This weekend I was lucky enough to experience possibly the coolest spot I’ve explored since moving to Tahoe – Webber Falls.
Webber Falls is created by the Little Truckee River pouring out of Webber Lake. Water cascades down two tiers of solid granite, creating a nearly perfect swimming hole above the main part of the falls. The two tiers total about 65 feet, with about 15 feet above the pool and 50 feet below. The view down the canyon is incredible, and the surrounding rocks and deep waters make for perfect jumping off rocks or just lounging in the upper falls’ light mist.
While Webber Falls often feels isolated, it’s not too far off the road and is becoming a more popular destination. If you do find your way to this natural playground, be respectful and pack out everything you pack in. While this place is still nearly pristine, we did find some garbage, including cigarette butts and beer cans.
Though Webber Falls is not very far off the road (less than a 1/4 mile hike), the way down is steep and could be treacherous. Not recommended for dogs, drunk people or children! During the spring the flow is too high (and cold) for safe swimming, but the water is usually perfect by mid-summer. However, use your best judgement! Don’t swim there if you feel it is unsafe and be sure to check water depth before jumping.
This spot is an absolute gem, and I’m so glad that I got to experience it. I’m sure I’ll be back many times in the future.
This weekend I set my feet on my highest ever point: 11,760 at Kearsarge Pass in Kings Canyon National Park.
The Kearsarge Pass trail is a popular re-supply route for Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail through hikers. The trail wanders uphill through the John Muir Wilderness on the way to Kings Canyon National Park with sweeping vistas of the high Sierra in every direction. The trailhead begins at the Onion Valley campground about 15 miles outside of Independence, California in the Eastern Sierra. To get to Onion Valley Campground, head towards Independence (about 42 miles south of Bishop) on Highway 395. Once in Independence, turn onto West Market Street, which quickly turns into Onion Valley Road. There are several campgrounds along Onion Valley Road or you could stay in Independence, as there is non-campground parking near the trailhead. We stayed in one of the walk-in camping spots at Onion Valley Campground, which makes for an easy and convenient early start. Note: Onion Valley Campground is high (above 9,000 feet!) – so pack accordingly. You’ll want more warm layers than the temperature in much lower, hotter Independence seems to indicate.
The entire Kearsage Pass trail is a steady climb from about 9,200 feet up to a maximum of 11,760 feet at the top of Kearsarge Pass over 4.8 miles. While the trail is never extremely steep, be aware that you are at high elevation. The going is much more difficult than a steeper, lower elevation climb. I live at 6,200 feet and I was really feeling the difficulty when I got about 10,500. Be prepared to go more slowly and take lots of breaks, especially if you are new to high elevation hiking. We hiked the 4.8 miles and climbed just over 2,500 feet with a moving time of 2:05:40, however our elapsed time was 3:20:20 which means we took nearly 1:15 in breaks across the nearly 5 miles.
Kearsarge Pass trail closely passes several gorgeous alpine lakes, with Flower and Gilbert Lakes close enough for a refreshing dip or quick fishing pit stop. Warning: these lakes can be extremely mosquito-y! We were chased off before doing more than dipping our toes in, but there were a number of other hikers and fishermen that braved the swarms (probably armed with bug spray). The stunning views of the hike begin almost immediately, and we were frequently stopping to admire the vistas and take pictures.
The whole trail is incredibly well built and maintained. There aren’t too many tripping hazards and the switchbacks are gradual, allowing you to soak in your surroundings and concentrate less on your feet. The rocks surrounding the trail and making up the nearby peaks are interesting enough to catch the eye of the geology inclined in your group. You’ll see a bunch of California’s state rock, serpentine (hint: it’s the greasy looking, greenish one). I’d also recommend bringing along a field guide with a good wildflower section (like the Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada or Wildflowers of California). We saw at least a dozen different varieties of wildflowers during our hike.
The trail climbs at a fairly steady 500 feet per mile, and I started really feeling the exertion of hiking at high altitude at about 2.5 miles and 10,500 feet. Luckily, the gorgeous views help distract from the hard work.
At about 4 miles, you’ll come to your last couple switch backs and the end is in sight! You might see people up at the top of the pass that seem very far away, but the final push wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. There are only a couple of switch backs, and you’ll mostly be headed straight toward your goal. The vistas are even more incredible in this section. Keep your eyes out for a very steep summit to the south that only gets more interesting as the trail climbs higher.
When you finally reach the top of Kearsarge Pass, take your time to soak in the views and rest for the trip back down. Check out these amazing views!
At the pass, you’ll enter Kings Canyon National Park, and could continue your hike onto the John Muir Trail and down to Kearsarge and Bullfrog Lakes, and even further to connect with the Pacific Crest Trail. We decided the top of Kearsarge Pass was enough of a climb for us. Unfortunately, I had a user-related Strava malfunction on our trip down, so I’m not sure how long it took. I paused Strava when we stopped to check out one of the lakes. Mosquito swarms descended, and, in the panic of our escape, I forgot to re-start it! It took us about an hour to do the first 2.4 miles, and I imagine the second half took about the same time. So we’ll say the descent took about 2 hours.
This was a difficult and rewarding hikes with some of the best views I’ve encountered in the Sierra. If you are looking for a high Sierra hike or backpacking trip (permits needed) that’s challenging but completely doable for an in-shape individual, I would highly recommend the Kearsarge Pass trail.
Length: 4.8 miles to the top, 9.6 round trip
Elevation: 2,500 feet of elevation gain
Duration: ~5:20 total, for reasonably in-shape hikers that live at 6,500 feet
And here are two more photos, just because I like them:
The fairly easy hike up can be exposed and buggy (especially when passing Frog Lake!), so don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, and bug spray. You’re rewarded with gorgeous views of the surrounding peaks, valleys and lakes during the whole hike.
Round Top “peaks” through the trees less than a mile into the hike.
About 1.3 miles into the trail, the Pacific Crest Trail spurs off to the left. Be sure to follow the trail to right to arrive at Winnemucca Lake. This early in the summer, it’s still a little snowy, and we had to cross a few snow patches. None were longer that 200 yards or so and on flat trail, so not too difficult to navigate. This hike is famous for incredible displays of wildflowers. Unfortunately, we were a little early for the fields of color, but we found a few patches of wildflowers that we tried to identify.
It was a perfect sunny day for sitting on the shore of Winnemucca Lake, soaking in the view.
Winnemucca Lake panorama.
I’ve heard this trail can get pretty busy during the height of the wildflower season, but we ran into very few other hikers. From Winnemucca Lake, you can continue on to other beautiful spots, like Fourth of July Lake and a couple of campgrounds. We didn’t end up going any further due to the snow and a high-ish creek crossing, but I’m looking forward to coming back to this spot later in the summer.
5.2 miles, 532 feet of elevation gain in 1:53
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!
Back in April, I headed to Point Reyes with some friends to do my Dirty Thirty Birthday right. Coincidentally, my good friend Becky also turned 30 on April 19th, so we did a co-birthday weekend filled with friends, hikes, laughter, mountain biking, wildflowers, sea mammals, birds, beer and cheese!
Greyson and I headed down from Tahoe early on Friday so we could get a quick mountain bike ride in. We ended up riding Estero Trail, which, aside from dodging cows and cow pies, was a beautiful, easy little ride.
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Note: the trail was SUUUUPER rutted in sections, to the point where I had to push my bikes up a couple of hills. It had rained fairly recently, so it might be in better shape now. (Note: As of 2017 the trail has been graded and graveled in a lot of sections, so it’s pretty smooth cruise.)
We grabbed a snack at Station House Cafe (I had the delicious mac and cheese) and headed back to the Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore to wait for the rest of the group. Everyone else arrived that evening, and we went to bed fairly early in order to get an early start on the day. Much of the group, including me, had never been to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, so we drove there for our first stop. The park ranger stationed there told us they’d seen a bunch of whales the day before, so my hopes were high! Unfortunately, we saw zero whales. But we did see a sea lion or seal. The day wasn’t too foggy, so we could see the Farallon Islands off in the distance.
We headed back to Point Reyes Station to grab some Cowgirl Creamery cheese and called ahead to our (hopefully!) next destination – Heidrun Meadery. We were luckily able to book the last tour of the day, so we scarfed our lunches, piled in the cars and made the short drive to the old dairy farm where Heidrun Meadery is located. Here’s what they have to say about themselves:
“Located in Point Reyes Station, California, Heidrun Meadery produces dry, naturally sparkling varietal meads using the traditional Méthode Champenoise.
Mission: Our goal is to be involved in the meadmaking process from the flower that provides nectar for the honey bee to the flute from which we drink.
Company Overview: Heidrun Meadery was founded in 1997 in Arcata, California. In 2008 we purchased a slightly funky and defunct dairy farm in the agricultural and culinary oasis of Point Reyes Station, Marin County, California, with the ambitious objectives of relocating the meadery nearer to the Bay Area, expanding our mead production, setting up a commercial beekeeping operation, starting a bee forage cultivationprogram and establishing a modest visitor’s center and tasting room.Visitors are welcome on a reservation-only basis Monday-Saturday, 10am to 4pm. You can join us for a tour and tasting, just do a tasting and skip the tour, or enjoy a glass or bottle of mead while soaking up the sun on the patio. Call or email to make reservations.
Our trademark Champagne-style of mead is light, dry, delicate and refreshing, with subtle exotic aromas and flavors found only in the essence of honey. We pride ourselves on producing our mead in the most sustainable manner and supporting beekeepers around the country.”
This place was phenomenal! The mead was delicious, and I could hardly believe that the only difference between each variety was the type of flowers the bees visited. My favorites were a sweeter Orange Blossom Honey Mead and the almost beer like Carrot Blossom Honey Mead. One thing that we learned from our tour guide was that the Meadery is trying to make mead from honey they cultivate themselves, but have been having issues with colony collapse each year.
That night we played some tennis and HORSE on the tennis/basketball courts back at the Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore and explored the property (watch out for poison oak!) We finished the night with a birthday barbecue back and soaked in the hot tub.
After a leisurely Sunday breakfast and Easter egg hunt, we decided to check out the Tule Elk Reserve and Tomales Point Trail. Tomales Point Trail is an easy, fairly flat 9 mile round trip hike to the end of Tomales Point. Here’s how Bay Area Hiker describes it
“The Tomales Point tule elk reserve is not only a great place to watch wildlife, it’s one of the quietest trails on Point Reyes. The single trail drifts north away from the trailhead, eventually reaching Tomales Point, nearly 5 miles from the nearest road. Squeezed on three sides by water, the only sounds are wind, surf, and bird cries. At a bluff overlooking the ocean you can spy on pelicans, cormorants, and seagulls, while elk bellow in the distance.”
While the elks, bird, and ocean views were beautiful, the mid-April wildflowers were incredible! My pictures in no way do them any justice. The whole Point Reyes area was stunningly green. I would highly recommend mid-April as a wonderful time to visit.
I would highly recommend Point Reyes as a quick weekend away from the Bay area or Sacramento, or even as a destination by itself if you are traveling from further away.
I had a little incident at the climbing gym on Wednesday:
Luckily, it’s just a strained tendon.
I wanted to take it fairly easy on my hand this weekend (no biking or climbing), so I went on a hike! Since I started mountain biking three years ago, I haven’t tended to do a lot of hiking, as I’d generally rather be on a bike. I’ve been doing more hiking recently, and I was reminded how awesome it can be.
Greyson, Sylas and I decided to climb to the top of Donner Peak, a hike they’ve both done many times.
Greyson and Sylas enjoy the view from the top.
The hike starts on the Pacific Crest Trail, just off Highway 20 in Truckee. It’s just under 4 miles, with 1.8 ish mile climb up. You take the PCT up for about a mile, then turn left onto the Judah Loop. The last part is an off-trail scramble to the top of the peak.
Donner Peak boasts incredible views.
Some overly friendly wildlife.
Bring binoculars. We spotted a couple of waterfalls rushing in the distance.
I tracked our hike via Strava. The hike up took about 43 minutes to cover 1.8 miles with 933 feet of elevation gain. We definitely weren’t rushing on this hike, stopping to enjoy the views and throw some snowballs. At this point in this low-snow year, there’s not really any snow on the trail, but some of the sections of trails are very muddy and covered by small meltwater streams. Wear boots or expect wet feet! We stopped several times on the hike down to examine and identify wildflowers. While the wildflowers aren’t going crazy yet, I imagine that this hike will be excellent for wildflowers in the next couple of weeks.
Hike stats: 3.8 miles, 933 feet elevation gain, 1:27
We left South Lake on Friday and meandered our way towards Bishop. We drove up to Virginia Lakes, snapped some photos of Mono Lake, ate the world’s best gas station food at the Whoa Nellie Deli, and set up camp at Pleasant Valley Campground near the Happy Boulders. I also had a chance to hang out with my old roommate, having beers in her beautifully xeriscaped yard.
Since we were camped near our first bouldering destination, we got a slow start on Saturday morning. But eventually, I had my coffee and we headed down the bumpy road. Bouldering at the Happys was really fun, though I chickened out on some of the taller boulders. It was a million degrees, though, so I’d definitely bring plenty of water and a hat. We left the Happys and headed into Bishop for lunch. We lucked out and stumbled on Raymond’s Deli. It was so good that I was tempted to eat there for every meal after (As of 2/2018 Raymond’s is now closed!). I had a BBQ Roast Beef sandwich with Ortega chillis called the 51/50. It’s a lot of food, but I recommend it highly!
After lunch we moved on to the Buttermilk Boulders. The view from this spot was incredible! I thought that the bouldering here was more challenging than at the Happys. That could be related to the fact that I had my first real bouldering fall and sliced open a couple of fingers on a sharp flake. Ooops. That was the end of bouldering for the weekend.
My bloody hands meant that we went back into Bishop to find some hot running water and soap. Cleaning out the large flap of skin on my finger was not pleasant. Bet you’re super disappointed that I didn’t take pictures! Since we were in town, we grabbed some bread and cheese and beer for dinner back at our campsite. We got the “famous” sheepherder bread from Erick Schat’s Bakkery.
Our leisurely outdoor dinner plans were scrapped by a massive windstorm! We ate while crammed in the front seats of the Element, taking turns running outside to re-stake the tent. Eventually the tent blew completely away! We managed to catch it and re-stake it closer to the car for a little more shelter, and it stayed attached to the ground for the rest of the night. The windstorm eventually calmed down around dusk, though all of the other tent campers in our campground had given up and left!
We headed out of town the next morning, very dusty, but refreshed. Before we left Bishop, we grabbed bagels from Great Basin Bakery. Since Tuolumne Meadows were reportedly still full of snow, we decided to ditch that part of our plan, and slowly worked our way north towards Tahoe. We detoured to Convict Lake, but it was a little cold for the short loop hike. In Mammoth, we to fill my growler at Mammoth Brewing Company and checked out their gorgeous new tasting room. I filled my growler with 395 IPA but also loved Hair of the Bear, a seasonal doppelbock. For lunch, we had burgers at Toomey’s. (which I thought was a little overpriced, but pretty good with an incredibly friendly waitress). Our last stop was the Travertine Hot Springs in Bridgeport. I love a good hot spring, and these are amazing, with gorgeous flowstone, views of the Sierra and multiple pools at different temperatures. They were pretty crowded though, especially for the middle of the day.
It was a totally fun weekend, and I’m excited for more throughout the spring and summer. Though I can do without the sliced up hand!
A couple of weeks ago, I went on a slightly epic road trip for work: South Lake Tahoe > Bishop > Visalia > Truckee > Redding > South Lake Tahoe. On my way back from Redding, I took a slight (two hour) detour to the south end of Lassen National Park. The park road was mostly closed, so I just hiked up the empty road for about 3/4 of a mile for some awesome views. I’ll definitely have to come back when more of the park is open!
As you may know, there is currently a massive fire raging in California. The smoke from the 180,000 acre blaze is filling up the Tahoe Basin, where I live. I went to get an emergency refill on my inhaler (ooops…probably should have done that ~6 months ago), and the doctor suggested I get out of town. A prescription for an impromptu road trip? The best prescription ever! My roommate and I packed up Strawberry, my CRV, and headed toward the Mendocino coast.
We made it to the Motel 6 in Ukiah and crashed for the night, planning on doing the rest of the drive in the morning. After sampling the produce at the Ukiah Farmers Market and a leisurely breakfast at Ellie’s Mutt Hut, we made the hour or so drive to Fort Bragg.
I absolutely fell in love with Fort Bragg. It’s definitely a tourist town, but also a functioning harbor and fishing port. I had lots of fantasies about marrying a sea captain, getting really good at kayaking and eating fresh salmon every day.
Some highlights from the Fort Bragg area were:
Buying local smoked salmon and salmon fillets right off the boat in Noyo Harbor
Breakfast at Cafe 1 (which one Yelp review described as “that pretentious organic crap”),
We ended up camping a little north of Fort Bragg near Westport at the Westport-Union Landing State Beach campground, which was “primitive” (no potable water, pit toilets), but had a gorgeous view of the coast and beach access with a bit of a hike. The tide was out and the tide pools were teeming with sea creatures! When we were walking along the beach, we discovered that the local KOA campground lets you tent camp right on the beach, far away from the motorhomes. Next time, I will definitely stay there.
My roommate and I played in the tide pools, splashed around in the (cold!) ocean, and attempted to make friends with some successful and attractive kayak anglers. They were friendly, but did not invite us to dinner.
On Sunday, we packed up camp and headed south on Hwy 1, admiring the gorgeous foggy views before we cut inland through Navarro River Redwoods State Park. This is a beautiful but windy drive through dense redwoods and then dozens of vineyards. This drive was a little out of our way home to Tahoe, but the most direct route to Anderson Valley Brewing Company!
I love beer and breweries, and Anderson Valley is a favorite. We hung around the tiny town of Boonville, waiting until the next tour began. Anderson Valley is a little outside of town, with fun grounds to explore, including a disk golf course and goats! The tour was fun, informative and only $5, which included two 5 ounce samples. Katie and I each split our two, so we tried 4 varieties that you can only get at the brewery.
We began our long trek back to Tahoe, hoping that the smoke had cleared. The drive back wasn’t terrible, as there were new views we had missed during the drive in the dark. Also, we stopped at Whole Foods in for dinner and Sonoma Pickles! Definitely a great weekend.
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I headed down to Auburn the night before the triathlon with my friend Evan (who did the Half Iron Man!) and his girlfriend. We picked up our packets, attended the pre-race meeting, set up our T2 transition areas and got free food from a church triathlon group doing a free pre-race spaghetti dinner.
Attending the pre-race meeting was pretty helpful, as the 3 courses and a separate T1 and T2 made for a confusing course map.
We woke up bright and early (but not early enough) and headed to the race. We ended up getting a little lost heading to the start (which was at a random river bank not on any map), and we were extremely worried we were going to be late and/or miss the start. We ended up being in time, but definitely rushed. Word of advice: if you do this, race leave early and possibly go find the swim start on the day before.
The swim was in the warm (74 degrees I think!) Folsom Reservoir. The swim was a wave start with waves leaving every 5 minutes (international men, international women, half iron men, half iron women, mini men and finally my wave, mini women). I felt really good on the swim, despite not doing a ton of it in the last month before the triathlon. I even caught up and passed a few of the men from the wave ahead of me!
500 m, 8:51 2/5 AG, 13/61 overall
I’m pretty excited about the 13th overall, including the men! I wonder what I could do if I actually trained for the swimming.
T1 was fairly straightforward. I stripped off my wetsuit, put on my top, helmet, shoes (forgot socks, oops!) and sunglasses and headed off on my bike.
The bike was hard! It was only a little over 8 miles, but there was about 800 feet of climbing over the first six miles with some steep sections. The bike leg was probably the leg I was best trained for, but it was still really hard. I did the vast majority of my training via mountain bike, and really only went on one ~10 mile road ride before hand. That was probably not the best training plan, but it worked out ok. I did drop my chain within the first minute of riding, which cost me a good minute. And they were not lying about the section of steep switchbacks. I even got off and pushed for a bit. I literally cannot remember the last time I had to do that on a road bike. The road is closed to traffic and quite nicely paved and scenic. Looking back, I could have pushed harder on the bike, but I’m still happy with my performance.
My poor set up the previous night caught up with me here. I had forgotten to untie my running shoes! Rookie mistake. I finally got my shoes untied, threw on my race belt, drank some water and headed off.
I headed off on my run, and in my loopy state, started the wrong way around the loop. In my defense, the girl in front of me did too. Someone yelled at us, and we turned around before we had gone more than a 100 yards or so. The run course for the mini was awesome! Most of the run was on a shaded trail that ran along side a creek. Then there was a nice long downhill on a paved (but closed to traffic) road. The sunny uphill that followed was the worst part of the course, but it wasn’t that bad at all. Before I knew it, I turned a corner and could see the finish line in the distance. The last little bit was on grass through the park, and then I was done! My legs felt pretty good the whole run (proof I could have pushed harder on the bike), and while I felt like I ran well, I had no idea what my time was going to be.
4 k, 20:52; 5/5 AG, 37/61 overall
Now, I know the run time isn’t especially great in the grand scheme of things, but it is awesome for me! I usually feel like I’m speeding along at 9 minute miles, but I did the 4 k with an average pace of 8:20! Race day adrenaline, trying to pass men, and a nice downhill really made for a great run.
Glad I waited to have these flattering shots before writing the recap.
1:18:24; 4/5 AG (though they originally had the AG wrong and gave me the 3rd place AG award) 26/61 overall
I would highly recommend the Auburn Triathlon as a challenging, early season race that is well organized, a perfect size and a whole lot of fun.
Also, my friend Evan killed it on his first triathlon (that’s right, he did the World’s Toughest Half Iron Man as his first ever triathlon). Though after seeing his face on his last couple run laps, it made me never want to do this particular Half Iron Man.