Oak Glen: An Annual Family Tradition

Orchard Picnic Tables

Taken using my Nikon D300 and an AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm lens on 24 September 2011.

Situated in the local mountains just north of Beaumont, California, Oak Glen is a relaxing break from the hectic, smoggy city life that awaits in the cities down below. Going to Oak Glen in the fall was a yearly tradition in my house when I was growing up, and it still is a tradition today. It was often after church on a Sunday, and we would have a picnic of cold fried chicken in scenic eating areas like the one above, play catch and run around (the kids would, at least), buy apple pie and cider, and peruse every shop in town. Eventually, as the sun set and it began to get cold, the tourists would leave and all of the shops would close save one: Law’s Coffee Shop. There, the family would shelter from the cold, the grumpy 5 lb. Apple Piechildren would finally get a late dinner, and we would all have a piece of apple pie (Personally, I like mine a la mode, but they also serve it with cinnamon sauce).

Many of the things that I remember from Oak Glen as a child have to do with nature. Even though I was surrounded by people during the busy day and spent a good deal of time in the shops and stores, I remember the nature the most. I remember one nerve-wracking Sunday when a bear cub wandered out of the trees and into the picnic ground. I remember staring dumbstruck some of the other picnickers (not with us), began to through rocks and tennis balls at this bear cub. What in the world would make someone stupid enough to do that? You see, my family has always spent time in the great outdoors, and we knew that a mama bear is never far behind a bear cub; so, we quickly grabbed all of our stuff, packed the car, and left. Yet, as quick as we were, the bears were quicker. By the time we started to pull out of the parking spot, mama bear had followed the cub into the clearing, and now everyone was running for their cars and abandoning unnecessary picnicking gear and food. I don’t remember if anyone was injured or not, but it left an impression (and also was neither the first nor the last encounter I had with a bear).

I also remember many late afternoons, entering Law’s Coffee Shop as the sun set, only to leave at night. Sure, it was often cold and windy as it is so often in the mountains, but I always took a moment to stare in wonder at two things. The first thing was the lights in the cities down below the mountains, a glowing field of oranges and reds and whites, which always made me so gigantic and larger than life to look on cities as if ants had made them. The second things was always the stars in the sky. Up in the mountains, instead of just Orion and the Big Dipper, I was enthralled by an ocean of stars and light; dozens, possibly hundreds of stars that I could not see at home in Anaheim. Interestingly, while the city lights always made me feel so big, looking up at the stars also made me feel so small in the scheme of things. To look at such grandeur is to be dwarfed by the cosmic.

Still, even today, I still take a moment to look out over the city lights and to look up at the stars, and to remember the many trips to Oak Glen that I have made over the years. In that sense, going there every year is timeless, and something that interrupts the hustle and bustle of normal life. I can always pause, look around, and remember who I am, instead of the focusing on the insignificant details that normally occupy my attention.

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