Gnarbuckling on the South Yuba River

Have you ever heard of “gnarbuckling”? Probably not, as it’s a term that one of Greyson’s friends made up.

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To explain gnarbuckling, I have to explain a little bit about the South Yuba River. The Yuba River is a gorgeous and important waterway that drains about 1,400 square miles of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and is a major tributary of the Feather River. It’s made of three forks, and the longest and southernmost fork is my favorite.

The South Yuba originates on Donner Pass (near where I live) and travels 65 miles before it joins with the others. The South Yuba (one of three forks) winds through Nevada County and is fairly close to Nevada City running along side or under Highway 49 in many spots. Like a lot of the areas along Highway 49, the South Yuba was heavily impacted by mining. During the California gold rush and for years afterwards, the area was mined using hydraulic mining. Though the area hasn’t been mined that way since the 1880s, the blasting left behind a unique river morphology that’s fun to explore.

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Map to 49 Crossing/Double Bridges from Nevada City. Click here for the map.

Now, for gnarbuckling. The best place to access the South Yuba for gnarbuckling is at an access spot known as the 49 Crossing or Double Bridges. This is a popular spot in the summer, so you may have to park a ways away if you get there much after 9 am. The South Yuba is littered with huge granite boulders, smoothed by years of water rushing by, and the way they’re situated in the river means that there are dozens of great swimming holes in the river.

While there is often trail or parking access to some of the more popular swimming holes, meaning that you could fairly easily hike or drive there, getting to the swimming hole isn’t the point of gnarbuckling.

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When you’re gnarbuckling, you travel upstream, while remaining in the water as much as possible. This means you’ll be wading through rushing water, climbing over rocks, swimming through deeper sections, diving under low hanging boulders, scrambling up rocky slopes, dodging nude hippies, hoisting yourself and your friends over small rapids, and falling – a lot! Basically, the journey is the point of the adventure.

Greyson and I headed up to Nevada City on Saturday and spent the afternoon gnarbuckling. I didn’t bring my garmin, but we estimated we were traveling about 1 mile an hour (or slower!). We had a great time, and we even brought Greyson’s GoPro, taking some not-so-great pictures and a few videos. Greyson made a short instagram video of us jumping off a small cliff into a deep pool of clear water. Click here to watch it, and here is a super awesome-quality still frame:

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We excited to finally make it to the Yuba this year! With the drought, we were worried that the river would be lower, slower and grosser than usual. Despite our worries, the South Yuba was still a lot of fun. It was pretty crowded, even as we made our way upstream away from the parking area, there was definitely more green slime on the rocks, and the river seemed about a foot lower than usual. It was still a great time, and the water was still cool and refreshing in the 90 degree plus heat! One of the best things about the Yuba is its clear water, and, as usual, the water was clear enough to see the schools of fish swimming around. And clear enough to attempt some underwater selfies.

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Someone isn’t very good at #underwaterselfies

When you’re gnarbuckling, you might have a final destination in mind, or you can just turn around whenever. It’s not usually a point-to-point activity, because going downstream is the really fun part! When the water level is higher, the Yuba has a ton of fun “water slides” running over the smooth granite. The water was a little low for that last weekend, but we did float feet first through some fun mini-rapids. We ended up spending 3+ hours in the river, so by the time we made it back down to where the car was parked, our arms were toast!

Gnarbuckling on the South Yuba River // tahoefabulous.com

A celebratory beverage and meal is another key part of gnarbuckling, so we headed to Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. in downtown Nevada City. I’ve been there a few times now, and the generously-poured beers were as good as usual. I love visiting Nevada City – it’s got a bunch of great restaurantsfun cultural activities and amazing outdoor opportunities – including the best place in the world for gnarbuckling!

Tahoe Rim Trail Hike from the 267 Trailhead

I spent all day on Friday being a river bro, and rafting the South Fork of the American River, so I was pretty exhausted when I woke up on Saturday. Greyson and I had already agreed to meet one of his friends for a hike that morning, so I rolled out of bed and we headed east.

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Luckily, we had planned a pretty easy going day. Greyson and I met Kyle and Stella (the dog) at the Brockway Summit Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead. The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile long loop trail that circles Lake Tahoe (and then some). The trail is single track and open to hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers (except for a few sections). The trail also shares about 50 miles with the Pacific Crest Trail. While dozens of people do the Tahoe Rim Trail as a two or three week thru hike (Greyson did it back in 2007 for a series in the Sierra Sun), its many accessible trailheads make it a great choice for a day hike or several day-long backpacking or bikepacking trip. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association has some great trip planning resources on their website.

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The trailhead we started at is known as the Brockway Summit Trailhead and is located on Highway 267 about 9.5 miles from downtown Truckee. Google map directions can be found here, and there is a parking lot and side of the road parking on the south side of 267 near the trailhead. We headed uphill and climbed switchbacks for a little over a mile until we hit a spur trail that promised a view. This offshoot trail hadn’t been constructed when Greyson thru hiked the TRT, so we decided to go check it out. The spur was about a half mile each way, and the view at the top was beautiful! Despite a hazy day, we could see all the way across the lake, down to the thunderheads building over the large peaks surrounding South Lake Tahoe.

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If you’re looking for a short hike with a bit of a climb and a rewarding view, the hike to this viewpoint would be a good option. It would be about 3 miles round trip with ~700 feet of climbing. The switchbacks make the climb manageable, but they don’t make it feel like you’re going nowhere.

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We headed back down the spur trail and, since it was still fairly early, decided to keep going on the TRT. This section of the trail travels generally northeast. We headed away from stunning lake views for a while, and we traversed through fields full of fragrant mule’s ear and sage and saw a some blooming wildflowers. If you are looking for stunning fields of multi color wildflowers, there are better trails (and times of year) than this one, but we did see occasional pops of color from Indian paintbrush and other flowers I can’t recognize without a guidebook.

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About 2.5 miles past the spur trail, we reached another nice viewpoint with a shady spot – perfect for a snack break. I broke out a new-to-me trail food, Taos Mountain Energy Bars in the Caramel Pecan flavor. I really liked it! It meets my requirement of being soy free (hard to find in an energy bar), and it tasted really good! After this high point of 8,260, the trail starts heading back downhill. We figured that this would be a good place to turn around, as we were pretty much out of water, and the day was heating up.

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The way back was mostly downhill, with a couple of short and steep uphill sections, but the TRT is so well graded in most sections that it wasn’t too hard on the knees and legs. We ended up with 9 miles and 1,970 feet of climbing, but the hike felt much easier than that to me! Afterwards, however, Greyson and I crashed on the couch for the rest of the day. It was enough distance and elevation that, combined with a full day on the river the day before, we were spent.

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This section of the Tahoe Rim Trail is a fun, moderately difficult trail with some great views that are worth the climb. We saw other hikers and bikers out, but the trail never felt crowded, which is especially awesome, since this was a beautiful Saturday morning in July.

Hike Totals: 9.0 miles, 1,970 feet of elevation gain in 3:04 moving time.

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!

Indoor Climbing, Truckee Airshow and Tahoe City Trails

I had a really low-key weekend, but I also managed to fit in a few activities. We had been having early – late afternoon thunderstorms for most of last week, which put a damper on the usual afterwork outdoor activities. My softball game on Thursday even got rained out! By Friday, I was ready to do something. Since I didn’t want to play chicken with potential lightening, I convinced Greyson that we should head over to Incline Village to climb and the indoor climbing gym at High Altitude Fitness.

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High Altitude Fitness climbing wall photo via High Altitude Fitness

High Altitude Fitness is a swanky gym with a really nice climbing wall. It’s pretty much the only “real” indoor climbing wall in the Tahoe Basin (but they’re supposed to open up a Truckee location at some point!). They’ve got bouldering, auto belays and top roping, as well as a few routes bolted for sport climbing (bring your own rope). They re-set routes pretty often, and the ones I climbed on Friday (5.8 – 5.10a) were some of the most fun indoor climbing routes I’ve ever tried. There’s also a lounge area where you can get a smoothie or a $2 PBR and take a break. High Altitude Fitness is a full gym, with cardio machines, a weight room, fitness classes, etc., but I’ve only ever used the climbing wall, but they look pretty nice! They offer a ten pass punch card for $152 ($110 for locals!), which is a pretty great deal, especially compared to the cost of other regional climbing gyms.

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Kelly climbing at High Altitude on Ladies Night

Hight Altitude Fitness seems to run specials and deals fairly often. Off the top of my head, I have gotten a half priced locals pass at their screening of Valley Uprising earlier this year, I’ve climbed for free on their Wednesdays Ladies Night and gotten a two-for-one entry for Date Night Friday. Note: High Altitude did not pay me to write this – I just really love their climbing wall, and I’m excited for their Truckee location to open!

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On Saturday, I attended the Truckee Airshow at the Truckee Tahoe Airport. While attending the air show isn’t necessarily something I’d think to do on my own, I ended up enjoying it. Greyson and I worked a booth there, soliciting public feedback and handing out re-usable grocery bags. After the mostly stormy weather during the week, it ended up being a gorgeous day. We were stationed in a pop-up tent, but I kept dragging my chair into the sunshine to enjoy the warmth and see more of the show. There were all sorts of cool planes and helicopters set up on the tarmac and flyovers throughout the day. There were a couple of really great trick pilots doing flips and loops that made me dizzy just watching, and I also really liked the flyover by the WW2 Bearcat and Wildcat.

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I’m semi in the market for a new bike – because three bikes is not enough, right? I’m not ready to buy one quite yet, but I’m narrowing down what I’m interested in. I currently have a hardtail Cannondale cross country bike and a full-suspension bike (GT Sanction) with 6 inches of travel that’s great on the downhills, but not the easiest for pedaling. So I’m looking for a trail bike that’s somewhere in between the two. I have a couple of models in mind (Transition Scout, Specialized Stumpjumper, Trek Remedy, etc.), and I hope to try out a bunch before I’m ready to buy.

This weekend, Specialized was doing a free demo day at a couple of local bike shops. I missed out on the Truckee day on Saturday due to the airshow, but they were in Tahoe City on Sunday at Olympic Bike Shop. Greyson and I headed to Tahoe City with tentative plans to demo bikes on new-to-us trails and then head to the beach for Concerts at Commons Beach (free live music on Sundays at the beach).

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I was luckily able to borrow the exact bike I wanted to try – the 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper 650b! We got some beta on which trails to try, and Greyson and I headed up the steep hill to the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area/Burton Creek State Park. The climb to the trails was HARD! There was a ~0.5 mile climb up a very steep paved road and then you kept climbing up fire road for another mile. It ended up being ~600 feet of climbing in ~1.5 miles. The bike I was demo-ing climbed really well, and I don’t even want to know what that would have felt like on my Sanction.

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When we got to the trail portion, I was kind of underwhelmed. I’ve heard this area is full of tons of unmarked and hard to find trails, so it’s quite possible we were just not on the fun stuff. The sections of trails we rode were pretty flat and boring, and, probably due to our lack of knowledge, we spent a lot of time on fire roads. Judging by the trails we rode, I didn’t think they were worth the climb! We did end up on one short section that I thought was really fun, but it pretty quickly turned to steep, loose rocks. I attempted to go down this section, and I did not succeed. I crashed the demo bike! The bike and I both ended up being fine, but I do have some nice scrapes and a partially-pulled off thumbnail. Gross.

Luckily, we were close to the end of the trail, and I limped back to the bike shop, dirty and embarrassed. All in all, I really liked the Stumpjumper, but I don’t think the rear suspension was set up optimally for me and I’m not in love with the 1×11 gearing. I’m hoping to be able to ride the Stumpjumper again this summer, hopefully on trails I’m familiar with, so I can do a comparison to my current bikes.

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Due to the drought, the Concerts at Commons Beach is currently not exactly on the beach, but it was still fun to sit outside in perfect temperatures and listen to music.

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We were both starving, so we didn’t end up hanging out at the concert for very long, but it was a great way to cap off a fun weekend!

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Local’s Favorite: Donner Lake

I am super lucky in that my new apartment is just a few flights of stairs and across the street from public access to Donner Lake. I can go from lying on the couch to lying in a floatie in under 5 minutes! While Lake Tahoe gets most of the glory in the area, Donner Lake is an underrated gem!

Donner Lake Truckee California // tahoefabulous.com

When I lived in South Lake Tahoe, I was only a couple of blocks from a public beach, and, comparing the two, I actually prefer swimming in Donner Lake. The Lake Tahoe beach I was closest to was really, really shallow – especially these last couple drought years. You would have to walk out a half mile to be deep enough to swim! It would also get really gross from the shallow water, popularity and nearby dog beach. Uggghhh – green slime.

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Slimy and shallow Reagan Beach on the south shore. Photo by Greyson Howard.

Donner Lake, on the other hand, gets deep quite quickly, and I much prefer the nearshore water quality to the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Greyson Likes to say that Donner Lake would be way more popular if it wasn’t so close to Lake Tahoe. Honestly, though, I don’t really mind! It definitely still gets busy on nice weekends, and it can be especially crazy on holidays – Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. Check out the amazing photos he took of Donner Lake (from Green Phantom climbing area on Donner Summit) last week.

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Donner Lake is open to motorized traffic, but you’ll see tons of stand up paddle boarders, kayakers, small sailboats and swimmers in the water. There are a bunch of places around town you can rent SUP and kayaks, and a couple of places on the lake to rent boats as well.

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The coolest thing about Donner Lake are its public docks. These are small docks owned and operated by the Truckee Parks and Recreation district, and are available to the public on a first come, first serve basis. These docks aren’t big enough to launch a speedboat or anything, but they are perfect for hanging out in the sun and wading in to cool off. Most years, you could launch a canoe, kayak or stand up paddle board from the docks, but the water is a little low for that for Summer 2015. The plus side to the low water level is the small sandy beaches that have appeared making for even more public water access. We watched the fireworks on the Fourth of July from one of the new beaches on Saturday.

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For my friend’s bachelorette party last summer, we claimed a dock early in the morning, and hung out there all day, drinking beers and floating on inner-tubes when we got too warm. It was a great way to spend the day before going out that evening. For your best shot at claiming a dock, arrive by at least 9 am on weekends, though you may get lucky later in the day. You can park for free on the side of Donner Pass Road, but don’t park in the bike lane! You’ll get ticketed, and it’s rude to the many cyclists who ride that way for transportation or recreation. The docks are located on Donner Pass Road on the north side of Donner Lake. If you run out of food, drinks, or sunscreen, you can find that and more at Sticks Market, which is the best store in the area.

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If the docks are full, or you’re more interested in a sandy beach, you can head down to West End Beach, which is open to the public for a $5 admission fee before 5:00 pm. West End Beach has a number of amenities, including a playground, bathrooms, concession stand and rentals. I like to head to West End Beach to watch the sunset. You won’t have to pay the entry fee, and the water is usually still warm enough to swim in the early evenings. Occasionally, local gear shops host free stand up paddle board demo days and races, so check that out!

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Donner Lake is also the home of Donner Memorial State Park (yes Donner Lake is named after THOSE Donners), which has camping, a public boat ramp, a visitor’s center and a monument to the Donner Party. Another thing I like to do at Donner Lake is ride my bike around it. It’s pretty easy 7 mile road bike ride, that takes you through the state park with only about 170 feet of climbing (ignore the elevation on my Strava Map picture – I’m not sure what’s going on there!).

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Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes, California

This weekend, Greyson and I were in Mammoth Lakes, California. We were mainly there for mountain biking, but there are so many awesome things to do in the area, it’s definitely a worthwhile summer trip. Mammoth Lakes is a decent sized (pop. 8,000) town in Mono County in the Eastern Sierra. It’s about three hours from Tahoe, five hours from LA and the Bay area. There’s a ton of vacation rentals in town, which I’ve used pretty much every time I’ve stayed there, as well as hotels/motels, and camping in and out of town. There’s a bunch of great restaurants, bars, hikes, and outdoor activities, among other things. Here are a few of my favorites.

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  1. Ride the gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain: Even if you have no interest in mountain biking, you can still ride the gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain for some scenic hiking. Two kids can ride for free with every paying adult!
  2. Mammoth Brewing Company: This was the first brewery I visited in the Sierra, and it probably remains my favorite. The first time I visited, the “tasting room” was just a small area in a big warehouse that housed the brewing equipment, and the woman working the taps poured us more free tastes than we could drink, and we walked away with a growler filled on the cheap. Over the years, they made improvements to the tasting room, and started charging (a very cheap fee!) for tastings.

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Last year, Mammoth Brewing Company moved into a beautiful new location, and, as of our visit this weekend, they are now serving food. They also have an outdoor seating area and a place to hang backpacks for through hikers. The brewery offers tasting flights of their Originals and their Seasonals for a very reasonable $7 each, and you can get pints, pitchers and growlers to go. My favorites to get on draft at the brewery are Golden Trout Pilsner and Epic IPA. Those are actually two that you can get in bottles and cans in stores, but they taste so much better on draft!

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  1. Local hikes: There are a ton of great day hikes around Mammoth Lakes, and it’s a popular stopping place along the John Muir Trail. The Mammoth Lakes Trail System has more than 300 miles of trails. There are trails for every ability level, from an easy nature stroll to rugged trails with 6,000 feet of climbing. Mammoth Lakes is at elevation, so if you’re not used to that, be prepared for an extra challenge and be sure to drink lots of water. You can also use Mammoth Lakes as a jumping off point for multi-day backpacking trip.
  2. Day Trip to Mono Lake: One of the best things about Mammoth is its proximity to other great Sierra destinations. It’s only about a half hour drive to Mono Lake – the unique alkaline lake that inspired massive conservation efforts in the 90s. The weird chemistry going on at Mono Lake has led to amazing formations – tufa towers being among the most iconic.

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There’s also interesting bird watching, as it’s an important stop for many migratory birds. Check out the Mono Lake Committee’s website for more information, including guided hikes and tours.

  1. Visit the Restaurants: Here are just a few of my favorite places to eat and drink in Mammoth Lakes.
  • Base Camp Cafe has really good vegan chili and breakfast burritos
  • Stellar Brew is where I go for coffee, chai and wifi
  • Latin Market is a tucked away gem with the best burritos and a killer salsa bar
  1. Mammoth Festival of Beers & Bluesapalooza: This is an awesome festival featuring dozens of amazing breweries and great blues performances. A group of us went last year, and we had an amazing time.

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We camped within walking distance of the festival, and tried dozens of amazing beers. This year’s performers include Jonny Lang, Jelly Bread, and Robert Cray. This is the 20th Anniversary of the festival, and tickets often sell out – so if you’re interested in attending, get them sooner rather than later.

Mountain Biking Mammoth Mountain

This weekend I checked a couple of items off of my Summer Bucket List: mountain bike at Mammoth Mountain and visit a local brewery (2 down, many to go). On Friday evening, Greyson and I packed up The Toaster with biking and camping gear and headed east towards 395, the Eastern Sierra, and Mammoth Lakes California. We made a pitstop in downtown Truckee to meet my grad school roommate Allison and her husband for happy hour at Pianeta, and we were off!

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Driving down Highway 395 is always a gorgeous drive, but driving at sunset on this classic American highway is a must-do. It’s especially great if you can time your drive for watching the sunset from the Mono Lake overlook, but for this trip, we were too late and witnessed the sun set further north. The drive was smooth sailing (especially for high construction season!) and we arrived at our Airbnb rental by 10:30. I had plans for an early night since we were going to be biking all day on Saturday, but catching up with friends won out, and I didn’t go to bed until after one. I slept in a little, but Greyson and I and our two other friends were out the door and at the mountain before 11. It was now time for the fun part – mountain biking at Mammoth Mountain!

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I’ve been coming to Mammoth Mountain for lift-serviced mountain biking about once a year since I moved to Tahoe in 2010. Mammoth has diverse terrain, something for every level – beginner to advanced:

“Mammoth Mountain Bike Park offers terrain for every ability level, boasting 3,500 acres and over 80 miles of single track. We offer the best beginner experience in the industry with the Discovery Zone, miles and miles of forested intermediate trail riding and are the leaders in building diverse and creative gravity fed DH and all-mountain expert and pro level trails.” 

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Though it might seem silly to drive the three and a half hours to Mammoth Lakes from Truckee when Northstar at Tahoe is just 20 minutes away, the quality and condition of Mammoth’s trails and terrain blow Northstar out of the water. If I’m paying $50 for a lift ticket, I want amazing, fun and well maintained trails, which Mammoth delivers. The views from some of Mammoth’s trails are among the top in California, too!

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Mammoth Mountain Trail Map from here.

My Favorite Trails at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park

  1. Off The Top:This trail is my #1 everyone must-do trail at Mammoth Mountain. Ride the gondola to the very top of the mountain and prepare for amazing views! The trail itself is graded intermediate, but I think it’s pretty easy – nothing too technical, just exposure with some tight switchbacks (that are easily walked if you’re uncomfortable). This trail has views that are up there with the Tahoe Flume Trail. The steep mountain side covered in bare volcanic pumice means unobstructed views in at least 180 degrees. You can see the Minarets, as well as other stunning Sierra Peaks. If you’re a more advanced rider, take the Kamikaze cut off and bomb down the loose and rocky fire road, home to the Kamikaze Downhill race. Beginners and intermediate riders can follow Off the Top into the trees for a fun cross country trail of mostly smooth dirt, broken up by a few easy rock gardens. Take the easy Beach Cruiser trail to a fire road, and you’ll quickly be back at the base. Watch for faster riders speeding by on the fire road and stay right!
Off the Top trail (blue section) via Strava
Off the Top trail (blue section) via Strava
  1. Brake Through: This is another fun intermediate trail, though it involves more exertion and climbing that Off the Top and is slightly more technical. To ride brake through, you get off the gondola at McCoy Station at mid-mountain. After exiting the building, turn left and follow the signs to Brake Through. You’ll climb a slight incline for about a half mile, before turning left at the well-marked Brake Through trailhead. The first half mile or so after the turn off has the most technically difficult rock sections of the trail, including a small water crossing (that was already mostly dry in June 2015!). Brake Through weaves in and out through trees and exposed volcanic sections. The trail itself is mostly smooth dirt, with some loose pumice sections and small rock gardens. Towards the bottom, there are several intersections, but they’re well marked. Keep following Brake Through trail until it runs out (about 3.25 miles from the top) and hop on Downtown. You can continue on Downtown all the way into Mammoth Lakes, where you can catch the shuttle from the Village and head back to the bike park. If you’re looking for more of a challenge you can follow the signs to Shotgun – see more info below.
Brake Through (blue section) via Strava.
Brake Through (blue section) via Strava.
  1. Shotgun: This trail is more of a downhill trail than Off the Top and Brake Through. You’ll definitely want a full suspension bike with some travel to handle some drops and rocky sections. Shotgun is one of the “easier” advanced trails at Mammoth, but it’s definitely not for beginners. The best way to access Shotgun is from the Downtown trail which starts at the Mammoth Mountain base, and can be connected to from a bunch of higher mountain trails. There’s a very obvious sign pointing out the right turn onto Shotgun, and after a short, but butt kicking climb, you’ll have arrived to the fun part of this trail. The trail was fairly chopped up when I rode it, with lots of small drops and loose dirt and rocks, but it was still so much fun! I felt like I could ride it fast and aggressively (for me!) and take on features that I would normally chicken out on, because the trail is so well designed. It’s a short trail (~0.6 miles), and you end up in the parking lot of one of the ski bases that is closed in the summer. Ride downhill on the road coming out of the parking lot, and you’ll end right at the Mammoth Village shuttle stop.
Shotgun trail (blue section) via Strava.
Shotgun trail (blue section) via Strava.

Greyson hadn’t been biking at Mammoth Mountain since the mid-nineties, and he had a great time exploring the trails on his new bike. This is the first time I’ve ridden at Mammoth since I put the improved fork on my bike, and the difference it made was incredible. We had beautiful weather and didn’t wait in line once! Whether you are an experienced mountain biker, or want to try it for the first time, Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is a great destination.

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Tahoe Summer Essentials

The weather is warm, the pine pollen is in full swing, and I’ve started checking items off my Tahoe Summer Bucket List – summer is here! I thought I’d share my list of my essential gear for an amazing summer in Tahoe (or anywhere warm with a water body and unlimited trails!)

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  1. A swimsuit you can actually swim in! I have a few of these, ranging from a one piece Tyr for open water swims to cute and functional bikinis. My current favorite thing to do is to pair this Patagonia top with these prAna Ramba bottoms
    . I also have a Calavera suit(lifeguard top and bottom), which I really like. I like how their sizing tool lets you put in measurements for your optimal size. Note – the bottoms I got fit me well, but don’t have as much coverage as I was expecting. They stay in place and look great though!
  2. Healthy sunscreen and a hat. While I care about protecting myself from sun damage, I also worry about the potentially harmful effects of certain sunscreen ingredients on our waterways. I try to choose sunscreens that are mineral based (as opposed to “chemical”). If you’re looking for a healthy sunscreen that is activity, sweat and water-proof and works, my friend Kristen at Wayfare Collective did a great round up of environmentally friendly sunscreens to help you find one that will hold up to hard use: Part OnePart Two,Part Three. I’ve been using Beyond Coastal 30 SPF and, while I don’t love the smell or the way it feels – I can’t deny that it stays put. Greyson’s beard sometimes still smells like sunscreen, even after all day outside and washing his face.

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Another great way to keep sun off my face (and prevent scalp burns – thanks, fine hair!) is a hat. While there are a ton of cute and stylish floppy hats out there, my favorite is an old baseball cap I got in a thrift store in Bishop, California. Baseball hats seem to work well when I’m active, keeping my hair and sweat off my face and covering up the second or third day of camp hair.

  1. A way to keep your drink cold. Having a cold beer or icy Negroni on the beach or dock is one of summer’s true joys. If the sun is beating down on you, keeping your drink refreshing can be a challenge.

Beer coozie

You can always go with a standard beer koozie, but if you need your ice to last longer, I like the 16 oz insulated Klean Kanteen. It keeps cold drinks cold for up to 12 hours, and never gets a gross smell, no matter how long you leave old lemonade festering in there. (Not that I know from experience or anything.)

Negroni photo by Greyson Howard

Negroni from Reno Provisions. Photo by Greyson Howard.

  1. A bike to ride around town. While I own several bikes, I’m most attached to the one I ride the most – an early 2000’s Cannondale hardtail in Sobe green. While this bike is still great on the trails (I rode it on the Flume Trail this spring), it’s the bike I generally ride around town. Really, there’s nothing more fun than throwing a towel & sunscreen, a great book, some chips and a water bottle into my backpack and pedaling down to the beach. I also love riding to the bar to meet friends for a happy hour beer, and racing home as an adult bike gang.

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  1. For night rides and camping – a headlamp. I can slip mine (the Petzl Tikka 2 Plus) under my helmet when I’m bike commuting home after dark and it’s light enough (no heavy battery pack) that I don’t really notice it when I’m reading in the tent.
  2. Adventure sandals. I know that adventure sandals have their specific place – and, in my opinion, that place is almost everywhere. Ha! I personally love Chacos (I recently bought my 4th pair) and the Z-tanline is pretty much permanently ingrained in my foot at this point. Other great brands are Keens, Teva and Sanuk.

Tahoe Summer Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

These are just a few of the things I love for summer. What’s on your summer essentials list?

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Tahoe Summer Bucket List

Though it has felt like summer in Tahoe since about mid-February, official summer is almost here! Summer is the best time of year to be in Tahoe, but it always feels like summer slips away before I know it. So for this summer, I’ve created my official Tahoe Summer Bucket List! My list consists of new experiences and things I’ve done before, activities close to home and a few that are a short road trip away.

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  1. Backpack in Desolation Wilderness. I’ve lived in Tahoe for almost five years now, and I still haven’t gone backpacking in this gorgeous area in my backyard.
  2. Jump in Webber FallsI went a couple of times last summer, and I’m excited to go back.

Webber Falls // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Ride the Downieville Downhill.This world famous bike trail is famous for a reason. It’s 6,000 feet of epic descent, through smooth berms, loose rocks, slippery shale, and perfect dirt, and you can cap off the day with a jump in the Yuba River. (I actually checked off this item last week, but I hope to go back again this summer!)
  2. Boulder in Tuolumne Meadows.While the Yosemite Valley is popular for good reasons, the less crowded, east side of Yosemite National Park is an underrated gem. We have plans to do some bouldering, and then jump in the Tuolumne River.
  3. Soak in culture with Shakespeare at the Lake.The state park at Sand Harbor near Incline Village, Nevada has one of the best theatre venues in the world. All summer long, you can watch a Shakespeare play while the sun sets over Lake Tahoe at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. This year, the show is Romeo and Juliet.

Tahoe Shakespeare Festival // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Go Gnarbuckling in the Yuba River. The South Yuba River near Nevada City is a pretty magical place. The area’s mining legacy created boulder fields, deep pools and mini waterfalls. One of Greyson’s friends invented the sport of “gnarbuckling”, which is traveling upstream in the Yuba River, via hiking, scrambling, swimming, jumping and falling. It’s quite a workout, and is best chased by a Mammoth 395 at Matteo’safterwards.
  2. Do my first bikepacking trip.Neither Greyson or I have done bikepacking before, but we have big plans do a one or two day bikepacking trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail, or some other local spot.
  3. Visit all the local breweries!Tahoe is finally stepping up its local beer game, and I have yet to sample all of the new options. That’s going to change this summer. I haven’t tried Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village or The Brewing Lair in Blairsden. I need to give Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. in Tahoe City another shot and return to Cold Water Brewery in South Lake Tahoe. I’ll hopefully go on some road trips, and visit my favorites, Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop, June Lake Brewing in June Lake and Mammoth Brewing Company in Mammoth Lakes. New and new-to-me breweries seem to be popping up all over the place, and I plan to visit as many as I can! Also, I hope to hit up one or two beer festivals. Maybe Truckee Brew Fest or Reno’s CANFEST.

tahoefabulous.com

  1. Raft the American River. Just down the hill from Tahoe, the American River runs through Coloma. This spot is a world class white water rafting destination, and I’d love to do a raft trip this summer.
  2. Climb a 14-er. Probably not Mount Whitney, but I’d like to climb one of California’s 14,000+ foot mountains this summer.
  3. Bike at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park. Last year was the first year in a long time that I didn’t spend at least a day biking at Mammoth Mountain. Even with lift serviced trails, you’re working hard on the fun trails with great views.

Tahoe Summer Bucket List // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Hike from Sugar Bowl to Squaw Valley on the Pacific Crest Trail.Hopefully the wildflowers will be in full bloom when I do this hike.
  2. Swim every week! We may be in the midst of a drought, but Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe still have excellent swimming. Once it warms up, my goal is to swim at leastonce a week, and spend a lot of time on our pristine beaches.

These are just a few of the things I hope to do in Tahoe this summer. Anything epic I’m missing? Or, if you are visiting the Tahoe/Truckee area and want some suggestions, feel free to get in touch!

Donner Summit Canyon in Truckee, California

Earlier this week, Greyson and I checked out a fairly new local hiking trail near the Donner Summit area in Truckee.

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Donner Summit Canyon trail is yet another awesome trail built by the Truckee Donner Land Trust (the organization behind the amazing Wendin Way Trail. The trail is open to hikers and mountain bikers, and we explored via hiking this time. We decided that we were glad we did, because the trail is a pretty steady uphill gravel path that turns into a narrow and rocky trail.

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From Truckee Donner Land Trust

Though the trail is uphill the whole way, the climb felt pretty easy, and we weren’t working too hard. About a mile into the trail, there’s a sign pointing left to a scenic view point – definitely follow that detour. You’ll get a nice view of Donner Lake, and there’s even a picnic table for a quick snack or picnic lunch.

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After the scenic detour, we headed back to the main trail, and up the trail, heading higher towards the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail. We hadn’t planned to hike all the way to the PCT anyway, but we ran into a creek crossing where the bridge was missing! We’d gone about 2.3 miles at this point (including the detour to the scenic overlook), so we decided to turn back instead of risking getting wet.

The spot with the missing bridge had great views, with Donner Peak above us and Donner lake below, so we enjoyed the view for a few minutes before the wind got too cold, and we headed back. The whole trip was just under 4 miles, and took us about an hour and a half with our stops for scenery and attempts at wildflower identification.

Donner Summit Canyon Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Not technically a flower.

While it’s not the most rugged or challenging hike, and there are some with better views, this is a great quick hike (or gravel grind on your bike). If you’re looking for an easy hike with great views in the Truckee area, the Donner Summit Canyon Trail is perfect.

 

Mountain Biking the Tahoe Flume Trail

One of the most iconic mountain biking trails in the country is the Flume Trail, and I finally rode it last week with Greyson and my friends Katie and Gavin.

Mountain Biking Tahoe Flume Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The flume trail is known for it’s incredible views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. For much of the trail, you are more than 1,000 feet over the tropical-colored East Shore of Lake Tahoe, looking down at the aqua waters and sandy beaches, and across to the snowy mountains on the West Shore. The flume trail itself is not very technical and can be done by anyone in moderately good shape with fairly basic mountain bike skills (though it does have a fair amount of exposure for those nervous about that). This is definitely a trail to savor the views, not rushed through for thrills.

Map via Strava
Map via Strava

The Flume Trail is usually done via shuttle (though it can be looped). We shuttled it ourselves, but there is a really convenient shuttle provided by Flume Trail Bikes for $15, a shop located at the end of the Flume Trail, where you can also rent bikes. Self shuttling is super easy with two cars. We parked a car on the side of the road by Flume Trail Bikes and Tunnel Creek Cafe (don’t park in their lot!) at the end of the Flume Trail and took off from the parking near the Highway 50 and Highway 28 boat inspection site at Spooner Summit. Both of these places have free parking, but you could also pay $5 to park at the Nevada State Park entrance to the Spooner Summit area. We just rode the half mile from where we parked to the park entrance along the road. Note: even if you ride into the park, you do have to pay an entrance fee of $2 per person for bikes, so be sure to  have a little bit of cash.

Map via Google Maps
Map via Google Maps

Trail Ends at Flume Trail Bikes and where to leave a shuttle car.

Map via Google Maps.
Map via Google Maps.

Intersection of Hwy 50 & Hwy 28 – where we started and left a shuttle car.

Once you’re in the park, hit up the super nice restrooms and follow the signs to the Flume Trail/Marlette Lake.

Elevation Profile via Strava
Elevation Profile via Strava

Now we get to the only really challenging part of the Flume Trail – the climb to Marlette Lake. This section of the ride is on an old fire road that was in really good riding condition in mid-May, but I imagine will get sandier and sandier as summer progresses. You’ll climb from ~6,850 to ~8,020 in about 4. 5 miles, with the steepest section occurring in the last quarter mile or so of the climb. We took our time on the way up to save our legs for the last climb, and I even got off and pushed on a couple of the steeper sections during that last quarter mile. It took us over an hour to make the 4.5 mile climb, but going slow was the right decision and kept us from being miserable on the fun parts!

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Forced smiles only on this part.

After the climb, there’s a quick downhill via fire road to Marlette Lake. I recommend taking a long-ish snack and water break here. You’ll want to feel good enough to enjoy the scenic portion of the Flume Trail.

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Photo by Katie Riley

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After eating our snacks of PROBAR Meal and workout candy (aka Clif Shot Bloks) and enjoying the view, we rode along the side of Marlette Lake and finally connected with the Flume Trail. Though the whole ride is commonly called the Flume Trail, the actual Flume Trail is a 4.5 mile section built on top of an old logging flume. The Flume Trail is flat, sandy and easy to ride. There are a couple of high-consequence technical sections (ie, don’t fall off the cliff), but those come with large warning signs asking you to dismount well in advance. Though we could have burned through this slightly downhill, non-technical section quickly, we didn’t want to. The views are what makes the climb worth it!

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We quickly got our first view of Lake Tahoe – and it only got better from here. We stopped and took a million pictures along the way. It took us over an hour to ride 4.2 miles of non-technical, net downhill trail! But, like I said, the views are the reason that you ride this trail, so there’s no reason not to linger.

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The trail is fairly narrow, and has a steep drop off in sections, but as long as everyone is cautious and polite, passing is not really an issue as even the narrowest sections eventually widen out for a safe passing area. People generally ride it in the downhill direction (or south to north), but we did encounter a few people taking the opposite way. Here’s a typical picture of the Flume Trail – as you can see it’s flat and non-technical.

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And here’s an example of a more technical section. Katie and Greyson are picking their way though a narrow opening in the rocks.

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photo by Gavin Feiger

We could not get over how awesome the views were! We decided that the view of Lake Tahoe from the Flume Trail is one of the few things that could be accurately described as “hella epic”.

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Since we weren’t in any sort of race to the finish, we took a ton of pictures – not only of the stunning views, but also pictures of us enjoying the trail. One of the cool things about the Flume Trail is that it is cut through huge granite outcroppings in a few areas. So you are surrounded by and ride through these massive boulders!

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photo by Greyson Howard

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photo by Greyson Howard

Sand Harbor is one of the most well-known spots in the Lake Tahoe area, and for good reason! It’s got aqua blue water, large sandy beaches, and spherical boulders dotting the shores. If you’re on the ground, you can hang out on the beach, paddle board or kayak through the clear water and even attend a Shakespeare play on the beach! Now that I’ve done the Flume Trail, I can say you haven’t experienced Sand Harbor at its best until you’ve seen it from 1,000 feet up.

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photo by Gavin Feiger

After the incredible views of Sand Harbor, we started winding our way back into the trees and towards the end of the trail. But not before a final view of Lake Tahoe!

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photo by Gavin Feiger

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The last part of the ride is 3 miles of a fast fire road down to Flume Trail Bikes and Tunnel Creek Cafe. The fire road is in excellent condition, but there are some sections with loose gravel and ruts, as well as plenty of hikers so be sure to keep your speed under control. When we got to the end, we were totally ready for food and beer, and luckily, Tunnel Creek Cafe has both. We all enjoyed Deschutes Fresh Squeezeds in the sun – well deserved after an awesome day on the bike!

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P.S. Did you notice I added a “Beer” page to my site? You can check out my favorite breweries by clicking here!