The area surrounding Big Bear Lake, California, a bustling ski town in the San Bernardino mountain range, offered up some of my first tastes of four-wheeling. I first explored Big Bear in the mid-'80s as a penniless teenager in my '71 Ford Bronco. The rig was in stock form with uncut front fenders and open diffs and rolled on 31-inch Armstrong treads. It was a sweet ride for running around town, but I was eager to lock in the hubs and shift into Low. After repeated trips through the many trails that are scattered around the area, I eventually experienced another "first" incident when I got that first taste of trail breakage upon my tranny taking a dive and leaving me stranded. I eventually managed to regain Second gear, but only long enough to get off the trail where a frantic phone call to Dad led to a Triple-A flatbed showing up and shuttling the rig, me, and my buddies back home.
It took a while to pay off the tranny (and the tow), but I returned to Big Bear many times in the following years until more extreme and exotic locales led me away for nearly a decade. Itching to get back to my roots and retrace some of those trails from my early days of 'wheeling, I set up a weekend run with a handful of Scouts West club members and some of the locals from Rock-Tech Off-Road in La Habra, California. Rock-Tech owner Chris Johnson assembled a crew of rigs ranging from stock to stout, and we set out for a fun day of trail runs across familiar and new territory.
I'd intended to bring the 4WD&SU Project TJ along for the day, but four bruised ribs and a broken clavicle in my right shoulder, which I had suffered a few weeks prior, made steering through obstacles a fairly painful experience (as did hiking trails while snapping photos, but alas, duty calls). I was left to riding shotgun for the day in current Scouts West president Tim Deiro's '76 Scout Traveler, which turned out to be a huge bonus, as Tim shared a wealth of knowledge and history about the Big Bear Lake area trails.
The best part of the weekend, however, was bringing it back around to where my 'wheeling roots all began, and traveling a few of the trails that gave me that first itch for 'wheeling. I may not have been driving, but it didn't seem to matter, because sometimes just being out there is enough.