Food, Lodging, and Things To Do at the Sunshine Coast

Things to do on the Sunshine Coast // tahoefabulous.com
I already wrote about the mountain biking and the breweries of the Sunshine Coast, but that’s not all we did while we were there.  The Sunshine Coast is an awesome destination and I highly recommend visiting.

Camping
We camped at two different places on the Sunshine Coast – in both Powell River on the north end and in Roberts Creek towards the south.

In Powell River, we camped at a private campground located right in town – Willingdon Beach Campsite. Often, that combination is a recipe for a loud, un-scenic stay, but that wasn’t the case at Willingdon. The spots were pretty close together and we struggled finding a spot flat enough for our tent. Our neighbors were super friendly and respectful and a beautiful beach was a short walk away. It was also pretty cheap for a private campground, and it had laundry available if you needed it.

In Roberts Creek, which is between Sechelt and Gibsons, we stayed at Roberts Creek Provincial Park. This was a nice campground with spaced out spots in the old growth trees, but even in the height of summer it wasn’t staffed like the other provincial park campgrounds. This was the only campground we stayed at in all of BC where we put money in an envelope!

Other Lodging
We stayed at a couple of non-camping lodgings while we were on the Sunshine Coast. I was worried about finding camping when we took the evening ferry from Vancouver Island to Powell River, so we booked a night at the Island View Lodge for our first night. Now, the Island View Lodge is not the height of luxury, but I thought it was perfectly fine for a hotel on the cheaper end of things. It had recently been remodeled and had a better than average continental breakfast. It’s pretty close to a mill though, and, while we couldn’t smell it in the room, the distinct mill smell was noticeable outside.

If you’re looking for a nice place to stay on the south end of the Sunshine Coast, I highly recommend the Huckleberry Cottage in Roberts Creek. We stayed in the Carriage House, an adorable studio with all the amenities we could want after camping. There was a washer/dryer, a full kitchen, and an amazing soaking tub. The owners were so nice and friendly and had a great spot for locking up bikes.

Restaurants
While we did some camp cooking on the Sunshine Coast, we did eat out more often at this point in the road trip.

Costa Del Sol was an amazing Mexican restaurant in Powell River. It’s more a hipster type of Mexican restaurant, not a hole in the wall and it’s pretty small so you might have to wait for a table. I loved the Costa Cesar, which was made with tequila, and the Yam Tacos.

In Sechelt, we ate at The Lighthouse Pub, which was at the marina. The restaurant is right on the water, and we could watch sea planes take off and land from our table. We even saw a seal pop up its head while we ate! The halibut fish and chips were incredible! Seriously, I’ve eaten a lot of fish and chips in my life and these were #1.

Between Sechelt and Roberts Creek, we stopped at Gourmet Girl, another waterfront restaurant. I had Belgian waffles with local berries, which were delicious, but Greyson’s home fry poutine stole the show. If you’re looking for something quick and easy in the Roberts Creek area, the pizza from Pepper Creek was good, if a little pricey for basic pizza. The staff was also super friendly.

Finally, Smitty’s Oyster House in Gibsons is in an amazing location, but you’ll definitely pay high food prices for the view! They were also out of the oysters I wanted when we got there, which was a total bummer. The food we got was good, and Greyson found non-seafood things to eat.

Kayaking in Sechelt Inlet

We wanted to do some exploring on the water instead of via mountain bike while we were on the Sunshine Coast, so we booked a guided kayak tour with Pedals & Paddles, who have an incredible spot on Sechelt Inlet, almost at the end of the road. The two hour tour was only $75 per person, which included the boat and life jacket rental, which was a great price. Our tour guide was friendly and knowledgable, and the time flew by. The water was so clear that we could see down to the star fish hanging out on the bottom! The sea life highlight was definitely the moon jelly blooms where tens of thousands of translucent jelly fish turned the water a beautiful turquoise color. We also saw a mink playing along the shoreline!

Olympic National Park

When we were planning this trip, one of Greyson’s “must dos” was Olympic National Park. Despite growing up in Washington, I’d never been either. Also, Greyson’s parents went to Olympic National Park on their honeymoon and they gave us two nights at the Lake Quinault Lodge as a wedding gift. After four nights of camping, we were excited for the luxury.

Olympic National Park Visitor's Guide // tahoefabulous.com

The Lake Quinalt Lodge is a historic lodge, on the shores of Lake Quinault, just outside of the National Park. The building was beautiful, the rooms were really nice – we had a deck over looking the lake and a fireplace, which we didn’t end up using. There is wifi, but it’s pretty spotty and slow – not really a problem unless you are planning on doing some work.  The property has it’s own beach with boat rentals and there are lawn games you can borrow or just sit on one of the adirondack chairs and watch the sunset.

“There are some places so blissfully disconnected from the modern world that they seem to stand suspended in time. Lake Quinault Lodge is one such place – a grand and rustic lodge built in 1926 that welcomes guests with warmth, hospitality, and a sincere feeling of home-away-from-home comfort. Here you can unwind in front of our majestic fireplace, dine in the historic Roosevelt Dining Room, curl up with a good book by the lake, paddleboard or fish in the afternoon sun, or venture deep into the temperate rainforest and enjoy the cool shade of the giant trees.”

Lake Quinault Lodge had great access to the park, and it was fun to inject a little luxury on the trip. We did eat dinner in the fancy Roosevelt Dining Room one night, but it was super expensive and not worth the prices. On night two, we ended up getting pizza and beer at the convenience store/restaurant across the street, which was a much better price and delicious.

We knew that we wanted to do a long-ish hike while we were in the park (and while we had a place to keep our bikes secure), and we decided on the Hoh River Trail. The trail parallels the Hoh River and is through the rainforest, which we really wanted to see. The trailhead was about an 1.5 hour drive from the Lake Quinault Lodge, but the route was scenic and took us by places we’d hoped to stop anyway.

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

On our way there, we stopped for some beach access. It was gray and cloudy in the morning, but we could tell the fog was already burning off. We also stopped to gape at trees. They’re no coast redwoods or giant sequoias, but they’re plenty big and strange.

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

After stopping in at the Hoh River Visitor’s Center to confirm that the Hoh River Trail was really what we wanted to do, we were off. Lots of visitors use the Hoh River Trail to access the back country – we saw tons of backpackers and even a few groups with alpine climbing gear. It’s also great for a day hike. It’s an out an back that goes 17.5 miles out to Glacier Meadows, so for a day hike, just turn around where ever you want.

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Trail map via Strava

Hoh River Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The trail is fairly flat and not technical, at least for the first five miles that we did. I’ve read that it gets steeper as you get closer to Glacier Meadows. Despite the very sunny day we had, it was cool and shaded along the trail. Since it’s through the rainforest, you don’t always have sweeping views. We did get some gorgeous mountain views in spots where the trail got close enough to the river that we could see up or down canyon.

Hoh River, Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

We’d heard there was a waterfall along the trail, so we made that our unofficial goal. The sun had completely come out by noon and it was an absolutely gorgeous day, though Greyson kept joking that he felt cheated by a sunny day in the rainforest. At some point on our way out, we stopped on the side of the river and had a snack and basked in the sun. About 2. 5 miles after the Visitor’s Center, we arrived at a little bridge and a verdant waterfall – Mineral Creek Falls.

Mineral Creek Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

We decided to keep hiking for awhile longer to see where the trail took us. While still not steep, there were more up and downs for the next 2.5 miles, where we decided to turn around. Sometimes out and backs can seem boring, since you are seeing the same scenery twice, but the Hoh River Trail didn’t feel that way to me. While the hike was relatively flat, my hiking muscles were not in shape. I was feeling it in my legs, especially at about mile 7. The faster I hiked, the better I felt, so I was seriously speed walking by the end.

We decided to break up the drive with a stop at the iconic Ruby Beach. It was a beautiful weekend day, and Ruby Beach was pretty crowded – there was even a culturally appropriative staged wedding photo shoot happening. We walked down to the beach and got a few pictures, but we decided that we’d leave a little earlier the next morning and stop by when it was less crowded (which is when the picture at the top of the post is from).

Ruby Beach // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Ruby Beach // tahoefabulous.com

After the long hike and drive, a long shower back in our room felt amazing. While I love camping, and I don’t mind getting dirty, I have to say that the luxury of Lake Quinault Lodge felt pretty nice!

Oregon Coast & Oregon Breweries

After our time mountain biking in Ashland and visiting Caldera Brewing, we headed for the coast. The Oregon Coast is known for its gorgeous views, and we were excited to take them in.

Oregon Coast Camping and Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I spent a lot of vacations on the Oregon Coast, but I hadn’t been back since high school or earlier. Greyson had never been to the Oregon Coast at all! From Ashland, we headed north on I5 before cutting west a north of Roseburg to follow the Umpqua River along Hwy 138/38. This drive was beautiful, all along the meandering Umqua through bright green fields and dark green trees. Our eventual destination was Tahkenitch Campground and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, but we enjoyed the scenic route there.

Oregon Dunes // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Despite my many trips to the Oregon Coast growing up, I had never been to the Oregon Dunes. When we arrived, I was blown away! The dunes stretched forever, and there was an entire forest growing on them between us and the ocean. They’re very unique – the large, oblique shape of the dunes don’t occur anywhere else and they’re one of the largest tracts of temperate coastal dunes in the world.

Oregon Dunes // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

After we got our fill of the sand dunes, we settled into our campsite at Tahkenitch Campground. We were there mid-week, and this campground was basically empty. We got our choice of campsites, and most of them looked really great. There were a few that were close to the highway, but I’d generally recommend this campground. The bathrooms were clean with flushing toilets and there was potable water available. It was pretty mosquito-y, being near some ponds, but not unbearable at all. There were very few other people in the campground, so it was a peaceful night. We made dinner, drank some Game of Thrones wine leftover from our wedding, and went to bed early.

Oregon Coast Camping // tahoefabulous.com
Photos by Lynn Baumgartner & Greyson Howard

Our next destination was South Beach State Park, near Newport, Oregon. We got an early start and headed up 101, taking in the gorgeous ocean views whenever we could.

Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard
Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com

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We hadn’t planned on stopping in Yachats, but once we saw Yachats Brewing, we flipped a u-turn and went inside. Yachats Brewing was really cute – lots of light and wood, with a locally focused menu. We didn’t end up ordering any food, but everything sounded and looked delicious.

“Carved deep into the stoney coastal headland, and cut from the reclaimed legacy of our industrial past, Yachats Brewing + Farmstore is a reflection of craft, place, and culture. We are located in the heart of the beautiful coastal village of Yachats, Oregon, and surrounded by the Siuslaw National Forest. Yachats Brewing + Farmstore was founded by Nathan and Cicely Bernard in 2013. Starting with a building originally built as a bank in 1965, Nathan and Cicely have transformed the space into a thriving center for local food, great beer, and coastal culture…Remnants of Yachats’ logging roots backdrop the vibrant color, texture and flavor of locally grown produce, pasture raised meats, hand crafted brews, and house fermented vegetables. Our Sauerkraut, Kim Chi, and Garlic Dill Pickles bring living food fans from far and wide. Our restaurant/taproom features 30 taps, including 15-20 of our award winning beers and house made probiotic beverages, such Kombucha, Jun, and Kefir soda.”

Yachats Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

As for the beers, here’s what I sampled and my ratings (all descriptions from Yachats Brewing):

Camp One IPA (3 out of 5 stars)
An American IPA with a slighty hoppy bite; a slighty sweet finsih with an amber dark honey color. This IPA drinks great all year round.

Coastal Dark Ale (3.5 out of 5 stars)
Our version of a Cascadian Dark Ale brewed with all whole leaf hops from the Pacific Northwest. Patagonia perla negra give it a black color and soft roast flavor. Name: The long dark days of winter on the Oregon Coast.

Thor’s Hammer IPA (4 out of 5 stars)
This IPA has a crisp malt build with an assertive piney bitterness and a strong floral finish. Name: A unique intertidal sinkhole near Yachats

From Yachats, we continued up the coast to the campsite we’d reserved at South Beach State Park south of Newport. South Beach State Park is a HUGE campground with literally hundreds of tent and RV camping sites. There’s a ton of stuff to do there, including trails, beach access, ranger talks, a small store, bike rentals, and more. It’s definitely not a remote or low-key campground, but it is very well organized, with clean bathrooms, free showers, and friendly staff. It’s also close to town, so good access for things to do there.

My main goal was to see some otters and eat seafood. We managed to do both, and we threw in a trip to another brewery while we were at it. Rogue Ales is one of the OG craft breweries. It’s in an industrial area of Newport, near the water and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We didn’t do the whole tour, but we drank good beer and I had a salmon sandwich.

Newport Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

The Beer (most descriptions from Rogue Ales, unless obvious)

Pendleton Pale Ale (4 out of 5 stars)
A light, refreshing pale ale brewed with hops and malts grown on Rogue Farms in Oregon.

Straight Outta Newport IPA (5 out of 5 stars)
We drank A LOT of beers over the course of our honeymoon, and this west coast IPA was in my top 5.

Cold Brew IPA (3 out of 5 stars)
Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ Cold Brew Coffee is blended with an IPA made using Rogue Farms hops for a unique interplay of hops and coffee flavors. Opening with a huge hit of rich coffee aroma that is balanced by a not-so-subtle hop punch, the transition is seamless from one bold flavor to the next.

8 Hop IPA (4.25 out of 5 stars)
The boss of the hop family, this IPA brings brash and burly flavors. INGREDIENTS: Rogue Farms Dare™, Risk™, CaraRed, Maier Munich, Dextra Pils & Dare™ R-1 Malts; Rogue Farms Liberty, Newport, Revolution, Independent, Freedom, Rebel, Yaquina & Alluvial Hops; Pacman Yeast & Free-Range Coastal Water.

Rogue Ales // tahoefabulous.com

Since sea otters are extinct in the wild in Oregon, we needed to go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. I was worried that I’d been spoiled by the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium, and while the Oregon Coast Aquarium is smaller, it is still worth visiting. Of course, I loved the otters, but I was also enamored with the blind, rescued harbor seals and the very intelligent octopus.

Oregon Coast Aquarium // tahoefabulous.com

Once back at our campsite, I went for a run on the trail and the beach. It was a gorgeous stretch to run, but very difficult between the steep trails and the soft, soft sand. I eventually made it to the beach, and I spotted a whale spout!

South Beach State Park Newport Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

It was another mellow night for us, cooking on the camp stove, drinking beer leftover from the wedding, and an early night before our long drive up to Olympic National Park the next day.

 

Sierra Summer Essentials

Last year, I shared my top essentials for an amazing summer by Lake Tahoe. Now I’m back to share more of my favorite things for a perfect summer!

Sierra Summer Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

Something to lounge around in/on. We’ve all seen the hammocks that are all over Instagram, and I have an ENO two person hammock that I’m sure will get a ton of use on Greyson and my road trip next week. But even better, I got a LayBag for my birthday from Greyson’s parents!

Laybag // tahoefabulous.com

The LayBag™ as a brand-new product and the lifestyle innovation of the season has been created to perfectly relax anywhere. The inflatable sofa that fills air within seconds is super comfortable and can be described as a clever combination of an inflatable couch with the very simple filling-technique used on dry-bags. No external pump needed!

Therefore it can be inflated and deflated within seconds and stored in a small carrying-bag giving you the opportunity to carry your LayBag anywhere you want, giving you more time to lounge on your LayBag.

I took the LayBag for its first test run this past weekend. We watched the instructional video first, which made inflation look super simple, just flapping the LayBag through the air while alternating sides, roll, clip, and done. It was a little more complicated, and we definitely needed a breeze to help us out. We did get it filled pretty quickly once the wind picked up, and I was floating in no time.
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Sun Shirt/Rashguard. Before Indonesia, I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of a sun shirt or rashguard. I thought I’d be too hot, and that it couldn’t work that well. I started coming around on the idea when I rafted the American River last June. I wore a NRS Rashguard in the boat, and I didn’t burn at all, and barely had to reapply sunscreen. When I got too hot, I got in the water, shirt and all and the wet fabric helped me stay cool. In Raja Ampat, where it was often over 90 degrees and 90% humidity, I wore a sun shirt pretty much any time I was outside and not in the water. I don’t go to that extent in our fairly mild Tahoe summers, but sun shirts are really nice for hiking on high altitude, exposed trails. Hint for tall/long armed women: this men’s columbia button down in a medium fit me perfectly. I also have a men’s Patagonia sun shirt with a hood that is really comfy.

Approach Shoes: I am a huge fan of sandals like Chacos (which you can probably tell by my telltale Z tan in the above photo!) for summer adventures, but they aren’t perfect for everything. Approach shoes fill the gap when you want something with more protection than sandals, a softer sole than trail runners, and more low key than hiking boots. I recently bought a pair of Five Ten Guide Tennies and they have been great for all sorts of activities this summer. Their sticky bottoms are great for scrambling around on the granite of Donner Summit, they protect my toes from loose rocks on the approach to the climbing wall, and I’ve even worn them biking when I have flat pedals on my mountain bike.

My 5.10 Guide Tennies were perfect for scrambling around on the granite on Oldstead Point in Yosemite National Park.
My 5.10 Guide Tennies were perfect for scrambling around on the granite on Olmstead Point in Yosemite National Park.

Hydration System: The air up here in Tahoe is very dry, and it’s important to stay hydrated during your runs, hikes, rides, climbs, etc. (especially if you plan on sampling some of the great beer we have up here!) I’m a big fan of hydration packs, especially for mountain bike rides and hikes. I have and LOVE the CamelBak Solstice. It’s a mountain bike specific hydration pack with lots of extra features, which I think add to the functionality of the Solstice.

Our newest women’s mountain bike pack is a low rider. The Solstice™ is a full-featured pack that shifts your load—and most importantly, your water supply—down towards your waist. That small change gives you a lower center of gravity and a wider range of motion, which makes it easier to maneuver as you’re barreling downhill. The Solstice also stores enough water and gear for a full day on the trail: a 3-liter Antidote® reservoir, helmet hooks, attachment points for soft armor, and a tool roll to keep your gear organized. We designed the Solstice specifically for women, with an S-shaped harness that curves comfortably around your chest, and a slightly shorter back panel for a more ergonomic fit. The velvetex-lined harness also keeps the straps from chafing against your skin.

I'm wearing my Camelbak Solstice on this trail through the redwoods at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz.
I’m wearing my Camelbak Solstice on this trail through the redwoods at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz.

For hiking, I have an older Osprey Packs Raptor pack, which is technically a bike specific pack. I like it better for hiking than biking, and I love the fact that the bladder has the easy to use Nalgene screw top. I’ve even gone on some trail runs with this pack, but it’s not the best for that. I almost bought the Osprey Rev 6 to use for trail running/biking, but I decided on a bike specific pack since I use it way more. For running, I’ve been sticking with a handheld bottle, like this Nathan VaporMax Plus.

Cush Comforts for Car Camping. Did you like my alliteration there? I love car camping, and, one of the reasons why I love it is how comfortable you can be! While a few pieces of lighter weight gear make their way into my car camping set up (ahem, this super comfortable Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow), I take advantage of the packing room to bring some larger items. My favorite is a super comfortable sleeping pad. I have the backcountry.com knock off of the Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp (which it looks like they don’t make any more, sadly). If you’re not worried about space and you are worried about comfort, look for a car camping mattress that has a foam core AND inflates.

Greyson recently bought himself a Yeti Cooler. Yes, they are really expensive. Yes, they are really heavy. Yes, they are really that awesome at keeping your food cold. Definitely go check them out in person before you buy them, though, because all of that insulation comes at a price – the usable space inside the cooler. Stay tuned later this month for more of my car camping recommendations!

Tahoe Fabulous Summer Cocktail // tahoefabulous.com

A Perfect Summer Cocktail: I’m not usually a huge fan of sweet drinks (black coffee, gin & tonics, and IPAs, all the way!), but this fruit and herb infused cocktail is perfect for summer.

  1. Muddle half a lime, a couple spoonfuls of watermelon and 4-5 large basil leaves in the bottle of a rocks glass.
  2. Pour in a shot or two of your favorite gin.
  3. Add ice to top of the glass.
  4. Finish with tonic and enjoy! I like to garnish with a slice of watermelon when I’m feeling fancy.

So there are a few of my essentials for this summer. What are you loving right now?

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!

 

Weekend in Bellingham Part 2: Beer and Sunshine

Here’s Part 2 of my Weekend in Bellingham recap!

Saturday: 
We woke up after our night out ready for breakfast. Bellingham has a ton of great breakfast options. I love the Little Cheerful and Old Town Cafe, and HomeSkillet was highly recommended by local friends. After debating all of the options, we decided on the newly remodeled Horseshoe Cafe.

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Stacey, Jodi and I at the Horseshoe Cafe.

The Horseshoe has been around since 1886, it’s open late, and it’s attached to the Ranch Room, another great Bellingham dive. I remembered the Horseshoe being great for greasy, cheese covered potatoes and other classic hangover food. With the new remodel, it has classed up its menu a little. Don’t worry – you can still get cheese covered hash browns and black coffee if you want them! I tried chicken and waffles and a bloody Mary. They were both delicious.

It was a gorgeous sunny (!) day, and we wanted to be outside. After breakfast, Jodi, Greyson and I took Jodi’s dog for a walk on the South Bay Trail from Boulevard Park to Fairhaven and back. One of the coolest things that happened while I was living in Bellingham was the conversion of an underused building at Boulevard Park to an awesome, waterfront coffee shop. We didn’t stop at The Woods Coffee Boulevard Park this time, but it’s one of my favorite places to hang out, drink good coffee and watch the sunset.

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Looking at Bellingham Bay from Boulevard Park.

I really  wanted to take Greyson to Chuckanut Drive and Larrabee State Park. I was so excited that we got a sunny day to do so. One of my favorite things about the Pacific Northwest and Bellingham is that people tend to enjoy the outdoors rain or shine, but, there is something special about that first sunny day after a long stretch of winter rain. This Saturday was definitely one of those sunny days!

The drive out Chuckanut was gorgeous, and I let Greyson be the passenger so he could stare out the windows at the San Juan Islands. We arrived at Larrabee State Park, paid our $10 parking fee, and headed towards the water. While the parking lot wasn’t full, there were A TON of people enjoying the sun warmed rocks and water views. The tide was also fairly high, so no tide pooling for us this time.

I tried to find the spot where I had done some climbing in college, but I was unsuccessful. We scrambled around on the sandstone and I wished I had worn my approach shoes instead of trail runners. We explored the social trails along the water, sat in the sunshine and soaked up the gorgeous views until we got hungry enough to head back into town. We decided on a snack and some beers at Aslan Brewing Company. I’ll do a full review of this brewery later, but, spoiler alert, it was amazing!

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Before our dinner plans, Jodi, Greyson and I headed to the Up & Up Tavern (fun fact: the first bar I went to on my 21st birthday). It was remodeled and gussied up while I still lived in Bellingham, but now it’s even nicer. With the nicer atmosphere comes higher (though still way cheaper than California) prices. While I was in college, we were so mad when the happy hour PBR pitchers went from $2 to $3. Now a pint of PBR is $3! It’s still a great bar, but much less dive-y than it used to be.

We had plans to eat dinner at La Fiamma, but, apparently, so did half of Bellingham. The restaurant was so packed we didn’t even bother putting our name on the list. We headed over to Casa Que Pasa for their famous potato burritos (hint: get extra sauce). I’m guessing their other food is good, but, honestly, I’ve only ever ordered the potato burrito. Most of the smaller one is enough to fill up beyond full, and they make great margaritas. We basically rolled ourselves home after dinner.

Sunday:
So I didn’t actually take any pictures on Sunday – oops! I had brunch with my best girlfriends from the college dorms – Jodi, Morgan, Becca, and Becky (and Greyson, ha!) at Becca’s new house. It was a little gray and rainy out again, but that didn’t stop us from taking a walk around her new neighborhood and enjoying the gorgeous view. After hanging out and chatting for hours, Greyson and I headed over to Fanatik Bike Co so he could he see some Evil Bikes in person. Despite the fact that we walked in 10 minutes before closing on a Sunday (sorry!), the Fanatik Bike Co staff were all great, answering all of our questions, letting me throw my leg over a couple of bikes and telling us about their bike rental program.

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Photo from Edible Seattle.

We finished out our trip with a visit to BelleWood Distilling. BelleWood Acres honey crisp apples are my absolute favorite, and I was very intrigued to try alcohol made from apples. We tried their regular and honey crisp vodka, regular and reserve brandy, gin, and pumpkin spice liqueur. I loved the gin and honey crisp vodka, and I wish I could have figured out a way to take them home with me on the plane.

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Boulevard Park at Sunset

I had an amazing time visiting Bellingham last weekend! While a lot of things have changed since I moved away in 2008, many of my old favorites remain. I’m glad Don and the Beaver are still there, but I’m even more glad that the wonderful outdoor opportunities have been protected. Each year, new college students and Bellingham residents get to explore Lake Padden, Larrabbee State Park, the trails on Galbraith Mountain, Whatcom Falls, Mount Baker and more! I can’t wait for my next visit back, and I have Greyson convinced that a summer visit is essential.

Do you miss your college town? Was it a great place to live?

Why I Got SCUBA Certified

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I’ve loved the water since before I could walk. My mom loves to tell stories about how, if there was a body of water, I was in it, despite any signs or instructions to the contrary.

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Photo by Janet Baumgartner

Most of our family vacations growing up involved a lake, river or ocean for swimming, fishing, tide-pooling and exploring. When I was in college my parents got into kayaking, and we all tried snorkeling for the first time on a trip to Costa Rica. It was just after the rainy season, so the water was so silt filled that we had barely any visibility, but I was hooked! Further snorkeling outings off the coast of Oahu, Puerto Rico and Maui cemented my love.

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Photo by Jodi Swobody

On a couple of these snorkel outings there were a few people SCUBA diving off the boat. I never paid that much attention, since I was having so much fun snorkeling. My mom and I occasionally talked about getting SCUBA certified “someday”, but we never did.

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Fast forward a few years, and I started dating my boyfriend Greyson. His family is super into SCUBA diving, and they have been taking dive vacations all over the world since he was a teenager. With my love for the water, he encouraged me to get certified, but with all my other hobbies, SCUBA certification got pushed to “someday” again.

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Photo by Kaya McAlister

This summer, however, “someday” came closer than I was expecting! Greyson’s parents planned a SCUBA diving trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and they invited me along. This combined with the fact that my parents got me the SCUBA certification class and gear for my birthday meant that it was time to get certified. I signed up for the classroom, pool and open water dives needed for SCUBA certification through Sierra Diving Center based in Reno, Nevada. I bought my equipment there too, and Greyson and I spent a few afternoons practicing in the snorkel gear.

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Last week, I finished my open water dives. That means I’m officially open water SCUBA certified! I’ll write more about the process of getting certified, the class and the dives, so check back for more details. I’ll also write about getting ready for my (first!) SCUBA trip and (first!) trip to East Asia. I’m so excited, and I’m already counting down the days until March!

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Photo from Sierra Diving Center

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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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?

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!

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!