Five Amazing California Road Trips

Starting today, I’m launching a new blog feature that I’m excited to run for the rest of the summer – Road Trip Fridays. One of my best (and sadly underutilized at work) skills is road trip planning. In the past 4.5 years, Greyson and I have gone on some great road trips through California and beyond, and I’ve done the bulk of the planning. With Road Trip Fridays, I’m going to pass my best ideas on to you! I’ll cover the routes (including estimated mileage and time), sites to see, outdoor adventures to go on, and my favorite restaurants and breweries along the way.

Five Amazing California Road Trips // tahoefabulous.com

To kick things off, here are a few of my favorite California itineraries. I’ll be posting detailed trip routes throughout the summer, so keep watching. If you’re interested in a specific route and don’t see a detailed post, feel free to get in touch and I’ll help you out!

Big Sur Coast: One of the most classic California drives of all time is Highway One along the coast. While the whole thing is great, the stretch between Monterrey and Gorda is one of the most breathtaking drives you can take. Distance: 67 miles, 2 hours one way. While you can do the route in an afternoon, why would you want to? Take at least a weekend and savor the drive. Highlights along the way include Carmel by the Sea, Point Lobos Natural Reserve, and McWay Falls. Check back next Friday for a detailed route and more suggestions.

Point Reyes to Redwood National and State Parks: In 2014, Greyson and I went on an amazing road trip from Point Reyes up the North Coast to Redwood National and State Parks. We camped on the beach in Fort Bragg, hiked some of the Lost Coast Trail from the remote Sinkyone State Park, and re-enacted The Lost World in Redwood National Park’s Fern Canyon. I’ve written up this trip in detail here, though it also includes our drive from Truckee and back home via Chico and Nevada City. The Point Reyes to Redwoods stretch is about 375 miles and 9.5 hours.

Lost Coast, #california

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Tahoe to Lone Pine on 395: The drive from Tahoe to Lone Pine along 395 will take you alongside the epic peaks of the Eastern Sierra. While the views alone are worth the drive, there are so many amazing places to stop, you can spend a week or more just on this stretch. It can be quite hot along this drive, so this is a perfect early spring or late fall road trip. It’s even great in the winter if you can handle potential snow around Mammoth Lakes. Stop for hot springs and ancient pines; skiing, climbing, or mountain biking; and surprisingly good food in tiny roadside towns. South Lake Tahoe to Lone Pine is about 230 miles and 4.5 hours of driving. I’ll have more details on this route later this summer.

Santa Cruz to Point Reyes via Highway One: Sure, driving from Santa Cruz to Point Reyes taking Highway One the whole way isn’t the most efficient route, but it is the most scenic! You’ll pass by Pescadero (fresh goat cheese & artichoke bread), Half Moon Bay (views and seafood), scenic oases in San Francisco (Golden Gate Park and The Presidio), Stinson Beach (surfing and cheesy garlic bread), and much more. This drive is only a little over three hours and about 120 miles – I’d recommend doing it in a leisurely day and tack on a few days on either end. More recommendations to come!

#pigeonpoint on #hwy1

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Truckee to Mount Lassen: It’s no secret that I love the Lost Sierra – the stretch of the rural northern Sierra north of Truckee and extending up to Lassen Volcanic National Park. This route takes you from Truckee north on Highway 89, through the Sierra Valley, a quick side trip to the historic town of Downieville, and back toward Graeagle and along the Feather River, and finishing at one of the least visited National Parks in the continental US. I’d take at least five days for this trip, and the mileage is about 190 miles and four hours of driving time. I’ll be writing this up in more detail later this summer.

Took a detour to #lassen national park yesterday.

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There you go – five awesome road trips that you can take in California! Stay tuned for detailed routes, and I hope you like this series as much as I do.

The Brewing Lair, Blairsden, California

The Brewing Lair in Blairsden, California might just be my all time favorite location for a brewery. While it’s address is Highway 70 right near the intersection with California 89, its location is tucked away in the forest up a dirt road. You won’t hear the cars speeding by – only the creaking of the tall pines and an occasional happy bark from one of the dog visitors.

The Brewing Lair // tahoefabulous.com

The Brewing Lair is all outside, with wooden picnic tables, adirondack chairs, a spacious lawn, disc golf course, and even barbecues that you can BYO-meat to and grill out. The often have live music throughout the summer, too. We usually stop by the Brewing Lair after a day of biking at the nearby Mills Peak Trail. Though the Brewing Lair occasionally has a food truck on site, you can bring your own food, and we tend to pick up greasy fare at the burger spot in downtown Graeagle.

As if the amazing location isn’t enough – the Brewing Lair has seriously good beers. Over the past few years, I’ve tried quite a few.  (All descriptions by the Brewing Lair)

  • Uncle Elliot’s IPA (3.75/5): A heavy-hitter IPA with a strong grapefruit flavor
  • Ambush IPA (4/5): A well-behaved IPA, notes of fresh baked bread and dank weed. Our most popular beer.
  • Take a Hike Red IPA (4.5/5): A spicy-floral red IPA
  • Deep Cover Black IPA (4.5/5): Dry, espresso & pine
  • Dope is King Pale Ale (4.25/5): Simcoe and Citra hops with a hint of caramel. Early 1900’s miners raced down Eureka Peak on 12’ wooden skis, claiming that the victory relied on “good dope”—ski resin.

Visiting the Brewing Lair is a one-of-a-kind Sierra experience, and I highly recommend that you try it out!

Mountain Biking Mills Peak Trail, Graeagle, California

I’ve ridden a lot of awesome trails all over the west – from Santa Barbara to Whistler and everywhere in between. I say that because after all sorts of amazing road trips to incredible riding destinations, Mills Peak Trail, which is less than an hour north of Truckee, is still one of my all time favorites.

Mountain Biking Mills Peak // tahoefabulous.com

Mills Peak Trail is the work of the awesome Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, a nonprofit trail organization that is also behind the world famous Downieville Downhill. The trail is awesome – a great mix of flowy, bermed corners and chunky, challenging rock gardens weaving through old trees with occasional wide views. You can ride it a couple of different ways – climb from the bottom or shuttle from the top.

Mills Peak from the Top
Via Strava
Mills Peak from the Top
Map via Strava

The shuttle route takes you to the very top of Mills Peak. You’ll have great views, and there’s even an old fire lookout at the top.

Mills Peak 2

From there, you’ll have a nine mile descent with 2,800+ feet of elevation loss. The trail is segmented into three sections of about three miles each. The top third is the rockiest and most technical, but I think it’s entirely doable by a strong intermediate rider, as long as you’re paying attention. The short and punchy rocky micro-climbs are more challenging than any of the downhills on this section. There are a couple spots with amazing views of the Gold Lakes Basin and you might even be able to spot a waterfall.

Top of Mills Peak // tahoefabulous.com

The second section is practically brand new. This part was all fire road until January of 2018 when SBTS finished punching through a new singletrack trail that paralleled the old fire road. Greyson and I went up for a trail work day in May to help smooth out and finish up the trail. Since it’s still so new, it’s a little rough and bumpy but I figure that it will be in great shape soon, especially after a winter’s worth of snow and rain fall on it. This section seemed like the steepest to me, and my hands and forearms were beat up after riding it in all its new trail glory. We had to take a couple of breaks to shake out our hands. See bumpy texture below.

Mills Peak Trail Day

The last third is the part of the trail I’m most familiar with, as it’s the part we’ve ridden the most times. The last third is split in half with a road crossing. When your headed downhill, the section before the road crossing is flowy with lots of bermed corners, but has enough rocky sections to keep things interesting. Watch out for the massive sugar pine cones that like to collect in the trail! They’re a worse obstacle than loose rocks. The final ~1.5 miles of the trail has lots of rock gardens and small rock drops – nothing that’s not rollable, but great for practicing techniques. This section isn’t very steep, so while the trail is pretty rocky it remains very rideable.

Mills Peak from the Bottom
Via Strava
Mills Peak Map
Map via Strava

If you’re not lucky enough to have a shuttle (though Yuba Expeditions is supposed to start running paid shuttles in July 2018), you can ride Mills Peak from the bottom. Greyson and I have ridden up the bottom third of Mills Peak Trail quite a few times now, which is just a climb of ~1,100 feet in just over three miles, for a round trip of 6 miles. Climbing the whole thing is doable (for people in better shape than me), and you’d end up climbing around 3,000 feet in 9 miles. Maybe next year I’ll be in good enough shape for that epic day!

Trail Stats:
Location: Graeagle, California
Difficulty: Intermediate
Distance: 9 miles from the top with shuttle
Elevation: ~2,900 feet of descent

Big Island Day Trips

While we were on the Big Island, volcanic fog (or “vog”) from the devastating eruption of Mount Kilauea was causing unsafe air quality conditions in Kailua-Kona where we were staying, so we went on quite a few day trips to the parts of the island that were less affected.

Big Island Day Trips // tahoefabulous.com

Our first day trip was a drive north to Pololu Valley and the (literal) end of the road. This viewpoint and short and steep hike give you dramatic views of tall cliffs, verdant rainforest, and crashing seas. Part of our group headed down the trail while the rest remained at the view point. The trail is very sketchy! It’s steep and eroded and the clay mud is extremely slippery. We made it less than halfway down before stopping at a break in the trees to take a few photos and turning around. If you decide to hike to the beach, I’d recommend decent shoes and trekking poles or a walking stick, though I’m sure many people make it down in flip flops.

Polulu Valley // tahoefabulous.com

Polulu Valley // tahoefabulous.com

From there, we headed about an hour to Waimea, to have lunch at The Fish and The Hog, which had come highly recommended from some local friends. I had the best Cuban sandwich of my life, and Greyson’s kalua pork tacos were also great. We also stopped at the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company, which is definitely a tourist trap. I ate my weight in free macadamia nuts, though, so I’d say it was worth it.

Our next day trip took us to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company, which, while touristy, I absolutely loved. It’s on the rainforest-y side of the island and up a long, winding the road. The drive from Kailua-Kona to this area takes you through so many different biomes and from sea level to over 6,000 feet. The Hawaiian Vanilla Company is in an old house, and stuffed with tons of different vanilla products. I got an iced vanilla coffee and Greyson got a vanilla milkshake and they were both to die for. I bought some vanilla Kona coffee to bring home, and I’m already kicking myself that I didn’t buy more. You can do a tour of the factory, but it’s an hour plus in length and we figured that a four month old baby wouldn’t be very into it. For lunch, we went with Italian at Cafe Il Mondo in Honokaa. You can’t go to Hawaii without getting Hawaiian pizza (pineapple on pizza forever!), and Cafe Il Mondo’s wood fired version did not disappoint. After lunch, we headed back south to Akaka Falls State Park.

Akaka Falls State Park // tahoefabulous.com

We attempted a quick detour at a swimming hole we read about in a guide book that came in our vacation rental, but it turned out that the park had been closed due to lead contamination. Yikes! Akaka Falls is a very impressive, 422 foot waterfall in the midst of a dense jungle. The hike to the falls is a paved loop less than half a mile and pretty easy, though the heat and humidity in the jungle were oppressive. The falls are incredible, but I was even more wowed by the verdant plant life just off the trail. This is a pretty popular spot, so be prepared for lots of tourists!

Akaka Falls State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Akaka Falls State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Akaka Falls State Park // tahoefabulous.com

We drove back through Hilo and along the base of the imposing Mauna Kea. On that stretch of Highway 200, we had to come to a screeching halt while a herd of hundreds of goats crossed the road.

Our final day trip, we headed south to Naalehu. Naalehu is now a tourist destination because it’s the furthest south city in the US, but we went there for another reason. Greyson’s mom spent some of her childhood growing up on the Big Island, and she lived in Naalehu when it was just a sugar cane plantation. Even though it’s still very rural, it’s grown a lot since she was living there, but we found the house she lived in and the building that had housed her dad’s doctors office. We were there on a Tuesday, and a lot of the shops and restaurants were closed, but Punalu’u Bake Shop was open! Since we’d arrived in Hawaii, I’d wanted to try a malasada – a Hawaiian donut. I finally got my chance here. Greyson and I shared a plain one and a lilikoi one. The rest of the family tried their favorites, and we got a dozen to bring back with us. When you’re in Hawaii, track down a malasada. I’m a huge fan of donuts and I loved these!

Naalehu

I have one final recommendation for the Big Island. On our last day, I was looking for an interesting place to grab lunch, and I ended finding my best meal of the whole trip. We went to Broke da Mouth Grindz, a Filipino/Hawaiian restaurant in a strip mall in Kona. It’s definitely a local’s place on island time – don’t expect to get in and out quickly, but the food is worth the wait. I got adobo pork, kimchi fried rice, and potato salad and they were all phenomenal. It was the best adobo pork I’ve ever had! The kimchi fried rice was delicious and super spicy, and I could have eaten a gallon of the potato salad. Why can’t I get purple sweet potatoes in Truckee? We also caught one final sunset before we had to go to the airport.

Kona Sunset // tahoefabulous.com

All in all, our trip to the Big Island was amazing. We visited beautiful beaches, lush jungles, crashing waterfalls and awesome wildlife. The food was fresh and delicious and the beer is highly recommended. I can’t wait to go back!

Manini’owali Beach, The Big Island, Hawaii

We went to quite a few beaches while on the Big Island, but one stood above all the rest – Manini’owali Beach in Kua Bay. If you’re looking for an instagram-perfect white sand beach that’s perfect for swimming and has the most amazing turquoise water, this is the beach that you want!

Manini'owali Beach // tahoefabulous.com

One note Manini’owali Beach is CLOSED on Wednesdays. We actually drove out to this beach on a Wednesday and were flummoxed by the closed gate – especially since your basic googling doesn’t turn up this not so fun fact. So to repeat, Manini’owali Beach is closed on Wednesdays. Don’t get your hopes crushed like we did.

Like I said in my post on Hawaii breweries, Greyson and I had basically an extra day before our red eye flight on Thursday, so we headed back to Manini’owali, car packed to the gills with all of our luggage. Manini’owali Beach is north of the Kona Airport, and about 25 minutes north of the town of Kona, depending on traffic. The road out to this beach is also paved and safe for rental cars, which isn’t true for all of the beaches in the area. We got there around 11 am on a Thursday and didn’t have much trouble finding parking, but I think we got there as the early crowd was leaving. I imagine this place would be packed on a weekend. Also, the parking isn’t visible from the beach, so we were a little nervous about leaving our stuff (including computers/cameras) in the car. From the research we did, this beach seems pretty safe as far as car break ins go, and we didn’t see broken glass or anything. Our stuff was fine, but leave valuables in your car at your own risk.

Manini'owali Beach Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

The pictures I saw ahead of time made Manini’owali Beach looked amazing, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up to high. When I got my first glimpse of the beach, though, I literally gasped. It is like a cartoon drawing of a Hawaiian beach. After changing in the public (very clean) bathrooms, I beelined straight for the sand. Growing up in Washington and Oregon, I know that sandy ocean beaches are a luxury that I do not take for granted. This sand is perfect for hanging out – soft and not filled with bugs!

Manini'owali Beach Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

We sunscreened up using Think Sport (Thinksport) and Alba (Alba Botanica ) which don’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate – the coral harming sunscreen ingredients, and hung out on the beach for a bit. I only lasted a few minutes before heading into the perfect looking water, and it felt just as good as it looked. The temperature was perfect, the swell was gentle, and there were no rocks or urchins to worry about.

Manini'owali Beach Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

We floated around, playing in the gentle waves. We even saw a sea turtle lazily swimming by! I could have stayed at Manini’owali Beach forever, but we did have to get out eventually. I can’t use enough superlatives to describe how awesome this beach is, so you’ll just have to visit it yourself.

Manini'owali Beach Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

While Manini’owali Beach was far and away my favorite, we went to quite a few beaches on the west side of the Big Island, and here are my recommendations. For a sandy beach right in Kailua-Kona, Magic Sands Beach is great. We swam around and did a little snorkeling, but it’s not ideal for that. For snorkeling in the Kona area, we had better luck just a few minutes south at Kahalu’u Beach Park. It’s murky close to shore where most people hang out, but Greyson and I found some live coral and interesting fish further out towards the breakwater and the water is much clearer out there. Wear booties and watch for urchins though! If you want to get out of Kailua-Kona and do some body surfing or boogie boarding, Hapuna Beach Park towards the north end of the island is a good option. This beach is huge and has a ton of parking, so it could be a good option on a busier weekend when the smaller beaches are more crowded.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Hawaii Breweries

Next up on our Big Island vacation – the breweries of Hawaii!

Of course, we had to go to Kona Brewing Company. Especially since it was within walking distance of our vacation rental. Greyson and I didn’t walk, because I stepped on an urchin! But that’s a story for another blog post. Pretty much everyone who likes beer has had a Kona beer- I love their mixer pack.

Kona Brewing Co // tahoefabulous.com

Here’s what they say about themselves:

Aloha. That’s how most conversations begin here. It’s also how many of them end. But “Aloha” doesn’t just mean hello and goodbye and love and welcome. It means more than a word can express. It’s a feeling. A way of life. “Aloha” is the idea that we are all connected to everyone and everything around us and that true joy is found in respecting this connection. And it’s in this aloha spirit that the Kona Brewing Company was founded back in 1994 by Cameron Healy and his son Spoon Khalsa. They combined their love of Hawaii and its pristine, natural beauty with their fondness for delicious, local brews, and lucky for us, their dream lives on more than 20 years later.

One of the many awesome things about Kona Brewing is their commitment to sustainability. They use solar power, recycle water at on-site gardens, and use spent grains in the pizza crust at their brew pub. They also brew beer on the mainland to reduce transportation and shipping impacts! The brewery is definitely worth a visit if you’re in town. They have a few beers that you can only get in Hawaii that aren’t available on the mainland. Also, all the food we ordered was delicious, especially for such a large location. I really liked the poke and the kalua pork nachos!

Here’s what I tried (all descriptions by Kona Brewing):

Kanaha Blonde Ale (4/5): Our brewer’s were inspired by the trade winds to create this smooth, refreshing blonde ale with the adventures of summer in mind. After a day riding the winds over shimmering waters, Kanaha Blonde ale is a bright, sessionable beer that will ease you ashore without weighing you down. Real mango fruit adds a juicy, tropical flavor that is easy like the islands. This crisp Kona brew will take you up, up and away.

Rift Zone Red Ale (3.25/5)

Hanalei Island IPA (3.75/5): Hanalei Island IPA is an easy-drinking, sessionable beer that combines the hoppy aroma of an IPA with a tropical Hawaiian twist. Passionfruit, orange and guava balance the hops to deliver a coppery, session-style ale that reflects the flavors and spirit of the islands.

Lemongrass Luau (4.25/5) Lemongrass Luau is a crisp, refreshing blonde ale brewed with a touch of wheat malt, ginger, and fresh lemongrass. With its modest alcohol content Lemongrass Luau can be considered a session beer, perfect for pau hana, sharing pints with friends, and great with almost any meal.

Kua Bay IPA (4.5/5): Kua Bay IPA is a bright, bold, copper-colored India Pale Ale. Piney hops, spices, and a subtle caramel maltiness make it a delicious beer that’s both full-bodied and flavorful. Only available in Hawaii!

Gold Cliff IPA (4.75/5): Gold Cliff IPA features real pineapple, along with bright, tropical fruit aromas of Mosaic and Citra hops and a hint of smooth caramel malt.

Of course, we weren’t done after Kona Brewing. Greyson and I had a red eye flight, so we had a quite a few hours to kill after the rest of the family left, and, after some beach time, we headed to another brewery. We basically stumbled on Ola Brew, seeing signs for a new brewery as we drove around Kona.

Ola Brew // tahoefabulous.com

Ola Brew was awesome – friendly staff, great beer (and interesting looking cider, that we didn’t get a chance to sample), and a spacious location that is great for hanging out. They aren’t currently serving food, but there was a food truck parked outside when we visited. While Kona was fun to check out, it feels pretty corporate, while Ola Brew felt more local. My favorites were the A’a IPA (New England style 4.25/5), the Lager (4.5/5) and the IPA (4.75/5). I also tried the Luhia Pale Ale (3.75/5) and the Old Industrial IPA (3/5), which I didn’t like as much as the first three, but were still enjoyable. If I make it back to the Big Island, I will definitely head back to Ola Brew.

Manta Ray Night Snorkel – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

In early June, Greyson and I went to the Big Island of Hawaii with his family. It was an amazing trip, and one of the highlights was definitely a night snorkeling trip to see manta rays.

Manta Snorkel Kona Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

We had hoped to do a SCUBA dive while in Hawaii, but I had a sinus infection that made diving impossible, so I got to work looking for something to do instead. We’d planned on doing a night SCUBA dive with mantas, and I stumbled on this post by Simply Taralynn about a night snorkel with manta rays, and I knew that we had to do it. I did a little research, and I ended up booking the same company, Big Island Divers. They were a reasonable price (only $105), just down the street from our vacation rental, and had great reviews.

We had brought our own snorkel gear that we used, but the cost of the excursion includes mask, snorkel, and fins and you can rent a wetsuit for $10. We checked in at the dive shop ahead of the excursion – we were a little confused by this, but you just need to check in ahead of time to get sized for your wetsuit and get directions to the boat. There is also a ton of cute merchandise and gear and the shop, and if you show up before noon, there’s a discount! I had thought that the snorkel was near the downtown of Kailua-Kona, but it was actually a 20 minute boat ride from the marina – and you end up right by the airport.

Manta Ray Night Snorkel Kona Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

The crew of Big Island Divers were awesome – funny and knowledgeable. While they got the boat ready, one of the SCUBA guides gave us all a lesson on mantas. Mantas are filter feeders that eat plankton, and, years ago a hotel on the water put in underwater lights to entertain hotel restaurant guests at night. These lights attracted plankton, and surprise – mantas showed up! Once this happened, tour operators realized the draw these amazing creatures have and started running night snorkel and dive tours. Now there are two spots with underwater lights – at the original hotel and at another, less busy spot near the airport where we went. I’m always a little weirded out by tourist activities that alter wild animals behavior, but, apparently these tours are really safe and low impact to the population, and humans have already had a hugely negative impact on these animals already, and the lights help provide them a steady food source.

Manta Ray Night Snorkel Kona Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

We hopped on the boat and got the best sunset of our whole vacation. I sadly didn’t get a picture, though. It got dark quickly, and we arrived at the snorkel site. There were a few boats in the water, and it was already starting to become a bit of a zoo. This is definitely a tourist attraction, so you’re not going to have a relaxing, solo experience. One thing that I really appreciated about Big Island Divers is that they obviously really cared about the health and safety of the mantas, and we held off getting in the water until it had cleared out a bit so we didn’t overwhelm the awesome creatures.

While mantas show up most of the time, they are wild animals and their appearance isn’t guaranteed. While we geared up, our guides pointed out that the underwater lights appeared to be flashing. This was actually mantas swimming in front of the lights! I got so excited and couldn’t wait to get in the water. We did have to wait, though, until the SCUBA divers got in the water.

Manta Ray Night Snorkel Kona Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

Finally, it was our turn to jump in! How it works is that Big Island Divers have a surfboard with a light on the bottom and a PVC pipe rack around the outside, which the snorkelers held on to. It’s a lot of just holding on and floating, you only kick when your guide directs you to move somewhere. As soon as we were in the water and situated, the mantas showed up. They corkscrew through the water, feeding on the plankton. It was such an incredible experience. In Indonesia, we saw oceanic mantas while diving. While those oceanic mantas are even bigger than the Hawaiian ones and it was one of the coolest things I have ever done, this snorkel was just as cool. Mantas are incredibly smart – they recognize themselves in mirrors, which not even dogs can do! Some have even learned that humans can help them and will go up to diver to get fishing hooks removed.

We were in the water for almost an hour, just watching their acrobatic dance. I could have stayed in the water forever, but it was time to get back on the boat. I was pretty cold at this point – my wetsuit is only a 2.5 thickness and too big for me, and we weren’t moving around at all. When we got back on, the guides had fresh towels and hot chocolates for us. As soon as everyone was aboard (they did a roll call to be sure), we headed back to the harbor.

All in all, it was such an amazing experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Big Island. Big Island Divers was great, and be sure to bring cash to tip your guides. Also, here’s a video Greyson made of our snorkel – check it out!

Hood River: Post Canyon Mountain Biking & Beer

The second to last stop on the #toasterroadtrip was Hood River, Oregon. I was born (and lived until I was five) just down the Columbia River from there in The Dalles, but a lot has changed since 1989! The drive along the Columbia was incredibly windy, and the toaster + rocket box was blown all over the place. We finally arrived, hot and windblown, and headed straight for Double Mountain Brewery. Overall, this brewery had great beer and delicious food – I would highly recommend!

Here’s what I tried (descriptions by Double Mountain Brewery):

The Vaporizer Pale Ale (4/5): Challenger hops, Pilsner malt, and our house yeast strain are the headliners in this easy pale. The result is agile, alluringly herbal, and supremely refreshing. The dry hop really makes this one sing.

Hop Lava IPA (3.75/5): Our flagship IPA glows with substantial amounts of Cascade and Centennial hops grown right here in the Northwest. A clean, resinous citrus aroma and a sturdy grain bill create a splendid symmetry in the Northwest IPA tradition.

Hop Lion IPA (4.75/5): Tropic resin, tangerine, evergreen, and the earthy scent of Northwest petrichor leap from the nose of this proud IPA. Tangelo and fresh bread stalk closely behind, finishing with orange and dank pine.

Pilsner (4.25/5): This is Matt’s own “Bohemian Rhapsody”, fermented with a Czech Pilsner yeast and lagered for two months. The distinct fresh melon apple character comes from the courtship between Sterling hops and yeast, dancing over a malt profile of fresh baked bread. Crisp, light, and delicious. Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

Mountain Biking Post Canyon
We knew that we wanted to ride in Post Canyon, so Greyson found the perfect location to camp – Kingsley Reservoir. This is a pretty primitive campground – just pit toilets and no services, but it’s also cheap and you can ride from your campsite to a pretty awesome trail network. Note: some of the trails around Kingsley Reservoir are closed until Spring 2019 due to a construction project, so be sure to do research before you ride.

We started with a pretty tough fire road climb – it was pretty steep and hot and so washed out in sections that we had to push up. Trailforks calls it Kingsley to 170 Dirt Surfer. We then rode down Dirt Surfer for about 1.2 miles until we decided to turn around. I loved Dirt Surfer! It was a fun, flowy trail with just enough rocky drops to keep things interesting. I could have ridden down it forever, but we realized that we’d eventually have to climb back up, hence the early turnaround. We rode back up Dirt Surfer for about 0.6 miles when we came across a fire road that seemed like it would take us back to camp. That turned out to be the right decision and we were able to cut across near Green Point Dam and take a flat, easy route back to the car.

I really enjoyed the ride we did in Hood River, and I wished we had more time to spend in that area. After that, we got on the road to Bend for a quick overnight at Smith Rock State Park. We caught an amazing sunset there, and after that we were off to Truckee and the #toasterroadtrip was over!

Smith Rock State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Beer, Camping & Biking in Winthrop, Washington

All too soon, our trip through North Cascade National Park was over! We had plans to spend a couple days biking and hanging out in Winthrop, Washington before heading to Reardan for our wedding reception in my home town.

Winthrop is a cute little tourist town just on the east side of the Cascades on Highway 20. The downtown is historic, old west style, and it’s a good base camp for families who want to get outside. Our first stop was the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, which came highly recommended. Like many places we visited on the #toasterroadtrip, this was high season for Winthrop, and though a weekday, the brewery was packed! While the food and beer at Old Schoolhouse was some of the best we had on the trip, the service left something to be desired, especially at the bar. Like I said, it was super busy so I don’t blame them too much and would still recommend them highly. Just be prepared for it to be busy and potentially pretty slow. Here’s the beer (all descriptions by Old Schoolhouse Brewery)

Old Schoolhouse Brewery // tahoefabulous.com

Epiphany Pale Ale (4.25/5): A medium-bodied pale with moderate bitterness, slight caramel malt flavor, and citrusy hop aroma. This is a good beer to start with when building up the courage for the stronger beers.

Ruud Awakening Douple IPA (4/5): Big, bold American IPA with plenty of piney, citrusy, and floral Pacific Northwest hops that completely overwhelm its medium malt body. This is our signature beer, named after Evan Ruud, the first hop-head in our family.

Renegade IPA (4/5)

Imperial IPA (4.5/5): Our Imperial IPA is bigger and more balanced than its little brother, Ruud Awakening IPA, with a stronger malt presence and increased hopping rate. Mild caramel malt character and plenty of Pacific Northwest hops. The Imperial IPA is part of our Brewer’s Reserve Series.

We camped at Pearrygin Lake State Park, just a little ways out of the town of Winthrop. The campground is huge, and I imagine it can get to be quite the party scene during certain weekends, especially in the motorhome heavy section of the park. However, we were near the lake with mainly other tent campers. Our section was quiet and peaceful, and our lake front neighbors never even showed up. We took advantage of this and used the empty site to access the lake. It seeemed a little pricey, especially for a state park campground, but I think we’d just gotten used to the cheap prices of Canadian Provincial campgrounds. I’d definitely camp there again – check out this sunset!

Pearrgyn Lake State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Unfortunately, smoke from some of the many wildfires last July started blowing in, and we decided to cut our stay to only one night. We woke up in the morning, and headed to a bike shop to ask about local rides. The person working was super friendly and showed us a bunch of options, but they were all long with a ton of climbing, which we weren’t into on a hot and smoky day. We ended up just doing a quick spin to stretch out our legs on an easy trail near Sun Mountain Lodge before packing up camp. We jumped in the lake one more time, and then headed east towards Reardan!

North Cascades National Park

Heading east from Bellingham, we decided to take the scenic route – through North Cascades National Park. Greyson had never been before, and I hadn’t been since right after college, so we were excited about this very scenic drive. We didn’t get to do any hikes, since we were just driving through, but we did lots of stopping and photo taking. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves! (All photos by Greyson)

North Cascades National Park // tahoefabulous.com

North Cascades National Park // tahoefabulous.com

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We’re hoping to do more than just drive through some day, but it’s definitely worth the detour to drive through the park in the summer.