In 1845, Benjamin Davis Wilsonthe future first mayor of Los Angeles and the grandfather of Gen. George S. Pattonled a 20-man posse into the San Bernardino Mountains in search of Native American raiding parties that had been attacking Riverside ranches.
But what they found in a particular high-altitude valley were, instead, large and furry. Wilsons men soon roped 11 bears, bringing the creatures into camp, and the valley the Serrano Indians knew as Yuhaviat, or Pine Place, received a new map designation. Wilson named a nearby body of water Big Bear Lake (now Baldwin Lake, with the present-day, man-made lake co-opting the bruin moniker).
Today, at elevations between 6,000 and 9,000 feet, the city of Big Bear Lake is an hour and a half from Los Angeles and a million miles from the rat race, where hiking, sports, and the absence of exertion thrive in a vacation atmosphere.