Our Saturday was packed—after the Dia de los Muertos festival in sunny LA, we capped off our day with the Moonlight Hike & BBQ at Mt. Baldy. I think they missed an opportunity to give the event a Halloween theme. Our high moon shadows flickered so far they frightened me multiple times. The creaking of the most-often empty ski lift was eerie—populated with skeletons it would have been supremely scary! In the light of day, the slog up the fire road would be less inspiring, so I can see why people shave it off Mt. Baldy circuits by taking the ski lift. That wasn’t an option for us because of the pooch.
My point-and-shoot is made of fail in low light conditions, and the few Holga shots I took can’t be predicted until we develop the film, so I couldn’t capture the experience as I wished. We brought our sexy headlamps but never needed them. Once we made it to the restaurant patio, we had the grand view of the San Gabriel Valley we’d been tantalized with all the way up. A group near us exclaimed its lights looked like a sea of gold. It reminded me of the glittery aerial view of Manhattan at night—beyond the inky mountains, a jewelry box toss.
Given the middling reviews of Top of the Notch restaurant, I had reasonable expectations and came away pleased with my meal. I was up first while P dogwatched. I walked through the bar area and wasn’t sure where to go until I was pointed to a turnstile at the back. Mimicking the men in front of me, I served myself some salad and topped it with onion rings. I dropped my paper ticket in a plastic beer pitcher as indicated. (The restaurant wasn’t that full, but there were a couple dozen tickets strewn in there.) Again following the men’s lead, I asked for a helping of everything. This turned out to be a good move, because it’s once through, not all you can eat (don’t worry—it will be plenty). When I thanked the man serving, he made sure I didn’t miss the dinner rolls and mini butter tubs on the way out.
Everything was: several pieces of tri-tip, a chicken breast with barbeque sauce, new potatoes and green beans slicked with olive oil, and bechamel-sauced vegetable lasagna, which was very Stouffer—but I mean that as a compliment. The romaine salad had a successful modern twist: pomegranate seeds and peanuts! Two fruity Drifter Pale Ales from Widmer (each $6.50) were a great accompaniment. All in all, it’s cafeteria food, with a nice dose of all-American nostalgia. I have no idea what the European and Asian tourists made of it.
Given the heat in Los Angeles, it was mind-bending to anticipate the cold, but I judged my layers perfectly. I had it all on at windy Baldy Notch: a long-sleeved shirt, a gossamer yet toasty cashmere sweater, a hoodie, a puffer vest and a knit cap. Plus a vest for the dog, who was happy to sit in my lap in front of the propane fire pit. I enjoyed Ron Ely’s well-crafted folk set, where I heard his take on Stand by Me and Angie with the classic Country Roads.
After dinner, we headed west into the warren of ski trails leading to Devil’s Backbone and Mt. Baldy. We halted our exploration pretty quickly, since we didn’t really know where we were going. We did arrive at a vantage point where we could see north to the sparser lights of Victor Valley, and white and red snakes of cars backed up on the 15 freeway.
Things I would do differently next time:
- Bring a flask
- Bring friends
- Start with an interesting day hike