The mountains and forests surrounding the Big Bear lake is believed to house some of the best hiking trails in Southern California. On a Sunday morning during a weekend outing, about 8 of us set out to explore the wilderness in Big Bear. We settled comfortably in 2 cars and cruised for about 10 minutes before we noticed a pull out on Highway 18 (About a mile east of the Big Bear Dam). This space doubled as a parking lot. A short walk on the road led to the trail head with a board that read aloud 'Castle Rock Trail 1W03 ... Castle Rock 1'. We started our ascent into the wooded area with a modest cargo that contained a few digital cameras and 1 bottle of fitness water. The trail ran parallel to a stream which had run completely dry.
After climbing for few minutes, we realized that this was going to be one strenuous hike. We gained quite a bit of elevation in the first few minutes of our hiking itself. This unfolded some great obstructed views of the Big bear lake as we ascended. After about 45 minutes of grinding our way through the pines at almost 550 feet higher than where we started, we got our first real view of the Castle Rock. Castle Rock is a giant Granite boulder sitting majestically on the hills about 1 mile from the trail head. We were a bit tired in the mid-morning sun and without proper hydration. We guessed that we were still about 0.2 miles away from the rock. The last 0.2 miles were quite steep and after a bit of struggle reached the base of Castle rock. This brought us to an obvious question 'Do we climb the rock? Or, do we satisfy ourselves with the climb on the trail?" It appeared a bit too risky to make it to the top considering the steep slopes that provided no proper footing, our inexperience in rock climbing and the lack of proper planning. We were all in a pair of shoes that had little or no grip. As we almost decided to turn back, an enthusiastic couple descending back from the rock tempted us with promises of unbelievable views of the lake.
This prompted one of our members to try to hit the first tough step in the form of a high, narrow, steep and slippery path. As he made through that with some help, 4 of us followed suit. Each step in the ascent was a nerve-wracking one and even one wrong step could lead us to oblivion. Extreme care and a great team effort finally led us to the peak of the rock. As promised, we were treated to some gorgeous panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding hills and forests. We decided to spend a good 15-20 minutes at the top allowing the serene scene to engulf us. The most difficult part was yet to come 'The descent from Castle rock to the base of the rock'. There were prayers performed at the top requesting almighty to safely guide us back to the base. With our heart in the mouth, we started our descent. It was definitely not for the faint of heart. After a number of trial and errors in our footing coupled with each other's guidance, we finally made it to the bottom much to the relief of everyone. We thanked God first thing, before starting our way down to the road 1 mile away. Near the Castle rock, the trail was not properly marked and this led to us straying from the proper path. However, we took the dry stream route which guided us back to the marked trail few minutes later. Still shaking from the experience and yet with a sense of achievement, we reached the road with a well-deserved self-applause.