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Chill out at Big Bear Lake

Those of us whose air-conditioning goes on strike every summer are always looking for a place to chill (in my case, with my dog).

Big Bear Lake, a (usually) snow-fed reservoir surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, offers trails to hike, a dog-friendly boat tour and, if you're lucky, temperatures so cool you may be forced to wear a jacket at night.

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The bed

Dogs Darby, left, and Piper, right, enjoy the layout at the Big Bear Best Western Chateau.
Dogs Darby, left, and Piper, right, enjoy the layout at the Big Bear Best Western Chateau. (Rosemary McClure)

I wanted to stay near the Big Bear Alpine Zoo in Moonridge, so I tried a nicely landscaped lodge in the area, the Best Western Big Bear Chateau, where beds of flowers brightened the grounds and the words "free breakfast" beckoned.

It wasn't hard to a find dog-friendly place to eat,  including  Grizzly's Bear Belly Deli & Cafe, about a block from the Best Western.

The meal

The Evergreen Restaurant has an artistically presented and delicious roasted tomato bisque.
The Evergreen Restaurant has an artistically presented and delicious roasted tomato bisque. (Rosemary McClure)

My favorite meal? At Evergreen Restaurant, which overlooks the lake.

The find

Boaters enjoy Big Bear Lake.
Boaters enjoy Big Bear Lake. (Rosemary McClure)

And the lake is still there, despite the paucity of rain. What better way to explore it than aboard Miss Liberty, a 64-foot-long paddle-wheel boat that allows well-mannered  dogs. We cruised the lake for 90 minutes while the captain recounted the lake's history and clued us in on the celebrities who have homes along the shoreline.

The lesson learned

This black bear at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo is named Hucklebeary. He'sthe alpha bear in the pen despite having only three legs,which zookeepers believe was the result of a being hit by a car when he was just a cub.
This black bear at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo is named Hucklebeary. He'sthe alpha bear in the pen despite having only three legs,which zookeepers believe was the result of a being hit by a car when he was just a cub. (Rosemary McClure)

Later, at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo (which is also a rehabilitation center that returns 80% of the animals rescued to the wild), I saw three grizzlies; a three-legged black bear, a pack of white wolves and two snow leopards.

Miles one way from downtown L.A.

About 100

Resources

Big Bear lodging, www.bigbear.com; Best Western Big Bear Chateau, www.lat.ms/bigbearchateau; Grizzly's Bear Belly Deli & Cafe, www.bearbellydeli.com; Evergreen Restaurant, www.evergreenbigbear.com; Miss Liberty paddle-wheel boatwww.pineknotmarina.com; Big Bear Alpine Zoo, www.bigbearzoo.org.

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