Resort Report: Diamond Peak, Incline Village, NV

Diamond Peak // tahoefabulous.com

After nine seasons of snowboarding in and around the Tahoe-Truckee area, I’ve gotten to ride at quite a few resorts. I especially love checking out the smaller, quirkier local resorts like Diamond Peak, located above the east shore of Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, Nevada.

Diamond Peak Facts:

  • Diamond Peak is a community owned resort – it’s owned and operated by the Incline Village General Improvement District, so it tends to be one of the more affordable resorts in the Tahoe area.
  • It tops out at 8,540 feet, which isn’t one of the tallest peaks in the area, but it has a vertical drop of 1,840 feet – the 4th highest in the Tahoe Basin.
  • The longest run at Diamond Peak is 2.1 miles, and the resort has 655 skiable acres.
  • Diamond Peak has been in operation since 1966 (originally as Ski Incline) – more than 50 years!
Diamond Peak Ski Resort // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map from Diamond Peak.

Pros:

  • The view of Lake Tahoe from the top of Diamond Peak is incredible. While there are other ski resorts that also have lake views, like Heavenly or Alpine Meadows, I think that Diamond Peak might be my absolute favorite.
  • There are some really fun tree glades that hold snow well. And, since the mountain tends to be more family oriented, the more difficult terrain doesn’t get tracked out super quickly.
  • The mountain has a small town, down home feel! It’s not corporate, and you can tell that the people who work there care about their customers.
  • Food and drinks are cheaper here than most other resorts, especially the large ones owned by Vail or KSL.
  • The resort is very family friendly, and beginner oriented if you or people you ski or ride with are just starting out.
  • If you’re under 6 or over 80, you ski or ride for free!

Cons:

  • Since it’s a smaller resort, it doesn’t have the variety of terrain that larger resorts have.
  • Most of the lifts are older and aren’t detachable style. One even has a  mini magic carpet for onboarding, which can make things challenging for snowboarders and newer skiers.
  • For snowboarders, there are quite a few flat-ish and narrow cat tracks that you need to use to get around the mountain.
  • There is less advanced terrain than other mountains.
  • It’s not a party mountain, if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s much more local and family oriented.

Ticket/Pass Prices:

  • Adult Season Pass: $479 with no blackout days! There are deals for children, youth, seniors, and Incline Village residents. You also get quite a few free days at partner resorts all over the Western US.
  • Adult Value Lift Ticket: $89 (Opening day – December 21, midweek January 7 – March 17, March 17 – Closing day)
  • Adult Weekend Lift Ticket: $99 (Non-holiday weekends January 12 – March 17)
  • Adult Peak Lift Ticket: $109 (December 22 – January 6, Martin Luther King Jr Weekend, Presidents Day Weekend)
  • Beginner Lift Access: $49 – $69
  • There are also discounts for children, youth, and seniors

Diamond Peak // tahoefabulous.com

Things to do in Nevada City

Nevada City // tahoefabulous.com

Nevada City, a historic gold mining town just off Highway 49, is one of my favorite close destinations when I need a change of pace. It’s only about an hour from Truckee and, but it’s at ~2,400 feet elevation, so it’s cooler than the valley in the summer and warmer than the mountains in the winter. There are a ton of things to do in Nevada City year round and activities for everyone, indoors and outside.

Hoot Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Mountain biking the Hoot Trail in Nevada City. Photo by Greyson Howard.

Nevada City has a strong and growing mountain bike scene, with awesome trail building and improvement done by BONC. My favorite trail in the area is Hoot (read my trail report here) and I also like Scott’s Flat Trail.

For non mountain bikers, there’s tons of great hiking in the area. I like Hirschman Trail, an easy, out and back trail that’s about 5 miles round trip. Another great trail is the Deer Creek Tribute Trail, an easy trail that’s about 3.6 miles one way, depending on the route taken. If you’re interested in the history of the area, this trail is a great choice as it honors Chinese and Nisean history of this area, with informational stations along the way.

Hoyt's Trail Nevada City // tahoefabulous.com
South Yuba River from Hoyt’s Trail.

If you’re looking for a trail along the river, Hoyt’s Trail in the South Yuba River State Park starts by the 49 Crossing area and travels 1.2 miles to a beach called Hoyt’s. Branching off from that trail are numerous steep and narrow trails that access the South Yuba River. If you’re visiting the South Yuba River in the summer, I have to recommend Gnarbuckling, a unique form of river travel that can only be done in the Yuba River.

Volunteer Day in Nevada City // tahoefabulous.com
A volunteer restoration day with Bear Yuba Land Trust.

The South Yuba River is one of the best rivers in California. In 1983, local activists formed the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) in order to protect it from dams. These activists were successful, and 39 miles of the South Yuba is permanently protected as one of California’s Wild & Scenic Rivers. The legacy of environmental activism lives on in Nevada City, and there are many local environmental non profits headquartered in town and in nearby Grass Valley. If you’re looking for a different way to spend time outside in this area, the environmental groups are often hosting volunteer events, ranging from litter pick ups to scotch broom removal to citizen science water monitoring. Check out volunteer opportunities at SYRCL, Bear Yuba Land Trust, and Sierra Streams Institute, just a few of my favorite organizations.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival // tahoefabulous.com
Wild & Scenic Film Festival 2019, photo from SYRCL.

Nevada City is affectionately and accurately known as the place “where hippies go to retire”, and, because of that, there are way more arts and cultural activities than you’d expect in a town of around 3,000 people. My favorite of these is the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, hosted by SYRCL each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in January.

“The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is the largest film festival of its kind, showcasing the best and brightest in environmental and adventure films. Our 5-day flagship festival is held annually in the historic small towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley, California. Featuring more than 150 films in 10+ venues, workshops, visiting filmmaker and activist talks, family-friendly programs, art exhibitions, parties, and more–you won’t want to miss this festival!”

Nevada City also hosts the Nevada City Film Festival, which features independent films and filmmakers, and also hosts movies, concerts and live theater at several venues around town. During the summer, there are Art Walks on the first Friday of June, July, and August. No matter when you visit, there will be something going on.

Nevada City Winery // tahoefabulous.com
Photo from Nevada City Winery

Nevada City also has excellent farm to table restaurants, wineries with locally grown grapes and awesome local breweries. For tasting, stop by the Nevada City Winery, Szabo Vineyards Tasting Room or the Ol’ Republic Brewery Tasting Room.

Nevada City Restaurants // tahoefabulous.com

If you’re looking for a place to eat, my favorites are Three Forks Brewery (the wood fired pizza is worth the wait and whatever the seasonal salad is), Roadhouse (biscuits and vegetarian gravy), Mi Pueblo Taqueria (chile relleno burrito) and Lefty’s Grill (another pizza recommendation, specifically the Napa pizza).

Nevada City is a great weekend getaway that I highly recommend!

Winter Essentials

Winter Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

Winter has finally arrived here in Truckee! We’ve gotten more than 2 feet on the mountains with another 5 feet in the forecast. Living in Tahoe is in general pretty awesome, especially the winter, especially when the snow is deep, fresh and fluffy. But when you live somewhere the winter can last from October until June, the weather can start to drag. There are a few things I’ve found that help make the winter more bearable.

In honor of the first real storm of the season, here are a few of my winter favorites.

Tahoe Daily Snow // tahoefabulous.com

Tahoe Daily Snow: This website, part of the Open Snow network, which “was created by a team of local weather forecasters who are life-long skiers and riders. During the winter, our forecasters write “Daily Snow” updates that will point you toward the best snow conditions. You can also use our mountain-specific forecasts, cams, and snow reports to find the best snow.” The best thing about the Tahoe Daily Snow is that it shares the long range forecast, and the author Bryan Allegretto explains some of the science behind forecasting for weather nerds and powder seekers alike.

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com

Outdoor Winter Hobby: If you’re going to live somewhere that gets a lot of winter, you can’t just look forward to summer. You’ve got to find something that you like doing outside. Obviously snowboarding and skiing are big ones (here’s a link to my favorite gear to get you started snowboarding and here’s a link to my friend Kristen’s tips for adult beginner skiers).

Donner Summit Canyon Snowshoe // tahoefabulous.com

If you’re not into either of those, there are a ton of other options. Consider snowshoeing, cross country skiing, backcountry ice skating, skijoring, or basically anything that will get you outside in the winter.

Welcome back to #westseattle

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A Good Insulated Mug & Something to Drink: A hot beverage helps me stay warm and happy on cold days. I’m a big fan of the Klean Kanteen wide insulated bottle when I want to be able to throw my bottle around and know it won’t leak and the Klean Kanteen insulated tumbler for easy drinking. My drink of choice is a dirty latte made with coconut milk, Trader Joe’s Chai Latte mix and an espresso blend from Verve Coffee Roasters.

A Workout Routine: Winter days are short, so it’s hard to get out and be active after work. I can’t wait until the weekend to get my endorphin fix, so I need to do something. I have a gym membership at a place with a good weight set up, so I generally focus on weight lifting during the winter. I learned weight lifting through playing sports though out high school, and I did some personal training a few years ago as a refresher so I’m pretty confident in my ability to lift safely on my own. In the past couple of years, I’ve followed/adapted Strong Curves, The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and PHUL. If you’re new to lifting, the Reddit XX Fitness community is awesome, supportive and informative. I’ve also loved taking spin and weight lifting classes in the past.

Winter Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

A Library Card: There’s only one thing I disagree with Leslie Knope about: libraries are amazing. Even in the small town I live in, our library system is awesome and has tons of books available. I read on my Kindle 99% of the time, and my library has lots of e-books available. For 2019, I’m trying to spend less time aimlessly scrolling the internet in bed at night, and e-books from the library have been really helpful in achieving this goal. A few recommendations for this year: The Power by Naomi Alderman, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and CIRCE by Madeline Miller.

Battery Packs: When the power goes out, it’s nice to have something that you can use to recharge devices. We have the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station that we mainly use for camping, but it’s come in handy during stormy weather. Smaller rechargeable power sources like this one are nice to have, and it’s great to have something like this AA battery power bank for when the power outage lasts for a few days.

#whiskey and #watercolor

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Indoor Hobbies: When the weather gets too bad, I need something to do inside or I go stir crazy. In addition to reading and working out, I’ve spent the last couple of winters practicing water colors, doing basic sewing, and I’ve recently gotten into bullet journaling.

Wood on wood on wood on wood. #misenplace #onionjam #woodpanel #ilovethe70s

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A Go To Comfort Meal: There are a few hearty meals that I find myself craving in the winter: Red Curry Chicken from Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Tiegan, Onion Jam from Lodge Cast Iron Nation, Lasagna Soup from A Farm Girl Dabbles, and Sag Paneer from Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker with homemade naan.

Winter Car Kit: Having a winter safety kit in my car makes me feel a lot less stressed out about driving in the snow. You can buy a pre-made emergency kit, but I always have at least tire chains (Be sure to practice putting them on some time when you’re not on the side of the road in a snow storm.), fingerless mittens that I don’t care about ruining, a foldable shovel, and a piece of flattened out cardboard (for kneeling on). For non emergency car accessories, I love my mitt windshield scraper and lock de-icer. Note: store your lock de-icer outside of your car.

Manini'owali Beach Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

Plans for a Warm Weather Vacation: They say that planning a vacation is almost as satisfying as actually taking one, and dreaming about (and doing comprehensive spreadsheets for) a trip to a warm destination has gotten me through many long Tahoe winters. Some of my favorite trips include the Big Island, Hawaii, Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and Mendocino, California.

Raja Ampat // tahoefabulous.com

Currently, Greyson and I are trying to decide between the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and the southern end of Baja, Mexico for a fall trip. Any recommendations?

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!

Mountain Biking Culvert & Confluence in Auburn, CA

This weekend, Greyson and I checked out a couple of awesome, new to us mountain bike trails in the Auburn, California area. We’ve spent a fair amount of time on the Foresthill Divide Loop trail, which is a fairly easy cross country oriented trail, but had yet to ride any other trails in the area. Internet research led us to a loop featuring Culvert and Confluence trails, which looked awesome from the videos we’d seen (like this one by BKXC).

There are a few different ways you can ride these trails, including shuttling or starting at the top, but we decided to get the climb out of the way first. To access this trailhead, which is in the Auburn State Recreation Area, a little north east of the city of Auburn, you can put “Lake Clementine Trail Auburn” into Google Maps and follow the directions – here’s a link. We were there on a beautiful, sunny Sunday and we ended up having to park fairly far up on Old Foresthill Rd. Parking is $10 in the Auburn SRA, but if you have a California State Parks Pass, that covers your parking.

Clementine Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Foresthill Bridge from the trail.

We started by heading up Clementine Trail which is south east of the bathrooms/payment kiosk just across the little bridge. Clementine starts as a wide double track that parallels the American River that narrows down into single track. At about 0.2 miles in, there’s a Y in the trail, with the fork to the right heading up steeply. Don’t take it, stay left! (Greyson and I did – oops.) During the singletrack section, Clementine is pretty mellow, thought there are a few small rocky sections and optional drops and there’s some exposure on the narrow parts. The trail turns back into double track, and you’ll get to ride under the famous Foresthill Bridge, the highest bridge in California. After the bridge, the trail starts climbing steadily upward, gaining ~340 feet in about 1.1 miles.

Mountain Biking Auburn // tahoefabulous.com
Clementine Reservoir from the Clementine Rd. road climb.

Clementine Trail peters out on Clementine Road, which we continued climbing for another 540 feet of climbing. After about 1.4 miles on Clementine Road, there’s a gated trailhead to the right. Fuel Break Trail heads uphill on the right. Fuel Break is between a fire road and double track, and it’s the last bit of climbing on this route. The trail is about 0.7 miles and ~140 feet of climbing. It tops out at a gorgeous meadow, which is a perfect spot to stop for a snack, then heads downhill for about 0.1 mile.

Culvert Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Here we broke off from Fuel Break onto Culvert Trail on the left. Culvert is a fun flow trail, that drops through open oak woodlands. The trail is on the easier side of intermediate, with small berms and optional drops and jumps and a few small rock gardens. You’ll ride through a large culvert under Foresthill Road (hence the name), where you should probably take your sunglasses off, if you want to be able to see! Culvert Trail ends at Old Foresthill Rd. after about 1.2 miles at the sign for Mammoth Bar.

Confluence Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Head straight down the paved road, looking right for the Confluence Trail sign, which is at about 0.2 miles after the intersection. The Confluence Trail is definitely the most technical part of this loop but is completely rideable by a confident intermediate rider. There are some rocky sections and narrow parts with significant exposure – but everything is walkable if necessary. Early on, there was a short, slid out section that we needed to get off and walk across. The steep drop off into the American River Canyon is a little nerve wracking, but the incredible river views are the highlight of the route. Confluence is about 1.8 miles and ends back at the trailhead where we started. Including riding from where we were parked and a short, steep detour, this route was about 8.25 miles and 1,300 feet of climbing, which we did in two hours including breaks.

Culvert and Confluence Trails // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

I had a great time on the trails in this area, and I can’t wait to head back for more exploring. This area is pretty popular, not only with mountain bikers, but also with hikers and dog walkers, so be aware of your surroundings and practice good trail etiquette. One of the best things about riding in the Auburn area are the opportunities for awesome post ride beers. This time, we hit up Knee Deep Brewing Co., but Moonraker Brewing is another favorite.

Trail Stats
Location: American River Confluence, Auburn, CA
Mileage: ~7.25 miles
Elevation: ~1,100 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate
Nisenan Land

Gift Guide for Women Mountain Bikers

Mountain Bike Gift Guide // tahoefabulous.com

If you’re looking for something to give the lady mountain biker in your life, I have a few recommendations (Though most of these gifts are unisex, to be fair). These are all things I own and use or would be excited to get as a gift, and I’ve the prices range from cheap stocking stuffers to pricey dream gifts, so there’s something for every budget.

Stocking Stuffers for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com

Stocking Stuffers
Back up tubes: even if she’s got a tubeless set up, back up tubes are always important, and be sure to get the right size – 29er or 27.5.
Tubeless Repair Kit: speaking of flat tires, a tubeless repair kit will eventually come in handy. I have the Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tackle Kit ($20).
Portable Tire Pump: Yet another in the flat tire series, a portable pump is critical. There are frame mounted pumps like the Master Blaster by Topeak ($22) or a mini pump like this Planet Bike one ($10) to go in a pack.
Good Socks: Socks can be a great gift, especially with the rate most bikers wear theirs out. SmartWool is my favorite brand of cycling socks, and they come in a variety of thicknesses (Ultra Light to heavy) and height (micro to tall) and patterns ($10 – $20).
Gloves: I like to have at least three pairs of gloves, both so I can be sure to find at least one matching pair and so they get disgusting more slowly. I’m still a big fan of the Giro LA DND ($25) and Giro Xena ($20 – $35).
Anti Chafing Stuff: All bikers know the benefit of chamois cream, but did you know that they make Chamois Butt’r Her’ ($14)? I honestly don’t know how it’s different, and I’ve used regular chamois cream without my lady parts falling off. What’s important is some kind of chafing protection. I also like to have a stick of Body Glide to use to prevent sports bra chafing, as the stick is less slimy than chamois cream.
Grips: It’s always nice to have an extra set of grips on hand, since they wear out fairly often. I’m a recent convert to foam grips, specifically Odi F-1 Float grips , but if foam isn’t her thing, I’m a long time user of Ergon GA2 grips ($20)

Mid Range Gifts for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com
Mid-Range
Phone Case: I take my phone with me for safety (and selfies) and I like having a heavy duty phone case to protect my phone during crashes or precipitation. I’ve had the Lifeproof Nuud case on my last couple of phones and have been super happy with it. I like that the screen is bare, and my phone has survived several large drops and heavy precipitation situations. ($99)
Sunglasses: I generally like my sunglasses super dark, but I’m coming around to rose lenses for riding in filtered forest light. I have the Suncloud Cookie , but lots of the Suncloud glasses come with a rose lens ($50).
Goggles: For dusty or wet days, I break out my Smith Squad MTB goggles ($48). I actually have two pairs, one with clear lenses and a pair with darker lenses so I don’t even have to bother switching lenses (#lazy). These are the most comfortable goggles I’ve ever had – I’ve climbed in them on warm days and they haven’t been too uncomfortable. They do fog up a little on really wet days, but I think some fogging is unavoidable in any goggles.
Tires: Another product we go through quickly is tires, and nice mountain mtb tires are pricey! Classic tire choices include Maxxis Minion DHR and DHF ($80+). For a cheaper but still good option, I am switching to the Specialized Butcher ($70) and Purgatory ($60).
Hydration Pack: I have written several times about my love for the CamelBak Solstice ($100), and I still highly recommend it for a do-it-all hydration pack. This year, though, I’m asking for a smaller pack to wear on shorter rides, specifically the Dakine Hot Laps 2L Hip Pack ($40). This pack comes highly recommended for its ability to stay put and to hold a surprising amount of gear.

Splurge Gifts for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com
Splurges
Helmet: The most important piece of mountain bike gear is your helmet, and having a well fitting, comfortable one can literally mean the difference between life and death. I’m a huge fan of the Bell Super R series series, which have a detachable chin bar and are light, well ventilated, and comfortable to wear ($160-$230). While you should always replace your helmet after a serious crash, the protection wears down on its own after years of use. My awesome Giro Feather is 5+ years old at this point, and I’m looking to replace it. While Giro doesn’t make the Feather anymore, the Giro Cartelle ($100) and the Giro Montara ($150) are equivalent designs.
Dropper Post: One of the best value improvements you can make to your bike is adding a dropper post, so it would be an amazing gift to receive! I already have a 150 mm dropper, but I’m looking to get a longer one the 175 mm version of the KS LEV that I have and am very happy with performance wise. Be sure that whatever dropper post you’re gifting will fit her bike!
Wind Shell: Most of the rides in the Tahoe area seem to be a long, sweaty climb to the top, then a rowdy and cold ride to the bottom. Because of this, a packable windproof shell is essential. I love my Patagonia Houdini jacket, which packs into its own chest pocket and easily fits in a hydration pack. It’s also great for hiking and trail running.
Floor Pump: Once you’ve got a tubeless tire set up, you need something with more power than your typical floor pump. I have and use the Bontrager Flash, and it’s worth the steep price tag ($120).
Wrist GPS: Since I love data and tracking, some kind of GPS tracker is essential to me. I have a big, bulky multi-sport capable Garmin Forerunner 910 (which has been great), but if I was buying a new one today, I’d get the Garmin Forerunner 235 ($235), which has a built in heart rate monitor and smart watch features in addition to its workout tracking capabilities.
Bike Skills Clinic: The number one thing that I want this year is to attend a women’s mountain bike skills clinic. I’ve heard amazing things about Liv’s Ladies Allride Clinic in Bend, which is what I’m leaning towards, but there are others all over the country, from major mountain bike destinations to small clinics on your local trails. Some other women-only clinics and camps that come highly recommended are VIDA MTB, Trek Dirt Series, and Roam Retreats.

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!

Hiking in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz, Ca

Greyson and I went down to Santa Cruz last weekend to hang out with our niece and my sister in law and brother in law. Usually, we bring mountain bikes when we head to Santa Cruz, but Greyson was between bikes, so we had a bike free road trip. This opened us up to do some activities we normally skip in favor of bike rides, like hiking. We decided to check out a park I’d never been to before – Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park // tahoefabulous.com

“Imagine a time when the whole peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose shall become one great city; then picture, at its very doorstep, this magnificent domain of redwood forests and running streams, the breathing place of millions of cramped and crowded denizens of the city.”
– Carrie Stevens Walter, Sempervirens Club, 1901

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest state park, and contains the largest continuous stand of redwoods south of San Francisco. The trees are huge and old – some are more than 300 feet tall and over 1,000 years old. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore, and the Skyline to the Sea trail meanders through Big Basin on its way to Waddell Beach. There are also lots of campsites in the park, but I imagine they book up quickly due to the park’s proximity to Santa Cruz and the Bay Area. Big Basin is about 40 minutes from Santa Cruz – it’s only 20 ish miles, but the road is windy and narrow.

When we got to Big Basin, we checked in with the visitor’s center to ask for hiking suggestions. We wanted a pretty easy hike, and the ranger suggested the hike out to Sempervirens Falls, which is about 3.5 miles round trip and has the option to tack on additional miles if we wanted to. We ended up taking Sequoia Trail to Sempervirens Falls, continuing on Sequoia Trail to Skyline to the Sea Trail, and then following Skyline to the Sea Trail back to the visitor’s center, which was 5 miles and almost 800 feet of climbing.

Big Basin Trail Map // tahoefabulous.com

Big Basin Elevation Profile // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

The Sequoia Trail to Sempervirens Falls is pretty easy. It doesn’t have much elevation gain, probably around 150 feet in ~1.7 miles. The trails in Big Basin are very well marked – every intersection has a sign. This section of our route had the most impressive redwoods, and there were a few that were hollowed out that we climbed inside. Sempervirens Falls is not a huge waterfall, and it was running pretty low in October. I imagine it’s more impressive in the winter and spring, but I’m glad we checked it out.

Sempervirens Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Almost directly after Sempervirens Falls is the hardest part of the trail. We climbed basically straight up a steep, sandstone slab. We gained 200 feet in ⅓ of a mile! It was a cool rock outcropping, and we found some grinding holes in the area. This part of the park is really interesting. The trees are a mix of redwoods and oaks, and the oaks seemed like they were attacking us with acorns! We didn’t get hit at all, but there were a couple of close calls with falling acorns. I love hiking in the trees, and this trail is great for that, though not really a route for sweeping views. The redwoods are just too tall and thick.

As we got closer to the visitors center, the trail started to get more crowded. For such a popular park, most of the route was pretty deserted. We saw more people when we got close to parking areas and trailheads, but it wasn’t overly crowded, even on a sunny Saturday. The hike ended up taking us about an hour and 45 minutes, including photography time at the waterfall. If you’re looking for a moderately easy hike in the Santa Cruz area that gets you in the redwoods, I’d highly recommend this route. See my Strava route here.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park // tahoefabulous.com

After our hike, I was starving. I wasn’t in the mood for state park cafeteria food, so we headed 15 minutes down the road to the small town of Boulder Creek. I voted for pizza (like always), and we ended up at Boulder Creek Pizza & Pub. It wasn’t anything incredible, but the pizza was pretty good and they had a decent local beer selection. Which is exactly what I want after a hike.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a really neat wilderness park in a heavily populated area. If you’re in the Santa Cruz area, I’d highly recommend checking it out. I’m excited to get back and do some more exploring in that area! If you want other recommendations for things to do in Santa Cruz – check out my blog post here.

Hiking Gear Recommendations
Here are a few of my favorite pieces of gear for hiking!
Shoes: I like light weight, low profile trail runners like Salomon XA Elevate.
GPS Watch: I am a data and numbers nerd, so I like to track my hikes, bikes, and runs with the Garmin Forerunner.
Hydration Pack: My CamelBak Solstice is technically a mountain bike pack, but it does double duty and works great as a hiking pack as well. This version is from 2016 and is a great deal at $75!

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!

Truckee Brewing Company

There’s a new brewery in Truckee – Truckee Brewing Company. It’s located a little off the beaten path – I first noticed it because it’s across the street from my gym. Greyson and I got a chance to check it out a couple of weeks ago, and I really liked it.Truckee Brewing Company // tahoefabulous.comLike many breweries these days, it’s pretty industrial inside. You can see the brewery equipment and watch the brewers in action. The seating area is pretty small, but we were able to find seats at the bar. The guy tending bar when we went was super knowledgeable and answered all of our questions about the beer, which is always nice.  I did an all IPA tasting flight – I tried their West Coast IPA (4/5 stars), Brut IPA (4.5/5), East Coast IPA (3.5/5), and the Truckee Brewing Session (4.25/5). I genuinely enjoyed all of the beers that I tried!

Truckee Brewing Company doesn’t have a full kitchen, but they serve some food from the nearby Sierra Bakehouse. We split a stromboli and a stuffed pretzel, and they were both delicious. All in all, I really enjoyed Truckee Brewing Company, and I’m looking forward to going back in the future.

Hood River: Post Canyon Mountain Biking & Beer

The second to last stop on the #toasterroadtrip was Hood River, Oregon. I was born (and lived until I was five) just down the Columbia River from there in The Dalles, but a lot has changed since 1989! The drive along the Columbia was incredibly windy, and the toaster + rocket box was blown all over the place. We finally arrived, hot and windblown, and headed straight for Double Mountain Brewery. Overall, this brewery had great beer and delicious food – I would highly recommend!

Here’s what I tried (descriptions by Double Mountain Brewery):

The Vaporizer Pale Ale (4/5): Challenger hops, Pilsner malt, and our house yeast strain are the headliners in this easy pale. The result is agile, alluringly herbal, and supremely refreshing. The dry hop really makes this one sing.

Hop Lava IPA (3.75/5): Our flagship IPA glows with substantial amounts of Cascade and Centennial hops grown right here in the Northwest. A clean, resinous citrus aroma and a sturdy grain bill create a splendid symmetry in the Northwest IPA tradition.

Hop Lion IPA (4.75/5): Tropic resin, tangerine, evergreen, and the earthy scent of Northwest petrichor leap from the nose of this proud IPA. Tangelo and fresh bread stalk closely behind, finishing with orange and dank pine.

Pilsner (4.25/5): This is Matt’s own “Bohemian Rhapsody”, fermented with a Czech Pilsner yeast and lagered for two months. The distinct fresh melon apple character comes from the courtship between Sterling hops and yeast, dancing over a malt profile of fresh baked bread. Crisp, light, and delicious. Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

Mountain Biking Post Canyon
We knew that we wanted to ride in Post Canyon, so Greyson found the perfect location to camp – Kingsley Reservoir. This is a pretty primitive campground – just pit toilets and no services, but it’s also cheap and you can ride from your campsite to a pretty awesome trail network. Note: some of the trails around Kingsley Reservoir are closed until Spring 2019 due to a construction project, so be sure to do research before you ride.

We started with a pretty tough fire road climb – it was pretty steep and hot and so washed out in sections that we had to push up. Trailforks calls it Kingsley to 170 Dirt Surfer. We then rode down Dirt Surfer for about 1.2 miles until we decided to turn around. I loved Dirt Surfer! It was a fun, flowy trail with just enough rocky drops to keep things interesting. I could have ridden down it forever, but we realized that we’d eventually have to climb back up, hence the early turnaround. We rode back up Dirt Surfer for about 0.6 miles when we came across a fire road that seemed like it would take us back to camp. That turned out to be the right decision and we were able to cut across near Green Point Dam and take a flat, easy route back to the car.

I really enjoyed the ride we did in Hood River, and I wished we had more time to spend in that area. After that, we got on the road to Bend for a quick overnight at Smith Rock State Park. We caught an amazing sunset there, and after that we were off to Truckee and the #toasterroadtrip was over!

Smith Rock State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Flashback Friday: Getting SCUBA Certified

Back in the fall of 2015, I got certified for SCUBA diving. I wrote this shortly after, but never got around to publishing it. Hope you enjoy!

Getting SCUBA Certified // tahoefabulous.com

I’ve loved the water since before I could walk. My mom likes to tell stories about how, if there was a body of water around, I was in it (despite any signs or instructions to the contrary). Most of our family vacations growing up involved a lake, river or ocean for swimming, fishing, tide pooling, exploring, kayaking and snorkeling. On a couple of these snorkel outings there were a few people SCUBA diving off the boat, but we stuck with snorkeling. My mom and I occasionally talked about getting SCUBA certified “someday,” but we never did. Fast forward a few years, and I started dating 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.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Fall 2015 came along and “someday” came sooner 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. Greyson and I spent a few afternoons in Donner Lake practicing in snorkel gear to prepare.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

I finished my classroom sessions, pool dives and open water dives in September, and I’m now officially a certified open water SCUBA diver! For those of you who are interested in SCUBA diving but haven’t taken the plunge (no pun intended), I thought I’d write a little about what it was like to get SCUBA certified. Going into it, I was super nervous. I was worried about the classroom part, being able to pass all the skills in the pool, not being able to handle the open water portion, etc. It turns out that all my stressing was for nothing, and I found SCUBA certification to be a breeze.

The first step of getting SCUBA certified is the classroom portion. I did my certification through Sierra Diving Center based in Reno, Nevada, which is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certified center. PADI is the main diving certification worldwide, and many diving resorts and destinations will only let you dive if you have a PADI certification.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

When I signed up for my diving class, I was given a packet of materials that included a DVD, a workbook and a special diving calculator. I spent a couple of hours watching the DVD while going through the workbook and finishing all of the practice problems. The problems are simple math problems to help you understand important diving safety concepts like pressure groups, volume, water pressure, dissolved gases in your body, etc. I thought the concepts were fairly straightforward, but there were definitely some in my class who struggled. Your mileage may vary.

The classroom session took place over a few hours on a Friday evening and Saturday morning. We covered the topics that were in the workbook, like equipment, safety and dangerous situations that can arise while diving, air chemistry, volume and pressure, what to do in case of emergency, and other diving related topics. We did practice problems using our diving calculators and had the chance to ask lots of questions. We also practiced setting up our SCUBA gear – tank, buoyancy control device (BCD), regulator, and computer. The SCUBA instructors I had were great – really funny, responsive to questions, thorough and knowledgeable.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

After we passed all of the required quizzes and tests and asked our final questions, we headed to the pool for our confined dives. The dives in the pool were where we were tested on our physical fitness and learned and practiced the skills we’d have to complete in our open water dives in order to pass. The physical fitness tests were pretty easy for me – we had to swim 300 meters using our mask and snorkel and float/tread water for five minutes.

We got out of the water, and now it was time for the hard part – getting into our SCUBA gear and getting properly weighted. It was in the high 80s in Reno that day, so I didn’t bother with a wetsuit, figuring that I’d be fine in a heated pool in just a rash guard and two piece, so I was weighted accordingly. We started off standing the shallow end, before I knew it, it was time to take my first breath underwater. It was definitely a weird feeling, but really cool! Our instructor had us practice breathing through the regulator while standing and without our masks, to prove that we could. Once everyone was satisfied that it was, in fact, possible to breathe underwater, we sunk slowly under the surface.

There is lots of sitting around and waiting during the confined and open water dives, and I eventually got pretty cold and added a shorty wetsuit. One of the instructors threw a five pound weight in one side. This would turn out to be both not enough weight and made me way uneven underwater.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

 

At this point, we graduated from the shallow end and swam to the deep end of the pool. It was so cool to float slowly down to the bottom; I was able to clear my ears quite easily and didn’t have too much problem with the pressure. I did have a problem floating gracefully to the bottom, though! I didn’t have enough weight on my belt, and one of the instructors had to pull me down. Once I was actually on the bottom, the extra water pressure squeezed the air and I was able to somewhat settle on the bottom.

Even though we were all in a small pool, we followed SCUBA best practices and stuck close to our buddy. I totally lucked out with my buddy, Tessa. She was great – and super strong which is nice when you’re getting in and out of the heavy SCUBA gear. We learned how to put our masks back on while under water, how to clear water out of our masks, how to share air with a buddy and other important skills. We did more sitting around while other people practiced their skills, though I was stuck in more of a bumping around, semi-kneeling position, listing to my left. This movement + short wetsuit + rough pool bottom meant my knees were super scraped up by the end of the day. This was really my only complaint about the whole class though.

I got smarter, and wore my ankle-length triathlon wetsuit for day two in the pool. The second day involved practicing and perfecting more complicated skills, like taking off your BCD and tank and putting them back on, slowly kicking to the surface with no air (but not holding your breath!), buoyancy control, and sharing air with your buddy while dragging them to the surface. I had the hardest time with buoyancy control! It’s apparently a tough skill to learn, and you can take an entire separate class just to practice. We also went on some “exploratory dives” which was mostly just trying to not accidentally pop to the surface or get kicked in the face while we swam around a fairly small pool. After two days in the pool, I was feeling ready for our open water dives, which happened the next week.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

One thing that was super awesome about Sierra Diving Center’s certification class is that we got to do our open water dives in Lake Tahoe! Lake Tahoe is at 6,224 feet, so we got to do our first dive at high altitude. This added some complications to our calculations and set some stricter limits on how deep we could go, but it was a fun experience for our first dives.

The open water portion consisted of four dives across two days – three where we practiced our skills and a fourth “exploration dive.” We dove at Sand Harbor State Park in Nevada. While I’d been to Sand Harbor a few times for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, I’d never actually swam there before so I was excited about the opportunity. Plus the water is crystal clear and littered with interesting boulders and rock features.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

We started out learning how to navigate with our compasses in the parking lot – I’m sure the other people at the park thought we were hilarious. We hauled our gear to the water (much further than usual due to the drought!), and before I knew it, my dive buddy and I were following an anchor line under water. We bottomed out at about 12 feet, and started demonstrating the skills we’d learned and practiced in the pool. I won’t list off everything we did, but, if you’re interested in diving, you can check out a generic list of open water skills here.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Tessa and I passed everything pretty much on our first try – my one exception was underwater compass navigation. I kicked too much and ended up on the surface on my first try. I remembered to watch my depth on my second try and it was fine. So there was more sitting around on the bottom, but it was definitely more interesting than the pool. We saw a ton of crawdads, which I knew lived in Lake Tahoe, but I’d never actually seen. After the final skills dive and a lunch break, it was time for our final exploration dive.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

 

Our class had started out with both men and women, but, by the time of our final dive, all the men had dropped out and our class was all women (and one 13 year old girl!). We came up with a dive plan (where we’d go, how deep we’d get, when we’d turn around, etc.) and headed out. While being underwater and practicing skills had been cool, nothing prepared me for how awesome actually diving was! Our small group got deeper than we’d been before, swam around and over incredible underwater rock formations, and swam through a school of thousands of minnows.

When we popped up at our designated meeting spot, we all had huge grins on our faces. The instructors told us, “Congratulations! You are all certified SCUBA divers.” We had a quick debrief session and the instructors signed our diving logs, and that was it. We were done!

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Getting SCUBA certified with Sierra Diving Center was a great experience, and I’d highly recommend them for anyone looking to complete a SCUBA certification. I haven’t been back in the water in quite awhile, but Greyson and I are hoping to do some diving this year.