The Heroes of Our Trails!
Posted: 03/17/20 | By Ryan Orr
Many outdoor enthusiasts escape to Big Bear to get away from crowds, technology and the breakneck speed at which normal life often moves, and is why they are so drawn to hiking in the wilderness.
Big Bear Valley’s trails for hikers, cyclists, equestrians and off-road enthusiasts are kept in great condition in large part by the Trails Council of the Southern California Mountains Foundation. For several years, the Council has created new initiatives and improved existing ones including the adopt a trail program, encouraging local businesses and organizations to adopt a local section of trail and maintain and clean it at least twice a year.
They’ve also trained more than 100 trails hosts who can lead groups on trail maintenance trips trimming foliage, and taking steps to lessen erosion and make trails more sustainable. The Council has even trained several dozen trails stewards. Stewards learn the topographical standards in order to build or reroute entire trails as well as lead crews of volunteers. Rerouting trails is sometimes required to make them more sustainable and to provide a more enjoyable experience for users.
These programs have gained significant momentum, with Rossell estimating that easily more than 1,000 volunteers participated in activities with the Trails Council in 2019 alone. These volunteers aren’t limited to locals. Several weekend warriors who travel to the valley on weekends have enthusiastically chipped in to maintain trails that they come from outside the area to enjoy, showing that they truly appreciate having such a recreational wonderland within a relatively short drive.
“Ultimately, volunteering in the Big Bear area has allowed me to give back and connect with the community where over the past few years I’ve ‘found myself,’ while doing the small part I can to transform the world around me and ease the trail for those that follow on their own personal quests.” Shawna Leeper, NICU Manager from Apple Valley
According to the American Hiking Society, 50 to 70 million Americans use trails every year and outdoor recreation is responsible for 6.5 million jobs injecting $730 million into the national economy.
The programs run by the Trails Council continue to grow, but the more visitors the Valley hosts, the more volunteers are needed to keep the trails in good condition and even build new ones.
“Our passion is trails, and judging by the sheer number of volunteers we get, there are a lot of folks out there that share that passion, and it’s a great thing to see,” Bennet Rossell, Former Trails Coordinator
Hiking is not only good for the soul, but it’s one of the best low impact activities to improve overall health. Aside from the breathtaking views, a 160 pound-person hiking for one hour burns around 370 calories according to LiveStrong.com.
Calories burned while hiking depend on a variety of factors, including how long you hike, how quickly you’re moving, what you’re carrying and your body weight. The American Hiking Society lists several other health benefits of hiking including reducing blood pressure by 4-10 points, reversing the negative effects of osteoporosis, immediately decreasing tension and anxiety and many more. One of the best things about the Big Bear trail community is that it brings people from all different walks of life together with a common interest.
“A great friend likened hiking to ‘moving mediation,’” said Leeper. “Not only an opportunity to connect to the world outside, free of the confines and challenges of daily life, but also with yourself and those you choose to travel with.” Shawna Leeper
So as the snow begins to thaw, so too do our legs, and there are few better times to enjoy the open air than Spring. And for those late winter storms that Big Bear never fails to draw in, the Trails Program makes recommendations on where to go based on your available time and hiking experience, even if you’d like to give showshoeing a try.
Stop by the Visitor Center to ask about local trails and check out area maps at 40824 Big Bear Blvd. Big Bear Lake, CA. The office is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Sunday.
Although the Southern California Mountains Foundation currently has postponed all indoor events through the end of March, there is nothing stopping you from enjoying the great outdoors. If you’d like more information on joining the Trails Program or simply finding an opportunity to help maintain the Valley’s beautiful trails please visit www.trailsfoundation.org where you can also view a list of events and updates on their status.
Ryan Orr is a passionate volunteer within the Big Bear Trails Foundation. As a trail host and trail steward, he looks forward to making a positive impact on the outdoor community of Big Bear Lake!