Big Bear Valley, CA — With summer finally upon us (as we had a blizzard just a month ago), there are many opportunities and places to hike in and around the Big Bear Valley, including group hike opportunities through the Mountain Top Hiking Club and the Seven Summits of Big Bear series. Before you take a hike, however, the volunteers of the Bear Valley Search and Rescue Team suggest that you prepare for the unexpected, and remind that self-reliance is the key to the backcountry. Hikers should always remember to carry the following essentials: to find your way, a map, compass and flashlight; for your protection, sunglasses, extra food, plenty of water, sunscreen, and extra clothing (suitable for the changing climate); and, for emergencies, waterproof matches, a candle or fuel tablets, pocket knife and first aid kit. Jim Lyon, a member of Bear Valley Search and Rescue team says, “A GPS is also nice, if you can afford it, but don’t give up on the map and compass. The batteries can go on a GPS, so be up on your map and compass before you go.” And, whatever supplies you pack, his SAR teammate Peter Fulkerson recommends, “It’s always smart to have more than you think you need, in case that one hour hike becomes two hours.” Before embarking on a hike in the woods, be sure to let someone know where you are headed and when you plan to return. Weekly group hikes are an option; as posted on MountainTopHiking.com, the Sierra Club hosts a Castle Rock hike on Thursday morning, as well as a full moon walkabout through Holcomb Valley on Saturday evening (group departs from B’s Backyard BarBQ at 5:30pm). More rigorous opportunities are offered through the Seven Summits of Big Bear group, which plans four more in the series this summer, the next of which is Delamar Mountain on July 10.