Weekend of Van Camping & MTB in Big Bear, CA

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With Memorial Day weekend upon us as well as the season opener at Snow Summit bike park, what better way to kick off summer than to head to Big Bear in our almost completed Sprinter van? We are just a few pieces of trim away from saying we are “done” with the build. There is still more we plan to add later on, but for the most part, it is completed.



We left Vegas sometime mid-afternoon, stopping along the way at the newly built Eddie World! If you are not familiar with this place, it is by far the coolest place to stop when traveling between CA & Vegas. Located at the Calico exit off I-15 in Yermo, CA, this place has snacks, food, a coffee shop, craft beers, homemade ice cream, clean bathrooms and cheap gas. After grabbing a photo in front of their giant sundae, we went inside to check the place out.


Holy crap this place is huge. 12,000 square feet of just about anything you would want between California and Nevada. The bathrooms are literally the coolest bathrooms I have been in before. The urinals are interactive tank games shooting at whatever your pee stream in pointed at. Then when you are done peeing, it asks if you are out of ammo? Ha!


Yep, we went a little nuts with the bulk candy.


We made it to Big Bear and headed straight for our campsite. We headed up Skyline Drive and continued up the mountain via Sugarloaf Truck Trail to seek out the best possible place to call home for the night.


We were literally at the top of Snow Summit. Would you look at that view?


Ok, we found the best campsite at Big Bear. We win.


We set out some chairs and cracked some beers to celebrate our new van being just about finished!


8000 feet wasn’t quite high enough so I got up a few more feet.


The mystical clouds rolled through the canyon.


As the sun went down, the temperature quickly dropped into the 30’s.


Into the van, we retreated. We fired up the Buddy Heater and hung out in our luxurious Sprinter campervan! Man, that felt so good after all the hard work I put in. 6 months of solid work paid off at that moment.


Later that night we made up some food. Most of the time on our trips, we keep it extremely simple and use our Jetboil to make Mountain House meals. Chili Mac with Beef is probably one of our favorites, however, it’s probably not the best choice in a van.


As you can see, the Big Buddy heater worked great keeping things warm inside. We usually just blast it on high then go to bed. Although it is safe to use indoors, it uses a quite a bit of propane and also causes condensation over long periods of use. We have a down comforter that keeps us warm at night so we do just fine in cold weather. A diesel-fired Espar heater will probably come later, but for now, we don’t need it.



The sun came up and it was still freezing ass cold up on that mountain. We had a nice morning view though as coffee was made.


I kicked the inverter on and got our electric Bosch water heater going. Wooo, would ya look at that amperage? With 400 aH of batteries, we don’t have to worry about this load. It only runs for about 15-20 minutes and we have hot water for most of the day. Between solar charging and driving, the batteries get a good charge. I imagine a couple showers may make it run longer, but I am confident the system can handle it.


Getting out of our camp required a little bit of finesse, but I was extremely impressed with the van. Those Nitto tires did really well and helped tremendously. These Sprinters, even 2WD, have great ground clearance. I grew up “4 wheeling” my old 2WD C10. I took that truck in places where my 4WD buddies couldn’t believe. It’s all about the line you take and just the right amount of speed.


We headed down to the bike park and made some vrunch. That would be short for brunch in a van. I whipped up some breakfast burritos right there in the parking lot on our new Gas One stove. That little thing is rad! It runs on butane or propane.


We geared up and hit the chairlift. Anna was finally getting to ride her “new” Enduro at Summit.


The Snow Summit trail crew has been busy building some new features. The berms at the end of Turtle Trail are wicked sharp!


I usually run my GoPro and hit Miracle Mile, Party Wave, and Westridge, but since I hadn’t been on my bike since November, I figured I would take it really easy this trip. I stayed on Going Green and Turtle most of the day with Anna, but had the urge and ended up hitting Party Wave and the last bit of Miracle Mile once. I quickly found out how demanding the trails are on the legs. I can’t wait to get back up there and hit them hard like I used to.


Anna was loving her bike. We had a great day at the park.


Our buddy Brad drove up with his 4-month-old pup, Lucky, to join us for the trip. His dog got alot of attention from everyone all weekend.


After the bike park, some beer and pizza were in order. Our friend Jason and his kids met up with us at Maggio’s.


Jason told us of a couple good lower elevation camp spots as well as a super strange “Winnie the Poo” hiking trail that dates back to the fifties. “Whaat?” It’s where a stream flows through an area of the woods and certain things are known to grow there. People would go there to trip out. So after dinner, Jason led us to it and gave us a tour. It was getting dark real quick and we still had to find a camp, but we couldn’t pass this up. We had to see it.


After experiencing the hippie trail, we had some good laughs and got the hell out of there.


We landed a spot off Mill Creek Rd. The great thing about this area is it’s all Forest Service roads meaning it’s free camping for up to 14 days. We got set up, had a couple beers and called it a night.



The weather was much better that morning compared to 24 hours ago at 8000 feet. The sun was shining and it was gorgeous.


I made some coffee, took a quick stroll and bike ride, then packed it up.


As Brad packed it up, Lucky did not like the fact that he was so far away from his dad.


Would ya look at this little guy? haha Too cute.


We headed over to the Village to grab some breakfast at a dog-friendly restaurant, Nottinghams Restaurant. The service was under-par, but the food made up for it and they even had dog water dishes for the pup.


After breakfast we stopped over at Snow Summit again to hang with a couple friends, then we headed over to the Hanna Flat trail in Fawnskin. It’s a fun, scenic single track that winds between granite boulders and trees.


Since I hadn’t been on my bike since November, I was pretty beat after just a 4-5 mile ride so we stopped off in the trees to take a little nap before heading home.


On our way home, our adventure wasn’t over yet. A little Husky dog ran across the road in front of us in Barstow. We stopped because she had a harness on and we knew she had to belong to somebody. She was chipped and tagged, but there was no phone number and the animal hospital was closed until Tuesday. Luckily our good friend, Woody, who lives in Barstow told us to drop her off at his place. With the power of social media, he and his girlfriend reunited her with the owner! Shown below is Anna holding Sky at Woody’s place. She was a great little dog, but I am really glad we didn’t end up with her! She would grow to be a bit big for the van.



Follow Pete:

Do more with less! That is my motto lately. I love getting outdoors and exploring new places, usually on my KTM motorcycle. My wife, Anna, and I recently bought and built out a Sprinter van to do more of the things we love. Traveling and seeing new places is always at the top of our to-do list.

2 Responses

  1. Bill LeFever

    Very nice blog Pete. Well written and great photos. Love the van.

  2. Pete

    Thank you, Bill!

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