Trail Report: Mountain Biking Foresthill Divide Trail, Auburn, California

I am lucky enough to get both Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day off, so I had a four day weekend this weekend. I packed a lot of fun into this weekend, and I managed to fit two of my favorite things (beer and mountain biking) into Valentine’s Day. We’ve been having a bit of a dry spell up in the mountains, and while it’s led to fun, spring-like conditions for snowboarding, I was ready to get out of the Tahoe area and find some real spring weather. Greyson had heard some good things about the mountain biking around Auburn, and with the forecast calling for 74 and sunny, we decided to check out the Foresthill Divide Trail.

IMG_1383

Sidenote: Greyson has been obsessed with Mountain Bike Project  basically since it came out. It took me longer to jump on the bandwagon/download the app to my phone, but it is totally awesome! I highly recommend it.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 11.40.37 AM
Photo via Strava

The trailhead for the Foresthill Divide trail is easy to find – it’s 3.7 miles east from the Foresthill Bridge on Foresthill Road. (Note: Google Maps has the trailhead in the wrong location). From Auburn, the trailhead is on your right with enough parking for 15-20 cars. If you don’t have a California State Parks Pass, it will cost $10 to park. There porti-potties, but not permanent bathrooms here. They were very clean porti-potties though! There are signs up reminding you to hide valuables and to lock your cars – locals we talked to agreed with that recommendation. Apparently, there have been break ins and thefts at the trailhead. The Foresthill Divide trail is open to horses, hikers and leashed dogs (but not OHVs), so be aware and practice good trail manners. We saw lots of hikers out yesterday.

IMG_1371
Some nice hikers took this Valentines Day picture for us.

The Foresthill Divide Trail is a lollipop with a very short stick, and it is very well marked. There are easily read “Foresthill Divide Trail” signs at every major intersection. As long as you follow these signs and stay on the main trail, you will be fine. After you leave the parking lot follow the signs, you’ll ride about 0.6 miles before hitting the loop part of the trail. The sign here points right, and follow that to do the loop counterclockwise. Pretty much every biker we encountered was doing the loop that direction. You’ll get the harder climbs out of the way sooner, and the steeper sections will be downhill.

IMG_1366

I’m feeling pretty out of shape bike wise, and the thought of lugging my heavy Sanction up ~1,600 feet of climbing sounded pretty miserable to me, so I did some research into whether this ride would be a good candidate for riding my hardtail. To be honest, that is my number one question whenever I am thinking about riding a new trail. Can I ride my hardtail, or do I need suspension? The research I did had me leaning toward hardtail acceptable, so that’s what I brought. Spoiler alert: the trail is definitely doable on a hardtail and it was enjoyable, but next time I will be riding a full suspension bike.

The Mountain Bike Project describes the Foresthill Divide Trail as “A very good intermediate Level XC Trail. Rolling singletrack that’s very well designed and maintained,” and I wholeheartedly agree with this description. The trail is hard packed dirt for the majority of the length, with a few rocky and rooty sections. The trail definitely had some erosion damage when we rode it yesterday, but it is generally a well built, FUN to ride trail.

IMG_1373

While I enjoy the more technical, rocky trails that Tahoe has to offer, it is just so FUN to be able to let go and ride fast on hard packed, sticky dirt. There are also long, straight downhill sections with lots of visibility ahead, so I felt safe getting my speed up and not worrying about coming up on unsuspecting hikers or horses. While there were rocky sections, none lasted more than a few hundred yards, and there was only one steep, rooty section that I felt like I couldn’t have handled on my hardtail. (There were definitely other sections that I chose to walk due to out-of-bike-shapeness). I said earlier that next time I’d choose to ride a full suspension bike, and that was more due to the bumpy erosion damage and hard packed dirt than the size of the rocks.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 11.40.45 AM
Photo via Strava

While the ride had ~1,600 feet of climbing (according to Strava), none of the climbs were too steep to ride. I definitely stopped for many breaks, but I also haven’t been on a bike since October. You spend most of your time riding through classic California oak woodlands, but you pop out for gorgeous views quite a few times along the way, and we caught a glimpse of the American River a couple of times.

IMG_1370

The only major downside to this trail is the couple of times you have to cross a major road. You cross Foresthill Road at 5.6 miles and again at 10.3 miles. Cars are coming fast, and the corners are a little blind for my taste. We obviously made it across safely, but be careful, because there are no warning signs for cars about bike crossings.

IMG_1380

We had a great time riding the Foresthill Divide Trail, and I definitely recommend it as a good intermediate cross country trail. It would be a challenge for a beginner, but doable, especially if they’re in good cardio-shape. It’s rideable for an intermediate rider, and there’s enough going on that an advanced rider would have fun. Plus, there’s lots of other fun stuff to do around the Auburn area, and I plan on writing about that in the next week or so.
Trail Stats:
Location: near Auburn, California
Mileage: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,600 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Favorite Sierra Products – A Giveaway

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the best products local to Tahoe. Now, I’m going to expand my range a little further and talk about my favorite things from my favorite mountain range – the Sierra Nevada! Plus, there will be a giveaway at the end that I think is pretty awesome.

IMG_1293

Klean Kanteen:
Klean Kanteen is based in Chico, California (home to another favorite – Sierra Nevada Brewing). I’ve mentioned my love for Klean Kanteen in other product round ups, but I just have to mention again how much I like them! I definitely think their insulated Kanteen are superior to their competitor Hydroflask. I am notoriously bad about forgetting to wash out my morning coffee, but the Klean Kanteen doesn’t have ANY lingering coffee smell. Klean Kanteen partners with organizations to co-brand their merchandise for fundraisers, and my organization is currently selling Sierra Nevada Alliance Klean Kanteens if you want to buy one!

Klean Kanteen manufactures their bottles in China, and has this to say about that

“Klean Kanteen has always shared many of the concerns you, our customers, have expressed about manufacturing the bottles in China. Before a single bottle was ever produced, Klean Kanteen set in place checks and balances to ensure that our bottles are produced safely, sustainably and that the people making Klean Kanteens are treated well and paid fairly. By manufacturing in China, Klean Kanteen can provide a handcrafted bottle of exceptional quality at a reasonable price.”

Klean Kanteen bottles are made from stainless steel, and the bottles are unlined and don’t contain any BPA. You can even get some of the Kanteens made entirely plastic free with stainless steel and bamboo lids.

IMG_1923 (1)
Photo by Greyson Howard

Yuba Expeditions: 
Not exactly a product, but more of a service – Yuba Expeditions in Downieville, California provides shuttle service, bike rentals and everything else you need to ride the classic Downieville Downhill mountain bike trail. I was able to ride the Downhill twice this summer, and both times we used the Yuba Expedition shuttle. Their service is great – on one trip, our group was too large to fit in on the existing shuttle routes, so they did a special shuttle trip at 7 am just for our group! It’s totally affordable ($20 per person), and their profits support Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, an awesome trail building organization that builds and maintains the great trails in the Sierra Buttes area.

When you finish the ride, hot and exhausted, Yuba Expeditions has cold, local beer waiting for you, AND it’s next to a swimming hole made by the confluence of the Yuba and the Downie Rivers, just waiting for you to jump in. Yuba Expeditions also sells really great shirts/hats/bike gear etc.

IMG_0718

I wear my Yuba Expeditions hat all the time, and Greyson has this “Another Shitty Day in Downieville” tank top. (Not him in the picture)

Juniper Ridge:
Technically, Juniper Ridge is based in Berkeley, California, but many of their products are distilled from plants collected in the Sierra Nevada.

“All Juniper Ridge products are 100% Wildcrafted and produced using old perfume making techniques including distillation, tincturing, infusion and enfleurage. A hundred years ago, all perfumes were made this way. Today we’re the only ones who handle every step of the process ourselves, from beginning to end. These formulas vary from year to year and harvest to harvest, based on rainfall, temperature, exact harvesting location, and season. The exact formula depends on what we find in the wind, a conversation with the living, wild ecology…

All of our plants are wildharvested with the utmost sensitivity and respect for the existing wildscape. We return to the same stands year after year to carefully monitor regrowth. We never use alien or invasive species and are actively involved in native plant restoration projects from San Diego to Seattle. 10% of all of our profits are annually donated to a portfolio of Western Wilderness Defense organizations. We revel in the intact forest habitats of the West, and tirelessly work to promote education as to how best to protect them.”

The amount of Juniper Ridge I own is a little ridiculous, but I just love all of their stuff so much! I can’t handle a lot of perfumed or scented products, but their stuff never bugs me. I would much rather smell like a cedar forest than a fake scent created in a lab. (A lot of the scented products on the market contain phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors and bad for the environment.) I first learned about this company from a friend at work when they donated several gift baskets worth of stuff to an auction. I won one of the gift baskets and have never looked back.

10980154_716273291804463_1585663829007409187_o

My current favorite products are the Steep Ravine Organic Soap, Douglas fir spring tips tea, Sierra Granite Trail Soap, and the Christmas Tree Cabin Spray. Oh, and also the Siskiyou backpacker cologne! I got it for Greyson, but he’s not a cologne guy, and, hey, it’s unisex!

Chico Bags
Many cities in California (including Truckee and South Lake Tahoe) have a plastic bag ban, but I was using re-usable grocery bags long before it was compulsory. In fact, my mom recently sent me a re-usable bag we made together for an elementary school project. It’s got some sweet glitter paint designs.

At this point, I’ve accumulated a TON of reusable grocery bags, but by far my favorite is the ChicoBag Sling rePETe tote. The rePETe bags are made from recycled material, mostly 100% post-consumer bottles. The sling bags have a cross body strap (making them great for hauling beer and snacks to all day music festivals) and can hold up to 4o pounds. I was telling the checker at Safeway that, and she was curious so she weighed my bag – it easily carried 30+ pounds. I’m not sure how you’d get up to 40 without weights, but I trust them!

Living Wild by Alicia Funk and Karin Kaufman
I love this book by Alicia Funk and Karin Kaufman. Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California is so much more than a cookbook – it’s a great reference for the native plants of California, with a special focus on the Sierra.

living wild
Photo from livingwild.org

“An invitation to celebrate California’s heritage and culture weaves through LIVING WILD, an essential guide to the uses of native plants. This expanded second edition offers a deep awareness of the landscape with advice on cultivating more than 100 native plant species and enjoying this natural abundance for sustainable wild food cuisine and herbal medicine remedies. LIVING WILD is the only sourcebook that provides a simple path to fundamentally shift the way we eat, garden and heal.”

Giveaway!

I’m giving away an awesome Sierra Nevada Gift Pack valued at $132.50 containing – a 16 oz insulated Sierra Nevada Alliance Klean Kanteen ($32.50 value), Juniper Ridge Sierra Granite Trail Soap ($30 value) & Cabin Spray ($40 value), and Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California by Alicia Funk and Karin Kaufman ($30 value).

Enter here and by commenting below: a Rafflecopter giveaway. I’ll announce the winner on Monday, February 15th.

Disclosure: All of the giveaway items I purchased with my own money. None of these awesome businesses paid me to advertise for them. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN GIVEAWAYS. A PURCHASE WON’T IMPROVE AN INDIVIDUAL’S CHANCE OF WINNING. ALL FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL TAXES ASSOCIATED WITH THE RECEIPT OF ANY PRIZE ARE THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WINNER I’m only able to ship to the US and Canada, so only entries from those countries.

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!

Happy Groundhog’s Day

While Punxatawney Phil did not see his shadow, and that should mean that spring is coming soon. Well, I hope that Phil is wrong and we still have a couple of months of winter left to go. The Sierra snowpack still needs it! This is the most snow we’ve seen on the mountains in several years, and I think I forgot how truly gorgeous it is.

The light was beautiful, so I drove up to the Donner Lake lookout after work and took a few pictures on my Iphone.

trestle peak
Trestle Peak and the old train tunnels
grouse peak
Grouse Peak. There’s some fun bouldering up there!
donner lake
Donner Lake from Above
bridge
Looking up towards the scenic view point. You can barely make out the Old 40 Stone bridge in this picture.
donner peak
Looking up at Donner Peak from the Donner Canyon Trailhead.
donner lookout panorama
Donner Scenic View Point Panorama

I hope that these scenes only get snowier for the next few months, and stay snowy until June!

Gear Review: Burton Feather Women’s Snowboard

Burton Feather Snowboard Review

When I moved to South Lake Tahoe in November 2010, I had been on skis a total of 3 times, and I had never been snowboarding. I’m one of the few people who moved to Tahoe for the job and took up winter sports instead of vice versa. Despite the fact that I’d been skiing a few times, I ended up a snowboarder for a couple of very simple reasons:

  1. My roommate at the time gave me a free snowboard (Thanks, Carrie!)
  2. My best friend in Tahoe is a snowboarder, and she offered to teach me (Thanks, Katie!)

My first board was an old Burton, covered in stickers and dings, and it was a great board to learn on because I didn’t have to worry about messing it up. As I started to move from beginner towards intermediate, I decided it was time to buy a new snowboard.

After some research and stalking end of season sales, I ended up buying a 2013 Burton Feather. I’ve ridden on it for a couple of seasons now, and I feel capable of giving it a thorough review.

burton-feather-153cm-1a
I love the colors the Feather comes in each year. This is what my board looks like. Photo from here.

First, I feel like this board was a perfect board to progress on. Since buying this board, I have moved from low intermediate through solidly intermediate. I’m now moving into advanced territory, and the Feather still works well for me. I’m riding black diamond runs with confidence, take this board into powder (since we actually have some this year!), and I can ride in moderately spaced trees.

Burton described the 2013 board as

“Feather-like float for girls determined to get better. – Jump right into all-mountain fun, whether it’s your first time or 50th day. Laid-back and relaxed, the Feather’s upgrade to V-Rocker™ creates a catch-free, playful feel that’s easier on the muscles. Tapered shaping equals effortless turning and float in fresh snow while the twin flex means it’s good to go, forwards or back. Softer and more forgiving than the Social or Blender, the Feather is for the rider looking for more room to grow than they’ll get with our easiest board, the Genie.”

On the cons’ side, if you are an advanced rider who spends all of your time on steeps and in the powder, the Burton Feather might not be aggressive enough for you. I’ve found that the board sometimes “skips” on the steep sections and sinks into powder more than I like. I also don’t think that the board steers quite as well when you’re riding in switch, but I fully admit that it could be how I have the board set up.

FullSizeRender
Photo by Greyson Howard.

I initially bought this board based on the reviews that touted its ability to take you from a beginner to an intermediate, and that is exactly what I did on this board. I’ll continue to ride this board for the rest of the 2015-16 season, but I am looking to upgrade eventually. It’s a fun board to ride, and I feel stable on groomed terrain. When riding off piste, the Feather handles different snow consistency well, and I rarely feel like I’m being thrown around, unless the snow bumps are large.

Heavenly, one of the resorts I’ve frequently ridden has A LOT of flat, narrow cat tracks that are the bane of snowboarders existence. I really noticed a difference on how much more stable the Feather felt on these flatter areas, allowing me to keep up more speed. I don’t feel like I’m constantly about to catch an edge on this board.

IMG_1928
Catching (a tiny bit of) air! Photo by Greyson Howard.

The Burton Feather is available in a 2016 model. Here are the specs (from Burton.com):

New for 2016: Flat Top –“A flat profile between the feet means stability, better balance, and continuous edge control. The tip and tail kick up with an early rise outside the feet for the catch-free, loose feeling you’d expect from rocker.”

Directional Shape – “The classic snowboard shape, designed to be ridden with a slightly longer nose than tail to concentrate pop in the tail while still giving you plenty of float, flow, and control to rip any terrain or condition.”

Tapered Shape – “A tapered shape means the nose is wider than the tail, promoting smooth turn entry and exit, stability at speed, and enhanced deep snow flotation.”

Flex – “The flex is perfectly symmetrical from tip to tail for a balanced ride that’s equally versatile regular or switch.”

Burton 2016
Burton Feather 2016 colors and respective sizes. Photo from here.

You can buy the 2016 Burton Feather here for $379.99. You can get previous years’ models in various places at a lower price, but sizes can be limited. Here’s one for for $250 and another for $275.

Bottom Line: if you are a beginner who wants to move from the greens to blues and beyond, I highly recommend the Burton Feather.

Are you a snowboarder? What board do you recommend for intermediate riders?

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!

Getting Back Into Running – Couch to 5k

I’ve never been a fast runner. I had pretty bad asthma growing up, so I struggled through the absolute minimum amount of running required by the sports I played in high school and junior high. I played volleyball, basketball and did the throwing events in track, so I stayed in decent running shape. I never enjoyed running, though.

That changed when I moved away to college. For some reason, the new environment of my college town made my asthma issues almost completely disappear. I didn’t play any team sports in college (other than some intramural softball), so I started running to get and stay in shape. Suddenly, without the asthma issue running was much easier. And even fun! I was never what you’d call fast, but running ceased to be a miserable struggle.

ragnar trail tahoe
Team Kokanee finishing Ragnar Trail Tahoe. We got 5th!

I kept up running through college and graduate school, and my first few years in Tahoe even doing a couple of races (the running leg of Ski to Sea, a few triathlons, and a Ragnar Trail race). Once I got more into mountain biking, I started to pay less attention to running. To me, mountain biking is so much more fun! If I was going to use up my energy doing something, mountain biking almost always won out, but I ran often enough that doing 5k or so wasn’t a struggle.

auburn-tri-03
Strugglefest at the end of the Auburn mini triathlon. Photo from here.

In 2014, my running was hit with a one-two punch. My asthma symptoms returned with a vengeance and I pinched a nerve in my back. My PT told me no running for several months. After the moratorium on running was over, I tried to get back into it, but the asthma symptoms and time off made my slowest of past paces feel totally miserable. Instead of pushing through or backing off, I just gave up.

227785_779717857260_2391536_n
Biking instead of running in Santa Barbara.

I stayed in decent cardio shape from mountain biking, but I could definitely feel my lack of overall endurance on long climbs all summer. My out-of-shapeness made me scared to try running, and my lack of running wasn’t helping me get any better at it. Like most of America, I decided that January was a great time to start a new fitness routine, and I decided that running was going to become part of it. I joined a gym with treadmills, downloaded a Couch to 5k app, and dug out my running shoes.

Couch to 5k programs (often abbreviated C25K) are for beginning runners and involves walking and running intervals, with the running intervals getting longer as the program progresses. When I’ve tried to get back into running in the past, I’ve tried to go out at my old distances and paces, felt miserable, got discouraged and gave up. I avoided programs like Couch to 5k, I think because I considered myself something other than a beginning runner.

317522_867121789080_267520578_n
Finishing Iron Girl in 2011.

This time, however, I got over my own pride and admitted to myself that I am a beginning runner again. I vowed to follow the interval instructions, even if I felt that I could run longer or harder. I’m on week two of the program, and so far it’s been a success. No asthma attacks, and I haven’t dreaded the runs – even though I’ve had to do them all on the treadmill!

While my cardio level isn’t completely “couch” level, the lower intensity of the running has helped me actually get my runs in. The workouts involve a 5 minute warm up and cool down, with about 20 minutes of intervals. So far, I usually do the walking portions at about a 16:15 minute/mile pace, and my running pace varies between 9:50 – 9:00 during the course of the interval (I can’t not play with the treadmill speed, even during a 90 second running section).

972234_10100578000170080_698914713_n
Type 3 fun between legs at Ragnar Trail Tahoe.

C25k has been a great re-introduction to running. While I’ll never be a marathon runner, I love the ease of just throwing on shoes and getting out for a quick 2-3 mile run in the nice weather, and I think that C25k will get me back to that point. I’m only two weeks in, but I’ll do a follow up when I finish the whole program. Has anyone else used C25k to get running back into your life? How did you like it?

My Favorite Tahoe Brands

While the Tahoe area may be made up of small towns and unincorporated areas, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have some amazing local brands and companies. Here are some of my favorites.

my favorite local tahoe brands.JPG

Coalition Snow, Incline Village, Nevada
This ski and snowboard company Coalition Snow combines two of my favorite things: products for women by women and bright colors! Their motto “We Make Women’s Skis and Snowboards That Don’t Suck” gets right to the point.

“We’re a bunch of ladies hailing from Lake Tahoe who believe that women’s skis and snowboards shouldn’t suck. Rather than wait around for someone else to design the gear we actually want to ride, we did it ourselves. It’s that simple.”

Coalition Snow Collage
All photos by Coalition Snow

I supported their kickstarter last year, and I was rewarded with amazing leggings, a kickstarter-only tank top, a hat and adorable earrings. The leggings and tank top are perfect for yoga, and I love wearing the leggings under my snowboard pants for a hidden but awesome shot of color.

When I upgrade my snowboard in the next couple of years, I’ll definitely be looking at Coalition Snow for my purchase. Plus, how adorable is this Queen Bee All Mountain Snowboard? P.S. If you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll get a weekly dose of women in adventure news, highlighted with the Coalition Snow irreverent sense of humor.

Arcade Belt Company, Olympic Valley, California
I love these belts! I own two, and I’ll be buying more as soon as I can justify the purchases of more Arcade Belts to myself.

“Arcade reinvented the most overlooked of accessories with a few sewing machines and simple ingenuity. Built with comfortable stretch materials and simple yet durable buckles, Arcade belts are designed for those that live by their own rules, choose quality over quantity and want products that fit their lifestyle.”

Arcade Belts Neutral
All photos by Arcade Belt Co.

Personally, I love the adventure belts – they’re stretchy and comfortable, easy to adjust, and, since they have no metal, you don’t have to take them off at the airport. They’re perfect travel belts. The first one I bought was the heather gray Foundation. These belts are unisex, and I discovered that a lot of women’s pants have really narrow belt loops, so it was occasionally a struggle to feed the belt through a couple of pairs of pants. (They always fit, I’m just a little lazy when it comes to belts.) Luckily, Arcade makes a range of belt-widths. I bought The Midnighter Slim in black, and it fits through the narrowest of lady pants belt loops.

colored arcade belts
All photos by Arcade Belt Co.

Now that I’m well stocked on neutral belts, I have my eye on some fun colors! Greyson has The Blackwood, and I occasionally borrow that one. I think it’s a prettier green in real life than in looks on the internet. Here are the ones I’m thinking about: The Larry Sherbert, The Del Mar, and The Drifter. Maybe I’ll branch out for The Kate. P.S. Do you think I could pull off these suspenders?

Alanna Hughes Pottery, Truckee, California
Greyson got me one of Alanna Hughes gorgeous ceramic coffee mugs for Valentines Day last year, and it remains one of my favorite presents ever.

Alanna Hughes Bike Mug

Aspects of Alanna’s pottery are left unglazed leaving a window to view the natural clay body. Her work is modern with a twist into nature. By using bold and vibrant colors along with elegant shapes, her clay pieces are intriguing. Her pottery is food, oven, dishwasher safe and made to be used functionally.

She makes beautiful mugs, platters, vases and other ceramic art that you can buy at Riverside Studios in downtown Truckee, and she often is selling her goods at local farmers markets and community events in the summer. She often has ceramics for sale on the Riverside Studios website, like this bike mug, similar to mine. You’ll have to come to Truckee to check out her full collection though!

bigtruck brand, Truckee, California

Hats from bigtruck are my go to gift for my non-local friends. I love their bright colors (sensing a pattern?), unique designs, ability to customize, and the fact that they are locally handmade.

File_000
My best friend Jodi, making a “hat face” in her birthday bigtruck hat.

“Rather than a business proposition, bigtruck brand was founded on a vision to create a movement and community connecting people through creativity and fun first. Since 2010, bigtruck has specialized in the design, marketing and manufacturing of hats. From it’s initial two men team, bigtruck has evolved from a small Lake Tahoe hat company into a global community that has chosen to reflect their passion for life in what they wear. With increasing demand, bigtruck continues to strive to inspire others to live life with a fun first mentality.”

bigtruckhats
All photos by bigtruck brand

They have a few different basic designs: the classic with their quickly-recognizable logo, the og goggle kt22 (referencing Squaw Valley’s classic lift), og om, og mcconkey (100% of proceeds go to the Shane McConkey Foundation), and happy sock beanie, among many others. While bigtruck has a ton of great hats available online, it’s totally worth it to visit their hat bar in their Truckee location. You can customize a ton of the details or check out their on-site only hats that their designers cooked up.

These are just a few of my favorite companies that call the Tahoe area home. While most of their products are available online, if you’re in the Tahoe area, I highly recommend you check out the local businesses that sell these awesome products. What are some of your favorite local brands? I’m always on the lookout for new products to try.

Note: I didn’t get any free stuff or sponsorship to say nice things about these brands. I just like them that much. None of the links are affiliate links either.

Point Reyes Highlights

Greyson and I spent Christmas down in Point Reyes with his family. We didn’t have perfect weather, but we were still able to get out and hit most of the highlights.

IMG_1186

On Christmas Eve day, we headed to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, hoping to see whales and birds. Thanks to the 50 mile an hour winds, the ocean was too choppy to see any whales.

lighthouse2

birds3

Apparently the high winds also affected the birds. We saw way more birds hanging out on fence posts and low rocks than we normally do. Greyson let me use his nice camera with the big lens to get these bird photos – definitely not with my iphone!

birds2birds1

We also stopped by a completely deserted Drake’s Beach. Well, not completely deserted. There was a bachelor elephant seal.

drakes beach 1

We didn’t end up doing anything on Christmas, other than jokingly participating in the Christmas Bird Count. I counted six different birds from the comfort of the  hot tub!

The day after Christmas was much calmer, so Greyson and I went to McClures Beach to look for whales. I hadn’t been to McClures Beach before, so we spent some time wandering around and looking for tide pools.

mcclureslynn and greyson

There wasn’t anything interesting in the tide pools, so we made our way onto the nearby Tomales Point trail. The trail follows along the top of the bluff and I was able to spot 5 or 6 whales way off in the distance through my binoculars.

We also stopped at the famous Point Reyes Tree Tunnel.

tree tunnel

Greyson had heard about a biking museum that had opened up in nearby Fairfax, so we drove down there on Saturday. The Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame is awesome, and Greyson wrote more about it on his blog. You can read more about it here.

While we were in Fairfax, we hit up Iron Springs Pub & Brewery. I wasn’t super impressed by anything other than the JC Flyer IPA.

brewery

Finally, on our way out of town on Monday we stopped by my favorite place in Point Reyes – Heidrun Meadery! We bought a couple of bottles, Alfalfa & Clover Blossom and Macadamia Nut. I also bought some Humboldt Wildflower honey. I wonder what is the predominant “wildflower” in Humboldt County?

Heidrun Meadery had their second batch ever of mead made from honey from their own bees based in Point Reyes. It’s not available in the tasting, you have to buy a separate glass to taste it. We decided to do it, because if you can’t drink a glass of sparkling mead at ten am on a Monday, what fun is vacation? I’m so glad that we did, because it was amazing! I wasn’t a huge fan of their first batch of local honey mead, but this one blew me out of the water. Seriously, if you are in the Bay Area, it’s worth the trip up to Point Reyes just to taste it! Well, and to experience the million other amazing things in Point Reyes!

heidrun3

 

Resort Report: Heavenly Lake Tahoe

heavenly01

Heavenly Lake Tahoe is definitely the resort I’ve spent the most time at. It’s where I’ve had a pass most years, it’s where most of my friends ski and ride, it’s where I learned to snowboard, and it is freaking gorgeous!

resort report heavenly lake tahoe

It is located right in the town of South Lake Tahoe, and while I was living there, it was close enough to my office that we could go and get a couple of runs in over lunch. You can access Heavenly from the California side or a couple places on the Nevada: the Gondola in Heavenly Village and Stagecoach Lodge.

heavenly04

One of the coolest things about Heavenly is that you can ski in both Nevada and California in the same day! You also get a great visualization of the rain shadow effect. Heavenly has a ton of terrain – one of my other favorite aspects.

heavenly08

Here’s a few facts:

  • This year is Heavenly’s 60th Anniversary.
  • It’s now owned by Vail Resorts which owns and runs a ton of other ski areas in California, Colorado, Utah, and internationally
  • Heavenly has 97 trails covering 4,800 skiable acres – the most in Tahoe!
  • Heavenly tops out at 10,067 feet and ski down 3,500 vertical feet.
  • It’s the only resort in Tahoe that has terrain in California and Nevada.

heavenly07

Here’s my take on Heavenly-

Pros:

  • Like I said earlier, there is a ton of terrain. Even when it is crowded in certain areas, you can usually get away from that and find somewhat solitude.
  • There is something for everyone: beginner friendly – to the epic Mott & Killebrew Canyons.
  • Did I mention that the views are amazing?

heavenly 12

 

  • It’s convenience to South Lake Tahoe can’t be beat. Basically, if you live in South Lake, that’s where you want to have a pass.
  • The Tahoe Local/Value Passes are an INCREDIBLE deal. You get 7 day a week access to Heavenly, and either 7 day or Sun – Fri access to Northstar and Kirkwood. (I love Sugar Bowl, but, man, I miss that deal!)
  • You can track your vert over the course of the season with Epic Mix. Your pass scans automatically and it will keep track of the lifts you ride at any Vail Resort.
  • They have photographers stationed on the mountain through Epic Mix Photo to take pictures of you and your friends. They’ll scan your pass, and the pictures will show up on your account. No more selfies needed.

1912436_10100800732961780_58028746_n

heavenly05

Cons:

  • It’s convenience means that it can be CROWDED. On a Saturday, there’s often a huge line backing up Powder Bowl and Sky chairs.
  • While there’s lots of beginner friendly terrain, the crowds can make things stressful for new riders and skiers. I know other people, especially on narrow trails made me super nervous.
  • If you’re on a snowboard, prepare to do a lot of traversing. There are quite a few flat areas that you’ll need to cross in the course of a day at Heavenly. There are places you can keep your speed up, but the crowds often make that impossible in others.
  • Heavenly has really embraced the nightlife, Nevada, casino side of things with its after parties and the Heavenly Angels. I guess that could be a pro or con, depending on how you feel, but I’m not a huge fan.
  • Food/drinks are expensive! Bring your own.

heavenly02

Tips:

  • Want to access the Nevada side on a busy weekend day? Drive up Kingsbury Grade and park at Stagecoach Lodge. Note: if it’s snowy, only attempt if you feel comfortable with narrow, steep, slick mountain driving and have a proper vehicle.
  • If you’re starting on the California side, take Sky chair all the way to the top and go down Ridge Run for a warm up with killer views.
  • My favorite runs on the California side are Ellie’s, Liz’s and Powder Bowl Woods. In Nevada, I like everything off of Galaxy chair.

heavenly03

I really enjoy Heavenly, and it will always have a special place in my heart since I learned to snowboard there. It can be crowded and expensive, but its expansive terrain and killer views mean that you can get away from the crowds and really enjoy yourself.

heavenly 11

Where to Stay: Basecamp Hotel is adorable! I’ve never stayed there, but I’ve toured the theme rooms during events and hung out at the bar. Plus, there are free s’mores! There are also a ton of vacation rentals and Air BnBs in South Lake Tahoe too.

What to Eat: Here are my favorite places to eat in South Lake Tahoe. If you’re on the California side, be sure to check out Himmel Haus just across the parking lot.

Happy New Year + a Winter Bucket List

Happy 2016 everyone! I thought 2015 was pretty great, but I’m looking forward to the new year with my eye on a few goals. I made a Fall Bucket List, but between sickness and business, I didn’t check off too many. Now that the snow has begun to fall (already more than fell ALL of last winter), I have some goals and experiences for my Winter Bucket List.

winter bucket list tahoe fabulous

Join a Gym and Start Swimming: So, I didn’t join a gym, despite it being a goal for the fall. With winter’s early darkness, cold temperatures, and icy trails, it’s definitely time for me to join a gym. I’m going to go along with all of the other January Joiners and start working out after work. Relatedly, I’m going to find a public pool for lap swimming. My trip to Indonesia is coming up (in March!), and I want to be in good swimming shape by then.

Try Out New Winter Activities: I’ve gotten decent at snowboarding over the last five winters, but there are a ton of winter and snow sports I’ve never tried or only done once. Some ideas: cross country skiing, snowshoeing (I actually tried this one last week), fat biking, downhill skiing, ice skating, skijoring, etc.

riding at northstar

Snowboard Twice as Much as Last Year: This should be easy – since I was mountain biking at 7,000 feet in February last year.

Take an Avalanche Safety Course: I want to get into backcountry snowboarding, and step one is learning how to stay safe. There are a bunch of avalanche safety courses in the Tahoe area. I just need to pick one and go.

backcountry skiing mammoth
Photo by Greyson Howard

Try Backcountry Snowboarding: After I get educated, I’ll be ready to try backcountry snowboarding! I’ll hopefully be able to borrow most of the gear I need, before I invest a ton of money. I’ve already got a snowboard and snowshoes, so I’m partway there! There’s a ton of great backcountry riding in Tahoe, and I’m excited to start to experience it.

1912436_10100800732961780_58028746_n

Try Out New Resorts: The last few years, I’ve had a Vail pass that let me ride at Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood. This year my pass is at Sugar Bowl, and comes with a few tickets at Squaw/Alpine Meadows. I’ll hopefully be able to ride with friends at a few new resorts this year – Diamond Peak, Mt. Rose and Homewood.

Snowshoeing in Cold Stream Canyon

Like I said before this is my sixth winter in Tahoe, but somehow I’d never been snowshoeing. Since our Sugar Bowl passes are blacked out for the holidays, we couldn’t go snowboarding/skiing at the resort, and we decided to try something different. I decided it was finally time to try snowshoeing.

IMG_1155

Greyson got out his backcountry set up and lent me his snowshoes, and we headed to the nearby Cold Stream Canyon. This is a popular area with lots of snowshoers, cross country skiers, sledders, and people accessing backcountry skiing and riding. We were able to park pretty close to the gate and started the walk in.

Cold Stream Canyon Trail

I was worried that snowshoeing would be pretty miserable, slogging through the snow in an inefficient manner (these pre-conceived notions were the main reason I had never tried it before), but I was surprised by how easy it was. We started off on a very packed down fire road, which made things easier. I had a difficult time adjusting to using the poles – I ended up just carrying the poles on the hard packed sections, and only using them when we got to the untracked sections and steep downhills for balance.

Cold Stream Canyon Profile

The Cold Stream Canyon trail started with an ~180 foot climb over 0.4 miles, the only significant climb of the whole trail. It wasn’t too hard, but I worked up enough of a sweat to strip to my capilene base layer which was perfect for the rest of the hike.

IMG_1148

It was a gorgeous day, and the views were beautiful, snow sparkling on the trees and clear views to the peaks in the west. The temperature was around 33 degrees, perfect in the sunshine! We walked on the frozen pond, which has been restored from a polluted gravel mining remnant, and parallel to it before reconnecting with the main fire road and heading back to the parking lot. (Cool side note – if you continue on the main Cold Stream Road, which is not drivable in the winter, you’ll reach The Lost Trail Lodge, a backcountry lodge. You can rent it and stay there, winter or summer. I’ve never been there, but it’s on my bucket list!)

IMG_1150

While the parking area had seemed full, we only ran into a half dozen or so people and a few dogs on the trail. We made it nearly back to the parking area before we got to any sort of a downhill. Greyson stopped to remove his skins and set up for the (.4 mile, 180 foot downhill) while I trekked on on the snowshoes. This area was definitely more well trafficked, and the snow was packed down and a little icy. I found myself using the poles a lot for stability on the downhill.

IMG_1147

Before I knew it, Greyson came whooshing by me, and we were back at the gate. It was a perfect introduction to snowshoeing – great weather, gorgeous scenery, hard enough to feel like I was working but not miserable. I doubt that snowshoeing is something I’ll get really into, but it’s definitely a fun way to get into the backcountry.

IMG_1153

P.S. Greyson got me this amazing shirt for Christmas. I wore it today on our adventure, even though I was on snowshoes instead of a bike.

IMG_1146

How to Get There: Cold Stream Canyon is just a couple of miles from downtown Truckee. From downtown Truckee, head west on Donner Pass Rd for ~2 miles. Turn left at the four way stop on to Cold Stream Rd and park near the gate. Note: you can park further up the road if the gate is open, but the gate might be closed and locked by the property owners. I don’t think it’s worth the risk and park outside.