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.”

Snorkeling in Donner Lake

A couple of weeks ago, I hinted on Instagram that I have a new adventure coming up:

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I’m getting SCUBA certified! In the late winter/early spring, Greyson and I are going on a trip to Indonesia with his family. They’re big into SCUBA diving, and have been on a bunch of SCUBA trips all over the world. SCUBA diving is something I have always been interested in, so this seemed like the perfect excuse to learn. My parents got me the certification course for my birthday, and, hopefully, my mom will get SCUBA certified at some point too! (All photos following by Greyson Howard!)

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I’m doing the SCUBA certification course through a dive shop down in Reno, and I bought the “SCUBA beginner” package when I was down there signing up for the class. I now have my own snorkel, goggle, fins and booties! Greyson and I decided to get some practice with my new gear, so we headed down to one of the small beaches on Donner Lake.

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It’s been pretty warm out, but I decided to wear my triathlon wetsuit since the lake temperature isn’t that warm. It had been awhile since I put on my wetsuit, but luckily it still fits! I’ll be renting a thicker, long sleeve wetsuit for the open water training dive in Lake Tahoe this fall, but mine was fine for summer messing around.

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I practiced getting into the gear, and I discovered that it’s really, really hard to walk in fins. Note: always put them on while already in the water, then walk backwards. We swam around, and I practiced going under water and clearing my ears. Kicking with the giant fins on is definitely different than the lap and open water swimming that I’m used to.

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While Donner Lake is super fun to swim in, it’s not the most interesting for snorkeling. I saw a lot of: rocks, pinecones and garbage. It was really fun to see a side of the lake I don’t normally see though. I’m really excited for the SCUBA certification class, which starts soon. I’ll be writing about the process on the blog, and I’ll hopefully have fun SCUBA adventures to share in the future!

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Tahoe Rim Trail Hike in Incline Village, Nevada

Last weekend (I’m behind on blogging!), Greyson and I took a short hike on a beautiful section of the Tahoe Rim Trail. We had been wanting to try Alibi Ale Works for months, so we decided to work up our beer-drinking-appetites with a short hike to a spot with a gorgeous view of Lake Tahoe.

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I’m trying to improve my photography, so we packed Greyson’s nice cameras and headed to the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead off of Highway 431/Mt. Rose Highway, about a half mile southwest of the Mt. Rose Summit. The Tahoe Meadows Trailhead has a large dirt parking lot, a decently clean pit toilet bathroom and a 1.2 mile interpretive trail, if you’re looking for a short and easy hike.

Map via Strava

To reach the viewpoint, follow the trail on the right side of the parking lot, through the expansive meadow and towards the forest. This section of the Tahoe Rim Trail is open for bikes on even days and horses every day, so be aware that you may be sharing the trail! Be sure to check out the humorous trail signs you’ll encounter, including one addressed to dog visitors.

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It’s about 1.6 miles from the trailhead, through the meadow, and into the forest until you reach a large open space with beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding peaks.

Elevation profile via Strava.

There’s a little bit of a climb (~300 feet over ~1 mile), but the high elevation meant that I was feeling the climb more than normal. The view was worth it though!

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There’s not a viewing platform or cleared out space, but there are a number of rock outcroppings to sit on and enjoy the view. I practiced my photography skills and Greyson and I both enjoyed snacks in the sunshine. I even got a few decent pictures of a bird, that I subsequently forgot to look up – so I have no idea what it is.

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Greyson and I wandered around the open field for awhile, looking for a sign we had spotted in the distance. The sign didn’t look like it was on any sort of trail, so we were really curious about what it said. We eventually found the sign:

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At this point, I was starting to get hungrier for something more than granola bars. We scrambled across the meadow back to the trail, and headed back to civilization.

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When I was living in South Lake Tahoe, Greyson and I met up in Incline Village fairly often, since it is about the halfway point between South Lake and Truckee. Since moving to Truckee, we haven’t made our way over there very often. I requested that we grab food at an old favorite – Crosby’s, my favorite sports bar in the Tahoe area. Greyson and I would head to Incline Village on Wednesdays to meet after work to go climbing at High Altitude Fitness, and we’d be starving afterwards. We would usually eat at Crosby’s, because it was one of the few places that served food after 8 pm. This time, we split a burger and an order of their specialty – seasoned waffle fries. The waffle fries are amazing, but warning, the “side” of fries is HUGE. A burger with salad on the side and an order of waffle fries was more than enough food for the two of us.

Tahoe Rim Trail Hike from Hwy 267 // tahoefabulous.com

A quick hike, interesting clouds, a ton of good food, and delicious beer was a great way to spend a beautiful and relaxing Sunday!

Try This Beer: Alibi Ale Works, Incline Village, NV

Back in June, I said that one of my Tahoe Summer Bucket List items was “Visit all of the Local Breweries”. I got another step closer this weekend with a visit to the new-ish brewery Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village, Nevada.

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In addition to their awesome logo, they brew great beer. Since they’re still a fairly new brewery, they only have a few of their own beers on draft. But all of the ones I tried were great! They also have beer, wine and cider from other breweries, wineries and cider-ies (?) from near and far.

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Richard Romo, and Kevin Drake, Alibi Ale Works founders (photo by Kevin MacMillan Tahoe Daily Tribune)

Another really cool thing about Alibi Ale Works is that, since they’re located in Nevada, they can fill up pretty much any container you bring them. They sell branded glass and stainless steel growlers, but we happened to have our 32 oz Hydro Flask Growler from Crux Fermentation Project, and they filled it up when we left. They have a special deal on growler fills on Sunday, so we got 32 oz of their IPA for only $8! Also, the brewery often has live music and food trucks, and that calendar is posted on their website.

Their beers don’t have any exciting or punny names yet, and are simple descriptions of what they are. I tried Alibi Ale Works’ Porter, Scotch Ale, Pale Ale and IPA. While I enjoyed them all, I was most impressed by the Scotch Ale. Usually, that’s not my favorite type of beer, but Alibi’s was the best Scotch Ale I’ve ever had! It was slightly fruity without being to sweet, and I told Greyson that it made me think of cherry fruit leather. (like, the hippie fruit roll ups). He thought that description was weirdly specific. Sadly, the Scotch Ale isn’t available by the growler, so we got the (also delicious) IPA.

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If you’re in the Tahoe area, Alibi Ale Works is worth the trip! There are a bunch of good hikes, climbs and bike rides in the Incline Village area. Greyson and I earned our beers with a short hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail out to a gorgeous viewpoint up near Mount Rose. Check back next week for more details about the hike!

Disclosure: One of the links in this post is an 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!

Five More Great Places to Watch the Sunset in Tahoe

More Great Places to Watch the Sunset // tahoefabulous.com

Last August, I wrote a post about the best places around Tahoe to watch the sunset. In the last year, and, especially since my move north to Truckee, I’ve found even more great places to watch sunsets in the Tahoe/Truckee area.

  1. Donner Summit,Truckee, California

Donner Summit // tahoefabulous.com

Photo by Greyson Howard.

Drive up old Highway 40 from Donner Pass Road, and you’ll find a number of great places to watch the sun set over Donner Lake and the Carson Range. This picture is from the Green Phantom climbing area under the historic bridge, but there is also a great vista point with a large parking area and some interpretive signs. Greyson took this gorgeous photo with his iphone when we were climbing a few weeks ago.

  1. The public docks at Donner Lake, Truckee, California

Donner Lake Public Docks // tahoefabulous.com

I’ve mentioned the docks at Donner Lake before, and, in addition to swimming, fishing and kayaking, the docks are a great place to watch the sunset. Cuddle up with a beer and a blanket to watch the sun set over Donner and Trestle Peak. If it’s not winter, you can even go for a night swim!

  1. Sand Harbor State Park, Incline Village, Nevada

Sand Harbor, NV // tahoefabulous.com

There are a bunch of great things about Sand Harbor State Park. For one, it’s the iconic yellow sand – turquoise water – round boulders that you see pictures of all the time. For another, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is the most scenic place to see Shakespeare in the US. Though weekend at Sand Harbor are often so crowded that the parking lot is full by 10 am, by sunset, the crowds have cleared out enough that there’s plenty of parking. Additionally, there’s a free vista point north of the park. Parking is only for 20 minutes, but that’s plenty of time to head down the short trails to the beach and catch the high points of a typical sun set.

  1. Kyburz Flat Interpretive Area, Sierra County, California

Kyburz Flat // tahoefabulous.com

There’s a gorgeous meadow area about 15 miles north of Truckee known as Kyburz Flat. On it’s own, it’s a beautiful green meadow, surrounded by pine forests with a natural spring. Beyond that, the area has a super interesting history remnants, including Native American petroglyphs and a reconstructed (and usable!) Basque brick oven from the sheep camp days. I was lucky enough to attend an incredible cook out at the Basque oven, and we saw one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve experienced in Tahoe.

  1. Donner Peak, Truckee, California

Donner Peak // tahoefabulous.com

Yet another spot accessed from Donner Summit, this is a sunset spot for those who are up for a little more of a challenge. I’ve written up the (daytime) hike to Donner Peak here. If you want to watch the sunset up there, be prepared to hike down in the dark with at least a headlamp and remember that the last mile or so (on the way down) is really rocky and unstable. It’s a little under 4 miles round trip with about 933 feet of elevation gain.

These are my favorite places to watch the sunset that I’ve discovered over the last year or so. What are your favorite places for sunsets in Tahoe, California and beyond?

 

My Favorite Helmets – Bikes

I really love my brain. And I do a lot of activities that could damage it. So over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of helmets that cover a range of activities. I’ve tried good helmets and bad helmets, and I thought I’d share my favorites with you. Note: I have a pretty small head for someone as tall as I am – I’m usually a women’s small or medium in helmets.

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Biking

I do both road riding and mountain biking (with a heavy emphasis on mountain biking) and I have different helmets for each pursuit. You can easily wear the same helmet for both, and I did for a long time before purchasing any mountain bike specific helmets.

Road Biking

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I have a Giro Indicator that I bought 4 or 5 years ago for about $40. It’s a great basic helmet for road riding. It has enough vents that it doesn’t get too hot, light enough to be comfortable and adjusts to fit a wide range of head sizes. Giro doesn’t seem to make it anymore, but it looks like there are a few still available around the web.

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For something comparable, Giro TrinityGiro Revel, and Giro Bishop are available at similar price points.

 

Giro Trinity, Revel, Bishop

From L to R: Trinity, Revel, Bishop

Specialized Sierra
Photo by Greyson Howard

Update (July 2016):  It was time to replace my Indicator after 6+ years, and I bought the Specialized Sierra. I wore it for the June Lake Triathlon and I really like it so far.

Mountain Biking

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The first mountain bike specific helmet I ever bought was a really awesome, light full face helmet by Rockgardn for more technical riding, like at Mammoth Mountain, Northstar or Downieville. Many people do rides like these without a full face, but I prefer the extra confidence I get from having my face covered. A couple of summers ago, I crashed at Mammoth hard enough that I needed a new one.  Unfortunately, Rockgardn stopped manufacturing helmets, and I was on the market for a full face helmet that was light, comfortable and safe.

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I got a really amazing deal on a DOT certified One Industries Atom Helmet and tried that out at Northstar last summer. While it does have some advantages – it’s very heavy duty, sturdy and can be used on a motorcycle or dirt bike (neither things I’m interested in), I find it too heavy and uncomfortable for frequent wearing. I’m keeping it around, just in case I decide that I’m going to ride something super hardcore. It would be a good choice for someone who rides bikes and dirt bikes and does steep, high consequence downhill riding.

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This year, Bell came out with a helmet that is basically perfect for my kind of riding – Bell Super 2R. This helmet has a removable chin-bar that can take it from a basic mountain biking helmet to a full face with just a couple of easy steps.

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from bell.com

It’s also got 27 vents, so it’s super cool and really light. The Super 2R is only 24.5 oz, while another light full face, the Giro Cypher is 40.3 oz and the One Industries Atom is 47.6 oz. The Super 2R also has adjustable padding on the inside so you can get the perfect fit.

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I love this helmet and I’ve worn it a bunch of times since I got it earlier this summer. I felt totally protected while riding at Mammoth and while doing the Downieville Downhill. Despite the name, Downieville has a few sections that require sustained pedaling, and it was about 90 degrees the day we did it. The Super 2R stayed comfortable even through that! Another cool technology that this helmet uses is MIPS (or Multi-directional Impact Protection System). MIPS helps to reduce rotational forces on the brain. The Super 2R is available in MIPS (which I have) and non-MIPS (which Greyson has – it fits his extra large head better) versions. Also, if you already have a Bell Super 2 helmet, you can buy just the chin bar to add on.

Mountain Bike Helmets Gear Review // tahoefabulous.com

My last bike helmet is the women’s specific Giro Feather. I wrote a long review of this helmet last summer after I’d been using it for a couple of months. More than a year later – I’m still loving it!

Note: I purchased all of these helmets with my own money, and I didn’t get any discounts beyond sale prices. 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!

Gnarbuckling on the South Yuba River

Have you ever heard of “gnarbuckling”? Probably not, as it’s a term that one of Greyson’s friends made up.

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To explain gnarbuckling, I have to explain a little bit about the South Yuba River. The Yuba River is a gorgeous and important waterway that drains about 1,400 square miles of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and is a major tributary of the Feather River. It’s made of three forks, and the longest and southernmost fork is my favorite.

The South Yuba originates on Donner Pass (near where I live) and travels 65 miles before it joins with the others. The South Yuba (one of three forks) winds through Nevada County and is fairly close to Nevada City running along side or under Highway 49 in many spots. Like a lot of the areas along Highway 49, the South Yuba was heavily impacted by mining. During the California gold rush and for years afterwards, the area was mined using hydraulic mining. Though the area hasn’t been mined that way since the 1880s, the blasting left behind a unique river morphology that’s fun to explore.

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Map to 49 Crossing/Double Bridges from Nevada City. Click here for the map.

Now, for gnarbuckling. The best place to access the South Yuba for gnarbuckling is at an access spot known as the 49 Crossing or Double Bridges. This is a popular spot in the summer, so you may have to park a ways away if you get there much after 9 am. The South Yuba is littered with huge granite boulders, smoothed by years of water rushing by, and the way they’re situated in the river means that there are dozens of great swimming holes in the river.

While there is often trail or parking access to some of the more popular swimming holes, meaning that you could fairly easily hike or drive there, getting to the swimming hole isn’t the point of gnarbuckling.

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When you’re gnarbuckling, you travel upstream, while remaining in the water as much as possible. This means you’ll be wading through rushing water, climbing over rocks, swimming through deeper sections, diving under low hanging boulders, scrambling up rocky slopes, dodging nude hippies, hoisting yourself and your friends over small rapids, and falling – a lot! Basically, the journey is the point of the adventure.

Greyson and I headed up to Nevada City on Saturday and spent the afternoon gnarbuckling. I didn’t bring my garmin, but we estimated we were traveling about 1 mile an hour (or slower!). We had a great time, and we even brought Greyson’s GoPro, taking some not-so-great pictures and a few videos. Greyson made a short instagram video of us jumping off a small cliff into a deep pool of clear water. Click here to watch it, and here is a super awesome-quality still frame:

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We excited to finally make it to the Yuba this year! With the drought, we were worried that the river would be lower, slower and grosser than usual. Despite our worries, the South Yuba was still a lot of fun. It was pretty crowded, even as we made our way upstream away from the parking area, there was definitely more green slime on the rocks, and the river seemed about a foot lower than usual. It was still a great time, and the water was still cool and refreshing in the 90 degree plus heat! One of the best things about the Yuba is its clear water, and, as usual, the water was clear enough to see the schools of fish swimming around. And clear enough to attempt some underwater selfies.

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Someone isn’t very good at #underwaterselfies

When you’re gnarbuckling, you might have a final destination in mind, or you can just turn around whenever. It’s not usually a point-to-point activity, because going downstream is the really fun part! When the water level is higher, the Yuba has a ton of fun “water slides” running over the smooth granite. The water was a little low for that last weekend, but we did float feet first through some fun mini-rapids. We ended up spending 3+ hours in the river, so by the time we made it back down to where the car was parked, our arms were toast!

Gnarbuckling on the South Yuba River // tahoefabulous.com

A celebratory beverage and meal is another key part of gnarbuckling, so we headed to Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. in downtown Nevada City. I’ve been there a few times now, and the generously-poured beers were as good as usual. I love visiting Nevada City – it’s got a bunch of great restaurantsfun cultural activities and amazing outdoor opportunities – including the best place in the world for gnarbuckling!

Tahoe Rim Trail Hike from the 267 Trailhead

I spent all day on Friday being a river bro, and rafting the South Fork of the American River, so I was pretty exhausted when I woke up on Saturday. Greyson and I had already agreed to meet one of his friends for a hike that morning, so I rolled out of bed and we headed east.

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Luckily, we had planned a pretty easy going day. Greyson and I met Kyle and Stella (the dog) at the Brockway Summit Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead. The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile long loop trail that circles Lake Tahoe (and then some). The trail is single track and open to hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers (except for a few sections). The trail also shares about 50 miles with the Pacific Crest Trail. While dozens of people do the Tahoe Rim Trail as a two or three week thru hike (Greyson did it back in 2007 for a series in the Sierra Sun), its many accessible trailheads make it a great choice for a day hike or several day-long backpacking or bikepacking trip. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association has some great trip planning resources on their website.

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The trailhead we started at is known as the Brockway Summit Trailhead and is located on Highway 267 about 9.5 miles from downtown Truckee. Google map directions can be found here, and there is a parking lot and side of the road parking on the south side of 267 near the trailhead. We headed uphill and climbed switchbacks for a little over a mile until we hit a spur trail that promised a view. This offshoot trail hadn’t been constructed when Greyson thru hiked the TRT, so we decided to go check it out. The spur was about a half mile each way, and the view at the top was beautiful! Despite a hazy day, we could see all the way across the lake, down to the thunderheads building over the large peaks surrounding South Lake Tahoe.

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If you’re looking for a short hike with a bit of a climb and a rewarding view, the hike to this viewpoint would be a good option. It would be about 3 miles round trip with ~700 feet of climbing. The switchbacks make the climb manageable, but they don’t make it feel like you’re going nowhere.

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We headed back down the spur trail and, since it was still fairly early, decided to keep going on the TRT. This section of the trail travels generally northeast. We headed away from stunning lake views for a while, and we traversed through fields full of fragrant mule’s ear and sage and saw a some blooming wildflowers. If you are looking for stunning fields of multi color wildflowers, there are better trails (and times of year) than this one, but we did see occasional pops of color from Indian paintbrush and other flowers I can’t recognize without a guidebook.

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About 2.5 miles past the spur trail, we reached another nice viewpoint with a shady spot – perfect for a snack break. I broke out a new-to-me trail food, Taos Mountain Energy Bars in the Caramel Pecan flavor. I really liked it! It meets my requirement of being soy free (hard to find in an energy bar), and it tasted really good! After this high point of 8,260, the trail starts heading back downhill. We figured that this would be a good place to turn around, as we were pretty much out of water, and the day was heating up.

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The way back was mostly downhill, with a couple of short and steep uphill sections, but the TRT is so well graded in most sections that it wasn’t too hard on the knees and legs. We ended up with 9 miles and 1,970 feet of climbing, but the hike felt much easier than that to me! Afterwards, however, Greyson and I crashed on the couch for the rest of the day. It was enough distance and elevation that, combined with a full day on the river the day before, we were spent.

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This section of the Tahoe Rim Trail is a fun, moderately difficult trail with some great views that are worth the climb. We saw other hikers and bikers out, but the trail never felt crowded, which is especially awesome, since this was a beautiful Saturday morning in July.

Hike Totals: 9.0 miles, 1,970 feet of elevation gain in 3:04 moving time.

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!

Indoor Climbing, Truckee Airshow and Tahoe City Trails

I had a really low-key weekend, but I also managed to fit in a few activities. We had been having early – late afternoon thunderstorms for most of last week, which put a damper on the usual afterwork outdoor activities. My softball game on Thursday even got rained out! By Friday, I was ready to do something. Since I didn’t want to play chicken with potential lightening, I convinced Greyson that we should head over to Incline Village to climb and the indoor climbing gym at High Altitude Fitness.

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High Altitude Fitness climbing wall photo via High Altitude Fitness

High Altitude Fitness is a swanky gym with a really nice climbing wall. It’s pretty much the only “real” indoor climbing wall in the Tahoe Basin (but they’re supposed to open up a Truckee location at some point!). They’ve got bouldering, auto belays and top roping, as well as a few routes bolted for sport climbing (bring your own rope). They re-set routes pretty often, and the ones I climbed on Friday (5.8 – 5.10a) were some of the most fun indoor climbing routes I’ve ever tried. There’s also a lounge area where you can get a smoothie or a $2 PBR and take a break. High Altitude Fitness is a full gym, with cardio machines, a weight room, fitness classes, etc., but I’ve only ever used the climbing wall, but they look pretty nice! They offer a ten pass punch card for $152 ($110 for locals!), which is a pretty great deal, especially compared to the cost of other regional climbing gyms.

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Kelly climbing at High Altitude on Ladies Night

Hight Altitude Fitness seems to run specials and deals fairly often. Off the top of my head, I have gotten a half priced locals pass at their screening of Valley Uprising earlier this year, I’ve climbed for free on their Wednesdays Ladies Night and gotten a two-for-one entry for Date Night Friday. Note: High Altitude did not pay me to write this – I just really love their climbing wall, and I’m excited for their Truckee location to open!

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On Saturday, I attended the Truckee Airshow at the Truckee Tahoe Airport. While attending the air show isn’t necessarily something I’d think to do on my own, I ended up enjoying it. Greyson and I worked a booth there, soliciting public feedback and handing out re-usable grocery bags. After the mostly stormy weather during the week, it ended up being a gorgeous day. We were stationed in a pop-up tent, but I kept dragging my chair into the sunshine to enjoy the warmth and see more of the show. There were all sorts of cool planes and helicopters set up on the tarmac and flyovers throughout the day. There were a couple of really great trick pilots doing flips and loops that made me dizzy just watching, and I also really liked the flyover by the WW2 Bearcat and Wildcat.

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I’m semi in the market for a new bike – because three bikes is not enough, right? I’m not ready to buy one quite yet, but I’m narrowing down what I’m interested in. I currently have a hardtail Cannondale cross country bike and a full-suspension bike (GT Sanction) with 6 inches of travel that’s great on the downhills, but not the easiest for pedaling. So I’m looking for a trail bike that’s somewhere in between the two. I have a couple of models in mind (Transition Scout, Specialized Stumpjumper, Trek Remedy, etc.), and I hope to try out a bunch before I’m ready to buy.

This weekend, Specialized was doing a free demo day at a couple of local bike shops. I missed out on the Truckee day on Saturday due to the airshow, but they were in Tahoe City on Sunday at Olympic Bike Shop. Greyson and I headed to Tahoe City with tentative plans to demo bikes on new-to-us trails and then head to the beach for Concerts at Commons Beach (free live music on Sundays at the beach).

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I was luckily able to borrow the exact bike I wanted to try – the 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper 650b! We got some beta on which trails to try, and Greyson and I headed up the steep hill to the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area/Burton Creek State Park. The climb to the trails was HARD! There was a ~0.5 mile climb up a very steep paved road and then you kept climbing up fire road for another mile. It ended up being ~600 feet of climbing in ~1.5 miles. The bike I was demo-ing climbed really well, and I don’t even want to know what that would have felt like on my Sanction.

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When we got to the trail portion, I was kind of underwhelmed. I’ve heard this area is full of tons of unmarked and hard to find trails, so it’s quite possible we were just not on the fun stuff. The sections of trails we rode were pretty flat and boring, and, probably due to our lack of knowledge, we spent a lot of time on fire roads. Judging by the trails we rode, I didn’t think they were worth the climb! We did end up on one short section that I thought was really fun, but it pretty quickly turned to steep, loose rocks. I attempted to go down this section, and I did not succeed. I crashed the demo bike! The bike and I both ended up being fine, but I do have some nice scrapes and a partially-pulled off thumbnail. Gross.

Luckily, we were close to the end of the trail, and I limped back to the bike shop, dirty and embarrassed. All in all, I really liked the Stumpjumper, but I don’t think the rear suspension was set up optimally for me and I’m not in love with the 1×11 gearing. I’m hoping to be able to ride the Stumpjumper again this summer, hopefully on trails I’m familiar with, so I can do a comparison to my current bikes.

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Due to the drought, the Concerts at Commons Beach is currently not exactly on the beach, but it was still fun to sit outside in perfect temperatures and listen to music.

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We were both starving, so we didn’t end up hanging out at the concert for very long, but it was a great way to cap off a fun weekend!

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