Resort Report: Sugar Bowl

This is my sixth winter in Tahoe! I can hardly believe it sometimes. It feels like I was just finishing grad school in Santa Barbara, like, last month. Over that past winters, I have been able to snowboard at five of Tahoe’s resorts, and I hope to try a couple of new ones this year.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

All of Tahoe’s resorts have their pluses and minuses, and I thought that I could do a Resort Report with a local perspective.  I decided to start with my favorite: Sugar Bowl Resort.

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I was only introduced to Sugar Bowl a couple of winters ago, when I started dating Greyson, and I started hanging out in Truckee more. It quickly worked its way up to the top of my list! I’ve written before about some of my fun days at Sugar Bowl.

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First, a few facts:

  • Sugar Bowl is one of the oldest ski resorts in California. It started running its lifts in 1939, and celebrated its 75th Anniversary last year. One of Sugar Bowl’s initial investors was Walt Disney, and Mt. Disney and the Disney lift are named after him.
  • California’s first chairlift was built here, and lift tickets were originally $2!
  • Sugar Bowl has 4 peaks, 103 trails, 1,650 skiable acres, 1,500 vertical feet, with 17% beginner, 45% intermediate, and 38% advanced terrain.

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  • Since Sugar Bowl is located on the Western Slope of the Sierra, it often gets hammered by winter storms. It averages ~500 inches a year, the most in the Tahoe Basin (so they claim).
  • It’s Godzilla El Nino, and Sugar Bowl has the most snow of any resorts so far. 152″ this season!
  • Sugar Bowl also has a cross country ski area, Royal Gorge. Last year, I got to try fat biking there!

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Now, here’s my take on Sugar Bowl:

Pros:

  • Sugar Bowl has the shortest lift lines of any of the big resorts! Even on a “busy” powder weekend day, I’ve waited in line a max of ten minutes. Compared to Heavenly, where you can wait in line for an hour+ when things are busy, Sugar Bowl lift lines are amazing.
  • Related, Sugar Bowl is not usually crowded. It feels much more like a “locals” resort. Even on busy tourist weekends, Sugar Bowl has a much mellower feel.

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  • There are incredible views! From the top of Lincoln, you can look towards the Sierra Crest, towards Castle Peak, down on Donner Lake, and, if it’s a clear day, you can even see the Coast Range!
  • Sugar Bowl is a great resort if you want to advance from an intermediate to an advanced rider/skier. I found myself getting a lot more comfortable riding off piste once I started riding here.
  • I was used to riding at resorts that had mostly two settings: easy to fairly easy groomers and difficult tree & mogul skiing. It’s hard to make that jump! Sugar Bowl has a fair amount of terrain that will ease you in. They don’t groom every run, so there’s plenty of places where you can practice your off-piste technique.
  • There’s also a ton of advanced terrain and great access to the backcountry. I haven’t gotten to ride any backcountry yet, but that’s a goal for 2016!
  • Sugar Bowl is not usually very crowded, so it’s also a great place to learn. I know that when I was learning, other people stressed me out way more than steep terrain, so Sugar Bowl seems like a great place to learn.
  • They have the best Bloody Mary in Tahoe. Sugar Bowl also has their own beer, Sugar Bowl Pale Ale. Their food prices have gone up in the last couple of years. You used to be able to get a beer for $5! It’s still pretty reasonable compared to most resorts.

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Cons:

Obviously, I love Sugar Bowl, and I think there are way more pros than cons. It’s my favorite resort in Tahoe, but I look forward to exploring more to compare.

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How to get there: Sugar Bowl is off of old Highway 40. If Highway 40 is closed, you can get there via I80. The resort is about 20 minutes from downtown Truckee, 90 minutes from Sacramento and under 3 hours from San Francisco.

Where to eat: Here are my favorite Truckee restaurants.

2015 Year in Review

To paraphrase what I said last year:

Well, it’s almost the end of (2015). I have to say that this was one of my best years ever! I love my job, have a great boyfriend, and I got to go on a bunch of fun adventures. Here are the highlights:

January: For the 4th year running, I attended the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. I wrote about my favorite films here. I’m excited to go back this year, January 14-18. If you are in the area at all, I cannot recommend it more highly. It’s always a highlight of my year!

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Photos by Jim Delso and Carrie Reiter.

Also in January, I hiked Alamere Falls – a waterfall that falls to the beach near San Francisco.

Alamere Falls Hike in Bolinas, California // tahoefabulous.com

February: So we didn’t exactly have winter at all last year. Case in point: I discovered one of my favorite mountain bike trails in Truckee in February last year – the Donner Rim Trail and Wendin Canyon.

Mountain Biking Donner Lake Rim Trail and Wendin Way Trail

The best part of February was the road trip Greyson and I took to Bend, Oregon. You can read about all the beer I drank on my Beer Page and the trails I rode and routes I climbed on my Trail Report Page.

March: In March, I was really busy with work – we put on our 10th Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival. I did take time to go bouldering in Bishop and try June Lake Brewing for the first time.

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April:  I got to see otters for my birthday! Nothing else matters!

May: During a typical year, May is still too snowy for higher altitude mountain biking. Since it was such a light snow year, I was able to ride the iconic Flume Trail in May this year. I’m so glad that I finally got to ride it, and I’ll do it again this spring.

Riding away // Flume Trail
photo by Gavin Feiger

June: I didn’t get to go in 2014, so I made mountain biking at Mammoth Mountain a priority this year.

Bell Super 2R // Mammoth Mountain

It was just as fun as I remembered it, and it was extra fun to go with Greyson, who hadn’t been since he was sixteen.

July: It was warm enough to spend most of July in Donner Lake, my neighborhood swimming hole. I also got to try something very unique:

Jetavator Tahoe

Check me out in the local newspaper. Thanks to Lake Tahoe Jetovator for letting me try it out.

August: In August, I finally made a facebook page – check it out and “like it” for interesting articles and news. I also tried the newest Tahoe brewery – Alibi Ale Works.

Alibi Ale Works // Incline Village, NV

I’ve been back a lot of times since. I even got my dad his Christmas present there! Also during August, I wrote about Five More Awesome Places to Watch the Sunset – related to my most popular post of all time The Five Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Lake Tahoe.

September: I remember it like it was yesterday. Ah yes, It was a crisp fall day…

Sorry, Greyson took my computer away and started typing. Anyway, September was crisp and beautiful. I got SCUBA certified for my trip to Indonesia (coming up in March! Send me your tips!)

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Photo from Sierra Diving Center

I also was selected to be a correspondent for The Campsite! Check them out.

October: I was busy with work and sick all of October. Not so much fun. We did have amazing sunsets!

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November: I went to Portland, where I ate a lot of donuts and pickles and drank lots of beer.

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I also wrote about my favorite places to eat in Reno, Nevada and made a perfect weather visit  to Bishop, California for bouldering and beer.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

December: Well, December’s not over yet, but I’m looking forward for Greyson and my trip to Point Reyes. We’ll hopefully do wine and mead tasting, visit the Marin Museum of Cycling, and eat a lot of Point Reyes Blue Cheese.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

We already have more snow this year than we got all of last year. I’ve been taking advantage of it, and I plan to get a few more days in this year.

This year was another great one, and I’m looking forward to 2016. What are you hoping to do in the next year? What were your favorite parts of 2015?

 

Bouldering in the Buttermilks – Bishop, California

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about bouldering in the Happy Boulders, and I said that I’d write up the second part of our bouldering trip in Bishop, California. Well, better late than never – here it is – bouldering in the Buttermilks.

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If you’ve ever seen pictures representing bouldering in California, it was probably one of two places, Joshua Tree National Park or the Buttermilks in Bishop, California.

Greyson Bouldering Buttermilks

Mountain Project describes the Buttermilks as:

“The scenic and awe-inspiring Buttermilk Country has long been one of California’s premier bouldering destinations with a long history of ground-breaking ascents and some of the proudest, boldest, and most aesthetic lines in the world. These massive glacial erratic boulders sit in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada under an impressive backdrop of high peaks just a mere four miles to the west. Granite-like quartz monzonite makes up the boulders featuring sweeping blank faces, polished patina crimps/plates and sharp slopers and edges.

Buttermilks bouldering is BIG, literally. Some of the larger stones rival the largest erratics known anywhere. Many problems here feature reachy standing or jumping starts with huge moves, so on many routes you’ll soon find your feet well above a height you’d want to drop off. Don’t leave any pads at home because alot of the classics top out at 20+ feet, luckily most of the landings are flat and uniformed. Before you hop on a boulder scout the down-climb first, as many require some techy down-climbing and/or a big jump to the ground.”

These highball, glacial erratics are iconic in the world of bouldering, with world famous problems ranging from V0 all the way up to V14+. One incredibly highball route, The Process on Grandpa Peabody, was featured in Reel Rock 10’s High and Mighty.

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The Buttermilks are a fun area with a ton of different problems, but warning – they tend to be on the more difficult side. I flailed around unsuccessfully on most of the V1s, and the V0s seem harder than in other places.

Lynn bouldering Buttermilks

In addition to world class climbing, the Buttermilks are worth visiting just for the views. The day we visited this fall was foggy and cold, but the mountains occasionally peeked out.

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If you have any interest in bouldering, the Buttermilks is a place to put on your must climb list. At my current beginner skill level, I prefer bouldering in the Happy Boulders, but I love going to the Buttermilks at least once while I’m in Bishop. They’ve got an amazing vibe full of world class climbers, and it’s inspiring to be around.

How to Get There: The Buttermilk bouldering area is easy to find. Head west on Highway 168 from Bishop, and turn right on Buttermilk Road. There are designated parking areas on the right about 3.5 miles up Buttermilk Road, near the boulders .

Where to Stay: There’s camping at Pleasant Valley & the primitive Pit Campgrounds, as well as free camping before and after the Buttermilks main area. Bishop also has a hostel,The Hostel California, that I hear is pretty cool, though I’ve never stayed there.

Where to Eat & Drink: Mountain Rambler Brewery, Taqueria Las Palmas

Tahoe Winter Essentials

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Well, we’ve gotten more than a couple of feet of snow in the mountains over the last few days – I’d say it’s definitely winter! While we haven’t had a ton of snow the last few winters, I’ve figured out a few things that make the winter more enjoyable.

Winter Essentials

    1. A warm blanket. Greyson got me this Nemo Puffin Blanket for my birthday and I love it. You can even button up the bottom for a cozy foot pocket.
    2. A stylish beanie. Dry, cold winter air does not do the nicest things to my fine, straight hair – neither does stuffing my hair in a snowboard helmet for hours. A cute hat can cover up post-ride hair and keep your head warm. Krochet Kids has a bunch of cute options.
    3. Helmet and Goggles. Protecting your head and eyes is just as important in the winter as it is during the rest of the years. I like helmets that have vents so you can close them when it’s colder out and open them on warmer days. I have an older version of the Smith Sequel Helmet. I’m getting these Smith Squad Goggles with interchangeable lenses.
    4. Dry Shampoo. My hair gets super flat in the winter, and I can’t always throw on a hat. For those times, I swear by dry shampoo. I’ve tried a bunch of different brands, and my favorite has to be ROCKAHOLIC dry shampoo. It makes my bangs not-greasy, adds volume, doesn’t leave nearly as much white residue as other brands, and I love the smell.
    5. Down everything. There’s nothing better for cold, dry air than down. Patagonia now has 100% Traceable Down, so you know it is ethically collected. I have a Patagonia Down Sweater, a Marmot vest, and a hooded Marmot coat that are all great for different situations. Greyson even has down puffy pants that I occasionally borrow.
    6. Warm Base Layers. The most important part of staying warm while outside in the cold is a good base layer. I like natural fibers for their wicking abilities and their odor prevention. Anything from Icebreaker is super high quality like this long sleeve top and these leggings. For a cheaper brand that I’ve had great luck with, I recommend Stoic’s Alpine Merino Line. I have two pairs of bottoms and a long sleeve top, and they’ve held up really well. I find them on sale on Steep and Cheap fairly often.
    7. Coffee & Coffee Accessories. I drink coffee all year round, but there’s something special about a steaming hot cup of coffee when the temperature is below freezing. I’ve mentioned my love for the insulated Klean Kanteen before, which will keep your coffee hot for up to 6 hours! To make the best coffee, I like to use a pour over coffee maker or a French Press. Etsy also has a ton of adorable ceramic pour over coffee makers if you’re looking for something handmade. Last year, I splurged on this automatic Burr Mill for amazing, fresh ground beans.
    8. A Super Nice Ice Scraper: At one point, I had a really nice long handled scraper with an attached broom, but I lent it out, never got it back, and now make do with a regular scraper and cold hands. I also wouldn’t say no to this ice scraper with mitt attached.

These essentials would make great gifts – for yourself or anyone who needs help staying warm this winter.

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!

Gifts for Beer Lovers

It’s getting to be that time of year – that season where every blogger and website publishes at least one gift guide. There’s been some great ones that I’ve already found. I really like Scallywag Sprints’ A – Z of Active Christmas Gifts, Bearfoot Theory’s 33 Outdoor Travel & Adventure Gifts, Just a Colorado Gal’s Gear of the Year, and Jezebel’s Gifts to Make Your Life Seem Better on Instagram (fully tongue in cheek!). If there is one thing that I like almost as much as outdoor adventure, it’s beer. I’ve bought enough beer related gifts over the past couple of years that were loved by the giftees that I thought I’d share them with you. Here are my recommendations for the beer lovers in your life.

gifts for beer lovers tahoe fabulous

Klean Kanteen Pint Glasses
There are two great versions of Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel pint glasses – the Vacuum Insulated Pint Cup and the regular Stainless Steel Pint Cup. I have a bunch of the regular stainless steel pint cups now, and they’re my favorite thing to drink out of – water and beer. You can also get the regular pint glasses in a 4 pack for $26 – a great deal! I’ve used a lot of insulated Klean Kanteen products, and they’ve always been awesome. The insulated pint glass is perfect for keeping your beer cold on a hot summer day.

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Photo from ActionHub

Pat’s Backcountry Beverages Carbonator Bottle Starter Kit
Sometimes after a long day of hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, biking, etc., nothing sounds better than a cold beer. But often, beer ends up being left behind due to weight concerns. That’s where Pat’s Backcountry beverages comes in. Using the Nalgene-sized carbonator bottle kit, and beer syrup, you can brew your own beer in the backcountry. It’s a little heavy if your goal is a lightweight set up, but light enough to bring along on shorter trips. I bought this set up (beer syrup ordered separately, see Pat’s Backcountry Beverages website for ordering) for my dad and Greyson last year, and the beer is good!

Hydro Flask Stainless Steel Growler
One of the coolest things I learned from visiting breweries in Oregon and Nevada is that they’ll fill any growler (in California, the majority of breweries will only fill their own branded growlers). Between that and the rise of beer/wine/liquor stores with growler fill stations, an insulated stainless steel growler is a great gift. I have the Hydro Flask 32 oz growler, but they also come in a full size, 64 oz version.

Alibi Ale Works Pale Ale on Nitro

Brewery Gift Certificates
If you know their favorite kinds of beers, you can’t go wrong with a gift certificate to that brewery (or breweries!). Even if you don’t live near a cool brewery, consider getting a gift certificate for one in one of their favorite vacation destinations. A couple of my favorite breweries include Alibi Ale Works in Lake Tahoe, NV, Crux Fermentation Project in Bend, OR, Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop, CA, and June Lake Brewing in June Lakes, CA.

A Trip to a Beer Destination
If you have a slightly larger budget for this gift, consider a beer-related trip. There are some great beer related destinations out there that also double as great outdoor adventure locations. You could head to Bend, OR and do the Bend Ale Trail. Also in Oregon is the microbrew capital of the US, Portland. Just close your eyes, point, and walk in that direction for a few blocks. You’ll be sure to run into a great brewery. You could head for the very northwest corner of the continental US – Bellingham. It’s got a bunch of great breweries and amazing mountain biking. If you have a HUGE budget, there’s always Belgium or Germany! Note: I haven’t tried the Belgium or German beer tours, but they look awesome.

Solo beer touring in Portland this fall.
Solo beer touring in Portland this fall.

Those are just a few of my gift ideas for beer lovers! Beer drinkers – what would you like to get? I would love this Akinz “I Just Wanna Ride Bikes Drink Beer & Cuddle” tank top!

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!

Drink This Beer: Mammoth Brewing Company

A long time ago (like 2010!), I took a “Yay, you’re done with grad school” trip to Mammoth Lakes, California. We had planned to go mountain biking, but it had been a good winter and the vast majority of trails were still snow covered. We still managed to find things to do, including my first trip to Yosemite and my first trip to Mammoth Brewing Company. At the time, it was just the front room of a warehouse and the tastings were free. I fell in love with their delicious beer and friendly staff. Now they’ve moved to an amazing location with food, outdoor seating, and a great view, but they still brew awesome beer and are staffed by friendly, knowledgeable locals. Their tastings aren’t free anymore, but they’re cheap and the growler fills are still an amazing deal!

Mammoth Brewing Company

Mammoth Brewing Company offers two different sampler choices – their “regulars” and their “seasonals”. They always have something I like in their seasonal selections, so I think it’s usually worth going for both sampler options. Since their seasonal offerings change so often, I’m only going to review their regulars below. All descriptions via Mammoth Brewing Company website, unless otherwise obvious.

Golden Trout Pilsner (4.25/5) 
Native to Sierra Nevada mountain waters, the elusive golden trout is a brilliantly colored prize for any fisherman. Grassy and crisp like a Sierra stream, this pilsner pours as gold and vibrant as the fish it’s named for. A Sierra-born beer worthy to be named for a Sierra-born fish. Vienna malts give Golden Trout a full body and flavor, while Saaz hops take it downstream to a softer, more floral place. Pairs well with Sierra sunshine.

Paranoids Pale Ale (3.25/5)
Paranoids is named after a double black diamond ski run on Mammoth Mountain; the slope is flat… only on a 40 degree angle! This is a classic American pale ale, featuring a piney citrus hop nose, a full malt body and a clean bitter finish.

Real McCoy Amber Ale (3.75/5)
A Mammoth Brewing Company original inspired by another original, the man himself: Dave McCoy, founder of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Pilsner malt, dark Munich malts and Palisade hops combine to produce a smooth, velvety malt character and a balanced hop finish.

Double Nut Brown (4/5) This is basically the only brown I’ve ever really enjoyed, and I love it!
Few things satisfy like crawling out of a tent for a cup of coffee warmed over a fire in the Sierra wilderness, but Double Nut* Brown comes close. Its deep nutty flavor and mild sweetness begs you to stay cozily flannel-pajama-clad all day. Wake up and smell the beer. Double Nut Brown strikes a perfect balance between coffee, chocolate, roasty flavor and a clean finish, making it very flavorful and drinkable.
*No nuts were harmed or used in making this beer!

Wild Sierra Farmhouse Ale (2.5/5)
The Sierra spring is alive in this brew. Our twist on the Belgian farmhouse ales of the Wallonia region, we flavor this beer using local Piñon Pine needles to create a refreshing farmhouse saison. Wild Sierra is brewed with Pilsner malt, Rye malt, Vienna malt, lightly kilned Crystal malts and fermented using a blend of Belgian ale and Saison yeasts.

Epic IPA (4.5/5)
Fearless and bold, our Epic IPA earns its name vanquishing hops at a rate of no less than two pounds per barrel. And yet, this heroic outlaw still achieves a noble balance of clean bitterness, smooth malt, and citrusy hops, making it the perfect sidekick for your next wilderness tale. Not for the feeble-hearted, Epic IPA charges valiantly at your taste buds. Two pounds of Horizon, Citra, and Amarillo hops gave their lives for the greater good in each barrel of this gallantly balanced American IPA.

IPA 395 (4.5/5)This is probably Greyson’s favorite beer of all time. I love it too, just not as much as he does! It’s got the flavors of the Eastern Sierra – juniper and sage. Just smelling it is enough to transport me there. My recommendation is to drink it as cold as possible, preferably cooled in a snowbank or mountain stream.
It’s 5 o’clock Friday and your pilgrimage begins. Echoing the route of past adventurers, you press upward into the altitude. This is Highway 395. A celebration of the finest road trip in California, IPA 395 showcases mountain juniper and local sage, hand-picked from the 395 corridor. Brewed to evoke the spirit of a High Desert rainstorm, IPA 395 compliments wild Great Basin Sagebrush and juniper berries with sweet ESB and crystal malts and, of course, plenty of Centennial hops.

Other Eastern Sierra Breweries:
Mountain Rambler Brewery – Bishop, CA
June Lake Brewing – June Lake, CA

Bouldering in the Happy Boulders – Bishop California

I needed to be down in Bishop, California for work last week, so Greyson and I decided to go down on Saturday and make a weekend of it. Not that we ever need an excuse to go to Bishop, but the American Alpine Club was hosting a stop of the Craggin Classic there during that weekend. We were excited to check it out.We took our time driving down on Saturday, stopping to check out the fall colors and expansive views whenever we felt the urge – like the Mono Lake lookout.

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Coming over Conway Summit (north of Mammoth Lakes) I spotted a huge bird flying parallel to our car. It landed in a tree a few hundred feet off of the road, and we were able to pull over on the side of the road and check it out. I had my binoculars, and Greyson had his longest lens so we were able to see it pretty clearly. We debated whether it was a juvenile golden or bald eagle, and finally settled on juvenile bald eagle (with help from instagram). He or she was quite content to hang out in the tree, so we watched it for quite awhile before moving on.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

We pulled up  in Mammoth Lakes for lunch, beer sampler and growler fill at Mammoth Brewing Company. I’ll have to do a full review of Mammoth one of these days, but they’ve recently started serving food. I had a brussels sprouts salad and some of Greyson’s black currant, arugula, goat cheese, gruyere, and balsamic flatbread pizza and both were to die for.

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We arrived in Bishop early enough to set up camp at Pleasant Valley Campground. Last time we stayed there, I got eaten up by biting ants and the campground was filled with RVs plastered in confederate flags whose occupants partied late into the night. We vowed not to come back, but the price ($14 a night) and location lured us in. We figured that the cold weather and off season (for everything except bouldering) would keep the ants and noisy neighbors at bay.

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Greyson re-stakes the tent in a windstorm, during a previous Pleasant Valley Campground experience.

One of the best reasons to camp at Pleasant Valley Campground is its proximity to the Happy Boulders.

Bishop, California is a bouldering mecca, and people come from all over the world to climb in the area. There are several well-known areas, and the Happy Boulders are arguably the most beginner-friendly. Not to say that there’s not a bunch of challenging routes for the hard core, but I was able to find lots of routes to play around on that fit my VB-V0 skill level.

The Mountain Project describes the Happy Boulders as:

“The Happy Boulders offer highly concentrated world-class volcanic bouldering with hundreds of worthy problems ranging from simple to impossible.

Long shadowed by the more well-known and publicized Buttermilks, more and more climbers are realizing the potential inside the Happy Boulders canyon. Most first-time visitors will be overwhelmed by the amount of projects they just gathered and will find themselves making time to return. Some say at the Happies your muscles will fail first, whereas in the Buttermilks its usually your skin that will be your reason for leaving. Regardless, it’s nice to have the options so close. Visitors experiencing Bishop in the colder months can find shelter and warmer temps here rather than the exposed and wind-swept Buttermilks.”

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The parking lot was fuller than I’ve ever seen it before, as the crisp November days make for awesome climbing. We were a little worried about the crowds as we hiked up the loose, kitty litter gravel to the boulders, but once we arrived we saw that most of the people there were crowded at a couple of classic routes.

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Photo by Greyson Howard

These routes are far above my pay grade, but it was fun to watch people climb them. The best was when the girl pictured above made the route look easy after two muscled, shirtless climber bros failed on it! I have no idea what routes or boulders I actually climbed (next time we’ll remember to bring the book!), but I had a blast. Everything I climbed was easy in the scheme of things, but I did challenge myself a few times. Greyson claims that I fist pumped and said “Yes!” when I got to the top of a particularly challenging route, but I’m not sure if I believe him.

One of the many cool things about Bishop is that it’s packed with truly awesome climbers to watch and learn from. I’ve said it before, but while mountain biking is number one in my heart and will likely stay there, the people I’ve met climbing and bouldering are the best. They are friendly, outgoing, encouraging and really just want you to send it!

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Another great thing about Bishop in general and specifically the Happy Boulders is the literally hundreds of routes within a short walking distance. When we got tired of working on a problem, or our feet and fingers needed a break, we just packed up and walked 10 – 100 yards until another boulder caught our eye. We also hiked to the top of the Happy Boulders area for the first time and caught an awesome view.

I’m pretty out of shape for climbing (especially finger toughness), so we called it a day during the afternoon and drove into town. We had to stop by Mountain Rambler for a beer and lunch. I had the Phainopepla Black IPA (phainopepla is a type of silky fly catcher, FYI), Greyson got the Sky Pilot Pale Ale, and we split a Picture Puzzler Session IPA. The chef was testing out a beer fondue recipe which we got to sample, along with some beer caramels. I hope they’re both on the menu soon.

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Bishop is a must-visit destination for climbers of any levels and I’d highly recommend the Happy Boulders as a place to start. They’re easy to get to, have something for every level of climbing, and a great scene. When you’re there, be sure to stick to the paths, stay out of the plants, and pack out your garbage. “Crush the problem, not the plants!”

Check back next week, and I’ll be writing about the other place we bouldered, the Buttermilks!

How to Get There: The Happy Boulders Trail is located on Chalk Bluff Road north of Bishop. There’s a gravel parking area with an interpretive sign and a trail marker directing you where to go.

Where to Stay: There’s camping at the nearby Pleasant Valley & the primitive Pit Campgrounds. Bishop also has a hostel, The Hostel California, that I hear is pretty cool, though I’ve never stayed there.

Where to Eat & Drink: Mountain Rambler BreweryTaqueria Las Palmas

Beer, Pickles and Donuts: Quick Portland Trip

I went up to visit my college friends for a Halloween cabin party in Washington last weekend. I ended up finding a super cheap flight to Portland, and my friend Michelle, who organized the weekend, happens to live there. I asked her if I could fly in a little early and catch a ride up. Voila, mini trip to Portland!

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I hung out in Portland on Thursday evening after my flight, during the day on Friday, a few hours Sunday night and during the day before my flight on Monday, so I was able to hit up quite a few places while I was there. Mostly, I focused on food and beer – specifically strong & bitter IPAs, pickles and donuts.

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My friends live in a super cute neighborhood (filled with gorgeous fall trees) that’s just a short bike ride/walk away from the awesome Mississippi and Woodlawn neighborhoods. When Michelle wasn’t showing me her favorite spots, I was able to borrow a bike and explore on my own.

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First up, the beer. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that the Portland beer scene is one of the best on the planet, especially if you like strong, hoppy IPAs. I was able to check out a few breweries while I was there and I really liked or loved most of what I tried. All descriptions from the breweries’ websites, unless otherwise obvious.

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Burnside Brewing Company

Sweet Heat, 4.9% ABV, 9 IBU. Apricot and Scotch bonnet pepper wheat beer. Spice level varies per batch. 2012 GABF gold medal winner. (4/5 – I don’t normally like fruity beers, but this was great! It reminded me of the spicy dried mangos from Trader Joe’s.)

Burnside IPA, 6.5% ABV, 85 IBU. Malt hop balance, Galena, Cascade, Meridian. Dry hop amarillo. (4.5/5)

Too Sticky to Roll India Red Ale, 6.2% ABV, 78 IBU. Quaffable yet chewy India Red Ale. (4/5)

StormBreaker Brewing

Opacus Stout, As dark and rich as the thick cloud formation it is named after, the light roast coffee flavors with subtle hints of chocolate really warms the soul. This creamy, full body oatmeal stout makes this the perfect beer to enjoy when sitting fireside with a blanket on our patio in those long winter months. (4/5)

Breakside Brewery – my friend Chris works at this brewery (check out the beer and bike blog he has with his girlfriend), and we tried a bunch of great ones that I forgot to record. Just believe me, this brewery is great. We definitely tried an IPA, a couple of sour-er beers and an apple ale.

Matcha Milk Stout, A full bodied stout brewed with milk sugar and matcha. Grassy and lightly bitter with a lingering sweetness. (4.75/5 This one came recommended by my friend. It’s not one I would have chosen on my own, but was probably my favorite beer I had this weekend.)

Ecliptic Brewing – the bartender at this bar was super friendly and gave me a ton of recommendations. Unfortunately, I didn’t visit until my last afternoon, so I didn’t get to check any of them out on this trip.

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Canopus IPA, The supergiant Canopus shines in the southern constellation Carina.  Brewed with a special blend of malts for a smooth body and a dry finish, Canopus IPA pays homage to the second brightest star in the night sky.  Sterling hops impart a crisp bitterness, and dry hopping with Simcoe and Centennial completes the ale with tropical and citrusy hop flavor. (3.75/5)

Trans Pacific Pilsner, This collaboration was brewed with The Garage Project Brewery in New Zealand. We met up with Jos during Oregon Brewers fest to craft this American/New Zealand Pilsner. This is a very hop forward pilsner with a dank hop aroma from Simcoe and NZ Nelson Sauvin hops. The malt flavors are creamy with a very crisp finish. (4.5/5)

Altair Fresh Hop Ale, Brewed to celebrate the annual Hop harvest! Altair a bright star in the Constellation Aquila the Eagle. Fresh Amarillo Hops were used making this beer. A light biscuit malt character is balanced with wonderful aromas of orange and slight tropical fruit. This beer was dry hopped in the fermenter. It’s a classic American pale ale! (4.75/5 The bartender found some of the last of this – I’m so glad I got to try it!)

Orbiter IPA, Orbiter IPA unites a constellation of “C” hops (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus) to create a formidable IPA. Bright and  citrusy hop flavors shine in a medium body with caramel malt character. Dry hopped to amplify the hop aroma and flavor. (4/5)

I also had some amazing lemon lavender cider at Bushwhacker Cider. Lavender is one of my favorite flavors, and it was delicious in the lemon cider. It would be perfect for a hot sunny day on a patio – or, you know, the rainy cold evening we were actually experiencing. Bushwhackers seemed like a pretty cool place, but it was almost totally empty. We took advantage of that by hogging the free shuffleboard table the whole night.

I managed to fit in a few things other than brewery hopping. I had phenomenal short rib kimchi quesadillas at the KOi Fusion food truck.

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I bought some adorable book-related limited edition prints and hipster coloring books at Reading Frenzy. I checked out the ReBuilding Center – I wanted to bring home a souvenir, but couldn’t fit an antique light fixture into my carry on.

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I had three pickle plates (homemade and at Burnside & StormBreaker) and fried pickles (at Breakside).

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And most importantly, I finally tried a Voodoo Doughnut, and Old Dirty Bastard is the way to go. I also tried a couple of donuts at Blue Star Donut. I loved the blueberry bourbon basil.

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Finally, there was this creepy Doll Asylum for Halloween. I did not go in.

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I had an awesome time in Portland, and I can’t wait to go back and visit more breweries. Maybe I’ll even get a hike in!

 

Sierra Fall Essentials

The leaves are changing, the weather has cooled off, and I’ve started craving pie at every meal. It’s fall!Boots, scarves, tea, pumpkin spice lattes, etc – there are many things that people consider essentials for the autumn season. Here’s my list of must-haves for a perfect fall in the mountains.

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  1. Boots that can handle rain and a little bit of snow:During a normal year, most of the precipitation that falls in Tahoe comes down in the form of snow. The last few years have been anything but typical, and, fall is our rainiest season. I have these amazing Sorel Women’s Winter Boots for heavy snows, but I wanted something a bit lighter and more puddle proof for fall. A bunch of my New Englander friends clued me in to the wonder that is the Original Duck Boot by LL Bean. More commonly known as “Bean Boots”, these things are amazing. I have the 8 Inch Women’s Bean Boots. They keep my feet dry, are way lighter than my snow boots, don’t make my feet swampy like previous all-rubber boots and can handle a few inches of snow with ease. Since mine are unlined, I got mine a little big (I normally wear a 10.5, got the 11) and wear them with fluffy wool socks and sweater pants. I couldn’t be happier!
  2. Wool clothing: See above. I have a bunch of Smartwool Socks – including biking, running, hiking,skiing/compressionand fluffy, a pair of Smartwool footless tights (aka sweater pants), and a Smartwool Sports Bra.

LL Bean Boots and Smartwool Leggings

Bean Boots and Sweater Pants

I also have a great soft shell jacket from Icebreaker and a wool base layer that I got at the Patagonia outlet years ago. Why wool? According to Sierra Trading Post, “Wool is one of nature’s best insulating fibers and has been used to make clothing for centuries. Not only is wool extremely good at holding in warmth, it also wicks moisture and dries faster than cotton.” Wool is definitely worth the cost, and it smells way better than synthetic fabrics after sweating. Just a warning – I dry my socks in the dryer, but all of my other wool products get laid flat for drying.

  1. Something to keep my tea and coffee hot. I have and use a double walled, stainless steel bottle from both Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteen. I slightly prefer the Klean Kanteen, mostly because I think the lid holds on to less smells/flavors that the Hydro Flask Both do an excellent job keeping my tea and coffee hot for hours – up to 6!
  2. A raincoat: Living in Bellingham and Seattle for 6+ years, I’ve worn a lot of raincoats. I think that I finally have a favorite!

Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket

The Patagonia Torrentshell is slightly visible in this picture of Yosemite Valley last October.

While not the lightest or the most packable, the Patagonia Torrentshell raincoat keeps me totally dry while still looking pretty cute. I was at a mostly outdoor work training last week, and it poured for much of Saturday. The Torrentshell kept me dry, warm and comfortable the whole time. This time, I wore it over my Patagonia Half Zip Fleece, but I have also worn it over a puffy vest or down coat for wet snowboarding days.

  1. A seasonal drink: While Negronis might be the drink of the summer, come fall, I’m drinking something different. I crave darker beers (like Great Basin Brewing’s Outlaw Milk Stout) and I start enjoying my ales over nitro – like thisAlibi Ale Works Pale Ale. When it comes to something a little harder, I like the Boulevardier(aka a Negroni that replaces the gin with rye). I bought a huge thing of Bulleit Rye at Costco, and we are enjoying slowly going through that.

Sierra Fall Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

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!

 

Why I Got SCUBA Certified

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I’ve loved the water since before I could walk. My mom loves to tell stories about how, if there was a body of water, I was in it, despite any signs or instructions to the contrary.

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Photo by Janet Baumgartner

Most of our family vacations growing up involved a lake, river or ocean for swimming, fishing, tide-pooling and exploring. When I was in college my parents got into kayaking, and we all tried snorkeling for the first time on a trip to Costa Rica. It was just after the rainy season, so the water was so silt filled that we had barely any visibility, but I was hooked! Further snorkeling outings off the coast of Oahu, Puerto Rico and Maui cemented my love.

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Photo by Jodi Swobody

On a couple of these snorkel outings there were a few people SCUBA diving off the boat. I never paid that much attention, since I was having so much fun snorkeling. My mom and I occasionally talked about getting SCUBA certified “someday”, but we never did.

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Fast forward a few years, and I started dating my boyfriend Greyson. His family is super into SCUBA diving, and they have been taking dive vacations all over the world since he was a teenager. With my love for the water, he encouraged me to get certified, but with all my other hobbies, SCUBA certification got pushed to “someday” again.

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Photo by Kaya McAlister

This summer, however, “someday” came closer than I was expecting! Greyson’s parents planned a SCUBA diving trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and they invited me along. This combined with the fact that my parents got me the SCUBA certification class and gear for my birthday meant that it was time to get certified. I signed up for the classroom, pool and open water dives needed for SCUBA certification through Sierra Diving Center based in Reno, Nevada. I bought my equipment there too, and Greyson and I spent a few afternoons practicing in the snorkel gear.

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Last week, I finished my open water dives. That means I’m officially open water SCUBA certified! I’ll write more about the process of getting certified, the class and the dives, so check back for more details. I’ll also write about getting ready for my (first!) SCUBA trip and (first!) trip to East Asia. I’m so excited, and I’m already counting down the days until March!

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Photo from Sierra Diving Center