rink a pizza parlor flashed its open sign 24 hours a day. I hoped every time that we would be able to visit each of these, but more than anything I couldn’t wait to get to the cabin. As we would make the short drive to Lake Arrowhead, the cabin would be waiting for us, wondering what took us so long to get there. Blue Jays were perched on the pine trees showing off their color, and the woodpeckers would be hard at work. Gray squirrels would stop gathering nuts to say a quick hello before they’d scurry off. The stairs that led to the deck would squeak while the pine needles crunched beneath my shoes. We were here! The smell of the cabin was always the same: a mix of an old fire in the stone fireplace, dust, and excitement. There were deer heads and stuffed birds on the walls, and over- stuffed antique furniture welcoming us into the great room. Everything about this cabin was perfect. After settling in and putting the food away, we would walk back down the stairs and cross the road to the lake. The docks were filled with boats just waiting to be taken out on an adventure. Sunlight would dance on the choppy water of lake, water skiers in the distance. Around the lake was a variety of cabins; one reminded me of the house from Hansel and Gretel, and I always ran past that one just to be safe. Our destination was the village, designed in a Swiss chalet fashion. In the center was an arcade, filled with pinball machines and skee ball games, my favorite. I would play skee ball until I had enough tickets for some Tootsie Rolls or a plastic parachuter—what a treat! Outside of the arcade was a miniature golf course, covered in pine needles which made it difficult for golfers to get their balls to go anywhere straight. An old time movie theater that played black and white movies—maybe a Laurel and Hardy?—stood across from the golf course. I had to explore each of these areas, old friends really, on each visit to the village. We would end the trip with a scoop from the ice cream parlor, always a chocolate peanut butter cone for me. I’m not sure if it was the village, the lake, or the trees, but I felt different here than I did at home. I felt at peace. I felt a happiness here that I didn’t feel anywhere else.
When I got older, I would come to the mountains every summer for camp. Immediately I would get that familiar feeling of excitement, peace, and happiness. The smell of the pine trees, the thin air, the beauty of nature would bring back the memories of my time in Lake Arrowhead, and I would add to those memories at camp. With my friends, we would explore everything within walking distance. There was a trail that would lead to Heart Rock, where we would sometimes happen upon nude sunbathers, which was very exciting to young teenagers. We would swim in the watering holes and dry out on the smooth rocks. Lying back, I would watch the birds flying from tree to tree and listen to the wind blowing through the pine needles. Nothing could take away this feeling of peace and freedom.
A few years ago, my husband and I went to Lake Arrowhead, where I was determined to show him the cabin that was like a family member to me. My godmother sold it years ago, and I wondered if I would be able to find it, but there it was: a different color with a new family, but it was still my magical cabin, wondering what took me so long to make it back—home.
Susan Winslow is an English professor who teaches composition, research writing, critical thinking, and literature in southern California. She received her B.A. in Drama from the
University of Southern California, her M.A. in English literature from California State University at Long Beach, and her EdD in Educational Leadership and Management from Capella University. She leads several book clubs, including the DNRS Literary Book Club. She started her journey with DNRS after her perfect storm and has never looked back. She is a traveler, learner, and hiker. Her strong connection with nature and birds has helped her with her healing journey, and she is in the process of writing a children short story series based on her visualizations with her friend Ray the Redhawk.
She may be reached at the following:
Facebook: Susan McCormick Winslow