LAKE ARROWHEAD — This is the time of year when some folks dream about going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house.
Too often, however, grandma seems to live in Culver City.
If you're yearning for a real homey retreat away from town, don't fret; there is hope. Try escaping for a few days to the San Bernardino Mountains. That's where you'll find a trio of nostalgia-filled bed-and-breakfast inns with scenery and hospitality to delight any visitor.
Sunlight streams through lace curtains, casting new patterns on the wallpaper. Just outside the bedroom window, gray squirrels chase each other around the trunks of pine trees and Steller's jays squawk their wake-up calls in the crisp morning air.
Loving, Tender Care
The aroma of freshly baked rolls lures you from the cozy feather comforter and an antique bed. It mingles with the smell of wood smoke from embers still glowing in the fireplace.
Another day to get away from it all begins for guests at the Storybook Inn in Skyforest and the Knickerbocker Mansion and Gold Mountain Manor in Big Bear.
The personal attractions of a B&B, such as a home-cooked breakfast and tender care by the innkeeper, seem even more pleasurable when your surroundings are a mountain forest. And that's especially true at these inns that are little more than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.
Closest to the city is the Storybook Inn. It's just beyond Lake Arrowhead on Rim of the World Drive, a mile-high site with spectacular views on winter's smog-free days that extend from snowcapped peaks to the Pacific Ocean.
First known as the $1-million Foutch estate, the glass-fronted inn was built as a 10-bedroom home in the 1940s for the man who designed the original Lake Arrowhead Village. The remodeled three-story building has nine large guest rooms and suites, all with private bath. Nightly rates are $69 to $110.
A special feature is a rustic 1930s log cabin, where the Foutch family lived while the main house was under construction. Now it resembles a hunting lodge with mounted fish and game trophies, stone fireplace and knotty-pine paneling.
The cabin has two bedrooms and a loft, two baths, private picnic patio and full kitchen. It sleeps up to six and rents at $125 a day for two, plus $15 for each extra person.
Hot Tub and Hiking
Beneath ancient oak trees, Storybook guests enjoy a hot tub and sun deck with views of the valley and hiking trails below.
Kathleen and John Wooley of Glendale bought the inn last December and have refurnished the rooms with down pillows, comforters and other amenities.
Oriental rugs and Chinese furniture decorate the large living/dining room and separate TV lounge, where guests enjoy evening wine and hors d'oeuvres.
In the morning a full breakfast is brought to your room with the daily newspaper, or you can eat with other guests in the dining area or solarium.
For Storybook Inn reservations, call (714) 336-1483.
Get to the B&B from Los Angeles by driving east on Interstate 10 to join Interstate 215 north.
At San Bernardino follow the freeway direction for Highland Avenue/Mountain Resorts, California 30, then take the Crestline/Lake Arrowhead exit, Waterman Avenue, which is California 18. Go up the mountain and continue east on that highway to No. 28717 at Skyforest.
Farther east on California 18 (Rim of the World Drive) you'll reach the city of Big Bear Lake. When the highway turns left at Pine Knot Avenue, continue straight on Pennsylvania Avenue two blocks to Knickerbocker Road, then turn right to No. 869.
Imposing Log Structure
Amid tall trees at the edge of San Bernardino National Forest is another historic bed-and-breakfast inn, Knickerbocker Mansion. It's a four-story log structure with timbers erected vertically, built in the 1920s by the lake's first dam keeper.
Bill and Rose Knickerbocker raised five children in the imposing home, which was turned into a B&B in 1985. Last February, Phyllis Knight moved from Fullerton to become the mansion's new owner and innkeeper.
Upstairs in the main house are five view rooms with country decor that share two baths and rent for $75 a night. For $10 more you can have a private bath and a choice of four upstairs rooms in the adjacent carriage house. On its ground level is a suite that accommodates up to eight; $110 for two, plus $20 for each additional person. All rooms have TV.
As at grandma's, guests mingle in the kitchen where snacks and drinks are always available. Wine and hors d'oeuvres are offered every evening, and an "expanded" continental breakfast (often with quiche and fruit salad) is served in the morning.
For Knickerbocker Mansion reservations, phone (714) 866-8221.
By continuing east on California 18 through Big Bear Lake you'll reach Big Bear City and Gold Mountain Manor, another vintage log mansion that's become a B&B. (Turn left from Greenway Drive onto North Shore Drive and go right to 1117 Anita Ave.)