Summer Time is a collection of stories about Voice staffers’ experiences over summer break.
I woke up from my lazy Saturday afternoon snooze to see my four best friends splayed in comfortable nap-positions across the cabin floor, just like me. Electric Guest’s “Dear to Me” hummed softly from an actual jukebox by the kitchenette. Since my friends and I had stayed in this remote cabin two times before, the familiarity of this post-lunch lassitude was a startling reminder of how much I had missed my buds.
Our road trip to Big Bear Lake in Southern-Central-ish California was a time-honored and sacramental tradition that began when I graduated high school in 2017, which incidentally was the first road trip of my life (I was supposed to go with my pals to San Francisco a few months prior during spring break 2k17, but shenanigans in French class involving GarageBand-jam-session-mischief ensured the swift hand of justice from my parents, who prevented me from attending).
The observance of our third annual road trip ritual began with the usual rites: 1980s tunes, sesame bagels with lox à la Chris, and stories from college. The journey was long. James’ Suburban SUV, our trusty vessel, weaved in and out of freeway lanes for several hours but slowed to a crawl once we reached the twisting backroads of the Angeles National Forest. The periphery of this forest, surrounded by a number of sparsely populated farming towns, is pretty unremarkable, save for its rolling slopes, swirling dust clouds, and scattered willowherbs. As we climbed to the heart of the forest, trees and rivers popped up here and there, and before we knew it, we were surrounded by coniferous, evergreen giants. (Within these forest depths, Alec wanted to find this swing rumoured to have been erected on a small bluff. We insisted there was no swing, a mythic swing if you will. Turns out there was a swing— a couple slabs of unsanded wood nailed together, ropes tethered to metal hooks on each wooden side, and a post-and-lintel construction that allowed the swinger to glide back and forth over a small bluff. However, we couldn’t go on the swing because it was “private property.” So, we gazed at the swing with awe from a safe distance. Overall, 4/10 swing experience).
Soon enough, we arrived in Big Bear. It’s a sleepy winter town that thrives on snowfall tourism, so during the hot months of June when we visited, the usually snow-capped hills revealed orange weeds, rusted ski-lifts, and stunning rock formations. Not only that, the town is also super bizarre in a charming way: Kitschy shops selling niche products, like village-made jelly beans, lava lamps, or rusty belt-buckles, scatter the town center; cute mom-and-pop restaurants welcome passers-by; and there are like 30+ bear sculptures/statues/murals spread throughout the town in a scavenger-hunt fashion, and you know Nic had to pet the bear statues every time we passed them. Just outside the city center was our cabin, a little cottage with a storm-weathered freshness that my city-raised self adored.
We went on a hike late that afternoon on a path called Castle Rock. As its name implies, the path is freckled with enormous gray rocks that make you feel as if you’re traversing a medieval fortress. The sun peeked in and out of the trees as we trekked forward. By chance, we even stumbled upon a thick oak branch suspended over a clearing, which, as we lounged on it, offered an unobstructed view of the gorgeous valley ahead of us. Feeling collectively nostalgic, we recounted stories from our high school experiences together. Afternoon turned to dusk, and these conversations carried us triumphantly all the way to the peak of the mountain. After some Instagram-worthy photos of us in our nifty hiking gear, we sat down to chat and take it all in. Since it had been a year since we had seen each other last, we were all aware of the moment’s sentimentality.
The hike back down took us a minute, but we returned home to play some poker (I lost), compete in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (I lost), and beat each other up with pool toys (I won some battles, but lost the war). Nic, Alec, and I piled into a queen-sized bed for some sleep. When I woke up, I saw the others still sound asleep. Nic had a hardcover book on his face, Alec was clutching a marshmallow bag, and the jukebox hummed in the kitchenette. In that moment of relaxed silence, I understood how important these four guys were to me.
This annual summer road trip, with its bizarre traditions, long poker games, and stomach-hurting laughs allowed me to remember my past with positivity, reconnect with friends separated by thousands of miles, and take life a little less seriously.