Resort Report: Heavenly Lake Tahoe

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Heavenly Lake Tahoe is definitely the resort I’ve spent the most time at. It’s where I’ve had a pass most years, it’s where most of my friends ski and ride, it’s where I learned to snowboard, and it is freaking gorgeous!

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It is located right in the town of South Lake Tahoe, and while I was living there, it was close enough to my office that we could go and get a couple of runs in over lunch. You can access Heavenly from the California side or a couple places on the Nevada: the Gondola in Heavenly Village and Stagecoach Lodge.

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One of the coolest things about Heavenly is that you can ski in both Nevada and California in the same day! You also get a great visualization of the rain shadow effect. Heavenly has a ton of terrain – one of my other favorite aspects.

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Here’s a few facts:

  • This year is Heavenly’s 60th Anniversary.
  • It’s now owned by Vail Resorts which owns and runs a ton of other ski areas in California, Colorado, Utah, and internationally
  • Heavenly has 97 trails covering 4,800 skiable acres – the most in Tahoe!
  • Heavenly tops out at 10,067 feet and ski down 3,500 vertical feet.
  • It’s the only resort in Tahoe that has terrain in California and Nevada.

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Here’s my take on Heavenly-

Pros:

  • Like I said earlier, there is a ton of terrain. Even when it is crowded in certain areas, you can usually get away from that and find somewhat solitude.
  • There is something for everyone: beginner friendly – to the epic Mott & Killebrew Canyons.
  • Did I mention that the views are amazing?

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  • It’s convenience to South Lake Tahoe can’t be beat. Basically, if you live in South Lake, that’s where you want to have a pass.
  • The Tahoe Local/Value Passes are an INCREDIBLE deal. You get 7 day a week access to Heavenly, and either 7 day or Sun – Fri access to Northstar and Kirkwood. (I love Sugar Bowl, but, man, I miss that deal!)
  • You can track your vert over the course of the season with Epic Mix. Your pass scans automatically and it will keep track of the lifts you ride at any Vail Resort.
  • They have photographers stationed on the mountain through Epic Mix Photo to take pictures of you and your friends. They’ll scan your pass, and the pictures will show up on your account. No more selfies needed.

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Cons:

  • It’s convenience means that it can be CROWDED. On a Saturday, there’s often a huge line backing up Powder Bowl and Sky chairs.
  • While there’s lots of beginner friendly terrain, the crowds can make things stressful for new riders and skiers. I know other people, especially on narrow trails made me super nervous.
  • If you’re on a snowboard, prepare to do a lot of traversing. There are quite a few flat areas that you’ll need to cross in the course of a day at Heavenly. There are places you can keep your speed up, but the crowds often make that impossible in others.
  • Heavenly has really embraced the nightlife, Nevada, casino side of things with its after parties and the Heavenly Angels. I guess that could be a pro or con, depending on how you feel, but I’m not a huge fan.
  • Food/drinks are expensive! Bring your own.

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Tips:

  • Want to access the Nevada side on a busy weekend day? Drive up Kingsbury Grade and park at Stagecoach Lodge. Note: if it’s snowy, only attempt if you feel comfortable with narrow, steep, slick mountain driving and have a proper vehicle.
  • If you’re starting on the California side, take Sky chair all the way to the top and go down Ridge Run for a warm up with killer views.
  • My favorite runs on the California side are Ellie’s, Liz’s and Powder Bowl Woods. In Nevada, I like everything off of Galaxy chair.

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I really enjoy Heavenly, and it will always have a special place in my heart since I learned to snowboard there. It can be crowded and expensive, but its expansive terrain and killer views mean that you can get away from the crowds and really enjoy yourself.

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Where to Stay: Basecamp Hotel is adorable! I’ve never stayed there, but I’ve toured the theme rooms during events and hung out at the bar. Plus, there are free s’mores! There are also a ton of vacation rentals and Air BnBs in South Lake Tahoe too.

What to Eat: Here are my favorite places to eat in South Lake Tahoe. If you’re on the California side, be sure to check out Himmel Haus just across the parking lot.

Happy New Year + a Winter Bucket List

Happy 2016 everyone! I thought 2015 was pretty great, but I’m looking forward to the new year with my eye on a few goals. I made a Fall Bucket List, but between sickness and business, I didn’t check off too many. Now that the snow has begun to fall (already more than fell ALL of last winter), I have some goals and experiences for my Winter Bucket List.

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Join a Gym and Start Swimming: So, I didn’t join a gym, despite it being a goal for the fall. With winter’s early darkness, cold temperatures, and icy trails, it’s definitely time for me to join a gym. I’m going to go along with all of the other January Joiners and start working out after work. Relatedly, I’m going to find a public pool for lap swimming. My trip to Indonesia is coming up (in March!), and I want to be in good swimming shape by then.

Try Out New Winter Activities: I’ve gotten decent at snowboarding over the last five winters, but there are a ton of winter and snow sports I’ve never tried or only done once. Some ideas: cross country skiing, snowshoeing (I actually tried this one last week), fat biking, downhill skiing, ice skating, skijoring, etc.

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Snowboard Twice as Much as Last Year: This should be easy – since I was mountain biking at 7,000 feet in February last year.

Take an Avalanche Safety Course: I want to get into backcountry snowboarding, and step one is learning how to stay safe. There are a bunch of avalanche safety courses in the Tahoe area. I just need to pick one and go.

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Photo by Greyson Howard

Try Backcountry Snowboarding: After I get educated, I’ll be ready to try backcountry snowboarding! I’ll hopefully be able to borrow most of the gear I need, before I invest a ton of money. I’ve already got a snowboard and snowshoes, so I’m partway there! There’s a ton of great backcountry riding in Tahoe, and I’m excited to start to experience it.

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Try Out New Resorts: The last few years, I’ve had a Vail pass that let me ride at Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood. This year my pass is at Sugar Bowl, and comes with a few tickets at Squaw/Alpine Meadows. I’ll hopefully be able to ride with friends at a few new resorts this year – Diamond Peak, Mt. Rose and Homewood.

Snowshoeing in Cold Stream Canyon

Like I said before this is my sixth winter in Tahoe, but somehow I’d never been snowshoeing. Since our Sugar Bowl passes are blacked out for the holidays, we couldn’t go snowboarding/skiing at the resort, and we decided to try something different. I decided it was finally time to try snowshoeing.

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Greyson got out his backcountry set up and lent me his snowshoes, and we headed to the nearby Cold Stream Canyon. This is a popular area with lots of snowshoers, cross country skiers, sledders, and people accessing backcountry skiing and riding. We were able to park pretty close to the gate and started the walk in.

Cold Stream Canyon Trail

I was worried that snowshoeing would be pretty miserable, slogging through the snow in an inefficient manner (these pre-conceived notions were the main reason I had never tried it before), but I was surprised by how easy it was. We started off on a very packed down fire road, which made things easier. I had a difficult time adjusting to using the poles – I ended up just carrying the poles on the hard packed sections, and only using them when we got to the untracked sections and steep downhills for balance.

Cold Stream Canyon Profile

The Cold Stream Canyon trail started with an ~180 foot climb over 0.4 miles, the only significant climb of the whole trail. It wasn’t too hard, but I worked up enough of a sweat to strip to my capilene base layer which was perfect for the rest of the hike.

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It was a gorgeous day, and the views were beautiful, snow sparkling on the trees and clear views to the peaks in the west. The temperature was around 33 degrees, perfect in the sunshine! We walked on the frozen pond, which has been restored from a polluted gravel mining remnant, and parallel to it before reconnecting with the main fire road and heading back to the parking lot. (Cool side note – if you continue on the main Cold Stream Road, which is not drivable in the winter, you’ll reach The Lost Trail Lodge, a backcountry lodge. You can rent it and stay there, winter or summer. I’ve never been there, but it’s on my bucket list!)

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While the parking area had seemed full, we only ran into a half dozen or so people and a few dogs on the trail. We made it nearly back to the parking area before we got to any sort of a downhill. Greyson stopped to remove his skins and set up for the (.4 mile, 180 foot downhill) while I trekked on on the snowshoes. This area was definitely more well trafficked, and the snow was packed down and a little icy. I found myself using the poles a lot for stability on the downhill.

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Before I knew it, Greyson came whooshing by me, and we were back at the gate. It was a perfect introduction to snowshoeing – great weather, gorgeous scenery, hard enough to feel like I was working but not miserable. I doubt that snowshoeing is something I’ll get really into, but it’s definitely a fun way to get into the backcountry.

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P.S. Greyson got me this amazing shirt for Christmas. I wore it today on our adventure, even though I was on snowshoes instead of a bike.

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How to Get There: Cold Stream Canyon is just a couple of miles from downtown Truckee. From downtown Truckee, head west on Donner Pass Rd for ~2 miles. Turn left at the four way stop on to Cold Stream Rd and park near the gate. Note: you can park further up the road if the gate is open, but the gate might be closed and locked by the property owners. I don’t think it’s worth the risk and park outside.

 

Resort Report: Sugar Bowl

This is my sixth winter in Tahoe! I can hardly believe it sometimes. It feels like I was just finishing grad school in Santa Barbara, like, last month. Over that past winters, I have been able to snowboard at five of Tahoe’s resorts, and I hope to try a couple of new ones this year.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

All of Tahoe’s resorts have their pluses and minuses, and I thought that I could do a Resort Report with a local perspective.  I decided to start with my favorite: Sugar Bowl Resort.

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I was only introduced to Sugar Bowl a couple of winters ago, when I started dating Greyson, and I started hanging out in Truckee more. It quickly worked its way up to the top of my list! I’ve written before about some of my fun days at Sugar Bowl.

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First, a few facts:

  • Sugar Bowl is one of the oldest ski resorts in California. It started running its lifts in 1939, and celebrated its 75th Anniversary last year. One of Sugar Bowl’s initial investors was Walt Disney, and Mt. Disney and the Disney lift are named after him.
  • California’s first chairlift was built here, and lift tickets were originally $2!
  • Sugar Bowl has 4 peaks, 103 trails, 1,650 skiable acres, 1,500 vertical feet, with 17% beginner, 45% intermediate, and 38% advanced terrain.

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  • Since Sugar Bowl is located on the Western Slope of the Sierra, it often gets hammered by winter storms. It averages ~500 inches a year, the most in the Tahoe Basin (so they claim).
  • It’s Godzilla El Nino, and Sugar Bowl has the most snow of any resorts so far. 152″ this season!
  • Sugar Bowl also has a cross country ski area, Royal Gorge. Last year, I got to try fat biking there!

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Now, here’s my take on Sugar Bowl:

Pros:

  • Sugar Bowl has the shortest lift lines of any of the big resorts! Even on a “busy” powder weekend day, I’ve waited in line a max of ten minutes. Compared to Heavenly, where you can wait in line for an hour+ when things are busy, Sugar Bowl lift lines are amazing.
  • Related, Sugar Bowl is not usually crowded. It feels much more like a “locals” resort. Even on busy tourist weekends, Sugar Bowl has a much mellower feel.

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  • There are incredible views! From the top of Lincoln, you can look towards the Sierra Crest, towards Castle Peak, down on Donner Lake, and, if it’s a clear day, you can even see the Coast Range!
  • Sugar Bowl is a great resort if you want to advance from an intermediate to an advanced rider/skier. I found myself getting a lot more comfortable riding off piste once I started riding here.
  • I was used to riding at resorts that had mostly two settings: easy to fairly easy groomers and difficult tree & mogul skiing. It’s hard to make that jump! Sugar Bowl has a fair amount of terrain that will ease you in. They don’t groom every run, so there’s plenty of places where you can practice your off-piste technique.
  • There’s also a ton of advanced terrain and great access to the backcountry. I haven’t gotten to ride any backcountry yet, but that’s a goal for 2016!
  • Sugar Bowl is not usually very crowded, so it’s also a great place to learn. I know that when I was learning, other people stressed me out way more than steep terrain, so Sugar Bowl seems like a great place to learn.
  • They have the best Bloody Mary in Tahoe. Sugar Bowl also has their own beer, Sugar Bowl Pale Ale. Their food prices have gone up in the last couple of years. You used to be able to get a beer for $5! It’s still pretty reasonable compared to most resorts.

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Cons:

Obviously, I love Sugar Bowl, and I think there are way more pros than cons. It’s my favorite resort in Tahoe, but I look forward to exploring more to compare.

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How to get there: Sugar Bowl is off of old Highway 40. If Highway 40 is closed, you can get there via I80. The resort is about 20 minutes from downtown Truckee, 90 minutes from Sacramento and under 3 hours from San Francisco.

Where to eat: Here are my favorite Truckee restaurants.

2015 Year in Review

To paraphrase what I said last year:

Well, it’s almost the end of (2015). I have to say that this was one of my best years ever! I love my job, have a great boyfriend, and I got to go on a bunch of fun adventures. Here are the highlights:

January: For the 4th year running, I attended the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. I wrote about my favorite films here. I’m excited to go back this year, January 14-18. If you are in the area at all, I cannot recommend it more highly. It’s always a highlight of my year!

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Photos by Jim Delso and Carrie Reiter.

Also in January, I hiked Alamere Falls – a waterfall that falls to the beach near San Francisco.

Alamere Falls Hike in Bolinas, California // tahoefabulous.com

February: So we didn’t exactly have winter at all last year. Case in point: I discovered one of my favorite mountain bike trails in Truckee in February last year – the Donner Rim Trail and Wendin Canyon.

Mountain Biking Donner Lake Rim Trail and Wendin Way Trail

The best part of February was the road trip Greyson and I took to Bend, Oregon. You can read about all the beer I drank on my Beer Page and the trails I rode and routes I climbed on my Trail Report Page.

March: In March, I was really busy with work – we put on our 10th Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival. I did take time to go bouldering in Bishop and try June Lake Brewing for the first time.

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April:  I got to see otters for my birthday! Nothing else matters!

May: During a typical year, May is still too snowy for higher altitude mountain biking. Since it was such a light snow year, I was able to ride the iconic Flume Trail in May this year. I’m so glad that I finally got to ride it, and I’ll do it again this spring.

Riding away // Flume Trail
photo by Gavin Feiger

June: I didn’t get to go in 2014, so I made mountain biking at Mammoth Mountain a priority this year.

Bell Super 2R // Mammoth Mountain

It was just as fun as I remembered it, and it was extra fun to go with Greyson, who hadn’t been since he was sixteen.

July: It was warm enough to spend most of July in Donner Lake, my neighborhood swimming hole. I also got to try something very unique:

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Check me out in the local newspaper. Thanks to Lake Tahoe Jetovator for letting me try it out.

August: In August, I finally made a facebook page – check it out and “like it” for interesting articles and news. I also tried the newest Tahoe brewery – Alibi Ale Works.

Alibi Ale Works // Incline Village, NV

I’ve been back a lot of times since. I even got my dad his Christmas present there! Also during August, I wrote about Five More Awesome Places to Watch the Sunset – related to my most popular post of all time The Five Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Lake Tahoe.

September: I remember it like it was yesterday. Ah yes, It was a crisp fall day…

Sorry, Greyson took my computer away and started typing. Anyway, September was crisp and beautiful. I got SCUBA certified for my trip to Indonesia (coming up in March! Send me your tips!)

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Photo from Sierra Diving Center

I also was selected to be a correspondent for The Campsite! Check them out.

October: I was busy with work and sick all of October. Not so much fun. We did have amazing sunsets!

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November: I went to Portland, where I ate a lot of donuts and pickles and drank lots of beer.

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I also wrote about my favorite places to eat in Reno, Nevada and made a perfect weather visit  to Bishop, California for bouldering and beer.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

December: Well, December’s not over yet, but I’m looking forward for Greyson and my trip to Point Reyes. We’ll hopefully do wine and mead tasting, visit the Marin Museum of Cycling, and eat a lot of Point Reyes Blue Cheese.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

We already have more snow this year than we got all of last year. I’ve been taking advantage of it, and I plan to get a few more days in this year.

This year was another great one, and I’m looking forward to 2016. What are you hoping to do in the next year? What were your favorite parts of 2015?

 

Bouldering in the Happy Boulders – Bishop California

I needed to be down in Bishop, California for work last week, so Greyson and I decided to go down on Saturday and make a weekend of it. Not that we ever need an excuse to go to Bishop, but the American Alpine Club was hosting a stop of the Craggin Classic there during that weekend. We were excited to check it out.We took our time driving down on Saturday, stopping to check out the fall colors and expansive views whenever we felt the urge – like the Mono Lake lookout.

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Coming over Conway Summit (north of Mammoth Lakes) I spotted a huge bird flying parallel to our car. It landed in a tree a few hundred feet off of the road, and we were able to pull over on the side of the road and check it out. I had my binoculars, and Greyson had his longest lens so we were able to see it pretty clearly. We debated whether it was a juvenile golden or bald eagle, and finally settled on juvenile bald eagle (with help from instagram). He or she was quite content to hang out in the tree, so we watched it for quite awhile before moving on.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

We pulled up  in Mammoth Lakes for lunch, beer sampler and growler fill at Mammoth Brewing Company. I’ll have to do a full review of Mammoth one of these days, but they’ve recently started serving food. I had a brussels sprouts salad and some of Greyson’s black currant, arugula, goat cheese, gruyere, and balsamic flatbread pizza and both were to die for.

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We arrived in Bishop early enough to set up camp at Pleasant Valley Campground. Last time we stayed there, I got eaten up by biting ants and the campground was filled with RVs plastered in confederate flags whose occupants partied late into the night. We vowed not to come back, but the price ($14 a night) and location lured us in. We figured that the cold weather and off season (for everything except bouldering) would keep the ants and noisy neighbors at bay.

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Greyson re-stakes the tent in a windstorm, during a previous Pleasant Valley Campground experience.

One of the best reasons to camp at Pleasant Valley Campground is its proximity to the Happy Boulders.

Bishop, California is a bouldering mecca, and people come from all over the world to climb in the area. There are several well-known areas, and the Happy Boulders are arguably the most beginner-friendly. Not to say that there’s not a bunch of challenging routes for the hard core, but I was able to find lots of routes to play around on that fit my VB-V0 skill level.

The Mountain Project describes the Happy Boulders as:

“The Happy Boulders offer highly concentrated world-class volcanic bouldering with hundreds of worthy problems ranging from simple to impossible.

Long shadowed by the more well-known and publicized Buttermilks, more and more climbers are realizing the potential inside the Happy Boulders canyon. Most first-time visitors will be overwhelmed by the amount of projects they just gathered and will find themselves making time to return. Some say at the Happies your muscles will fail first, whereas in the Buttermilks its usually your skin that will be your reason for leaving. Regardless, it’s nice to have the options so close. Visitors experiencing Bishop in the colder months can find shelter and warmer temps here rather than the exposed and wind-swept Buttermilks.”

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The parking lot was fuller than I’ve ever seen it before, as the crisp November days make for awesome climbing. We were a little worried about the crowds as we hiked up the loose, kitty litter gravel to the boulders, but once we arrived we saw that most of the people there were crowded at a couple of classic routes.

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Photo by Greyson Howard

These routes are far above my pay grade, but it was fun to watch people climb them. The best was when the girl pictured above made the route look easy after two muscled, shirtless climber bros failed on it! I have no idea what routes or boulders I actually climbed (next time we’ll remember to bring the book!), but I had a blast. Everything I climbed was easy in the scheme of things, but I did challenge myself a few times. Greyson claims that I fist pumped and said “Yes!” when I got to the top of a particularly challenging route, but I’m not sure if I believe him.

One of the many cool things about Bishop is that it’s packed with truly awesome climbers to watch and learn from. I’ve said it before, but while mountain biking is number one in my heart and will likely stay there, the people I’ve met climbing and bouldering are the best. They are friendly, outgoing, encouraging and really just want you to send it!

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Another great thing about Bishop in general and specifically the Happy Boulders is the literally hundreds of routes within a short walking distance. When we got tired of working on a problem, or our feet and fingers needed a break, we just packed up and walked 10 – 100 yards until another boulder caught our eye. We also hiked to the top of the Happy Boulders area for the first time and caught an awesome view.

I’m pretty out of shape for climbing (especially finger toughness), so we called it a day during the afternoon and drove into town. We had to stop by Mountain Rambler for a beer and lunch. I had the Phainopepla Black IPA (phainopepla is a type of silky fly catcher, FYI), Greyson got the Sky Pilot Pale Ale, and we split a Picture Puzzler Session IPA. The chef was testing out a beer fondue recipe which we got to sample, along with some beer caramels. I hope they’re both on the menu soon.

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Bishop is a must-visit destination for climbers of any levels and I’d highly recommend the Happy Boulders as a place to start. They’re easy to get to, have something for every level of climbing, and a great scene. When you’re there, be sure to stick to the paths, stay out of the plants, and pack out your garbage. “Crush the problem, not the plants!”

Check back next week, and I’ll be writing about the other place we bouldered, the Buttermilks!

How to Get There: The Happy Boulders Trail is located on Chalk Bluff Road north of Bishop. There’s a gravel parking area with an interpretive sign and a trail marker directing you where to go.

Where to Stay: There’s camping at the nearby Pleasant Valley & the primitive Pit Campgrounds. Bishop also has a hostel, The Hostel California, that I hear is pretty cool, though I’ve never stayed there.

Where to Eat & Drink: Mountain Rambler BreweryTaqueria Las Palmas

Beer, Pickles and Donuts: Quick Portland Trip

I went up to visit my college friends for a Halloween cabin party in Washington last weekend. I ended up finding a super cheap flight to Portland, and my friend Michelle, who organized the weekend, happens to live there. I asked her if I could fly in a little early and catch a ride up. Voila, mini trip to Portland!

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I hung out in Portland on Thursday evening after my flight, during the day on Friday, a few hours Sunday night and during the day before my flight on Monday, so I was able to hit up quite a few places while I was there. Mostly, I focused on food and beer – specifically strong & bitter IPAs, pickles and donuts.

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My friends live in a super cute neighborhood (filled with gorgeous fall trees) that’s just a short bike ride/walk away from the awesome Mississippi and Woodlawn neighborhoods. When Michelle wasn’t showing me her favorite spots, I was able to borrow a bike and explore on my own.

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First up, the beer. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that the Portland beer scene is one of the best on the planet, especially if you like strong, hoppy IPAs. I was able to check out a few breweries while I was there and I really liked or loved most of what I tried. All descriptions from the breweries’ websites, unless otherwise obvious.

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Burnside Brewing Company

Sweet Heat, 4.9% ABV, 9 IBU. Apricot and Scotch bonnet pepper wheat beer. Spice level varies per batch. 2012 GABF gold medal winner. (4/5 – I don’t normally like fruity beers, but this was great! It reminded me of the spicy dried mangos from Trader Joe’s.)

Burnside IPA, 6.5% ABV, 85 IBU. Malt hop balance, Galena, Cascade, Meridian. Dry hop amarillo. (4.5/5)

Too Sticky to Roll India Red Ale, 6.2% ABV, 78 IBU. Quaffable yet chewy India Red Ale. (4/5)

StormBreaker Brewing

Opacus Stout, As dark and rich as the thick cloud formation it is named after, the light roast coffee flavors with subtle hints of chocolate really warms the soul. This creamy, full body oatmeal stout makes this the perfect beer to enjoy when sitting fireside with a blanket on our patio in those long winter months. (4/5)

Breakside Brewery – my friend Chris works at this brewery (check out the beer and bike blog he has with his girlfriend), and we tried a bunch of great ones that I forgot to record. Just believe me, this brewery is great. We definitely tried an IPA, a couple of sour-er beers and an apple ale.

Matcha Milk Stout, A full bodied stout brewed with milk sugar and matcha. Grassy and lightly bitter with a lingering sweetness. (4.75/5 This one came recommended by my friend. It’s not one I would have chosen on my own, but was probably my favorite beer I had this weekend.)

Ecliptic Brewing – the bartender at this bar was super friendly and gave me a ton of recommendations. Unfortunately, I didn’t visit until my last afternoon, so I didn’t get to check any of them out on this trip.

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Canopus IPA, The supergiant Canopus shines in the southern constellation Carina.  Brewed with a special blend of malts for a smooth body and a dry finish, Canopus IPA pays homage to the second brightest star in the night sky.  Sterling hops impart a crisp bitterness, and dry hopping with Simcoe and Centennial completes the ale with tropical and citrusy hop flavor. (3.75/5)

Trans Pacific Pilsner, This collaboration was brewed with The Garage Project Brewery in New Zealand. We met up with Jos during Oregon Brewers fest to craft this American/New Zealand Pilsner. This is a very hop forward pilsner with a dank hop aroma from Simcoe and NZ Nelson Sauvin hops. The malt flavors are creamy with a very crisp finish. (4.5/5)

Altair Fresh Hop Ale, Brewed to celebrate the annual Hop harvest! Altair a bright star in the Constellation Aquila the Eagle. Fresh Amarillo Hops were used making this beer. A light biscuit malt character is balanced with wonderful aromas of orange and slight tropical fruit. This beer was dry hopped in the fermenter. It’s a classic American pale ale! (4.75/5 The bartender found some of the last of this – I’m so glad I got to try it!)

Orbiter IPA, Orbiter IPA unites a constellation of “C” hops (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus) to create a formidable IPA. Bright and  citrusy hop flavors shine in a medium body with caramel malt character. Dry hopped to amplify the hop aroma and flavor. (4/5)

I also had some amazing lemon lavender cider at Bushwhacker Cider. Lavender is one of my favorite flavors, and it was delicious in the lemon cider. It would be perfect for a hot sunny day on a patio – or, you know, the rainy cold evening we were actually experiencing. Bushwhackers seemed like a pretty cool place, but it was almost totally empty. We took advantage of that by hogging the free shuffleboard table the whole night.

I managed to fit in a few things other than brewery hopping. I had phenomenal short rib kimchi quesadillas at the KOi Fusion food truck.

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I bought some adorable book-related limited edition prints and hipster coloring books at Reading Frenzy. I checked out the ReBuilding Center – I wanted to bring home a souvenir, but couldn’t fit an antique light fixture into my carry on.

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I had three pickle plates (homemade and at Burnside & StormBreaker) and fried pickles (at Breakside).

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And most importantly, I finally tried a Voodoo Doughnut, and Old Dirty Bastard is the way to go. I also tried a couple of donuts at Blue Star Donut. I loved the blueberry bourbon basil.

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Finally, there was this creepy Doll Asylum for Halloween. I did not go in.

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I had an awesome time in Portland, and I can’t wait to go back and visit more breweries. Maybe I’ll even get a hike in!

 

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!

 

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

Try This Beer: Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company

I’m doing really well on the beer drinking portion of my Summer Bucket List! During Labor Day weekend, I was able to check out a new to me brewery/tasting room in Truckee – Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company.

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Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company has a restaurant & brew pub a few miles away in Tahoe City, but they brew their beer and offer tastings, bottles, and growler filling in a slightly industrial area of Truckee (near Full Belly Deli!). I’d actually tried Tahoe Brewing Company beer at their restaurant a couple of times several years ago, but I was not impressed. Katie and I went once right after it opened and the food, service and beer all left something to be desired. I figured it was probably just due to being so new, and gave it another try 6 months later or so. The food and service were great, but I still didn’t like the beer!

After that, I just gave up. I recommended the restaurant with the caveat that I wasn’t a huge fan of their beer. Flash forward to now. Greyson has been insisting that I give the brewery another shot, and that we should try the taproom. On Sunday, I finally agreed and we drove over there in the afternoon. It’s not in the most scenic location, but the interior is nice, and we easily got seats at the bar.

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Photo from here.

Greyson and I almost ordered just two pints (one each of two types of IPA), but the bartender told us we could get a sampler of 8 beers. We decided to try that, and I’m so glad that we did! Now I am an IPA girl, through and through. Though I do enjoy pale ales, lagers, pilsners, stouts, porters, etc., nearly all of my favorite beers are IPA, usually on the hoppier side. I’ve never gotten into sour beers, saisons, Belgians – those varieties that have been trendy in the last couple of years. Tahoe Mountain Brewing has a lot of saisons, barrel aged sours – things I wouldn’t normally even try.

We decided to be more adventurous this time, and not just try the eight closest beers to an IPA. And you know what – my favorite beer was a multi-grain saison – Provisions! Other than one special IPA (Hop Dragon), the IPAs and pale ales weren’t my favorite. I think that was my mistake before – I had only tried the IPAs and pale ales that are normally my favorite, but Tahoe Mountain Company’s best beers are the lighter, more sour beers. Here were my favorites (all descriptions and pictures from their website):

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Provisions Saison: “A full-bodied, yet sessionable rustic multi-grain Farmhouse Ale.”

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Hop Dragon IPA: “Fear stalks the land as this big, bold West Coast style double IPA brings a monstrosity of aromatic hops.”

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Hot Pants Berliner Weisse: “100% Lactobacillus fermented wheat beer.”