Indoor Climbing, Truckee Airshow and Tahoe City Trails

I had a really low-key weekend, but I also managed to fit in a few activities. We had been having early – late afternoon thunderstorms for most of last week, which put a damper on the usual afterwork outdoor activities. My softball game on Thursday even got rained out! By Friday, I was ready to do something. Since I didn’t want to play chicken with potential lightening, I convinced Greyson that we should head over to Incline Village to climb and the indoor climbing gym at High Altitude Fitness.

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High Altitude Fitness climbing wall photo via High Altitude Fitness

High Altitude Fitness is a swanky gym with a really nice climbing wall. It’s pretty much the only “real” indoor climbing wall in the Tahoe Basin (but they’re supposed to open up a Truckee location at some point!). They’ve got bouldering, auto belays and top roping, as well as a few routes bolted for sport climbing (bring your own rope). They re-set routes pretty often, and the ones I climbed on Friday (5.8 – 5.10a) were some of the most fun indoor climbing routes I’ve ever tried. There’s also a lounge area where you can get a smoothie or a $2 PBR and take a break. High Altitude Fitness is a full gym, with cardio machines, a weight room, fitness classes, etc., but I’ve only ever used the climbing wall, but they look pretty nice! They offer a ten pass punch card for $152 ($110 for locals!), which is a pretty great deal, especially compared to the cost of other regional climbing gyms.

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Kelly climbing at High Altitude on Ladies Night

Hight Altitude Fitness seems to run specials and deals fairly often. Off the top of my head, I have gotten a half priced locals pass at their screening of Valley Uprising earlier this year, I’ve climbed for free on their Wednesdays Ladies Night and gotten a two-for-one entry for Date Night Friday. Note: High Altitude did not pay me to write this – I just really love their climbing wall, and I’m excited for their Truckee location to open!

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On Saturday, I attended the Truckee Airshow at the Truckee Tahoe Airport. While attending the air show isn’t necessarily something I’d think to do on my own, I ended up enjoying it. Greyson and I worked a booth there, soliciting public feedback and handing out re-usable grocery bags. After the mostly stormy weather during the week, it ended up being a gorgeous day. We were stationed in a pop-up tent, but I kept dragging my chair into the sunshine to enjoy the warmth and see more of the show. There were all sorts of cool planes and helicopters set up on the tarmac and flyovers throughout the day. There were a couple of really great trick pilots doing flips and loops that made me dizzy just watching, and I also really liked the flyover by the WW2 Bearcat and Wildcat.

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I’m semi in the market for a new bike – because three bikes is not enough, right? I’m not ready to buy one quite yet, but I’m narrowing down what I’m interested in. I currently have a hardtail Cannondale cross country bike and a full-suspension bike (GT Sanction) with 6 inches of travel that’s great on the downhills, but not the easiest for pedaling. So I’m looking for a trail bike that’s somewhere in between the two. I have a couple of models in mind (Transition Scout, Specialized Stumpjumper, Trek Remedy, etc.), and I hope to try out a bunch before I’m ready to buy.

This weekend, Specialized was doing a free demo day at a couple of local bike shops. I missed out on the Truckee day on Saturday due to the airshow, but they were in Tahoe City on Sunday at Olympic Bike Shop. Greyson and I headed to Tahoe City with tentative plans to demo bikes on new-to-us trails and then head to the beach for Concerts at Commons Beach (free live music on Sundays at the beach).

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I was luckily able to borrow the exact bike I wanted to try – the 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper 650b! We got some beta on which trails to try, and Greyson and I headed up the steep hill to the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area/Burton Creek State Park. The climb to the trails was HARD! There was a ~0.5 mile climb up a very steep paved road and then you kept climbing up fire road for another mile. It ended up being ~600 feet of climbing in ~1.5 miles. The bike I was demo-ing climbed really well, and I don’t even want to know what that would have felt like on my Sanction.

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When we got to the trail portion, I was kind of underwhelmed. I’ve heard this area is full of tons of unmarked and hard to find trails, so it’s quite possible we were just not on the fun stuff. The sections of trails we rode were pretty flat and boring, and, probably due to our lack of knowledge, we spent a lot of time on fire roads. Judging by the trails we rode, I didn’t think they were worth the climb! We did end up on one short section that I thought was really fun, but it pretty quickly turned to steep, loose rocks. I attempted to go down this section, and I did not succeed. I crashed the demo bike! The bike and I both ended up being fine, but I do have some nice scrapes and a partially-pulled off thumbnail. Gross.

Luckily, we were close to the end of the trail, and I limped back to the bike shop, dirty and embarrassed. All in all, I really liked the Stumpjumper, but I don’t think the rear suspension was set up optimally for me and I’m not in love with the 1×11 gearing. I’m hoping to be able to ride the Stumpjumper again this summer, hopefully on trails I’m familiar with, so I can do a comparison to my current bikes.

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Due to the drought, the Concerts at Commons Beach is currently not exactly on the beach, but it was still fun to sit outside in perfect temperatures and listen to music.

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We were both starving, so we didn’t end up hanging out at the concert for very long, but it was a great way to cap off a fun weekend!

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Mountain Biking Hirschman Trail – Nevada City, California

Hirschman Trail, Nevada City, Ca // tahoefabulous.com

I was back in Nevada City this week to do Site Visits at some of my AmeriCorps host sites. The weather down in the foothills was perfect – sunny and low 70s! While I have been complaining about the lack of snow in Tahoe, I certainly don’t mind basking in the sun!

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Greyson lived in Nevada City for awhile a few years ago, and he remembered a short, easy trail that’s a just quick ride out of town that he rode a few times. We brought bikes and planned to do the ride after I finished up with work on Thursday. We pedaled up Broad Street from the Emma Nevada House, turned left on Highway 49 and were at the trailhead in less than a mile.

Trail Map via Strava

I was excited to see that the trail was the Hirschman Trail, a project of Bear Yuba Land Trust, one of my AmeriCorps host sites! The trail is pretty easy, both technically and exertion wise, with only about 500 feet of elevation gain over the 4.8 mile round trip trail. The trail is really well marked with signs letting you know how far you’ve come, and honoring the supporters and volunteers that keep the trail in great shape.

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The trail is all on hard packed dirt, though it was pretty covered in pine needles when I rode it, as it goes mainly through the forest. There are a few spots where you pop out and parallel Highway 49, but that’s just a couple of short sections. There are a few tight switchbacks along the way, but nothing overly difficult. This is a great trail for a beginner or someone looking to do a short, mellow ride after work or while on vacation. Another highlight is Hirschman’s Pond where some of my other AmeriCorps Members are conducting frog surveys and doing other wildlife tracking. Early morning and evening riders might glimpse some local wildlife!

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After our ride, Greyson and I got Mammoth Brewing Company’s IPA 395 and dinner at Matteo’s Public. That beer is great, but be careful! They’re strong! PS It’s National AmeriCorps Week! Be sure to thank a volunteer, and thanks to those who’ve participated in National Service!

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Trail Stats:
Location: Cement Hill Road, Nevada City, California
Mileage: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: <500 feet
Difficulty: Beginner

Trail Report: Tahoe Mountain Trail – South Lake Tahoe, California

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Tahoe Mountain Trail is a great trail that was completed in the fall of 2013. While there has been a trail in that general area for quite some time, the new Tahoe Mountain trail is a fun piece of single track with a hard but rewarding climb, incredible views, and a speedy downhill. In the fall of 2015, an off-road bike path was completed in that area, so you can ride to the trailhead from Meyers or South Lake Tahoe on a really nice, off-road paved bike path, making for a perfect warm up. If you drive, you’ll want to park at the Sawmill Pond parking lot, just a little ways up Sawmill Road, which is across from the trail head.

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Photo via Google Maps

The trail is accessed via the trail head at the intersection of Lake Tahoe Boulevard and Sawmill Road in South Lake Tahoe, California.

All photos by Lynn Baumgartner
All photos by Lynn Baumgartner

There’s a nice map of the trail system at the trailhead. I’d recommend checking it out, as there are a bunch of social trails spurring off the main Tahoe Mountain trail, and it can be easy to head off on one of them. Most of them quickly dump you off on a road, so don’t worry too much about them, just follow the main trail and head in an uphill direction.

What much of the single track looks like.
What much of the single track looks like.

After about 100 yards on a single track trail, you’ll come to a gravel fire road. Turn right to go to the new trail. Going left will take you to the old trail, which I DO NOT recommend. The old trail is no longer maintained and fairly overgrown, and I thought that the climb up was much more difficult.

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After you’ve turned right onto the fire road and ridden about a quarter mile, start looking for the trail off to the left and uphill. Get ready to work hard on the climb! You end up climbing almost 900 feet over three miles, which requires some hard work, but isn’t so difficult that you can’t enjoy the amazing views!

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Pyramid Peak peeks out about halfway up.

The Tahoe Mountain trail takes you through the Angora Fire burn area, and the burned out trees result in eerie but stunning views.

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The 880 foot climb up is mostly on fairly smooth dirt single track, but because this is South Lake Tahoe, there are some sandy spots of decomposed granite. A couple switchbacks were sandy enough that I had to push through in June, and it gets worse throughout the summer. The only really technically challenging spot is about halfway up the climb, with a tight rocky turn through some close together boulders. Speaking of boulders, there are dozens of huge boulders scattered alongside the lower sections of the trail, making for striking and unique scenery.

Tahoe Mountain trail isn’t far from Pie Shop, a famous South Shore bouldering area
Tahoe Mountain trail isn’t far from Pie Shop, a famous South Shore bouldering area

The last third of the trail is much rockier than the rest of the trail, but still very rideable. I’ve ridden it on a hardtail bike with no problem at all, and technical, rocky climbing is my weakest area. It just feels jarring after two miles on such smooth dirt and sand. Once you’ve finally climbed to the top you’ll be rewarded with a 360 degree view of Tahoe and beyond. Lake Tahoe is visible from one side and you’ll see Desolation Wilderness off to the other. You’ll know you’ve reached the “true” top when a tall striped tower comes into view.

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At the top, I recommend that you take a break from your ride and explore the area. The views are amazing and, depending on the time of year, the wildflowers may be going crazy!

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June wildflowers

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Looking south-ish towards Desolation Wilderness
Looking south-ish towards Desolation Wilderness
Looking north-ish toward Lake Tahoe
Looking north-ish toward Lake Tahoe

After you’ve soaked in the view and rested a little, it’s time to enjoy the most fun (downhill!) portion of the ride. The well designed Tahoe Mountain trail is a dream to descend, just watch out for those sandy corners and the one tricky boulder section. Once you get towards the bottom, pay attention and stay on the main trail to avoid the social trails! You’ll eventually get where you’re going (the fire road) but unplanned detours aren’t very much fun. In practically no time at all, you’ll be back to the trailhead with a huge smile on your face!

Trail Report: Tahoe Mountain Trail in South Lake Tahoe, California // tahoefabulous.com
I hope you enjoy the trail as much as I did!

Trail Stats:
Location: Sawmill Road and Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe, California
Mileage: 6.3 miles
Elevation gain: 881 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Note: This is an updated version of a trail report I wrote in June 2014.

Trail Report: Hiking Winnemucca Lake via the Pacific Crest Trail on National Trails Day

I spent National Trails Day hiking from Carson Pass to Winnemucca Lake and Round Top Peak via the Pacific Crest Trail. The hike is a fairly easy, 5 mile round trip jaunt to a gorgeous glacial lake.

The fairly easy hike up can be exposed and buggy (especially when passing Frog Lake!), so don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, and bug spray. You’re rewarded with gorgeous views of the surrounding peaks, valleys and lakes during the whole hike.

Winnemucca Lake Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Round Top “peaks” through the trees less than a mile into the hike.

About 1.3 miles into the trail, the Pacific Crest Trail spurs off to the left. Be sure to follow the trail to right to arrive at Winnemucca Lake. This early in the summer, it’s still a little snowy, and we had to cross a few snow patches. None were longer that 200 yards or so and on flat trail, so not too difficult to navigate. This hike is famous for incredible displays of wildflowers. Unfortunately, we were a little early for the fields of color, but we found a few patches of wildflowers that we tried to identify.

Winnemucca Lake Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Greyson references the Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada.

It was a perfect sunny day for sitting on the shore of Winnemucca Lake, soaking in the view.

Winnemucca Lake Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Winnemucca Lake panorama.

I’ve heard this trail can get pretty busy during the height of the wildflower season, but we ran into very few other hikers. From Winnemucca Lake, you can continue on to other beautiful spots, like Fourth of July Lake and a couple of campgrounds. We didn’t end up going any further due to the snow and a high-ish creek crossing, but I’m looking forward to coming back to this spot later in the summer.

Winnemucca Lake Hike // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

Hike Totals:

5.2 miles, 532 feet of elevation gain in 1:53

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!

Trail Report: Donner Peak Hike

I had a little incident at the climbing gym on Wednesday:

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Luckily, it’s just a strained tendon.

I wanted to take it fairly easy on my hand this weekend (no biking or climbing), so I went on a hike! Since I started mountain biking three years ago, I haven’t tended to do a lot of hiking, as I’d generally rather be on a bike. I’ve been doing more hiking recently, and I was reminded how awesome it can be.

Greyson, Sylas and I decided to climb to the top of Donner Peak, a hike they’ve both done many times.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Greyson and Sylas enjoy the view from the top.

The hike starts on the Pacific Crest Trail, just off Highway 20 in Truckee. It’s just under 4 miles, with 1.8 ish mile climb up. You take the PCT up for about a mile, then turn left onto the Judah Loop. The last part is an off-trail scramble to the top of the peak.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Donner Peak boasts incredible views.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Some overly friendly wildlife.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Bring binoculars. We spotted a couple of waterfalls rushing in the distance.

I tracked our hike via Strava. The hike up took about 43 minutes to cover 1.8 miles with 933 feet of elevation gain. We definitely weren’t rushing on this hike, stopping to enjoy the views and throw some snowballs. At this point in this low-snow year, there’s not really any snow on the trail, but some of the sections of trails are very muddy and covered by small meltwater streams. Wear boots or expect wet feet! We stopped several times on the hike down to examine and identify wildflowers. While the wildflowers aren’t going crazy yet, I imagine that this hike will be excellent for wildflowers in the next couple of weeks.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Hike stats: 3.8 miles, 933 feet elevation gain, 1:27

Click here for more information and better directions to this hike.