My Southern California boys had only really experienced snow once in their lives and, being so young, none of them remember it much at all. So, this past weekend we decided to make their winter wishes come true and take them to Lake Arrowhead so they could play around in the snow.
We had the idea to see if the UCLA Conference Center grounds would be available for our lodging. This is a beautiful piece of property about 15 minutes past the Lake Arrowhead Village and a place we call home every summer for a week. For ten weeks every summer, the Conference Center is taken over by Bruin Woods which is the UCLA Family Camp. If you have any connection to UCLA and have yet to experience Bruin Woods, you really owe it to yourself to go. During the days, kids are in camp led by UCLA students while their parents are out fishing, water skiing, listening to lectures, taking classes, doing arts/crafts or just relaxing by the pool. At night there are shows put on by the counselors, organized games, movies, campouts… all of these activities anchored by three truly delicious, chef-prepared meals a day. We really had no idea that during the off-season, the Conference Center was used for other groups who needed a place to meet and sleep. Most of the cabins (or condolets as they are called) were taken over by a visiting group from California Institute of Technology. There was also a group of teachers meeting. The place is available to anyone who has an educational purpose for being there. But, luckily, they set aside a few cabins for friends/family of the University (aka alumni) which is how we lucked out.
So, there we were, five months shy of the week we normally are guests there, and our boys couldn’t have been happier to see their favorite summertime destination spot covered in gorgeous, idyllic, powdery snow. They immediately wanted to run to all of their favorite campground spots and see how different everything looked with snow on the ground. The baseball field, the ‘Zen Deck’, Frontier Village, even the normally warm patio tables- all covered in a layer of ice or snow. One similarity between our summer and winter experiences: the lodge always has a kid-friendly supply of hot chocolate but this week, the boys were excited to discover, the hot chocolate urn didn’t disappear immediately following breakfast. It stayed out all day long so after a few cold tumbles and snow ball fights, they would help themselves to a tall hot one and warm up their insides fireside.
We have a rather strict no-electronics rule at Bruin Woods and the same applied to our off-season jaunt, too. Surrounded by so much natural beauty, the last thing my wife or I want to see is our kids hunched over a tiny screen playing whatever it is they’re playing. So, this weekend provided some nice forced family together time- perfect for playing cards and Monopoly- even a quick toss of the football, trying hard not to slip in the snow beneath our feet.
So, hopefully there will be more weekends like this one in our future. It’s truly a blessing to live such a short drive’s distance from an actual weather condition and an even greater pleasure to return home, shake off the snow from our mittens, stow the big jackets and jump in the Jacuzzi with the sun bright and shining overhead. And I bet when we are there this summer, we will remember how different it all looked just a few short months ago.