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.
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!
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 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!
I have a special connection to Orlison Brewing Co: it started in my neighbor’s barn! I’ve tried Orlison’s Lagers every step of the way, and I couldn’t be happier about their success!
Here’s what they have to say about themselves:
“Orlison Brewing Co., located in Airway Heights, WA, is a small craft lager brewery looking to convert ale enthusiasts everywhere into true lager fans. Originally founded in 2009, years of tried and true brewing methods provide our team with the knowledge and capabilities needed to create the best craft beers available in the Pacific Northwest. We are also the first Inland Northwest brewery to can our beer, a distinction we are proud of.
Our motto, Brew No Evil™, is a statement of our commitment to brewing the cleanest, clearest and tastiest lagers available today. Our award-winning crisp beers stand as a representation of everything we want our customers to enjoy in a real lager. Whether you’re interested in a smooth, light Pilsner like our Havanüther or Orlison’s IPL, our crazily hoppy lager, try out a glass of real beer from Orlison Brewing Co. today.”
As a tried and true IPA (the hoppier the better!) fan, I was a little skeptical of the appeal of a lager. And, let’s face it, the vast majority of lagers I’ve tried are in the Busch Light/Budweiser realm. Not true about Orlison’s lagers.
“Orlison Brewing Co. only brews the finest craft lagers. Brew-master Bernie Düenwald stays true to his heart by producing clear, crisp and refreshing lagers. With only the finest Northwest ingredients we create full bodied and delicious finishing lagers that stand apart in the craft ale world. A Lager takes longer to ferment, requires a cooler temperature and closer monitoring than your typical Ale. These cool temps and attention to detail give lagers their distinctly crisp, refreshing taste and set them apart from other craft beers.”
While all of Orlison Brewing Co.’s lagers are worth drinking, my favorites are their IPL (India Style Pale Lager), Pilsner 37 (a portion of the proceeds from this beer go to Team Gleason – a charity that provides life improving technology and services to individuals with MS) and the best light beer I’ve ever had – the Havanuther.
The next section of my trip surprised me by being my favorite place we visited. I had traveled through the southern part of Yellowstone in 2009, and I had assumed all of Yellowstone National Park was like that: bubbling mud, alien landscapes and the occasional bison. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
We drove through the Lamar Valley in the north east portion of Yellowstone National park on our way towards the Northeast Entrance and beyond. The Lamar Valley is known as one of the best places to spot Yellowstone’s famous wildlife. This valley is habitat for bears, elk, pronghorn antelope, eagles, wolves, bison, bighorn sheep and more. In fact, Lamar Valley at dawn is the #1 place to spot wolves in Yellowstone!
Most of Yellowstone’s most spectacular wildlife are most active at dawn and dusk. Though we were a little late for dawn, we managed to see huge herds of bison, eagles and osprey, pronghorn antelope and elk. My phone camera isn’t up to snuff for wildlife photography, so I really only managed to capture decent pictures of the large, stationary bison.
In addition to the phenomenal wildlife, the drive from Gardiner, Montana through the northern part of the park has gorgeous mountain and river views. This part of the park was much less crowded than the southern sections, and we enjoyed the vistas in relative isolation.
Located at the corner of Highway 50 and Lakeview Avenue in South Lake Tahoe, this easy-to-access spot is usually bustling. During the summer, you can stake out a bbq, rent a paddle board or visit the high-class concession stand for gourmet hot dogs or local ice cream. You can also enjoy live music Thursday nights at Live at Lakeview. If crowds aren’t your thing, visit Lakeview Commons in the winter, when it is significantly less busy.
A quick, 1.5 mile flat hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail from the Mount Rose Highway trailhead will bring you to a great spot to camp out and watch the sunset. There are plenty of flat rocks to post up on and get comfortable while you watch the sunset over the West Shore mountains of Lake Tahoe. I’d recommend bringing in a couple of beers and some snacks.
Trout Creek Meadow/Lily Beach, South Lake Tahoe, California
Smoke particles in the air make for astounding sunsets.
If you’re looking for an easy to access, but not crowded beach in South Lake Tahoe, I have to recommend Trout Creek Meadow/Lily Beach. You can access this area from the west end of San Francisco Avenue in the Al Tahoe neighborhood or from the bike path behind Meek’s Lumber. The meadow is a great place for bird and wildlife watching, so be on the lookout for coyotes and waterfowl of all kinds. Dogs must be on leash (and are banned during certain key bird breeding seasons) and no alcohol!
Hidden Beach, Incline Village, Nevada
Sunset over the East Shore boulders is a Tahoe must-see.
Cascade Lake and Lake Tahoe from a different angle.
For our more adventurous sunset seekers, you could take a late afternoon hike up Mount Tallac, watch the sunset over Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness, and then hike down under a full moon. This is a strenuous 9.5 out and back hike, with over 3,500 feet of elevation gain that starts at 6,500 feet. The views are definitely worth it!! Be prepared for the hike, especially if you plan to come down at night. You’ll need headlamps (plus extra batteries) and confidence in your ability to follow the trail in the dark.
We stopped into this awesome local brewery on a long drive between West Glacier and Gardiner, Montana. My dad and I tried a few of their beers (all delicious!) including the Rendezvous Red Ale and Smoke Jumper Strong Scotch Ale. I settled on the Rising Trout Pale Ale, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re anywhere near Great Falls, Montana and looking for a fun space with great beer, I couldn’t recommend Mighty Mo Brewing Company and more highly!
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.
“…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.”
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.
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 groups, prime fly fishing, horseback tours, and much more!
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.
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!
Over the past few years, I’ve really expanded the number of US National Parks I’ve visited. I went from one in 2009 (North Cascades National Park) to my current count of twelve. Just last week, I was able to add another National Park to my list: Glacier National Park in Montana.
My parents and I spent a (too) quick day here on a drive through the park. I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay and more exploring!
We drove to Glacier National Park’s West Entrance and had to wait in a fairly long line to get in. We were there on a Saturday, so we definitely experienced the summer crowds. If you end up visiting in the summer, I encourage you to go midweek.
My parents aren’t huge hikers, so we didn’t get to experience much of Glacier National Park’s 700 miles of trails. In fact, in the couple of places we tried to go on short hikes, the trail head parking lots were so full we couldn’t park! We ended up just stopping at a number of little pull out areas along the way to stretch our legs, explore along the river, and take in the park’s amazing views.
One reason we chose to go in the summer was the opportunity to take the Going to the Sun Road over Lolo Pass. Glacier National Park describes Going to the Sun Road as
“One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana.”
This drive is definitely worth fighting the summer crowds, at least once. We even got to see some great wildlife on the drive!
Despite the long lines and full parking lots, Glacier didn’t feel as crowded as Yosemite or Yellowstone often do. I can’t wait to come back and do more backcountry exploring. Go visit Glacier National Park soon, before all the glaciers melt!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Location: Saddle Rd, South Lake Tahoe, California
Mileage: 6.6 miles
Elevation Gain: ~600 feet
Difficulty: Beginner Washoe Land
This weekend I was lucky enough to experience possibly the coolest spot I’ve explored since moving to Tahoe – Webber Falls.
Webber Falls is created by the Little Truckee River pouring out of Webber Lake. Water cascades down two tiers of solid granite, creating a nearly perfect swimming hole above the main part of the falls. The two tiers total about 65 feet, with about 15 feet above the pool and 50 feet below. The view down the canyon is incredible, and the surrounding rocks and deep waters make for perfect jumping off rocks or just lounging in the upper falls’ light mist.
While Webber Falls often feels isolated, it’s not too far off the road and is becoming a more popular destination. If you do find your way to this natural playground, be respectful and pack out everything you pack in. While this place is still nearly pristine, we did find some garbage, including cigarette butts and beer cans.
Though Webber Falls is not very far off the road (less than a 1/4 mile hike), the way down is steep and could be treacherous. Not recommended for dogs, drunk people or children! During the spring the flow is too high (and cold) for safe swimming, but the water is usually perfect by mid-summer. However, use your best judgement! Don’t swim there if you feel it is unsafe and be sure to check water depth before jumping.
This spot is an absolute gem, and I’m so glad that I got to experience it. I’m sure I’ll be back many times in the future.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!