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.

Technical Difficulties

Hi all! I am currently in the process of moving Tahoe Fabulous to a self hosted site. I’ve had an issue moving my archive over, but I will hopefully have that problem solved soon. (Anyone have any advice?)

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Apologies, and I hope you’re out having a ton of fun adventures!

Sausalito Afternoon

I was in San Francisco for work a couple of weeks ago for a conference that ended early Friday afternoon. I had hours to kill before my flight, so I headed over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.

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I grabbed a delicious iced coffee from Cibo of Sausalito and headed down to walk around the marina. I didn’t try any of their food, but what I saw other people eating looked amazing.

It was a gorgeous Friday afternoon, and the sidewalks in the main part of downtown were extremely crowded. I started getting hungry, but there was a line out the door for pretty much every restaurant downtown. I headed back towards the marina, where I had seen some less crowded places. I ended up getting a burrito at Salsalito Taco Shop. Honestly, the burrito wasn’t the best, and I’d definitely try the tacos if I ever came back. Great homemade salsa though!

Sausalito Afternoon // tahoefabulous.com

Finally, I grabbed a cold Ninkasi Tricerahops IPA at Smitty’s Bar, a true dive in the best ways, a block or so off of the main street. Smitty’s wasn’t anything like the other places I visited in Sausalito, but I loved the local feel!

Sausalito Afternoon // tahoefabulous.com

Sausalito makes a great day trip from San Francisco, and there’s definitely enough to do to spend a few days exploring. I can’t wait to come back and spend more time!

Gardiner, Montana

We started the next leg of our journey (spoiler! my favorite part) in Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is a fun little town that seems to be mainly populated by river rats and tourists heading in to Yellowstone. The Gardiner entrance is Yellowstone’s only year round entrance, and the Yellowstone River flows right through town.

Gardiner describes itself as

“…located in the heart of Yellowstone’s Northern Range, at the junction of the Gardner and Yellowstone Rivers. We are surrounded by the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to the east, the Gallatin Wilderness to the north and west, and the world’s first and most famous national park, Yellowstone National Park, to the south. This area is home to the most diverse herds of large wildlife species in the lower 48 states including bison, bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and deer.”

Gardiner, Montana // tahoefabulous.com
Gardiner, Montana on the banks of the Yellowstone River.

The town obviously caters to the visitors who stop on their way to the National Park and to recreate on the Yellowstone River, but the town doesn’t feel overly “touristy”. Definitely get dinner on the huge deck at Iron Horse Bar & Grille. I drank a delicious Montana beer (that I immediately forgot the name of!) while watching the sunset over the mountains and the river flow by.

Gardiner, MT // tahoefabulous.com

There are a ton of things to do in Gardiner! While we mostly used it as a base to head into Yellowstone National Park, there are plenty of activities centered in or around the town. You can raft the Yellowstone River – we saw plenty of individuals and guided groupsprime fly fishinghorseback tours, and much more!

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

As far as Yellowstone National Park goes, you get to enter through the Roosevelt Arch, dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt. Gardiner is only a couple of miles from the Boiling River, a great spot for swimming where a hot spring pours into the Gardiner River. This is also a great spot for wildlife. We saw bighorn sheep on the hillside almost as soon as we drove in to the Park! You’re also only about five miles from Mammoth Hot Springs, and can venture further into Yellowstone from there.

Yellowstone National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Those blurry brown dots are bighorn sheep.

I would highly recommend the place we stayed in Gardiner – the Riverside Cottages. Our set up was a condo-type studio with a full kitchen. They also have a communal hot tub with a river view! After a great night’s sleep in the comfy beds we grabbed a quick breakfast at Tumbleweed Bookstore & Cafe (coffee + breakfast sandwiches + books = my 3 favorite things), and headed out on the road. Stay tuned for Lamar Valley, Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway!

Trail Report: Mountain Biking Powerline Trail

Powerline Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Powerline Trail is a well established, popular trail right in the midst of South Lake Tahoe. This is a great trail for beginning mountain bikers who are ready to start challenging themselves, but is enough fun that intermediates and up won’t get bored. More advanced riders can use Powerline as a warm up and to access more challenging and technical trails like Cold Creek and High Meadow.

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Photo via Google Maps

The trailhead is at the dead end of Saddle Rd. 

Powerline Trail can be accessed at a few points, the most popular being at the end of Saddle Road, a few blocks west of its intersection with Ski Run Boulevard. While there is no parking on Saddle Road, there is parking on Mackedie Way. (This is a residential neighborhood, so please respect the people who live there with your parking!) You can also access the trail from the High Meadow Trail parking lot.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

The trail is well marked right from the start. There are two options to begin the trail which meet up about halfway through. I recommend following the more obvious trail up to the left, not up the more gravel road-like section to the right.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com
Map and elevation profile via Strava

There is a pretty steep and short climb almost immediately, but don’t worry, that’s the most difficult climb on the whole trail! Powerline Trail is pretty unique for the South Lake Tahoe area, as it tends towards rolling and doesn’t require a long slog of a climb. Not that there’s no climbing involved! You’ll gain about 600 feet over the 6.6 mile trail.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Most of Powerline Trail travels through shaded forest, making for good trail conditions. There are some sections of that famous South Lake decomposed granite, resulting in some short, but intense, sandy sections by mid-to-late summer. However, if you happen to time it right with some summertime afternoon showers, Powerline has some of the best dirt I’ve ridden in South Lake. I rode it last week after a couple of days of intense rain, and it reminded me of riding in Washington. There are a few spots along the way where the trees open up, and offer incredible views in every direction.

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Thunderheads building earlier this week.

After about 1.25 miles, the trail comes to a tee, where heading straight will keep you on Powerline Trail, and going right will take you down to Al Tahoe Boulevard, if you want to bail out. You can access Powerline Trail at the intersection of Pioneer Trail and Al Tahoe Boulevard, and, after an exposed, sandy climb, this is where you’ll connect with the trail.

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Al Tahoe Blvd bail out intersection

After this, you’ll head down to a bridge that crosses a small stream, climb out of that small valley and be on to my favorite part of Powerline Trail. The trail gets really flowy with small rolling hills, great dirt, and banked turns so you can fly! Just watch out for hikers and dogs, as this is also a popular trail for walkers and trail runners!

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Handmade “Powerline Trail” signs point you in the right direction.

Powerline Trail essentially hits the turn around point at the bridge over Cold Creek. More advanced riders can add a climb to your route by heading up Cold Creek Trail which follows the creek up for about 1,400 feet of climbing over 5 miles (or go up even further on the new and extremely steep Star Lake Trail). You can also continue a little further up the trail, which will end at High Meadow Trail parking lot, and connect with a dirt road that will take you to the Corral area trails.

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The back half of this out-and-back trail is even more fun than the first part! While there are still a few (short) climbs, Powerline Trail trends more downhill in this direction. Enjoy the momentum, and have fun! Before you head back to your car, climb up the little rise to the south that you ignored on your way out. The views of Lake Tahoe and the mountains are incredible!

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Trail Stats:

Location: Saddle Rd, South Lake Tahoe, California

Mileage: 6.6 miles

Elevation Gain: ~600 feet

Difficulty: Beginner

 

Flashback Friday: Joshua Tree National Park

As part of a larger road trip last fall, I visited Joshua Tree National Park for the first time. Joshua Tree NP is located in southern California and spans two ecosystems: the hotter, dryer lower elevation Colorado Desert (which is part of the larger Sonoran Desert), and the cooler and wetter high elevation Mojave Desert. The Mojave Desert is the home of the famous and strange Joshua Trees, from which the park takes its name.

Joshua Tree National Park // tahoefabulous.com

The National Park Service describes Joshua Tree National Park as

“…immense, nearly 800,000 acres, and infinitely variable. It can seem unwelcoming, even brutal during the heat of summer when, in fact, it is delicate and extremely fragile. This is a land shaped by strong winds, sudden torrents of rain, and climatic extremes. Rainfall is sparse and unpredictable. Streambeds are usually dry and waterholes are few. Viewed in summer, this land may appear defeated and dead, but within this parched environment are intricate living systems waiting for the opportune moment to reproduce. The individuals, both plant and animal, that inhabit the park are not individualists. They depend on their entire ecosystem for survival.”

I visited in late September, which meant beautiful weather, sunny but not overly hot. I’d love to check it out in the spring as well, for when it’s a little greener. In addition to the acres of otherworldly Joshua Trees, the park is filled with fascinating desert plants and unbelievable rock formations.

Joshua Tree National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Don’t stab yourself!

During the cooler months, Joshua Tree NP is a rock climbing and bouldering Mecca. Now that I’ve gotten into climbing, I’m excited to return and check it out! The Mountain Project calls it

“a world famous area with thousands of routes, countless boulder problems and a very limited number of campsites. Long popular as a winter destination, it’s appeal has only grown throughout the years as climbers of all abilities have discovered the mild temperatures, grippy rock and surreal landscape which make it a must visit area on any climber’s list.”

Joshua Tree National Park // tahoefabulous.com

While Joshua Tree National Park might seem flat on first glance, this is deceiving. Head up to Keys View for an incredible (but likely hazy) look at the Cochella Valley and the San Andreas Fault.

Joshua Tree National Park // tahoefabulous.com

There is camping available in Joshua Tree NP, though it can fill up quickly during popular times of year. We stayed in the Joshua Tree Inn in city of Joshua Tree, California on the northwest corner of the National Park. The city of Joshua Tree feels like a high desert artist’s paradise, full of funky motels, eclectic restaurants and tons of arts and culture for a city of that size. The Joshua Tree Inn is where rock legend Gram Parsons died, and there is a small shrine to him in the courtyard. Some people come to talk to his ghost, be we certainly didn’t have any ghostly experiences!

Where: Joshua Tree National Park

When to Go: Winter, Fall, and Spring. Avoid Summer!

Where to Stay: Camping at Joshua Tree NP, The Joshua Tree Inn, Joshua Tree, CA

What to Do: Hike some of the many trails, rock climbing, check out the local art in Joshua Tree

What to Eat: The Natural Sisters Cafe, Pie for the People (pizza!), Crossroads Cafe