Fall in Yosemite Valley

Fall in Yosemite Valley // tahoefabulous.com

I was lucky enough to spend some time in Yosemite for a work training that I put on. (Lucky me!) While we spent most of our time in a classroom setting at the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort (more on that later), we were able to spend a gorgeous fall afternoon in Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. Fall is definitely my favorite time to visit Yosemite Valley. It’s less crowded, the temperatures are cooler, the waterfalls may be running again, and the changing leaves are amazing against the stark bare rocks and dark evergreens.

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We headed into the park on Saturday. After it rained all night on Friday and most of Saturday morning, the rain cleared out just in time for our arrival in Yosemite Valley. The precipitation had left a coating of snow on the high peaks surrounding the valley, while leaving the valley floor just a little muddy, and awash with the smell of fall leaves in the rain. After many years in the Pacific Northwest, that’s one of my favorite smells.

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Though the rain had cleared out, there were wispy clouds blowing in and out of the otherwise clear sky, resulting in gorgeous light and dappled patterns on the granite monoliths. We headed out of the park in the early evening and we were able to watch the setting sun as we drove away.

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If you’re going to be spending your days in a classroom looking at powerpoint presentation, the Yosemite Bug has got to be one of the best places in California to do it! I love hosting events at the Bug due to it’s perfect location, amazing staff, on-site amenities and gorgeous facilities.

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The Yosemite Bug is not just a great place to host events! Located in Midpines, California, it’s a wonderful home base for exploring Yosemite National Park – only 26 miles from the Yosemite Valley entrance which is open year round. The Bug has private rooms, tent cabins, and shared dorm rooms. It’s also a member of Hostelling International, if hostel hopping is your thing!

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In addition to the beautiful grounds, which you can explore on their well maintained trail, the Yosemite Bug has a luxurious spa (you can soak in the essential oil hot tub for only $10!) and a restaurant that’s in my top ten. The food is organic, local, delicious, and affordable. In fact, one of the training evaluations said the food was “too good. I gained 3 pounds.”

Yosemite Bug is not at all paying me to say this – I just love the place so much and think that everyone should check it out, even if you’re just passing through for a meal. They also host events throughout the year like a Thanksgiving dinner, live music, Wilderness First Aid trainings, yoga retreats, art events, and scientific lectures, just to name a few examples.

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We had a great time at the Yosemite Bug and visiting Yosemite Valley in the fall. I can’t wait to make my way back, hopefully for my first winter trip to Yosemite!

Where to Go: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park

Where to Stay: The Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, Midpines, CA

 

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park

So, I don’t want to brag…but I found the best state park in California. I considered not sharing and keeping the pristine, remote wilderness to myself. But Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is so far off the beaten path that I don’t think I need to worry about it getting overrun. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is one of the few ways to access the Lost Coast – California’s least developed stretch of shoreline.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park // tahoefabulous.com

We undertook quite a journey to arrive at Sinkyone (spoiler alert: worth it!). First we headed east and south from Graberville, California, taking twisty backroads through the trees, passing high fences, large fertilizer tanks, and the overwhelming smell of marijuana. We made a mental note not to wander off trail in this area of northern California. After 20 or so miles of this, we followed signs to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, Needle Rock Visitors Center, and camping and onto the steepest, windiest, narrowest dirt road I’ve ever been on.

It was pretty foggy, so we couldn’t really see where we were headed, and I’m pretty sure Greyson thought that I was taking him somewhere remote to abandon him. After three miles of dirt road (which seriously took like 40 minutes to descend), we got our first incredible glimpse of the Lost Coast.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Can you spot the Harbor Seals?

We checked in with the camp host, and set up our tent on a bluff overlooking the ocean. (You can also book a spot in an old barn if you want!) There are only a couple of spots available at Needle Rock Visitor Center, so you are guaranteed to not feel crowded! While we were car camping, there are hike in camp sites within a mile or so of the parking area.

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We decided to head down the steep trail to the beach before dinner. The camp host had warned us about the steepness, and he was not kidding! There were several sections where a rope tied around and nearby bush were necessary to descend and later ascend.

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Photo by Greyson Howard

Like the drive, the hike to the beach was worth it. It was sheer cliffs and black sand beaches as far as we could see, and our only company were the dozens of curious harbor seals basking on the rocks. Needle Rock beach has got to be one of the best beaches in all of California.

Over the few days we spent at Sinkyone, we spent quite a bit of time at the beach – examining tide pools, getting into staring competition with the seals, watching pelicans dive, and attempting to climb on the rocks. We even saw an otter, which are supposed to be extinct that far north on the California coast! We also hiked a section of the Lost Coast trail to look at some neat geologic features. We hiked up a steep hill, hoping for a great view.

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While we didn’t exactly get a view of the ocean, hiking to above the fog was pretty awesome! We also saw the local elk herd.

If you plan on visiting Sinkyone, be sure to check the weather, as the road probably becomes impassable in the winter/rain. Bring everything you need with you, as there’s nothing in the way of supplies available. Pack out your garbage, as there is not garbage pick up in the park. Be sure to bring rain gear, hiking shoes, and binoculars!

Beartooth Pass & Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, MT & WY

Beartooth Pass // tahoefabulous.com

A way long time ago, I wrote about driving through Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. Next on the agenda: Beartooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.

The Beartooth Highway is a…“…68 mile byway winds its way through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming and leads into Yellowstone National Park at its Northeast Entrance.  Since opening to automobile travel in 1937 the Beartooth Highway has welcomed visitors from around the world – introducing them to one of the most diverse ecosystems accessible by auto in the United States.”

We drove east on the Highway, just to the top of the pass, and we we’re rewarded with incredible sweeping vistas of sawtooth mountains, fields of wildflowers (in late July!) and the eeeping of a pika! It’s a great jumping off point for recreation, and, with the right timing, wildlife abounds. Here are just a few of my (many) pictures:

beartooth 2 beartooth 3 Beartooth Highway // tahoefabulous.com

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway connects the Beartooth Highaway (and Yellowstone National Park) with Cody, Wyoming. You’ll travel through the Shoshone National Forest, between the Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains, and across the Clark Fork River. The bridge over the high gorge of the Clark Fork was a highlight for me!

beartooth 5 Clark Fork // tahoefabulous.com

While not as iconic as Highway 1 or Route 66, I think that the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway drive deserve to be on the list of “must-do” American road trips.

Sausalito Afternoon

I was in San Francisco for work a couple of weeks ago for a conference that ended early Friday afternoon. I had hours to kill before my flight, so I headed over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.

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I grabbed a delicious iced coffee from Cibo of Sausalito and headed down to walk around the marina. I didn’t try any of their food, but what I saw other people eating looked amazing.

It was a gorgeous Friday afternoon, and the sidewalks in the main part of downtown were extremely crowded. I started getting hungry, but there was a line out the door for pretty much every restaurant downtown. I headed back towards the marina, where I had seen some less crowded places. I ended up getting a burrito at Salsalito Taco Shop. Honestly, the burrito wasn’t the best, and I’d definitely try the tacos if I ever came back. Great homemade salsa though!

Sausalito Afternoon // tahoefabulous.com

Finally, I grabbed a cold Ninkasi Tricerahops IPA at Smitty’s Bar, a true dive in the best ways, a block or so off of the main street. Smitty’s wasn’t anything like the other places I visited in Sausalito, but I loved the local feel!

Sausalito Afternoon // tahoefabulous.com

Sausalito makes a great day trip from San Francisco, and there’s definitely enough to do to spend a few days exploring. I can’t wait to come back and spend more time!

Try This Beer: Orlison Brewing Co.

I have a special connection to Orlison Brewing Co: it started in my neighbor’s barn! I’ve tried Orlison’s Lagers every step of the way, and I couldn’t be happier about their success!

Orlison Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

Here’s what they have to say about themselves:

“Orlison Brewing Co., located in Airway Heights, WA, is a small craft lager brewery looking to convert ale enthusiasts everywhere into true lager fans. Originally founded in 2009, years of tried and true brewing methods provide our team with the knowledge and capabilities needed to create the best craft beers available in the Pacific Northwest. We are also the first Inland Northwest brewery to can our beer, a distinction we are proud of.

Our motto, Brew No Evil™, is a statement of our commitment to brewing the cleanest, clearest and tastiest lagers available today. Our award-winning crisp beers stand as a representation of everything we want our customers to enjoy in a real lager. Whether you’re interested in a smooth, light Pilsner like our Havanüther or Orlison’s IPL, our crazily hoppy lager, try out a glass of real beer from Orlison Brewing Co. today.”

As a tried and true IPA (the hoppier the better!) fan, I was a little skeptical of the appeal of a lager. And, let’s face it, the vast majority of lagers I’ve tried are in the Busch Light/Budweiser realm. Not true about Orlison’s lagers.

Orlison Brewing Co. only brews the finest craft lagers. Brew-master Bernie Düenwald stays true to his heart by producing clear, crisp and refreshing lagers. With only the finest Northwest ingredients we create full bodied and delicious finishing lagers that stand apart in the craft ale world. A Lager takes longer to ferment, requires a cooler temperature and closer monitoring than your typical Ale. These cool temps and attention to detail give lagers their distinctly crisp, refreshing taste and set them apart from other craft beers.”

While all of Orlison Brewing Co.’s lagers are worth drinking, my favorites are their IPL (India Style Pale Lager), Pilsner 37 (a portion of the proceeds from this beer go to Team Gleason – a charity that provides life improving technology and services to individuals with MS) and the best light beer I’ve ever had – the Havanuther.

Orlison Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

You can find Orlison is near you by clicking here.

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone

A few weeks ago, I did an awesome trip through Montana and Wyoming with my parents. Check out my recaps of Glacier National Park and Gardiner, Montana.

Lamar Valley // tahoefabulous.com

The next section of my trip surprised me by being my favorite place we visited. I had traveled through the southern part of Yellowstone in 2009, and I had assumed all of Yellowstone National Park was like that: bubbling mud, alien landscapes and the occasional bison. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

We drove through the Lamar Valley in the north east portion of Yellowstone National park on our way towards the Northeast Entrance and beyond. The Lamar Valley is known as one of the best places to spot Yellowstone’s famous wildlife. This valley is habitat for bears, elk, pronghorn antelope, eagles, wolves, bison, bighorn sheep and more. In fact, Lamar Valley at dawn is the #1 place to spot wolves in Yellowstone!

Lamar Valley // tahoefabulous.com

Most of Yellowstone’s most spectacular wildlife are most active at dawn and dusk. Though we were a little late for dawn, we managed to see huge herds of bison, eagles and osprey, pronghorn antelope and elk.  My phone camera isn’t up to snuff for wildlife photography, so I really only managed to capture decent pictures of the large, stationary bison.

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In addition to the phenomenal wildlife, the drive from Gardiner, Montana through the northern part of the park has gorgeous mountain and river views. This part of the park was much less crowded than the southern sections, and we enjoyed the vistas in relative isolation.

Five Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Lake Tahoe

Who doesn’t love a great sunset over the water? Luckily, there are quite a few places to catch the sunset in the Lake Tahoe area. Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. Lakeview Commons, South Lake Tahoe, California

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Cotton candy clouds at Live at Lakeview

Located at the corner of Highway 50 and Lakeview Avenue in South Lake Tahoe, this easy-to-access spot is usually bustling. During the summer, you can stake out a bbq, rent a paddle board or visit the high-class concession stand for gourmet hot dogs or local ice cream. You can also enjoy live music Thursday nights at Live at Lakeview. If crowds aren’t your thing, visit Lakeview Commons in the winter, when it is significantly less busy.

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  1. Tahoe Rim Trail from the Mount Rose Highway, Incline Village, Nevada

Looking toward the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe

A quick, 1.5 mile flat hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail from the Mount Rose Highway trailhead will bring you to a great spot to camp out and watch the sunset. There are plenty of flat rocks to post up on and get comfortable while you watch the sunset over the West Shore mountains of Lake Tahoe. I’d recommend bringing in a couple of beers and some snacks.

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  1. Trout Creek Meadow/Lily Beach, South Lake Tahoe, California

Smoke particles in the air make for astounding sunsets.

If you’re looking for an easy to access, but not crowded beach in South Lake Tahoe, I have to recommend Trout Creek Meadow/Lily Beach. You can access this area from the west end of San Francisco Avenue in the Al Tahoe neighborhood or from the bike path behind Meek’s Lumber. The meadow is a great place for bird and wildlife watching, so be on the lookout for coyotes and waterfowl of all kinds. Dogs must be on leash (and are banned during certain key bird breeding seasons) and no alcohol!

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  1. Hidden Beach, Incline Village, Nevada

Sunset over the East Shore boulders is a Tahoe must-see.

I’ve talked about my love for hidden beach in a previous post. Check it out here!

  1. The Top of Mount Tallac, South Lake Tahoe, California

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Cascade Lake and Lake Tahoe from a different angle.

For our more adventurous sunset seekers, you could take a late afternoon hike up Mount Tallac, watch the sunset over Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness, and then hike down under a full moon. This is a strenuous 9.5 out and back hike, with over 3,500 feet of elevation gain that starts at 6,500 feet. The views are definitely worth it!! Be prepared for the hike, especially if you plan to come down at night. You’ll need headlamps (plus extra batteries) and confidence in your ability to follow the trail in the dark.

Want even more great places to watch the sunset in Lake Tahoe? Click here for more of my suggestions.

Try This Beer: Mighty Mo Brewing Co

So I thought I’d just pop in with a quick beer recommendation: Mighty Mo Brewing Company in Great Falls, Montana.

Mighty Mo Brewing Co // tahoefabulous.com

We stopped into this awesome local brewery on a long drive between West Glacier and Gardiner, Montana. My dad and I tried a few of their beers (all delicious!) including the Rendezvous Red Ale and Smoke Jumper Strong Scotch Ale. I settled on the Rising Trout Pale Ale, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re anywhere near Great Falls, Montana and looking for a fun space with great beer, I couldn’t recommend Mighty Mo Brewing Company and more highly!

Gardiner, Montana

We started the next leg of our journey (spoiler! my favorite part) in Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is a fun little town that seems to be mainly populated by river rats and tourists heading in to Yellowstone. The Gardiner entrance is Yellowstone’s only year round entrance, and the Yellowstone River flows right through town.

Gardiner describes itself as

“…located in the heart of Yellowstone’s Northern Range, at the junction of the Gardner and Yellowstone Rivers. We are surrounded by the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to the east, the Gallatin Wilderness to the north and west, and the world’s first and most famous national park, Yellowstone National Park, to the south. This area is home to the most diverse herds of large wildlife species in the lower 48 states including bison, bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and deer.”

Gardiner, Montana // tahoefabulous.com
Gardiner, Montana on the banks of the Yellowstone River.

The town obviously caters to the visitors who stop on their way to the National Park and to recreate on the Yellowstone River, but the town doesn’t feel overly “touristy”. Definitely get dinner on the huge deck at Iron Horse Bar & Grille. I drank a delicious Montana beer (that I immediately forgot the name of!) while watching the sunset over the mountains and the river flow by.

Gardiner, MT // tahoefabulous.com

There are a ton of things to do in Gardiner! While we mostly used it as a base to head into Yellowstone National Park, there are plenty of activities centered in or around the town. You can raft the Yellowstone River – we saw plenty of individuals and guided groupsprime fly fishinghorseback tours, and much more!

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

As far as Yellowstone National Park goes, you get to enter through the Roosevelt Arch, dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt. Gardiner is only a couple of miles from the Boiling River, a great spot for swimming where a hot spring pours into the Gardiner River. This is also a great spot for wildlife. We saw bighorn sheep on the hillside almost as soon as we drove in to the Park! You’re also only about five miles from Mammoth Hot Springs, and can venture further into Yellowstone from there.

Yellowstone National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Those blurry brown dots are bighorn sheep.

I would highly recommend the place we stayed in Gardiner – the Riverside Cottages. Our set up was a condo-type studio with a full kitchen. They also have a communal hot tub with a river view! After a great night’s sleep in the comfy beds we grabbed a quick breakfast at Tumbleweed Bookstore & Cafe (coffee + breakfast sandwiches + books = my 3 favorite things), and headed out on the road. Stay tuned for Lamar Valley, Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway!

Glacier National Park

Over the past few years, I’ve really expanded the number of US National Parks I’ve visited. I went from one in 2009 (North Cascades National Park) to my current count of twelve. Just last week, I was able to add another National Park to my list: Glacier National Park in Montana.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

My parents and I spent a (too) quick day here on a drive through the park. I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay and more exploring!

We drove to Glacier National Park’s West Entrance and had to wait in a fairly long line to get in. We were there on a Saturday, so we definitely experienced the summer crowds. If you end up visiting in the summer, I encourage you to go midweek.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

My parents aren’t huge hikers, so we didn’t get to experience much of Glacier National Park’s 700 miles of trails. In fact, in the couple of places we tried to go on short hikes, the trail head parking lots were so full we couldn’t park! We ended up just stopping at a number of little pull out areas along the way to stretch our legs, explore along the river, and take in the park’s amazing views.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

One reason we chose to go in the summer was the opportunity to take the Going to the Sun Road over Lolo Pass. Glacier National Park describes Going to the Sun Road as

“One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana.”

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

This drive is definitely worth fighting the summer crowds, at least once. We even got to see some great wildlife on the drive!

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Despite the long lines and full parking lots, Glacier didn’t feel as crowded as Yosemite or Yellowstone often do. I can’t wait to come back and do more backcountry exploring. Go visit Glacier National Park soon, before all the glaciers melt!

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Until next time, Glacier!