Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe

I’m reposting this recipe from last fall!

So despite the snow that Tahoe has gotten lately, I’m still considering it fall! I said that one of my Fall Bucket List Goals was to perfect a Whiskey S’more Cookie recipe. Well, I haven’t quite finalized that recipe yet, but I did come up with a pretty delicious recipe for whiskey-based fall classic – Whiskey Pumpkin Bread. I based this recipe off of a couple of classic pumpkin bread recipes and this one featuring bourbon. I really like how the bread turned out – it’s not as sweet as some recipes and the whiskey flavor is definitely noticeable.

Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe // tahoefabulous.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup whiskey + 1 tbsp (I love Bulleit Rye Whiskey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 1 large loaf pan. I like coconut oil.
  2. Mix together the canned pumpkin, brown sugar, coconut oil, whiskey, and eggs in a large bowl.
  3. In another large bowl, combine flowers, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.
  5. Pour into pan and bake for 50 – 55 minutes. Check with a toothpick or knife for done-ness.
  6. Cool on a rack or plate, slice and try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Kayaking the Little Spokane River

Hey all, I’m almost done writing recaps of Greyson and my Washington and Oregon road trip! After Leavenworth, we headed to my hometown of Reardan, Washington. While nearby Spokane has several interesting looking mountain bike trails in the area, it was too hot for us to ride. Instead, we decided to go kayaking on the Little Spokane River.

Kayaking the Little Spokane River // tahoefabulous.com

My parents have a couple of kayaks, and suggested this activity to us. They were even nice enough to drop us off at the put in and pick us up at the pull out! We got on the river at the put in between St. Georges School and the fish hatchery off of Waikiki Road in north Spokane. We drove around a little to find the exact spot, but if you’re following google map directions to St. Georges, you’ll see the parking lot to the right, and it’s fairly obvious.

Map via Google Maps
Map via Google Maps

The paddle we did was super easy – I am definitely not a skilled paddler with no rapids, real obstacles, and we were floating downstream. The river gets shallow in spots, so most of the paddling was to avoid gravel bars and to stay on course through the S-curves. It took us ~2 hours, 15 minutes to paddle 6.6 miles, and that included a stop for a cooling swim.

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We saw tons of great birds, including herons, mergansers, hawks, and other birds I didn’t recognize. The water is so clear, and we saw huge trout (probably due to the nearby fish hatchery) throughout the whole length of the river. It made me want to come back with a fishing pole! We also saw a couple of beavers.

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The river meanders slowly through willows, meadows and pine forests (including a burn area from a few years ago). It also goes by some houses that have awesome river access.

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The pull out we used wasn’t super well marked, but it was on the left side of the river, with some parking, after going under a bridge and before some concrete barriers and a big white building, a little more than 6.5 miles from the start, according to my Garmin. While kayaking isn’t usually my number one pick for an activity, I had a great time paddling this section of the Little Spokane. It was super easy and a beautiful way to spend a hot summer day.

Little Spokane Paddle Course via Strava
Little Spokane Paddle Course via Strava

Leavenworth Washington and Mountain Biking Freund Canyon

After Oakridge, Oregon and Bellingham, Washington, the next stop on our awesome OR/WA Mountain Bike Road Trip was Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is an adorable “Bavarian” mountain town in the Alps-like Washington Cascades. Leavenworth is on the east side of Stevens Pass (both the ski resort and the physical feature) on Highway 2. I drove Highway 2 across the state during college when I was traveling between my hometown of Reardan and Bellingham, so I’ve been through Leavenworth lots of times, and I’ve stayed there with friends and family several times.

Photo from here.
Photo from here.

While the Bavarian theme can be a little cheesy, Leavenworth is an amazing town. In the Leavenworth area, there is great camping (I’ve stayed at Lake Wenatchee State Park), epic backpacking and hiking (the PCT runs by Stevens Pass),  Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River flow through town, so there are swimming, floating and rafting opportunities galore, world class climbing, great food, wineries and beer, and more! The drive along Highway 2 from Everett in the Seattle area is beautiful and is almost worth the trip by itself.

Leavenworth 4
Photo by Greyson Howard

Greyson and I met my parents at Stevens Pass to caravan the last segment of the drive to the rental house. We stopped at a couple of points along the way to stick our feet in the gorgeous (and cold!) Wenatchee River.

Leavenworth 2

Obviously of interest to us this trip was the mountain biking, which Leavenworth is also on the map for. Nearby Stevens Pass offers lift serviced biking (sadly, only on weekends so we missed out by arriving on a Monday) and the epic, 24 mile, 3,000 foot climb and descent on the Devils Gulch Trail is on my bucket list, and there are many more trails in the area. We weren’t sure which of the trails we wanted to tackle! Luckily, two of my best friends from college, Morgan and Tommy, met us in Leavenworth, and Tommy is an avid mountain biker. He recommended Freund Canyon.

Mountain Biking Leavenworth WA // tahoefabulous.com

The trailhead for Freund Canyon is up a gravel road, off of Freund Canyon Rd, parallel to the Chumstick Highway.

Freund Canyon/Rosy Boa Trailhead // tahoefabulous.com
Freund Canyon Trailhead Map via Google Maps

Freund Canyon (called Freund Climb to Rosy Boa on MTBProject) turned out to be an amazingly fun, featured, and flowy trail with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains that are so beautiful, you are slightly distracted from the brutal climb.

Photo by Greyson Howard
Photo by Greyson Howard

It was pretty hot by the time we got on the trail, which did not make the 1,950 foot climb any easier. The climb wasn’t technical at all, just unrelenting. I’m in much better mountain bike shape than I have been in the last couple of years, but it still took me over an hour to do the ~4 mile climb.

Elevation Profile via Strava
Elevation Profile via Strava

The hour of suffering (Type 2 fun!) was truly cancelled out by the incredible downhill. We lost those ~2,000 feet in about 3.5 miles of fun berms and jumps, well built out of Washington’s amazing dirt. This is one of my favorite trails I’ve ever ridden (even though I don’t jump my bike, except when I get a tiny bit of accidental air), and I was woo-ing it up with pure joy. Some of the berms are built so that you’re turning into the steep, downhill side of the mountain, which felt a little disconcerting (what if the berm collapses and I fly into space?), but for the most part I felt comfortable letting off by brakes a little and flying down the trail. Greyson and I were talking about it later, and decided that the downhill part felt a lot like resort riding without the crowds. It was definitely a very “built” trail.

Trail Map via Strava
Trail Map via Strava

Trail Stats:
Location: Freund Canyon Rd., Leavenworth, Washington
Mileage: 7.8 miles
Elevation gain: ~1,95o feet
Difficulty: Advanced

We spent a couple of days hanging out in Leavenworth – swimming in the river, drinking beer, eating good food, watching turkey vultures, ospreys and a bald eagle from the deck of our rental cabin, and we even had some very special guests on the morning we left – a mama bear and her two cubs up in a tree. Greyson got some great pictures with his nice camera.

Mama bear. Photo by Greyson Howard
Mama bear. Photo by Greyson Howard
Baby bear. Photo by Greyson Howard.
Baby bear. Photo by Greyson Howard.

Mountain Biking Galbraith: Bellingham, Washington

After an amazing time in Oakridge, Greyson and I pointed north (and west) towards Bellingham, Washington! I went to Bellingham back in February to visit friends and test ride a Transition Smuggler, the bike I ended up buying. I’ve been loving riding my Smuggler all over the Sierra, and I was excited to bring it back “home” to ride on the terrain that it was designed for.

Mountain Biking Galbraith, Bellingham, Wa // tahoefabulous.com

 

While there is a lot of seemingly awesome riding in the Bellingham area, Greyson and I decided to keep it easy and head back to the trails at Galbraith that we had ridden in February. Hopefully, with less taking the wrong trail, backtracking and bonking. Galbraith is an amazing trail network located in the city of Bellingham, just a quick pedal from downtown. The trails of Galbraith have something for everyone – flowy single track, long climbs, wooden features, jumps, drops and more on the sticky, perfect Bellingham dirt. There are more than 50 miles of singletrack on 3,000 acres of privately owned land. Galbraith trails are built and maintained by the Whatcom Mountain Bike Club (WMBC), who have more than 30 years of stewardship on the property. They also have the Joyriders, a women’s ride club that I follow jealously on Instagram.

Galbraith Trail Map
Galbraith Trail Map

I had such an amazing time riding at Galbraith that I didn’t stop to take pictures, even of the gorgeous views of the Olympics and Bellingham Bay, so apologies for the text heavy post. We started at the trailhead on Birch Street, the Galbraith Mountain Bike Park North Entrance, heading up Miranda to the Ridge Trail. When we did this trail in February, we missed the correct entrance and ended up pushing our bikes up a steep, punishing slope (a huge reason that I think I bonked) to join with the Ridge Trail. This time we figured out that we needed to go left up some tight switchbacks, and our hunch was confirmed by a very friendly woman at the trailhead with her dog.

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Trail Map via Strava

After climbing up for ~1.4 miles and ~500 feet, we were back at a familiar trail marker with a detailed map at a nexus of several trails, including Family Fun Center, Upper Bob’s and Cedar Dust. We rode Family Fun Center, a ~0.25 mile trail that’s mostly downhill (with a short climb at the end) until it intersected a fire road. We remembered from February that turning left on the fire road would bring us to an intersection with SST, a Galbraith classic.

Elevation Profile via Strava
Elevation Profile via Strava

We stopped on the fire road to gear up for the downhill. I probably didn’t need to, but I had just gotten some new, lighter weight kneepads before this trip (SixSixOne Recon, highly recommended, review coming soon). I also had had so much trouble with watering eyes on the Alpine Trail that I wanted to put on goggles to see if that would help. After I was geared up, we hit the trail. I had so much fun on SST this time! At this point in February, I was completely bonked and my confidence was so shattered that I ended up walking so much of this trail, despite it being entirely rideable for me. This time I rode everything, and I rode it well. I could tell this is exactly the type of trail my bike is made for. The twenty-nine inch wheels rolled over all the rooty and rocky drops and the geometry was perfect for the downhills and the short, steep uphills I encountered.

After SST, we rode Backdoor to the road crossing, carried our bikes cyclocross style up a couple of flights of steps and we were back on Miranda for some tight switchbacks on the way down. We ended up the at the trailhead with huge smiles on our faces, and ready for a beer! I had so much more fun riding at Galbraith this time around. Last time, I was on an unfamiliar bike, out of bike shape and not nutritionally prepared. I’ve also improved my riding a fair amount this summer.

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If you’re looking for a short (<4 miles), intermediate loop, this is a really fun one. I got a lot of bang for my buck (aka a lot of fun downhill for the climb) and it showcases the kind of riding Galbraith is known for, with well built trails, a little bit of unpredictability with rooty drops and narrow trees, nice views and great dirt. P.S. Don’t forget to stop by Aslan Brewing Company for a beer after your ride!

Trail Stats:
Trails Ridden: Miranda, Ridge Trail, Family Fun Center, Lower SST, and Backdoor
Location: Bellingham, Washington via Birch St
Mileage: 3.7 miles
Elevation gain: ~750 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate

Mountain Biking in Oakridge, Oregon: The Alpine Trail

I just got back from an amazing road trip, mountain biking, camping, kayaking and beer drinking across Oregon and Washington. I had a great time at all of our stops, both those I’ve visited before and those that were new to me. I’ll be recapping our whole trip over the next couple weeks. Our first stop was Oakridge, Oregon.

Mountain Biking the Alpine Trail in Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Oakridge, Oregon is a small town nestled in the heart of the Cascades and parallels the Willamette River, about an hour east of Eugene on Highway 58.  Oakridge had been a busy logging town, but since the down turn in the logging industry, it had struggled, with many businesses closing and families moving away. Oakridge is a beautiful place, with trails for hiking, camping spots along Salmon Creek, rafting and fishing opportunities on local rivers and streams, and, more recently, trails for mountain biking. Oakridge has become a popular destination for mountain bikers – only 2.5 hours from Portland and a “quick” ~7 hours from the Bay Area and Tahoe. (Greyson and I stopped by the local brewery for dinner and literally everyone eating on the patio was visiting from California.)

Mountain biking and other outdoor adventures are helping to bring some much needed money and business to Oakridge. However, it’s a much more complicated story than “mountain biking saves dying logging town!” – check out this interesting article from NPR:

For decades after World War II, the small town of Oakridge in the southern Cascade mountains of Oregon was a booming lumber town. But by the early 1990s, the lumber industry had collapsed, and Oakridge has struggled ever since, losing families and businesses. Now, residents like Randy Dreiling are trying to reinvent the place as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Dreiling owns Oregon Adventures, which offers mountain bike tours. Some 350 miles of trails have earned Oakridge the self-proclaimed title of “Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest. Mountain biking is just a piece of the pie. It’s not the end all be all, but it’s what we got. And it’s been good to us,” he says. “Anybody that’s being honest to themselves can see the amount of people mountain biking is bringing to town — more and more every year.”

Greyson found us an awesome campsite, Salmon Creek Falls Campground, about five miles outside of town. We snagged one of the last few first-come, first-serve campsites and set up the tent. This campground has some amazing spots right along the river, but I’m guessing you have to get there early on a weekday to get one of them.

Salmon Creek Falls Campground Oakridge OR

While there are a ton of trails in the Oakridge area, mostly built and maintained by GOATS (Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards), we had decided to shuttle the Alpine Trail, booking a shuttle with Oregon Adventures, a local shuttle and tour company. They describe the Alpine Trail as

Oh glorious Alpine! Known as the Crown Jewel, this is one wicked trail. A combination of every pleasure known to mountain biking, you can’t not love Alpine.

I pre-booked the shuttle for 8:45 am the next day, so we decided to head in from our campsite for an early dinner and to scope out where we’d be meeting up. We (surprise, surprise) ended up at the only brewery in town, the Brewers Union Local 180. The brewery only has cask ale (or as they claim, the only “real ale” in Oregon) which undergoes a secondary fermentation in a wooden cask. These ales are much less carbonated that a typical IPA (it reminded me of a beer on nitro), and both of the ones we tried were tasty. This was by far the most popular restaurant in town, filled with tourists and locals alike. It was a long wait for food and beer, but both were worth it. We even met a group of people we’d be riding the shuttle with (and the Oregon Adventures owner!) at the brewery that night.

Alpine Trail Elevation Profile via Strava
Alpine Trail Elevation Profile via Strava

We met bright and early at the Oregon Adventures parking lot to drop off bikes with the shuttle van, and carpool to the bottom of the trail, a few miles from headquarters. We reconvened with the ten or so other riders, loaded into the shuttle and were off on the ~30 minute ride. The shuttle driver was very helpful, pointing out road crossings and landmarks that we’d use on the ride back, and soon arrived at our destination. While shuttling the Alpine Trail means a mostly downhill ride, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any climbing. In fact, you start off the trail with a ~350 foot climb that feels steeper than it actually is on cold legs.

Alpine Trail Map via Strava
Alpine Trail Map via Strava

After less than a mile of climbing, you come to a flat, grassy field with a narrow trail cut out and beautiful views. I remember commenting to Greyson about how it was hard to ride in such a narrow trail, and that I kept bumping my wheel on the edges. Little did I know that this was just a preview of the majority of the trail width to come!

Alpine Trail Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Alpine Trail Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

The day was cool and cloudy, which was nice but I had a real problem with my sunglasses fogging up for most of the day! After the meadow, we rode into the trees and the first of the many downhills. At this point, we stopped to put on kneepads. This was the first of many stops – we definitely did not break any speed records on this trail. One of the coolest things about this trail was that it had some of everything – awesomely sticky Oregon dirt, miles of fast, flowy sections, rocky and rooty drops, long climbs, steep exposure, loose rocky sections, epic views and closed in forest canopies.

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I’m used to the wider trails of the Sierra, so the narrow, more overgrown trails took some getting used to, and I definitely walked some sections of narrow trail that had steep exposure. Luckily, the Alpine Trail seemed to be about 85% fun flow on good dirt, with a smaller percentage of steep climbs, loose rocks, and only a few sections that I needed to walk.

Alpine Trail // tahoefabulous.com

According to my Garmin, we climbed about 1,224 feet over the 13.8 miles (the shuttle cut off some climbing and mileage from the full, official Alpine Trail.) The trail was very well marked and easy to follow. We got a little confused at about 12.5 miles in, where there was a junction. The MTB Project app told us to go right to stay on the Alpine Trail, but we were pretty sure we needed to go left to get back to our car. One of the things our shuttle driver told us at the beginning was “when in doubt, go left.” We went left and followed an obviously newer trail (I think called A.T.A.C., but I’m not 100% sure) that did bring us back to our cars.

We quickly loaded up and headed straight for pizza and beer. The pizza wasn’t amazing, but we were hungry so that didn’t matter all too much. After buying some cans of local beer, we went back to the campsite and spent some time lounging in my birthday ENO hammock for national hammock day.

ENO Hammock // tahoefabulous.com

Salmon Creek Falls campground is next to (no surprise) a creek and a small waterfall. Just upstream from the waterfall was a great, but cold swimming hole. We tentatively waded in, and, once my feet and legs were numb, the water felt great!

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We stayed two nights in Oakridge and I wish we could have stayed longer to explore more trails! The town was beautiful, the people were friendly, the beer was good and the mountain biking was phenomenal. That’s all I can really ask in a destination. I loved camping at Salmon Creek Falls, and there are a number of motels in downtown Oakridge. The Alpine Trail was worth traveling for, and it’s a trail I’d love to do again with a little more confidence now that I know what it’s like.

Trail Stats:
Location: Oakridge, Oregon (shuttle with Oregon Adventures)
Mileage: 13.8 miles
Elevation gain: ~1,200 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate

Sierra Summer Essentials

Last year, I shared my top essentials for an amazing summer by Lake Tahoe. Now I’m back to share more of my favorite things for a perfect summer!

Sierra Summer Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

Something to lounge around in/on. We’ve all seen the hammocks that are all over Instagram, and I have an ENO two person hammock that I’m sure will get a ton of use on Greyson and my road trip next week. But even better, I got a LayBag for my birthday from Greyson’s parents!

Laybag // tahoefabulous.com

The LayBag™ as a brand-new product and the lifestyle innovation of the season has been created to perfectly relax anywhere. The inflatable sofa that fills air within seconds is super comfortable and can be described as a clever combination of an inflatable couch with the very simple filling-technique used on dry-bags. No external pump needed!

Therefore it can be inflated and deflated within seconds and stored in a small carrying-bag giving you the opportunity to carry your LayBag anywhere you want, giving you more time to lounge on your LayBag.

I took the LayBag for its first test run this past weekend. We watched the instructional video first, which made inflation look super simple, just flapping the LayBag through the air while alternating sides, roll, clip, and done. It was a little more complicated, and we definitely needed a breeze to help us out. We did get it filled pretty quickly once the wind picked up, and I was floating in no time.
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Sun Shirt/Rashguard. Before Indonesia, I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of a sun shirt or rashguard. I thought I’d be too hot, and that it couldn’t work that well. I started coming around on the idea when I rafted the American River last June. I wore a NRS Rashguard in the boat, and I didn’t burn at all, and barely had to reapply sunscreen. When I got too hot, I got in the water, shirt and all and the wet fabric helped me stay cool. In Raja Ampat, where it was often over 90 degrees and 90% humidity, I wore a sun shirt pretty much any time I was outside and not in the water. I don’t go to that extent in our fairly mild Tahoe summers, but sun shirts are really nice for hiking on high altitude, exposed trails. Hint for tall/long armed women: this men’s columbia button down in a medium fit me perfectly. I also have a men’s Patagonia sun shirt with a hood that is really comfy.

Approach Shoes: I am a huge fan of sandals like Chacos (which you can probably tell by my telltale Z tan in the above photo!) for summer adventures, but they aren’t perfect for everything. Approach shoes fill the gap when you want something with more protection than sandals, a softer sole than trail runners, and more low key than hiking boots. I recently bought a pair of Five Ten Guide Tennies and they have been great for all sorts of activities this summer. Their sticky bottoms are great for scrambling around on the granite of Donner Summit, they protect my toes from loose rocks on the approach to the climbing wall, and I’ve even worn them biking when I have flat pedals on my mountain bike.

My 5.10 Guide Tennies were perfect for scrambling around on the granite on Oldstead Point in Yosemite National Park.
My 5.10 Guide Tennies were perfect for scrambling around on the granite on Olmstead Point in Yosemite National Park.

Hydration System: The air up here in Tahoe is very dry, and it’s important to stay hydrated during your runs, hikes, rides, climbs, etc. (especially if you plan on sampling some of the great beer we have up here!) I’m a big fan of hydration packs, especially for mountain bike rides and hikes. I have and LOVE the CamelBak Solstice. It’s a mountain bike specific hydration pack with lots of extra features, which I think add to the functionality of the Solstice.

Our newest women’s mountain bike pack is a low rider. The Solstice™ is a full-featured pack that shifts your load—and most importantly, your water supply—down towards your waist. That small change gives you a lower center of gravity and a wider range of motion, which makes it easier to maneuver as you’re barreling downhill. The Solstice also stores enough water and gear for a full day on the trail: a 3-liter Antidote® reservoir, helmet hooks, attachment points for soft armor, and a tool roll to keep your gear organized. We designed the Solstice specifically for women, with an S-shaped harness that curves comfortably around your chest, and a slightly shorter back panel for a more ergonomic fit. The velvetex-lined harness also keeps the straps from chafing against your skin.

I'm wearing my Camelbak Solstice on this trail through the redwoods at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz.
I’m wearing my Camelbak Solstice on this trail through the redwoods at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz.

For hiking, I have an older Osprey Packs Raptor pack, which is technically a bike specific pack. I like it better for hiking than biking, and I love the fact that the bladder has the easy to use Nalgene screw top. I’ve even gone on some trail runs with this pack, but it’s not the best for that. I almost bought the Osprey Rev 6 to use for trail running/biking, but I decided on a bike specific pack since I use it way more. For running, I’ve been sticking with a handheld bottle, like this Nathan VaporMax Plus.

Cush Comforts for Car Camping. Did you like my alliteration there? I love car camping, and, one of the reasons why I love it is how comfortable you can be! While a few pieces of lighter weight gear make their way into my car camping set up (ahem, this super comfortable Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow), I take advantage of the packing room to bring some larger items. My favorite is a super comfortable sleeping pad. I have the backcountry.com knock off of the Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp (which it looks like they don’t make any more, sadly). If you’re not worried about space and you are worried about comfort, look for a car camping mattress that has a foam core AND inflates.

Greyson recently bought himself a Yeti Cooler. Yes, they are really expensive. Yes, they are really heavy. Yes, they are really that awesome at keeping your food cold. Definitely go check them out in person before you buy them, though, because all of that insulation comes at a price – the usable space inside the cooler. Stay tuned later this month for more of my car camping recommendations!

Tahoe Fabulous Summer Cocktail // tahoefabulous.com

A Perfect Summer Cocktail: I’m not usually a huge fan of sweet drinks (black coffee, gin & tonics, and IPAs, all the way!), but this fruit and herb infused cocktail is perfect for summer.

  1. Muddle half a lime, a couple spoonfuls of watermelon and 4-5 large basil leaves in the bottle of a rocks glass.
  2. Pour in a shot or two of your favorite gin.
  3. Add ice to top of the glass.
  4. Finish with tonic and enjoy! I like to garnish with a slice of watermelon when I’m feeling fancy.

So there are a few of my essentials for this summer. What are you loving right now?

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!

 

June Lake Triathlon Recap

So my blog is still broken, and I haven’t figured out how to fix it yet, sadly. Instead of pouting about it any more, I decided I should just start writing and get it going again.

I’ve done a bunch of fun things this spring and summer, but I’ll start out with my most recent adventure – the June Lake Triathlon. Read below for my long race recap – spoiler alert – I won my age group!

June Lake Triathlon Recap // tahoefabulous.com

This was the 10th year of the June Lake Triathlon, an amazing race put on in one of my favorite underrated, Eastern Sierra towns, June Lake. To start with, this is a small race with a hometown feel, but very well organized and fun to do. The race even reserves an entire Forest Service campground entirely for racers, volunteers and their families. Oh Ridge Campground is directly connected to the start/finish area, so it’s super convenient. I ended up staying there, and for $30 a night it was a great deal.

Greyson and I drove down from Truckee on Friday afternoon, of course stopping at Whoa Nellie Deli for the best gas station food in California. Packet pick up was at June Mountain resort from 2-6 pm with a participant meeting at 5 pm (late packet pickup was offered at the start). I grabbed my stuff, got checked in and headed to our campsite to set up before returning for the participant meeting. I’m glad that I went to the participant meeting, as Alana the race director went over the courses in detail, so I learned about the turns I’d be taking. After the meeting, Greyson and I tried to find dinner. We were hoping for pizza, but the pizza place in town was closed. Note: June Lake is a small town, so dining options are limited. We had brought a bunch of food to make ourselves at the campsite, but there are also a ton of restaurants in Mammoth Lakes, not too far of a drive away.

June Lake Vista
All photos by Greyson Howard

Race Details:
The June Lake Triathlon has a sprint, olympic, and half iron distances, as well as an aquabike, relay divisions and a kids race. I did the sprint distance which was a 400 meter swim, 8 mile bike ride, and 2.25 mile run. The starts for all of the events were pretty staggered, with the half iron/aqua bike starting at 7:00 am, olympic starting at 8:00 am, and the sprint starting at 9:00 am. Transition was open all day, so you could get your bike and run gear set up whenever worked for you. While camping onsite had a ton of advantages, it did come with an early wake-up call, as the announcements for the half iron started at 6 am. I’d woken up with the sun at 5:30, but if you were hoping to take advantage of the later start time to sleep in, you might not be able to.

I ate a bagel with peanut butter and a banana and drank my coffee fairly early; killing time by reorganizing my gear into one bag that I could bike the ~1/2 mile to the start with. I got into my tri shorts and sports bra, applied sunscreen and shimmied into my wetsuit, for one last thing to carry. I rode down to the transition area a little after 8, and it was definitely a weird feeling to ride a bike in a wetsuit!

Transition was really well organized with plenty of volunteers directing everyone where to go. I got my transition area set up, got body marked and headed for the beach for a quick warm up swim. I was thinking of trying different, tinted goggles in the race (always the best idea to try something new!), and I wanted to make sure they were ok, in addition to warming up. Luckily, the goggles were perfect but the water was cold! I swam around until I felt pretty used to it, then retreated to the beach to wait for the start.

June Lake Triathlon Swim

Swim
11:53 (400 meters, includes long run up to transition, my Garmin time was ~10:30)
2/10 age group, 50/133 overall

The men went first at 9:05, and it was soon time for the women and relay swimmers. We waded out to to the start between to inflatable buoys. Swim is usually my strongest leg by far, so despite being not in the best swim shape, I placed myself towards the front. Once the swim started, I worried it was a mistake, since this was the hardest open water swim of my life. It was COLD, choppy and at higher altitude than I am used to. I’m usually fine swimming freestyle for the entire swim, just lifting my head out to sight, but after I breathed in some water early on, I had to breast stroke for awhile until I caught my breath. I ended up breast stroking a few more times throughout the swim, but I eventually calmed down enough to start picking off the slower men and the women who went out too hard. I ended up 17th out of 60+ women, so my start towards the front wasn’t so bad.

The swim is just a few right turns around buoys, but, weirdly after the last buoy, the water is shallow enough to stand and a lot of people were walking through thigh deep water for a loooong way in. I stood up to catch my breath, but quickly remembered that walking through water is not at all efficient, so I did a modified dolphin dive/swim a few strokes/stand/dive again strategy until my hands were dragging on the ground. I passed a few people on the way in this way!

T1: 2:37

Other than a sandy run up, T1 was fairly uneventful. I decided to wear mid-calf Smartwool socks for the bike and run, since the run was on a trail that is usually overgrown. It was hard to get my tall socks on my wet and sandy feet. I attempted to use my towel to de-sand them, but wasn’t too successful. I threw on my shirt with number pinned on, new road helmet (which was purchased earlier this week), sunglasses and I was off! I had bought road bike gloves earlier that week and tried them out, but decided at the last minute not to bother. I figured that I could handle 8 miles with no gloves and didn’t want to deal with getting them on and off.

June Lake Triathlon Bike

Bike
30:51 (8 miles, ~800 feet of elevation gain – I forgot to turn my garmin on when I started.)
2/10 age group, 60/133 overall

Bike Course via Strava
Bike Course via Strava

The most important thing about this bike ride is that it is gorgeous! Now, I live in a beautiful place, but I was struck over and over how beautiful this course was. The route is open to traffic everywhere except the very first section, but all intersections are controlled so you don’t have to stop. I saw barely any cars on my whole route, and I felt very safe the whole way. June Lake is a small, tourist town and it seemed like half the town was volunteering, so there wasn’t a ton of on course cheering, but the few people who were out were very encouraging.

Bike Elevation via Strava
Bike Elevation via Strava

My strategy for the bike was to go out hard, and keep going as hard as I could. The elevation on the course seemed pretty doable and I was expecting the run to suck no matter what, so I wasn’t too worried about saving my legs. The bike leg starts with a short climb that feels steeper than it actually is on cold legs. It settles into nice easy rollers with fun downhills for the first half of the course. A little past mile four the real climb starts. This climb was definitely a challenge (especially with my bike NOT set up for climbing), but very doable. It helped that there were short downhill sections in the larger climb to give my legs a break. I was climbing really well, and having lots of fun passing some men on the climbs and trying to get far enough ahead that they couldn’t catch up on the downhills where their larger mass gave them an advantage. I managed to drink about half a bottle of Tailwind on the bike, which is better than I usually do.

Unfortunately, I dropped my chain and got super tangled on the steepest section of the climb! I lost <40 seconds fixing the chain and all of my momentum. I also got re-passed by a bunch of people I had shot ahead of earlier on the climb. Eventually, I got back up to speed and was able to re-pass a few people before the descent back to transition.

T2
Again, pretty uneventful. The race packet had recommended trail shoes for the race as it was almost entirely on a sandy, steep trail. My newish trail shoes (Saloman Mission XR Trail) had given my shins some issues when I first started wearing them, but they were feeling comfortable by the time the race came around, and I was so glad I wore a trail shoe. Also, the speed laces style lacing scheme made them easy to slip on quickly. I switched my helmet for a hat, drank some Tailwind, and I was off.

June Lake Triathlon Run

Run
27:52 (2.25 miles, ~359 feet elevation gain)
2/10 age group, 72/133 overall

The run is hard. Really, really hard. Like up there with Ragnar for the hardest trail runs I’ve ever done, and it was only 2.25 miles. I started getting nervous when I saw that the women’s winning run times in previous years were around the 20 minute mark. While I would love to run 2.25 miles in under 20 minutes in a triathlon, I recognize that this is a pretty slow pace for the winners to run. I looked more closely at the course description and realized that the run involved a LOT of uphill. Luckily, it also involved a lot of downhill, but, depending on how technical the course is and how coordinated you are, downhills in trail races might not gain you a lot of speed.

Run Course via Strava
Run Course via Strava

I mainly trained on the flat road along Donner Lake, but I did throw in a couple of uphill runs to practice. I was mainly training using the run/walk method of running for 90 seconds, walking for 30 seconds and repeating. This tends to work well for me, as I am terrible at pacing myself. Once I saw the course profile and description, I decided that I was just going to walk the uphills, run the downhills and do 90/30 on the flats. This strategy worked really well for me.

Run Elevation via Strava

The sprint run starts on a narrow, sandy trail through some bushes. I immediately got some stickers in my socks, but they didn’t bug me too much throughout the race. After a short flat section (where I made myself stick to 90/30 pacing), the course turns up a trail offshoot for a steep ~0.25 mile climb. This section isn’t too sandy or technical, but you still need to pay attention to your feet. There’s an aid station at the top of this dog leg, and I tried to drink some water before running back down. Almost immediately after getting to the bottom, you are sent up a hot, steep, loose, long sandy climb of ~0.5 miles. I saw a couple of people trying to run it, but they weren’t going much faster than the rest of us power hiking and they looked like they were tiring themselves out. After a few false summits, you are finally at the top. You pop out on a paved road (the only paved segment of the sprint run) and run downhill for awhile. It’s nice to run downhill at this point, but I was already dreading the the return. We made a tiny loop on the dirt and ended up back on the road. The run uphill on the road wasn’t as bad as I was worried, but I walked it anyway to conserve energy. When I got back on the trails, I felt like I was on the home stretch!

I felt comfortable running the downhills, especially in my shoes so I just let my legs go as fast as they could. I knew there wouldn’t be too much of the race left once I hit the bottom, so I wasn’t worried about tiring my quads too much. I felt like I was sprinting down the hill, but, according to my garmin, my top speed was only 8:00 minute/mile! At the bottom, I was back on the flat, sandy narrow trail where I could see the finish line, which looked so far away. I really wanted to go back to my run/walk method, but there was a race photographer up ahead, so I kept running. Once I passed him, the finish line seemed much closer so I kept it at a run. At first, I planned to not push myself that hard, and I let a girl pass me pretty close to the finish line. My competitive nature kicked in and I sped up to a “sprint” through the soft sand. I caught her right before the finish line and ended up beating her by 15/100s of a second!

June Lake Triathlon Finish

Overall
1:14:56
1/19 age group, 59/133 overall

I got my participant medal (which was an awesome, handmade ceramic medal – definitely the coolest race swag I’ve ever gotten!), and basically collapsed in a chair at the finish line while a volunteer tried to find my timing chip under my tall sock. Greyson was trying to talk to me at this point, but all wanted to do was sit down. After I felt like I could stand, I dazedly wandered off with Greyson in search of food. The free lunch for racers was also really good – homemade potato salad, bbq chicken, hardboiled eggs, bean salad, fresh fruit and ice cold lemonade. I flopped down on the beach and picked at the delicious food while Greyson got me a beer. Mammoth Brewing Company had a booth at the race with $5 delicious IPA!

We ate, drank and hung around in the sun, watching racers finish and relaxing on the gorgeous beach, looking up at the beautiful mountains. I didn’t expect at all to place, but I wanted to hang around and watch some of the award ceremony and see what my official finishing time was. When the sprint awards ceremony started, I told Greyson to stay put, and wandered over to the results posting. I found my name and felt a shock when I saw that I was first in my age group! The announcer had almost gotten to the 30-34 division so I frantically waved Greyson over. When the announcer called my name, I climbed up on to the “podium” (actually those steps you use for box jumps/step ups in conditioning class). After our photo session, the announcer called up the male winners in our age division and crammed us all on the podium. I fell off once and stepping back onto the tall step felt almost as hard as any part of the triathlon! The age group winners all got handmade ceramic dishes, and I got a gorgeous cup with mountain outlines on it – way cooler than a typical plaque!

June Lake Triathlon Podium

Participating in the June Lake Triathlon was an amazing experience. It’s a fun, challenging race, well organized, with great swag, and it’s in a beautiful location close to Mammoth, Mono Lake and Yosemite. Plus, all the racers got a $1 beer at June Lake Brewery afterward. If you’re looking for a triathlon to add to your calendar next year, I highly recommend June Lake Triathlon!

Gear Details
Swim: Garmin Forerunner 910 XT (exact), Canari Tri Shorts (similar), Moving Comfort Rebound Racer (exact), Speedo Tinted Goggles, (similar).
Bike: Late 90’s Cannondale Road Bike much improved by a Fizik women’s specific saddle (similar), Specialized Women’s Sierra Helmet (exact), Shimano Women’s Mountain Bike Shoes (similar), Smartwool hiking socks (exact)
Run: Saloman Woman’s Mission XR (exact), Auburn Mini Triathlon participant hat

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!

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!

Shoulder Season Fun: Tahoe Triathlon

It’s now nearly mid-April and we’re deep into Spring Shoulder Season! I thought I’d continue my series of posts on fun things to do in Tahoe during the shoulder season. While the Tahoe area hosts a number of “real” triathlons in the summer months, organized races are scarce during the spring. To fill this gap, I like to put together what I call a “Tahoe Triathlon”.

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There is no official rulebook for the Tahoe Triathlon, but participants must complete three recreational activities all in one day. Since it’s the shoulder season, none of these activities will be top notch (ie probably no powder turns and the trails will have some mud and snow), but quality isn’t the emphasis here. You can pick whatever outdoor activities you want and vary them as necessary due to conditions. (bonus points for combining winter and spring sports, especially if you manage the same outfit for all legs!)

Here’s my dream itinerary for a Snowboard/Mountain Bike/Swim Tahoe Triathlon in Truckee: Start off the day with some turns at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. Be sure to get there early before it warms up too much and don’t forget your sunscreen!

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I hope you brought some trail snacks, because we’re heading straight to Emigrant Trail, a little north of Truckee off of Highway 89. Emigrant Trail isn’t my favorite Truckee mountain bike trail, but it is one of the first ones to melt out – so it’s perfect for a spring Tahoe Triathlon.

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After a 10-15 mile (depending on how we’re feeling) out and back, we re-group and drive to our final leg – the “swim” in Donner Lake. While it may have been swimming season for weeks in other parts of California, spring in Tahoe still means very cold lakes. Therefore, the swim will most likely be more like a polar bear plunge.

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Since West End Beach hasn’t officially opened for the season, you can park there for free. After your icy dip, I recommend heading straight for a hot tub. If you don’t have access to a nearby hot tub, you can warm up over beers at Mellow Fellow.

If that itinerary doesn’t sound like fun, there are dozens of other Tahoe Triathlon activities you can try: stand up paddle boarding, XC skiing, bouldering, trail running, outdoor yoga, slack lining, hiking…the list goes on and on.

What activities would you put in your “Tahoe Triathlon”?