Back from Indonesia

Hi all, I’m back! If you were following along on my Instagram or Snapchat (username: lynnbaumgartner), you know that I just spent the last couple of weeks SCUBA diving and relaxing in Raja Ampat, Indonesia (aka tropical paradise).

Here are just a few pictures of some of the fun that I got up to while I was gone:

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Flying into Singapore, we saw lots of empty container ships in the harbor.
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Singapore Airport had a butterfly garden.
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Boats in the Port of Sorong Harbor.
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The Dive Center and pier at Papua Explorers Resort, our base for the vacation.
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(Faint) Rainbow over Pulau Mansuar. Can you spot it?
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Getting an outdoor massage.
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Panoramic sunset over Pulau Mansuar.
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Gorgeous sunset at the resort.
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Another beautiful sunset.
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We saw dolphins several times on the boat rides to our dive sites.

I don’t have an underwater or waterproof camera, so I actually took very few pictures of this adventure. I’m waiting on pictures from Greyson and his family, and then I’ll write up some more detailed posts.

Have you ever been SCUBA diving? Ever traveled to Indonesia?

Donner Summit Railroad Tunnel Snowshoe

One of my Winter Bucket List goals was to try new winter activities. I went on a fairly typical snowshoe earlier in the winter, but a couple of weeks ago, I had a pretty unique snowshoe adventure!

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On Donner Summit, there are some old train tunnels that the train used to run through. The train has since been re-routed and the tracks have been pulled out, making it an interesting destination for a snowshoe (winter) or hike (summer). The tunnels are technically on railroad property, but I didn’t see any “no trespassing” signs, and my friends have visited dozens of times over the years. Just be warned! They’re pretty easy to get to – we parked at the pull out a few hundred yards below the Donner Summit Scenic View Area (on your left when you’re heading up hill). Even in the winter, there was parking for at least 10 cars, but it is a popular sledding area and can get full.

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View from Donner Summit

Most of our group had snowshoes and poles – it gets icy in the tunnel so you’ll want something with grip. Greyson just wore hiking boots and carried poles and made it pretty well, but I wouldn’t recommend this to people not used to hiking on ice. It was warm for February when we headed up; it was in the 50’s and sunny, but the tunnels are at least 20 degrees colder inside. I appreciated by soft shell and gloves on the return trip. We all brought headlamps and flashlights, but didn’t need to use them. There’s enough light in the tunnel to see fairly well during the day.

It’s pretty straight forward once you’ve gotten out of the car – put on your snowshoes and head up towards the very obvious train tunnels. It’s a pretty steep climb, but the only hard part of the whole hike.

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Heading into the tunnels.

Since there’s not a lot of scenery inside of the tunnels, the natural ice sculptures and human made graffiti are the attractions.

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I was really surprised by how much light made it into the tunnels! There are some sections with windows cut into the concrete, and sunlight travels far from the openings. I was expecting the whole inside to be concrete, and loved that many of the tunnel walls were simply exposed granite that the tunnel had been cut through.

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Along the way, there are several spots where you can pop out of the tunnels and enjoy the view.

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Myself, Reyna, and Kelly pose outside the tunnels, overlooking Donner Lake.

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The entrance back into the tunnels looks more foreboding than it actually is. After less than a mile of hiking (which is slow going on all the ice), you’ll get to the end of the accessible tunnels. We hiked around on the snow some, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, before heading back towards the cars.

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We hiked back the same way we came, through the tunnels, but we did see other groups snowshoeing along the outside. I imagine it would depend on snow levels if there is enough room on the outside to do that. Of our group of five, Greyson was the only person who had been to the train tunnels before, and we all had a great time. To be honest, Greyson had suggested doing this snowshoe or hike a couple of times before, but I didn’t really have much interest. In my head, it was just going to be a cold, slippery walk in the dark where I couldn’t see anything. It definitely was not on my Tahoe bucket list. I’m happy to report that I was totally wrong! While not exactly strenuous, action packed or filled with “best of” views, this hike is totally unique and worth doing!

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?

Weekend in Bellingham Part 1: Mountain Biking and Portlandia

I went to college in (what I consider) the best college town in the US – Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

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Photo from here.

It’s nestled between the North Cascades and the Puget Sound and between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s got easy access to skiing, mountain biking, paddling, hiking, climbing, local beer, live music, art, theater – really something for everyone. Luckily, I have a few friends who have made Bellingham their permanent home, so I have friends to stay with when I go visit.

Flights were cheap, so Greyson and I headed up after work on Thursday for a long weekend jam-packed with activities. Here are just a sampling of the fun things we did.

Thursday:
We got in late on Thursday night, so we headed straight to meet Stacey, Jodi and Beth at the Beaver Inn. The Beave (as we called it in college) is a true dive bar. The drinks are cheap & strong, there’s free popcorn, and don’t bother trying to make friends with Don, the locally-famous bartender.

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Readers Make Better Lovers Book Club meeting at the Beaver.

Friday:
One of the things I really wanted to do while in Bellingham was to test ride a Transition Smuggler. I’m in the market for a 29-er trail bike, and the Smuggler is on my short list. (More on that in a later post!) It’s hard to find Transition demos down in California, but their headquarters is located in Bellingham! They offer bike demos for a $20 donation that goes to Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition for trail building and maintenance.

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Greyson and I got set up and headed to a trail on Galbraith Mountain recommended by the awesome people at Transition. We started from the Birch Street trailhead in a light rain, where we tried out our new Smith goggles.

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I’m so not used to riding in mud and roots and it took me awhile to get my riding legs under me. There are a bunch of social trails, and we ended up climbing up the wrong one! There was a section that was so steep – maxed out at 46% grade! We did eventually make it to where we wanted to be.

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I wore myself out on the climb and bonked a little – I ended up walking more than I should have until I forced down a granola bar. When my blood sugar stabilized I had a blast riding the down SST. The Galbraith Mountain trails are super fun and well built. I really wished I had gotten into mountain biking while I was still living in Bellingham. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to come back to visit a lot.

After biking, Greyson and I met back up with the group for dinner at On Rice. We gorged ourselves on delicious Thai food, and headed to Bellingham Circus Guild to see one of my favorite local musicians, Jason Webley, perform. We didn’t quite know what to expect when we walked in, but I told Greyson that he had to experience the weird parts of Bellingham, as well as the outdoorsy adventure parts. Jason Webley was as awesome as always, playing fun songs on his accordion and guitar. I’d never heard of the headliner, Andru Bemis, before, but he was really talented and I enjoyed his set as well. The other acts…well, as Greyson put it, “That was more Portlandia than Portland.” There might have been a tiny piano, a Huck Finn themed aerial performance, and some truly un-fathomable interpretive dance. We ended our night with a stop at Mallard’s Ice Cream, where I had an amazing scoop of chocolate lavender.  Stay tuned for part two!

Have you ever been to Bellingham? How amazing is it, right?

Brewery Review: Knee Deep Brewing, Auburn, California

Earlier this week, I mentioned that Greyson and I spent Valentines Day mountain biking near Auburn, California. Well, what’s a long mountain bike ride without a satisfying post-ride beer? Things were pretty busy in downtown Auburn, so we decided to check out the new-to-us Knee Deep Brewing.

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Knee Deep Brewing is located a ways out of downtown Auburn – near the airport. That worked out pretty well for us, because that meant plenty of parking where we could check on our bikes locked on the back of Greyson’s car (always a good feature for post-ride beers).

In addition to being thirsty, we were also very hungry. So when we pulled up and spotted the No Pho King Way food truck, I was stoked! It smelled delicious, but we wanted to get our beer situation sorted out, so we pulled open the doors to the HUGE Knee Deep Brewing tasting room, and saw this:

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While the space was large and there was plenty of seating, there was a HUGE line for beer. We decided on a division of labor, and I ordered food and Greyson stood in line for beer. I gave him the instruction “Lean more toward IPAs and less toward Belgians”, and I went back outside to order food from No Pho King Way.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I order from a food truck, I expect them to have pho. No Pho King Way did not. It’s not like they had pho and had run out because it was super busy, they just…didn’t have pho on the menu. Well, technically they did, but it was an old menu and they didn’t offer it any more. Working off the outdated menu, I ordered the two of us pho, pork belly tacos, and banh mi fries. (What? We were hungry.) The man working the counter seemed confused by my order. “We don’t have pho,” he said. Perplexed, I assumed they were out. I changed my order to vermicelli noodles with garlic lemon chicken. Next, I ordered the pork belly tacos. “We don’t have those,” he said. At this point, he realized that I was ordering off an outdated menu (to be fair to me, they were placed outside of the food truck) and I decided to settle for the noodles and banh mi fries. I was annoyed, but the food was really good so I can’t complain too much.

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The timing ended up being just about perfect; I got the food just as Greyson was getting the beers. When Greyson told the bartenders that we wanted more on the IPA side, he poured us a four beer sampler of different IPAs and pale ales. Also – the sampler was only $6 – great price for really good beer! The bartender also assured Greyson that this was the busiest it had ever been, and we had no problem finding seats – though it meant sharing  a long family style table with other patrons.

Here’s what we tried:

Breaking Bud IPA (4.75/5) (Photo and Description from Knee Deep Brewing)

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Old school meets new school in this fresh approach to the classic IPA.  At 50 IBU’s and 6.7% ABV, Breaking Bud features the restrained bitterness and alcohol of a classic IPA with newer tropical fruit hop flavors and aromas of Mosaic.  Also in the hop mix are Simcoe and CTZ, creating layers of mango, passion fruit, pine and dank.  A malt bill with a pinch of crystal malt and a hefty dose of flaked wheat keeps the beer crisp while adding flavor complexity.

Hoptologist Double IPA (3.75/5) (Photo and Description from Knee Deep Brewing)

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An American Double India Pale Ale that packs a punch when it comes to hops. The aroma and flavors will give you citrus and pine with a slight malt sweetness that finishes dry.

We also tried the Spring Sipper Double IPA (3.5/5) and the Aviator Series Pale Side (3.75/5). I really enjoyed all of the beers we tried at Knee Deep Brewing. Greyson and I both agreed that it was the most consistently good round of beers we’ve gotten at a brewery in a while. The tasting room is family and dog friendly with games and outdoor seating. I’m not sure if the No Pho King Way truck is there all the time, but, menu mixup not withstanding, the food was really good! While Knee Deep Brewing is a little off the beaten path, it’s worth the side trip.

 

Trail Report: Mountain Biking Foresthill Divide Trail, Auburn, California

I am lucky enough to get both Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day off, so I had a four day weekend this weekend. I packed a lot of fun into this weekend, and I managed to fit two of my favorite things (beer and mountain biking) into Valentine’s Day. We’ve been having a bit of a dry spell up in the mountains, and while it’s led to fun, spring-like conditions for snowboarding, I was ready to get out of the Tahoe area and find some real spring weather. Greyson had heard some good things about the mountain biking around Auburn, and with the forecast calling for 74 and sunny, we decided to check out the Foresthill Divide Trail.

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Sidenote: Greyson has been obsessed with Mountain Bike Project  basically since it came out. It took me longer to jump on the bandwagon/download the app to my phone, but it is totally awesome! I highly recommend it.

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Photo via Strava

The trailhead for the Foresthill Divide trail is easy to find – it’s 3.7 miles east from the Foresthill Bridge on Foresthill Road. (Note: Google Maps has the trailhead in the wrong location). From Auburn, the trailhead is on your right with enough parking for 15-20 cars. If you don’t have a California State Parks Pass, it will cost $10 to park. There porti-potties, but not permanent bathrooms here. They were very clean porti-potties though! There are signs up reminding you to hide valuables and to lock your cars – locals we talked to agreed with that recommendation. Apparently, there have been break ins and thefts at the trailhead. The Foresthill Divide trail is open to horses, hikers and leashed dogs (but not OHVs), so be aware and practice good trail manners. We saw lots of hikers out yesterday.

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Some nice hikers took this Valentines Day picture for us.

The Foresthill Divide Trail is a lollipop with a very short stick, and it is very well marked. There are easily read “Foresthill Divide Trail” signs at every major intersection. As long as you follow these signs and stay on the main trail, you will be fine. After you leave the parking lot follow the signs, you’ll ride about 0.6 miles before hitting the loop part of the trail. The sign here points right, and follow that to do the loop counterclockwise. Pretty much every biker we encountered was doing the loop that direction. You’ll get the harder climbs out of the way sooner, and the steeper sections will be downhill.

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I’m feeling pretty out of shape bike wise, and the thought of lugging my heavy Sanction up ~1,600 feet of climbing sounded pretty miserable to me, so I did some research into whether this ride would be a good candidate for riding my hardtail. To be honest, that is my number one question whenever I am thinking about riding a new trail. Can I ride my hardtail, or do I need suspension? The research I did had me leaning toward hardtail acceptable, so that’s what I brought. Spoiler alert: the trail is definitely doable on a hardtail and it was enjoyable, but next time I will be riding a full suspension bike.

The Mountain Bike Project describes the Foresthill Divide Trail as “A very good intermediate Level XC Trail. Rolling singletrack that’s very well designed and maintained,” and I wholeheartedly agree with this description. The trail is hard packed dirt for the majority of the length, with a few rocky and rooty sections. The trail definitely had some erosion damage when we rode it yesterday, but it is generally a well built, FUN to ride trail.

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While I enjoy the more technical, rocky trails that Tahoe has to offer, it is just so FUN to be able to let go and ride fast on hard packed, sticky dirt. There are also long, straight downhill sections with lots of visibility ahead, so I felt safe getting my speed up and not worrying about coming up on unsuspecting hikers or horses. While there were rocky sections, none lasted more than a few hundred yards, and there was only one steep, rooty section that I felt like I couldn’t have handled on my hardtail. (There were definitely other sections that I chose to walk due to out-of-bike-shapeness). I said earlier that next time I’d choose to ride a full suspension bike, and that was more due to the bumpy erosion damage and hard packed dirt than the size of the rocks.

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Photo via Strava

While the ride had ~1,600 feet of climbing (according to Strava), none of the climbs were too steep to ride. I definitely stopped for many breaks, but I also haven’t been on a bike since October. You spend most of your time riding through classic California oak woodlands, but you pop out for gorgeous views quite a few times along the way, and we caught a glimpse of the American River a couple of times.

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The only major downside to this trail is the couple of times you have to cross a major road. You cross Foresthill Road at 5.6 miles and again at 10.3 miles. Cars are coming fast, and the corners are a little blind for my taste. We obviously made it across safely, but be careful, because there are no warning signs for cars about bike crossings.

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We had a great time riding the Foresthill Divide Trail, and I definitely recommend it as a good intermediate cross country trail. It would be a challenge for a beginner, but doable, especially if they’re in good cardio-shape. It’s rideable for an intermediate rider, and there’s enough going on that an advanced rider would have fun. Plus, there’s lots of other fun stuff to do around the Auburn area, and I plan on writing about that in the next week or so.
Trail Stats:
Location: near Auburn, California
Mileage: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,600 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Favorite Sierra Products – A Giveaway

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the best products local to Tahoe. Now, I’m going to expand my range a little further and talk about my favorite things from my favorite mountain range – the Sierra Nevada! Plus, there will be a giveaway at the end that I think is pretty awesome.

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Klean Kanteen:
Klean Kanteen is based in Chico, California (home to another favorite – Sierra Nevada Brewing). I’ve mentioned my love for Klean Kanteen in other product round ups, but I just have to mention again how much I like them! I definitely think their insulated Kanteen are superior to their competitor Hydroflask. I am notoriously bad about forgetting to wash out my morning coffee, but the Klean Kanteen doesn’t have ANY lingering coffee smell. Klean Kanteen partners with organizations to co-brand their merchandise for fundraisers, and my organization is currently selling Sierra Nevada Alliance Klean Kanteens if you want to buy one!

Klean Kanteen manufactures their bottles in China, and has this to say about that

“Klean Kanteen has always shared many of the concerns you, our customers, have expressed about manufacturing the bottles in China. Before a single bottle was ever produced, Klean Kanteen set in place checks and balances to ensure that our bottles are produced safely, sustainably and that the people making Klean Kanteens are treated well and paid fairly. By manufacturing in China, Klean Kanteen can provide a handcrafted bottle of exceptional quality at a reasonable price.”

Klean Kanteen bottles are made from stainless steel, and the bottles are unlined and don’t contain any BPA. You can even get some of the Kanteens made entirely plastic free with stainless steel and bamboo lids.

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Photo by Greyson Howard

Yuba Expeditions: 
Not exactly a product, but more of a service – Yuba Expeditions in Downieville, California provides shuttle service, bike rentals and everything else you need to ride the classic Downieville Downhill mountain bike trail. I was able to ride the Downhill twice this summer, and both times we used the Yuba Expedition shuttle. Their service is great – on one trip, our group was too large to fit in on the existing shuttle routes, so they did a special shuttle trip at 7 am just for our group! It’s totally affordable ($20 per person), and their profits support Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, an awesome trail building organization that builds and maintains the great trails in the Sierra Buttes area.

When you finish the ride, hot and exhausted, Yuba Expeditions has cold, local beer waiting for you, AND it’s next to a swimming hole made by the confluence of the Yuba and the Downie Rivers, just waiting for you to jump in. Yuba Expeditions also sells really great shirts/hats/bike gear etc.

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I wear my Yuba Expeditions hat all the time, and Greyson has this “Another Shitty Day in Downieville” tank top. (Not him in the picture)

Juniper Ridge:
Technically, Juniper Ridge is based in Berkeley, California, but many of their products are distilled from plants collected in the Sierra Nevada.

“All Juniper Ridge products are 100% Wildcrafted and produced using old perfume making techniques including distillation, tincturing, infusion and enfleurage. A hundred years ago, all perfumes were made this way. Today we’re the only ones who handle every step of the process ourselves, from beginning to end. These formulas vary from year to year and harvest to harvest, based on rainfall, temperature, exact harvesting location, and season. The exact formula depends on what we find in the wind, a conversation with the living, wild ecology…

All of our plants are wildharvested with the utmost sensitivity and respect for the existing wildscape. We return to the same stands year after year to carefully monitor regrowth. We never use alien or invasive species and are actively involved in native plant restoration projects from San Diego to Seattle. 10% of all of our profits are annually donated to a portfolio of Western Wilderness Defense organizations. We revel in the intact forest habitats of the West, and tirelessly work to promote education as to how best to protect them.”

The amount of Juniper Ridge I own is a little ridiculous, but I just love all of their stuff so much! I can’t handle a lot of perfumed or scented products, but their stuff never bugs me. I would much rather smell like a cedar forest than a fake scent created in a lab. (A lot of the scented products on the market contain phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors and bad for the environment.) I first learned about this company from a friend at work when they donated several gift baskets worth of stuff to an auction. I won one of the gift baskets and have never looked back.

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My current favorite products are the Steep Ravine Organic Soap, Douglas fir spring tips tea, Sierra Granite Trail Soap, and the Christmas Tree Cabin Spray. Oh, and also the Siskiyou backpacker cologne! I got it for Greyson, but he’s not a cologne guy, and, hey, it’s unisex!

Chico Bags
Many cities in California (including Truckee and South Lake Tahoe) have a plastic bag ban, but I was using re-usable grocery bags long before it was compulsory. In fact, my mom recently sent me a re-usable bag we made together for an elementary school project. It’s got some sweet glitter paint designs.

At this point, I’ve accumulated a TON of reusable grocery bags, but by far my favorite is the ChicoBag Sling rePETe tote. The rePETe bags are made from recycled material, mostly 100% post-consumer bottles. The sling bags have a cross body strap (making them great for hauling beer and snacks to all day music festivals) and can hold up to 4o pounds. I was telling the checker at Safeway that, and she was curious so she weighed my bag – it easily carried 30+ pounds. I’m not sure how you’d get up to 40 without weights, but I trust them!

Living Wild by Alicia Funk and Karin Kaufman
I love this book by Alicia Funk and Karin Kaufman. Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California is so much more than a cookbook – it’s a great reference for the native plants of California, with a special focus on the Sierra.

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Photo from livingwild.org

“An invitation to celebrate California’s heritage and culture weaves through LIVING WILD, an essential guide to the uses of native plants. This expanded second edition offers a deep awareness of the landscape with advice on cultivating more than 100 native plant species and enjoying this natural abundance for sustainable wild food cuisine and herbal medicine remedies. LIVING WILD is the only sourcebook that provides a simple path to fundamentally shift the way we eat, garden and heal.”

Giveaway!

I’m giving away an awesome Sierra Nevada Gift Pack valued at $132.50 containing – a 16 oz insulated Sierra Nevada Alliance Klean Kanteen ($32.50 value), Juniper Ridge Sierra Granite Trail Soap ($30 value) & Cabin Spray ($40 value), and Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California by Alicia Funk and Karin Kaufman ($30 value).

Enter here and by commenting below: a Rafflecopter giveaway. I’ll announce the winner on Monday, February 15th.

Disclosure: All of the giveaway items I purchased with my own money. None of these awesome businesses paid me to advertise for them. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN GIVEAWAYS. A PURCHASE WON’T IMPROVE AN INDIVIDUAL’S CHANCE OF WINNING. ALL FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL TAXES ASSOCIATED WITH THE RECEIPT OF ANY PRIZE ARE THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WINNER I’m only able to ship to the US and Canada, so only entries from those countries.

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!

Happy Groundhog’s Day

While Punxatawney Phil did not see his shadow, and that should mean that spring is coming soon. Well, I hope that Phil is wrong and we still have a couple of months of winter left to go. The Sierra snowpack still needs it! This is the most snow we’ve seen on the mountains in several years, and I think I forgot how truly gorgeous it is.

The light was beautiful, so I drove up to the Donner Lake lookout after work and took a few pictures on my Iphone.

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Trestle Peak and the old train tunnels
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Grouse Peak. There’s some fun bouldering up there!
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Donner Lake from Above
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Looking up towards the scenic view point. You can barely make out the Old 40 Stone bridge in this picture.
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Looking up at Donner Peak from the Donner Canyon Trailhead.
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Donner Scenic View Point Panorama

I hope that these scenes only get snowier for the next few months, and stay snowy until June!

Gear Review: Burton Feather Women’s Snowboard

Burton Feather Snowboard Review

When I moved to South Lake Tahoe in November 2010, I had been on skis a total of 3 times, and I had never been snowboarding. I’m one of the few people who moved to Tahoe for the job and took up winter sports instead of vice versa. Despite the fact that I’d been skiing a few times, I ended up a snowboarder for a couple of very simple reasons:

  1. My roommate at the time gave me a free snowboard (Thanks, Carrie!)
  2. My best friend in Tahoe is a snowboarder, and she offered to teach me (Thanks, Katie!)

My first board was an old Burton, covered in stickers and dings, and it was a great board to learn on because I didn’t have to worry about messing it up. As I started to move from beginner towards intermediate, I decided it was time to buy a new snowboard.

After some research and stalking end of season sales, I ended up buying a 2013 Burton Feather. I’ve ridden on it for a couple of seasons now, and I feel capable of giving it a thorough review.

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I love the colors the Feather comes in each year. This is what my board looks like. Photo from here.

First, I feel like this board was a perfect board to progress on. Since buying this board, I have moved from low intermediate through solidly intermediate. I’m now moving into advanced territory, and the Feather still works well for me. I’m riding black diamond runs with confidence, take this board into powder (since we actually have some this year!), and I can ride in moderately spaced trees.

Burton described the 2013 board as

“Feather-like float for girls determined to get better. – Jump right into all-mountain fun, whether it’s your first time or 50th day. Laid-back and relaxed, the Feather’s upgrade to V-Rocker™ creates a catch-free, playful feel that’s easier on the muscles. Tapered shaping equals effortless turning and float in fresh snow while the twin flex means it’s good to go, forwards or back. Softer and more forgiving than the Social or Blender, the Feather is for the rider looking for more room to grow than they’ll get with our easiest board, the Genie.”

On the cons’ side, if you are an advanced rider who spends all of your time on steeps and in the powder, the Burton Feather might not be aggressive enough for you. I’ve found that the board sometimes “skips” on the steep sections and sinks into powder more than I like. I also don’t think that the board steers quite as well when you’re riding in switch, but I fully admit that it could be how I have the board set up.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

I initially bought this board based on the reviews that touted its ability to take you from a beginner to an intermediate, and that is exactly what I did on this board. I’ll continue to ride this board for the rest of the 2015-16 season, but I am looking to upgrade eventually. It’s a fun board to ride, and I feel stable on groomed terrain. When riding off piste, the Feather handles different snow consistency well, and I rarely feel like I’m being thrown around, unless the snow bumps are large.

Heavenly, one of the resorts I’ve frequently ridden has A LOT of flat, narrow cat tracks that are the bane of snowboarders existence. I really noticed a difference on how much more stable the Feather felt on these flatter areas, allowing me to keep up more speed. I don’t feel like I’m constantly about to catch an edge on this board.

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Catching (a tiny bit of) air! Photo by Greyson Howard.

The Burton Feather is available in a 2016 model. Here are the specs (from Burton.com):

New for 2016: Flat Top –“A flat profile between the feet means stability, better balance, and continuous edge control. The tip and tail kick up with an early rise outside the feet for the catch-free, loose feeling you’d expect from rocker.”

Directional Shape – “The classic snowboard shape, designed to be ridden with a slightly longer nose than tail to concentrate pop in the tail while still giving you plenty of float, flow, and control to rip any terrain or condition.”

Tapered Shape – “A tapered shape means the nose is wider than the tail, promoting smooth turn entry and exit, stability at speed, and enhanced deep snow flotation.”

Flex – “The flex is perfectly symmetrical from tip to tail for a balanced ride that’s equally versatile regular or switch.”

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Burton Feather 2016 colors and respective sizes. Photo from here.

You can buy the 2016 Burton Feather here for $379.99. You can get previous years’ models in various places at a lower price, but sizes can be limited. Here’s one for for $250 and another for $275.

Bottom Line: if you are a beginner who wants to move from the greens to blues and beyond, I highly recommend the Burton Feather.

Are you a snowboarder? What board do you recommend for intermediate riders?

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!

Getting Back Into Running – Couch to 5k

I’ve never been a fast runner. I had pretty bad asthma growing up, so I struggled through the absolute minimum amount of running required by the sports I played in high school and junior high. I played volleyball, basketball and did the throwing events in track, so I stayed in decent running shape. I never enjoyed running, though.

That changed when I moved away to college. For some reason, the new environment of my college town made my asthma issues almost completely disappear. I didn’t play any team sports in college (other than some intramural softball), so I started running to get and stay in shape. Suddenly, without the asthma issue running was much easier. And even fun! I was never what you’d call fast, but running ceased to be a miserable struggle.

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Team Kokanee finishing Ragnar Trail Tahoe. We got 5th!

I kept up running through college and graduate school, and my first few years in Tahoe even doing a couple of races (the running leg of Ski to Sea, a few triathlons, and a Ragnar Trail race). Once I got more into mountain biking, I started to pay less attention to running. To me, mountain biking is so much more fun! If I was going to use up my energy doing something, mountain biking almost always won out, but I ran often enough that doing 5k or so wasn’t a struggle.

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Strugglefest at the end of the Auburn mini triathlon. Photo from here.

In 2014, my running was hit with a one-two punch. My asthma symptoms returned with a vengeance and I pinched a nerve in my back. My PT told me no running for several months. After the moratorium on running was over, I tried to get back into it, but the asthma symptoms and time off made my slowest of past paces feel totally miserable. Instead of pushing through or backing off, I just gave up.

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Biking instead of running in Santa Barbara.

I stayed in decent cardio shape from mountain biking, but I could definitely feel my lack of overall endurance on long climbs all summer. My out-of-shapeness made me scared to try running, and my lack of running wasn’t helping me get any better at it. Like most of America, I decided that January was a great time to start a new fitness routine, and I decided that running was going to become part of it. I joined a gym with treadmills, downloaded a Couch to 5k app, and dug out my running shoes.

Couch to 5k programs (often abbreviated C25K) are for beginning runners and involves walking and running intervals, with the running intervals getting longer as the program progresses. When I’ve tried to get back into running in the past, I’ve tried to go out at my old distances and paces, felt miserable, got discouraged and gave up. I avoided programs like Couch to 5k, I think because I considered myself something other than a beginning runner.

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Finishing Iron Girl in 2011.

This time, however, I got over my own pride and admitted to myself that I am a beginning runner again. I vowed to follow the interval instructions, even if I felt that I could run longer or harder. I’m on week two of the program, and so far it’s been a success. No asthma attacks, and I haven’t dreaded the runs – even though I’ve had to do them all on the treadmill!

While my cardio level isn’t completely “couch” level, the lower intensity of the running has helped me actually get my runs in. The workouts involve a 5 minute warm up and cool down, with about 20 minutes of intervals. So far, I usually do the walking portions at about a 16:15 minute/mile pace, and my running pace varies between 9:50 – 9:00 during the course of the interval (I can’t not play with the treadmill speed, even during a 90 second running section).

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Type 3 fun between legs at Ragnar Trail Tahoe.

C25k has been a great re-introduction to running. While I’ll never be a marathon runner, I love the ease of just throwing on shoes and getting out for a quick 2-3 mile run in the nice weather, and I think that C25k will get me back to that point. I’m only two weeks in, but I’ll do a follow up when I finish the whole program. Has anyone else used C25k to get running back into your life? How did you like it?