Bear Valley Springs – Lower Valley Trail

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The Riding and Hiking Trails in Bear Valley Springs Map says that the Lower Valley Trail from start to finish is 4.5 miles and the degree of difficulty is: Least.

Well, it’s been awhile since I wrote about the trails of Bear Valley Springs. My hiking buddy, my husband Cliff, had a heart attack in January of 2015. We’ve been taking easy walks while he recovers his strength.

One of the easier trails in Bear Valley Springs is the Lower Valley Trail.  This trail mostly runs alongside Lower Valley Road (see my post on other trails that run along The Main Roads)  with a couple of exceptions. If you start at the Bear Valley Fire Station and head north, there’s a small loop that splits off the Lower Valley Trail North. It goes around the Oak Tree Country Club and the BVS Association office. At the top of the loop there’s corrals and hitching posts for horses. I sometimes take this “shortcut” when I’m walking home after having lunch at the Mulligan Room.

You can just follow Lower Valley Road all the way around or go cross country and take another “shortcut” at Lower Valley Trail South. That’s where one early morning I took the picture of the herd of deer shown below.  The trail was dry the day I walked it but it can be boggy and muddy in the low spots in the rainy season (which we haven’t had much of these past few years in California.)

Continuing on, when you get close to the main roads you have all kinds of choices of which way to take. There’s a trail that cuts over to the ball fields – Dorothy’s “Bridal” Trail. You can cross Cumberland and head over to Cub Lake where the trail loops back to the fire station or connects with the Upper Valley Trail. Cub Lake also has an excellent walking path and dog park.

Lower Valley Trail copyPsalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

One Step at a Time

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I’ve been nearsighted since the second grade.  I can see up close but things far away are really blurry. The first thing my myopic eyes saw clearly this morning were the tiny little stitches on the floral patchwork quilt I was wrapped up in. As I stared at those practically invisible (blind) stitches inches from my nose, I started wondering… Just how many binding stitches have I done in 13 years of quilting? Millions, I’d imagine. When it comes to quilting, binding is the only thing I like to do by hand. I’ve done enough binding to create callouses on my fingers.  But what’s a callous compared to a beautiful, finished quilt?  A small sacrifice to create a thing of beauty.

Small things, like binding stitches, add up over time. My life is stitched together with the little decisions I make every day. With all those seemingly insignificant daily choices, I either build a beautiful, godly life or an ugly, selfish life. I am building my history with God one choice at a time. Here are some of the things I encounter in my everyday life that happen one step at a time:

  1. The quilts I make come together one block at a time, (When people see my quilts they often say “I could never do that!” but it all comes together one stitch at a time.)
  2. My day begins by getting out of bed one morning at a time
  3. Fitness comes by exercising one day at a time (even when I don’t feel like it)
  4. Health comes by eating right consistently, one bite at a time, one meal at a time
  5. A book gets read one word at a time, one page at a time
  6. My work at home and in the office gets done one task at a time
  7. My spiritual growth happens with dailiness – reading the word every day, reading a daily devotional, praying, listening to sermons, reading spiritual books
  8. As I write a talk for women it all comes together one thought at a time, one sentence at a time, in God’s time
  9. As I lead Women’s Bible Study we get through each lesson one Friday at a time
  10. Walking the roads and hiking trails where I live happens – one step at a time, one hill at a time, one road at a time

Nothing makes this dailiness principle more real to me than my goal to walk all the hiking trails and streets in Bear Valley Springs. Sometimes I look at the trail or road (task) ahead of me and think, “I can’t do that!” or “It’s too hard or too much.” But then I take a look at my map (see below) and I know I can.  I have walked all the roads marked in red; one step at a time. I’ve walked all the lower roads.  Now it’s time to head to the high roads – figuratively and spiritually!

It doesn’t matter so much what I’m doing or where I’m going.  God is in charge of my life and I just have to follow Him.  My responsibility is to Take the Next Step – wherever that may be.  Just as quilts are made one stitch at a time and roads are walked one step at a time, so God can make my life and your life a thing of beauty one day at a time. So take the next step with God.  It might be out of your comfort zone but we have a God who can supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.

Roads I've walked in BVS marked in red

Roads I’ve walked in BVS marked in red

Trails of Bear Valley Springs – High Country Trail Part 1

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The Riding and Hiking Trails in Bear Valley Springs Map says that the High Country Trail from start to finish is 5 miles and the degree of difficulty is: intermediate to most difficult.  We only hiked from Paramount to the Whiting Center (via Jacaranda at the end) and my Endomondo tracker says we did 3.59 miles, dropped 2119 feet and had an ascent of 476 feet.  Our minimum altitude was 4436 and our max was 6110.

January 11, 2014.  My 52nd birthday.  What did I want to do?  Hike the High Country Trail, of course.  Or at least part of it.  My goal in 2013 was to hike all the Equestrian/Hiking Trails in Bear Valley Springs.  I completed all but four of them: the High Country Trail, the Quail Ridge Trail, the Quail Canyon Trail and Goat Springs Trail.  My goal in 2014 is to hike the four I’ve missed and to finish writing about them all. So this day we were tackling a part of the five mile long High Country Trail.

Since my hiking buddy, my youngest daughter Katie, just had major surgery in October and I didn’t know what the High Country Trail would be like, I waited until my older daughter, Naomi, and her husband, Chris, could join me and my husband on this particular adventure.  We left the Dodge Ram at the Whiting Center parking lot and had Katie drive us up Jacaranda Drive to the very top, Paramount Drive.  Unlike some of the trails, the trails taking off from Paramount were clearly marked. We took a picture to show where we started and headed westerly, down the mountain.

We headed through pines and sage.  There was still some snow on the ground in the shade even though the last time it snowed was December 9, 2013, over a month ago. We were at over 6000 feet above sea level.  We noticed on the short uphill climbs we encountered that our breath was a little short in supply. Through pines and sage and strange forests of lichen covered trees we went.  Chris climbed on rocks and Naomi snapped pictures left and right. Enjoy them below!

We were on top of the world.  The first vista we encountered when leaving the forest was that of Highway 58.  We couldn’t see the famous railroad feature the Tehachapi Loop from the trail but we could see the small valley that spreads out behind Keene.  My husband had gone there years ago with friends to cut wood. Next we could see over the mountains to the Tehachapi Valley and the windmills beyond. We kept hiking.  We were in Bear Valley but had not yet caught a glimpse of it.  The next valley we could see was Cummings Valley.  At Stirrup Way we stopped to take more photos by the trail sign and then walked up the road to rest at some more grinding rocks.  We have found grinding rocks on many of the trails.  They are often at vista points where a woman sitting and doing her “daily grind” could enjoy the view.  We finally had a view of Bear Valley.

After snacks to fuel my 6 1/2 foot tall son-in-law we headed down the hill encountering a lone woman hiking up.  We encouraged to keep going! When we finally reached Jacaranda Drive (we’d seen the trail sign on our way driving up the mountain) we couldn’t figure out where the rest of the trail went.  There were no signs to point us to the continuation of the trail once we crossed Jacaranda.  We wandered around searching for a bit and then decided to simply walk down Jacaranda, knowing it would lead us to the Whiting Center parking lot and our pickup truck.  Further down Jacaranda, a woman bawled us out saying that she had lived in Bear Valley for 19 years and the trails were for horses only. I’d tried to explain that the map and website says Riding and Hiking Trails but she insisted that the police would arrest us for going on the trails. They would have to arrest the Sportsmen’s Club then, as they regularly schedule hikes on the trails and publicize them on the announcement board at the gate entering our community and in the newspaper.  It’s amazing how much confusion there are regarding these trails.  They are a hidden gem.

We made it safely back to the truck, my son-in-law and daughter racing to see who could get there first.  It had been an exhilarating birthday hike in spite of losing the last part of the trail and being bawled out by a complete stranger.  Happy Birthday to me!

A few days later my husband and I walked straight uphill from the Equestrian Center to the Foothill Trail junction where it meets the High Country Trail.  We followed the trail we couldn’t find on my birthday all the way to Jacaranda and discovered it came out ABOVE (not straight across or below) the Jacaranda High Country Trail sign.  We should’ve turned east and uphill rather than west and downhill and then we would have found the remainder of the High Country Trail to the Breakfast Spot and eventually the Equestrian Center. We live and we learn.

High Country Trail copy

Proverbs 8:2 – Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?  At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand…

Trails of Bear Valley Springs – Cummings Valley

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A Tale of Two Gullies

Every day in Bear Valley Springs hundreds, probably thousands, of residents make their way in and out via the gate that guards our community.  And every day on their commute these same residents pass seven (I counted them!)  horse trail signs scattered along Bear Valley Road between the gate and the fire station.  Do the busy commuters even notice as they drive by or have the signs just become part of the scenery?  Do these drivers and their passengers ever wonder where the trails lead, what the trail is like?  I did.  I especially wondered about the first sign, the one for the Cummings Valley Trail. It’s located right in that dead zone where all cell phone calls get dropped just after passing the gate as you climb the hill entering Bear Valley.

My daughter and I had quite the debate as to which side we should start this hike from.  Unlike some of the trails, we had seen the signs for both the start and the terminus of this particular trail so we knew where we’d begin and where we’d end up.  We also could see that attacking it from either side was going to include a steep climb.  We decided to start from the Bear Valley Road/Gate side and work our way through Cummings Valley over the mountain into Bear Valley ending at Cumberland Road.  We took two cars the first time (see Big Sky post for the second time) we walked the Cummings Valley Trail, dropping off one car at San Juan and Cumberland Road. We parked the second car in a cul-de-sac on the frontage road  that runs parallel to Bear Valley Road just inside the gate.  It was threatening rain.

The trail dropped immediately off Bear Valley Road crossing some private property, going past a new bridge and then running parallel to a little gully (Word Chick alert – a gully is water worn ravine.)  This trail begins and ends alongside a gully.  At first we walked along some grassy flats at the base of the mountain.  Eventually we turned and headed up a trail that had been literally hacked out from clumps of sage.  We encountered some magnificent rocks (which my daughter had to climb) and eventually reached the top of the ridge and a post marked AC.  Our map said the Big Sky trail was the lower trail and the Cummings Valley trail was straight.  (It would make more sense if it was the other way since the trail drops down to Cummings Valley at the AC marker and hugs the ridge (the sky?) if you go straight.  Anyway, this particular day we stayed on the upper trail.

On this upper trail we encountered some of the steepest ups and downs we’ve ever hit. My daughter and I both groaned out loud when we topped one tough ridge only to see another even steeper one before us.  We found ourselves wishing we had chosen the lower trail, especially because we could see and hear a flock of sheep below us on the Cummings Valley floor.  Sheep are often brought up to Tehachapi to graze on the open land in the spring time.  We used to get a flock coming right up to the back of our property when we lived in town in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Their bells echoed across the valley and the constant “Baa, Baa, Baa” rang through the hills. We could see tiny dots of the dog and the shepherd as they herded the sheep towards the east.

Drops of rain cooled us down as we continued our steep trek to the top.  Our trail eventually merged with the other trail and we climbed to the top of that to reach Big Sky Court.  Big Sky Court hit Shenandoah and some ladies walking their dogs pointed out the way to go. Following their directions, we walked on Shenandoah to the top of the ridge, Skyline Drive, and then stood still a moment to enjoy the view of beautiful Bear Valley and the dark storm clouds. Gorgeous.  It was a steep, windy trip down the mountain.  It probably would’ve been easier to come from the Bear Valley side first.  It would have been steeper but of shorter duration than coming from the gate side. We finally wound our way down to the valley floor and then followed another gully out to the flats and our car parked at San Juan.  With the threatening rain, the unknown trail, the sheep and the incredible views, this was one of our most exhilarating hikes.  I’d love to do it again!

The Riding and Hiking Trails in Bear Valley Springs Map says that the Cummings Valley Trail from start to finish should be 2.8  miles long and it’s rated: intermediate.(We did this hike in May of 2013.)

Cummings Valley Trail

Psalm 65:13  The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.