Back in March I took Beginning Climbing as a PE Class at Lake Tahoe Community College. The class consisted of two Wednesday lectures where we learned about climbing history, technique, safety, etc., and two Fridays & Saturdays out climbing in the field.
I’d done a little climbing (mostly indoor at the gym) in college, and was interested in trying it again, but nervous to get started. The Beginning Climbing class at LTCC was the perfect introduction!
The first two days, we climbed at 90 Foot Wall just outside of South Lake Tahoe. We practiced rappelling, learned to belay and put the climbing techniques we discussed in class into action.
Tiny green instructor at the top of 90 Foot Wall for scale.
For our second Friday of climbing, we headed to tackle some more difficult climbs at the Cosumnes River Gorge near Placerville. We did another, much more nerve wracking rappel with all our gear and then beat up our hands with our first crack climbs and squeezed into some interesting chimneys.
Setting up the scary rappel while our awesome instructor Damien checks my set up.
Cosumnes River Gorge. Can you spot the slackliner?
Two of my classmates try to figure out a weird section.
For our last day of class, we headed back to the South Lake Tahoe area and went to Pie Shop. This day definitely had the hardest routes, including a multi pitch that our instructor set up. While he was doing that, we watched the instructional assistants do a trad climbing demonstration on a 5.10 crack that I eventually climbed when they had the top rope set up. That route was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!
A classmate on the difficult crack.
A view of the multi-pitch climb.
Great hand and foot holds on this section of the multi-pitch.
LTCC Beginning Climbing class.
The other really cool thing about our last day of class was that we were way up high and had a great view of the “Golden Celebration” parade that went from Meyers to Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort to celebrate the three women from South Lake Tahoe who won medals at this year’s Olympics.
We left South Lake on Friday and meandered our way towards Bishop. We drove up to Virginia Lakes, snapped some photos of Mono Lake, ate the world’s best gas station food at the Whoa Nellie Deli, and set up camp at Pleasant Valley Campground near the Happy Boulders. I also had a chance to hang out with my old roommate, having beers in her beautifully xeriscaped yard.
Since we were camped near our first bouldering destination, we got a slow start on Saturday morning. But eventually, I had my coffee and we headed down the bumpy road. Bouldering at the Happys was really fun, though I chickened out on some of the taller boulders. It was a million degrees, though, so I’d definitely bring plenty of water and a hat. We left the Happys and headed into Bishop for lunch. We lucked out and stumbled on Raymond’s Deli. It was so good that I was tempted to eat there for every meal after (As of 2/2018 Raymond’s is now closed!). I had a BBQ Roast Beef sandwich with Ortega chillis called the 51/50. It’s a lot of food, but I recommend it highly!
After lunch we moved on to the Buttermilk Boulders. The view from this spot was incredible! I thought that the bouldering here was more challenging than at the Happys. That could be related to the fact that I had my first real bouldering fall and sliced open a couple of fingers on a sharp flake. Ooops. That was the end of bouldering for the weekend.
My bloody hands meant that we went back into Bishop to find some hot running water and soap. Cleaning out the large flap of skin on my finger was not pleasant. Bet you’re super disappointed that I didn’t take pictures! Since we were in town, we grabbed some bread and cheese and beer for dinner back at our campsite. We got the “famous” sheepherder bread from Erick Schat’s Bakkery.
Our leisurely outdoor dinner plans were scrapped by a massive windstorm! We ate while crammed in the front seats of the Element, taking turns running outside to re-stake the tent. Eventually the tent blew completely away! We managed to catch it and re-stake it closer to the car for a little more shelter, and it stayed attached to the ground for the rest of the night. The windstorm eventually calmed down around dusk, though all of the other tent campers in our campground had given up and left!
We headed out of town the next morning, very dusty, but refreshed. Before we left Bishop, we grabbed bagels from Great Basin Bakery. Since Tuolumne Meadows were reportedly still full of snow, we decided to ditch that part of our plan, and slowly worked our way north towards Tahoe. We detoured to Convict Lake, but it was a little cold for the short loop hike. In Mammoth, we to fill my growler at Mammoth Brewing Company and checked out their gorgeous new tasting room. I filled my growler with 395 IPA but also loved Hair of the Bear, a seasonal doppelbock. For lunch, we had burgers at Toomey’s. (which I thought was a little overpriced, but pretty good with an incredibly friendly waitress). Our last stop was the Travertine Hot Springs in Bridgeport. I love a good hot spring, and these are amazing, with gorgeous flowstone, views of the Sierra and multiple pools at different temperatures. They were pretty crowded though, especially for the middle of the day.
It was a totally fun weekend, and I’m excited for more throughout the spring and summer. Though I can do without the sliced up hand!
A couple of weeks ago, I went on a slightly epic road trip for work: South Lake Tahoe > Bishop > Visalia > Truckee > Redding > South Lake Tahoe. On my way back from Redding, I took a slight (two hour) detour to the south end of Lassen National Park. The park road was mostly closed, so I just hiked up the empty road for about 3/4 of a mile for some awesome views. I’ll definitely have to come back when more of the park is open!
As you may know, there is currently a massive fire raging in California. The smoke from the 180,000 acre blaze is filling up the Tahoe Basin, where I live. I went to get an emergency refill on my inhaler (ooops…probably should have done that ~6 months ago), and the doctor suggested I get out of town. A prescription for an impromptu road trip? The best prescription ever! My roommate and I packed up Strawberry, my CRV, and headed toward the Mendocino coast.
We made it to the Motel 6 in Ukiah and crashed for the night, planning on doing the rest of the drive in the morning. After sampling the produce at the Ukiah Farmers Market and a leisurely breakfast at Ellie’s Mutt Hut, we made the hour or so drive to Fort Bragg.
I absolutely fell in love with Fort Bragg. It’s definitely a tourist town, but also a functioning harbor and fishing port. I had lots of fantasies about marrying a sea captain, getting really good at kayaking and eating fresh salmon every day.
Some highlights from the Fort Bragg area were:
Buying local smoked salmon and salmon fillets right off the boat in Noyo Harbor
Breakfast at Cafe 1 (which one Yelp review described as “that pretentious organic crap”),
We ended up camping a little north of Fort Bragg near Westport at the Westport-Union Landing State Beach campground, which was “primitive” (no potable water, pit toilets), but had a gorgeous view of the coast and beach access with a bit of a hike. The tide was out and the tide pools were teeming with sea creatures! When we were walking along the beach, we discovered that the local KOA campground lets you tent camp right on the beach, far away from the motorhomes. Next time, I will definitely stay there.
My roommate and I played in the tide pools, splashed around in the (cold!) ocean, and attempted to make friends with some successful and attractive kayak anglers. They were friendly, but did not invite us to dinner.
On Sunday, we packed up camp and headed south on Hwy 1, admiring the gorgeous foggy views before we cut inland through Navarro River Redwoods State Park. This is a beautiful but windy drive through dense redwoods and then dozens of vineyards. This drive was a little out of our way home to Tahoe, but the most direct route to Anderson Valley Brewing Company!
I love beer and breweries, and Anderson Valley is a favorite. We hung around the tiny town of Boonville, waiting until the next tour began. Anderson Valley is a little outside of town, with fun grounds to explore, including a disk golf course and goats! The tour was fun, informative and only $5, which included two 5 ounce samples. Katie and I each split our two, so we tried 4 varieties that you can only get at the brewery.
We began our long trek back to Tahoe, hoping that the smoke had cleared. The drive back wasn’t terrible, as there were new views we had missed during the drive in the dark. Also, we stopped at Whole Foods in for dinner and Sonoma Pickles! Definitely a great weekend.
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I headed down to Auburn the night before the triathlon with my friend Evan (who did the Half Iron Man!) and his girlfriend. We picked up our packets, attended the pre-race meeting, set up our T2 transition areas and got free food from a church triathlon group doing a free pre-race spaghetti dinner.
Attending the pre-race meeting was pretty helpful, as the 3 courses and a separate T1 and T2 made for a confusing course map.
We woke up bright and early (but not early enough) and headed to the race. We ended up getting a little lost heading to the start (which was at a random river bank not on any map), and we were extremely worried we were going to be late and/or miss the start. We ended up being in time, but definitely rushed. Word of advice: if you do this, race leave early and possibly go find the swim start on the day before.
The swim was in the warm (74 degrees I think!) Folsom Reservoir. The swim was a wave start with waves leaving every 5 minutes (international men, international women, half iron men, half iron women, mini men and finally my wave, mini women). I felt really good on the swim, despite not doing a ton of it in the last month before the triathlon. I even caught up and passed a few of the men from the wave ahead of me!
500 m, 8:51 2/5 AG, 13/61 overall
I’m pretty excited about the 13th overall, including the men! I wonder what I could do if I actually trained for the swimming.
T1 was fairly straightforward. I stripped off my wetsuit, put on my top, helmet, shoes (forgot socks, oops!) and sunglasses and headed off on my bike.
The bike was hard! It was only a little over 8 miles, but there was about 800 feet of climbing over the first six miles with some steep sections. The bike leg was probably the leg I was best trained for, but it was still really hard. I did the vast majority of my training via mountain bike, and really only went on one ~10 mile road ride before hand. That was probably not the best training plan, but it worked out ok. I did drop my chain within the first minute of riding, which cost me a good minute. And they were not lying about the section of steep switchbacks. I even got off and pushed for a bit. I literally cannot remember the last time I had to do that on a road bike. The road is closed to traffic and quite nicely paved and scenic. Looking back, I could have pushed harder on the bike, but I’m still happy with my performance.
My poor set up the previous night caught up with me here. I had forgotten to untie my running shoes! Rookie mistake. I finally got my shoes untied, threw on my race belt, drank some water and headed off.
I headed off on my run, and in my loopy state, started the wrong way around the loop. In my defense, the girl in front of me did too. Someone yelled at us, and we turned around before we had gone more than a 100 yards or so. The run course for the mini was awesome! Most of the run was on a shaded trail that ran along side a creek. Then there was a nice long downhill on a paved (but closed to traffic) road. The sunny uphill that followed was the worst part of the course, but it wasn’t that bad at all. Before I knew it, I turned a corner and could see the finish line in the distance. The last little bit was on grass through the park, and then I was done! My legs felt pretty good the whole run (proof I could have pushed harder on the bike), and while I felt like I ran well, I had no idea what my time was going to be.
4 k, 20:52; 5/5 AG, 37/61 overall
Now, I know the run time isn’t especially great in the grand scheme of things, but it is awesome for me! I usually feel like I’m speeding along at 9 minute miles, but I did the 4 k with an average pace of 8:20! Race day adrenaline, trying to pass men, and a nice downhill really made for a great run.
Glad I waited to have these flattering shots before writing the recap.
1:18:24; 4/5 AG (though they originally had the AG wrong and gave me the 3rd place AG award) 26/61 overall
I would highly recommend the Auburn Triathlon as a challenging, early season race that is well organized, a perfect size and a whole lot of fun.
Also, my friend Evan killed it on his first triathlon (that’s right, he did the World’s Toughest Half Iron Man as his first ever triathlon). Though after seeing his face on his last couple run laps, it made me never want to do this particular Half Iron Man.
After years of mountain biking in either a road biking helmet or a full face helmet, I finally purchased a mountain-bike-specific helmet. Specifically, the Giro Feather Women’s MTB Helmet.
Giro’s website describes the Feather:
“The Feather™ provides a little more coverage than traditional trail helmets, with vents that draw heat up and out of the helmet—perfect when you’re climbing at lower speeds. In-Mold™ construction keeps it light, and when the trail drops, our rugged In Form™ fit system offers one-handed fit and stability adjustment, so you can dial in the perfect feel and stay focused on the trail ahead.”
I’ve worn this helmet on every mountain bike ride I’ve been on this year, and so far – I love it! I was a little worried that the fewer vents + fuller coverage would = an overly hot head, but so far so good! I even wore it on an 81-degree ride this week, and it didn’t seem any hotter than my more ventilated road bike helmet and obviously much cooler than a full face helmet.
Visibility is the same as the traditional helmet and I had more peripheral vision than in a full face helmet. Range of motion is not impacted, though I did have to slightly adjust where I wear my hydration pack. When I stood up on the downhills, the part of the helmet that covered the lower head bumped into my hydration pack, pushing the helmet forward. I just had to adjust my hydration pack so it sat a touch lower on my back, and that solved the problem.
The only other (extremely small) downside of the helmet is that it limits how I can wear my hair. The low back, close fit of the helmet prevents any sort of high ponytails or buns. I’ve found the only hairstyles for long hair that work with the helmet are two braids (as pictured), hair down or extremely low ponytail (like base of the neck low). As someone who tends to run extremely hot when exerting myself, hair down and low pony are too hot on my neck.
I haven’t yet put this helmet to the ultimate test of a major crash (and hope to avoid doing so!), but I’ve had great experience with Giro helmets in the past. Another thing I appreciate about Giro is that they have this to say about this “women’s specific” helmet
“Although there is no difference between male and female head shapes other than a smaller average size, we offer women’s specific models to keep up with the fashion forward kit found on the mountain. Finishing details and a sophisticated color palette set these models apart.”
I appreciate that they admit there isn’t really a difference between men’s and women’s helmets, and this helmet cost the same as the men’s version. All in all, I highly recommend the Giro Women’s Feather MTB helmet as a great option for a fuller-coverage, mountain-bike-specific helmet. You can purchase the Giro Feather Women’s MTB Helmet. Note: As of 2019, Giro isn’t making the Feather anymore, though you can still purchase past years’ versions on Amazon. The current equivalent is Giro Montara MIPS Helmet .
I’ll leave you with this picture of the gorgeous trail I rode this week, Tahoe Mountain in South Lake Tahoe. Trail Report available here!
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!