Shoulder Season Fun: Tahoe Triathlon

It’s now nearly mid-April and we’re deep into Spring Shoulder Season! I thought I’d continue my series of posts on fun things to do in Tahoe during the shoulder season. While the Tahoe area hosts a number of “real” triathlons in the summer months, organized races are scarce during the spring. To fill this gap, I like to put together what I call a “Tahoe Triathlon”.

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There is no official rulebook for the Tahoe Triathlon, but participants must complete three recreational activities all in one day. Since it’s the shoulder season, none of these activities will be top notch (ie probably no powder turns and the trails will have some mud and snow), but quality isn’t the emphasis here. You can pick whatever outdoor activities you want and vary them as necessary due to conditions. (bonus points for combining winter and spring sports, especially if you manage the same outfit for all legs!)

Here’s my dream itinerary for a Snowboard/Mountain Bike/Swim Tahoe Triathlon in Truckee: Start off the day with some turns at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. Be sure to get there early before it warms up too much and don’t forget your sunscreen!

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I hope you brought some trail snacks, because we’re heading straight to Emigrant Trail, a little north of Truckee off of Highway 89. Emigrant Trail isn’t my favorite Truckee mountain bike trail, but it is one of the first ones to melt out – so it’s perfect for a spring Tahoe Triathlon.

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After a 10-15 mile (depending on how we’re feeling) out and back, we re-group and drive to our final leg – the “swim” in Donner Lake. While it may have been swimming season for weeks in other parts of California, spring in Tahoe still means very cold lakes. Therefore, the swim will most likely be more like a polar bear plunge.

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Since West End Beach hasn’t officially opened for the season, you can park there for free. After your icy dip, I recommend heading straight for a hot tub. If you don’t have access to a nearby hot tub, you can warm up over beers at Mellow Fellow.

If that itinerary doesn’t sound like fun, there are dozens of other Tahoe Triathlon activities you can try: stand up paddle boarding, XC skiing, bouldering, trail running, outdoor yoga, slack lining, hiking…the list goes on and on.

What activities would you put in your “Tahoe Triathlon”?

Shoulder Season Fun: Round the Lake Beer Tour – Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada

While we’ve been enjoying Miracle March, spring shoulder season is fast approaching. And, in my opinion, there’s no better time for a beer tour than spring! Maybe it’s because I’m from the Northwest, but it always seemed to me that the Tahoe area could support more breweries than we had. It took awhile, but better late than never – the brewery scene in Tahoe is finally expanding. Between the new breweries and the arrival of shoulder season, it’s the perfect time to embark on a ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour.

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Obviously, you’ll want a designated driver for this endeavor! My route starts in Truckee and heads west, but it can easily be adjusted for whatever starting point you want. 

  1. Smokey’s Kitchen: You’ll want a hearty breakfast before starting out, and despite being a BBQ joint, Smokey’s has something delicious for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. For veggies, I recommend the Huevos California and the Donner Pass Omelet for omnivores. If you’re feeling very ambitious, Smokey’s has a few beers on draft, including Racer 5!
  2. The Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co Brew Pub in Tahoe City opens at 11:30 am, so that’s our first brewery stop. Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co//Truckee, CA Tahoe Mountain is known for its saisons, and that’s what I have to recommend. Try Provisions, a multi-grain Farmhouse saison or ask the bartender for their seasonal recommendation. If you’re a diehard IPA fan (like I am), I like the Hop Dragon Imperial IPA.
  3. Head south on Highway 89, down the gorgeous West Shore of Tahoe. Be sure to pull over at the look out above the famous Emerald Bay. 165702_711569911290_7476821_n Once you’ve reached South Lake Tahoe, head straight to Coldwater Brewery & Grill. Skip the food and head straight for the bar – you’ll want to try Mr. Toad’s Wild Rye.
  4. Next up is Sidellis Lake Tahoe, just down the road. It’s the newest brewery on this tour, but they’ve already got a few delicious beers. I like their Bitter Creek Pale and their nachos for a quick snack.
  5. Now we’re traveling back north – this time up Tahoe’s East Shore. Be sure to hop out of the car at some point – there’s a nice viewpoint just south of Incline Village, or you can make a longer stop at Sand Harbor State Park.
    View of Sand Harbor from the Flume Trail
    Sand Harbor from above. Photo by Katie Riley.

    Need some coffee? You can stop by Tunnel Creek Cafe where they have great coffee and Deschutes beer on draft.

  6. Once you’ve reached Incline Village, Nevada, you’re might be hungry again. Alibi Ale Works doesn’t serve food, but you can bring in takeout (maybe burritos from locals’ favorite T’s Mesquite Rotisserie) and they often have a food truck outside. Alibi Ale Works // Incline Village, NV Alibi always has a bunch of great beers on tap, both their own and from other breweries. They do each beer on a really small scale, so their taps are always changing. This is a good place to get a sample of a bunch of different beers, but, if they have their Scotch Ale on draft, be sure to get that.
  7. You’re on the home stretch now! While not a brewery, you should definitely stop at Mellow Fellow Kings Beach (which is technically on the Nevada side of the line, so don’t miss it). Mellow Fellow has 40 rotating taps, so no matter what you like they’ll have a beer (or two or three…) for you.
  8. The final stop of the tour is back to Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co, but this time, you’ll be hitting up the brewery location in Truckee. You can repeat your favorites from the brewpub, but they’ve often got one or two beers you can’t get anywhere else.

Congratulations! You’ve finished the ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour. Reward yourself with dinner at one of Truckee’s many great restaurants.

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Click here for the Google Map of my ‘Round the Lake Brewery Tour!

Sierra Fall Essentials

The leaves are changing, the weather has cooled off, and I’ve started craving pie at every meal. It’s fall!Boots, scarves, tea, pumpkin spice lattes, etc – there are many things that people consider essentials for the autumn season. Here’s my list of must-haves for a perfect fall in the mountains.

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  1. Boots that can handle rain and a little bit of snow:During a normal year, most of the precipitation that falls in Tahoe comes down in the form of snow. The last few years have been anything but typical, and, fall is our rainiest season. I have these amazing Sorel Women’s Winter Boots for heavy snows, but I wanted something a bit lighter and more puddle proof for fall. A bunch of my New Englander friends clued me in to the wonder that is the Original Duck Boot by LL Bean. More commonly known as “Bean Boots”, these things are amazing. I have the 8 Inch Women’s Bean Boots. They keep my feet dry, are way lighter than my snow boots, don’t make my feet swampy like previous all-rubber boots and can handle a few inches of snow with ease. Since mine are unlined, I got mine a little big (I normally wear a 10.5, got the 11) and wear them with fluffy wool socks and sweater pants. I couldn’t be happier!
  2. Wool clothing: See above. I have a bunch of Smartwool Socks – including biking, running, hiking,skiing/compressionand fluffy, a pair of Smartwool footless tights (aka sweater pants), and a Smartwool Sports Bra.

LL Bean Boots and Smartwool Leggings

Bean Boots and Sweater Pants

I also have a great soft shell jacket from Icebreaker and a wool base layer that I got at the Patagonia outlet years ago. Why wool? According to Sierra Trading Post, “Wool is one of nature’s best insulating fibers and has been used to make clothing for centuries. Not only is wool extremely good at holding in warmth, it also wicks moisture and dries faster than cotton.” Wool is definitely worth the cost, and it smells way better than synthetic fabrics after sweating. Just a warning – I dry my socks in the dryer, but all of my other wool products get laid flat for drying.

  1. Something to keep my tea and coffee hot. I have and use a double walled, stainless steel bottle from both Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteen. I slightly prefer the Klean Kanteen, mostly because I think the lid holds on to less smells/flavors that the Hydro Flask Both do an excellent job keeping my tea and coffee hot for hours – up to 6!
  2. A raincoat: Living in Bellingham and Seattle for 6+ years, I’ve worn a lot of raincoats. I think that I finally have a favorite!

Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket

The Patagonia Torrentshell is slightly visible in this picture of Yosemite Valley last October.

While not the lightest or the most packable, the Patagonia Torrentshell raincoat keeps me totally dry while still looking pretty cute. I was at a mostly outdoor work training last week, and it poured for much of Saturday. The Torrentshell kept me dry, warm and comfortable the whole time. This time, I wore it over my Patagonia Half Zip Fleece, but I have also worn it over a puffy vest or down coat for wet snowboarding days.

  1. A seasonal drink: While Negronis might be the drink of the summer, come fall, I’m drinking something different. I crave darker beers (like Great Basin Brewing’s Outlaw Milk Stout) and I start enjoying my ales over nitro – like thisAlibi Ale Works Pale Ale. When it comes to something a little harder, I like the Boulevardier(aka a Negroni that replaces the gin with rye). I bought a huge thing of Bulleit Rye at Costco, and we are enjoying slowly going through that.

Sierra Fall Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

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!

 

Fall in Yosemite Valley

Fall in Yosemite Valley // tahoefabulous.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Go: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park

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

 

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park

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

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park // tahoefabulous.com

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

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

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Can you spot the Harbor Seals?

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

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

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Photo by Greyson Howard

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

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

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

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