Road Trips: South Lake Tahoe (redo)

I’ve touched on South Lake Tahoe (and Tahoe/Reno in general) a few times in this feature, but I had a whole new experience last time I visited Tahoe and I wanted to share with you all! I went for a summer hike in South Lake that was about 3.5 miles one way and had some of the most beautiful views ever!  I was with another friend and heading back home and they were staying, so we had two cars.  We parked one at DL Bliss and one at Emerald Bay.  Then we proceeded to walk down to Vikingsholm and follow the trail back to DL Bliss.

Vikingsholm was closed for the season, so unfortunately I have still never been inside.  It was one of the first summer homes at Lake Tahoe. Ben Holiday, stagecoach magnate and early-day transportation king, constructed a home there in the late 1860s. His land was eventually sold to Paul Kirby in 1880. The Kirbys built a number of cabins, intended for resort use. The William Henry Armstrong family acquired the property in 1892 and they used the cabins as their summer residence for over 32 years. In 1928, Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight bought the Armstrong’s land with the desire to build a summer home that would complement the magnificent natural surroundings.

Emerald Bay reminded her of fjords she had seen on numerous travels to Scandinavia. She commissioned her nephew by marriage, Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect, to design the home. Vikingsholm was completed in the fall of 1929. In 1945, the estate was sold to Lawrence Holland, a rancher from Nevada. He subsequently sold it to Harvey West, a lumberman from Placerville, California. In the early 1950s, Mr. West, a noted philanthropist, negotiated with the State of California and said he would donate one-half of the appraised value of the land and the Vikingsholm outright, if the State would pay him the other half of the land value. These terms were agreed upon, and in 1953 the house and property were acquired by the state.  This landmark home is now a park and can be enjoyed by all and not developed.

This trail is part of the famed Tahoe Rim Trail, which is exactly as epic as it sounds. We came across a small waterfall still flowing in October and the views were truly spectacular. It is an easy hike, even if you do it round trip, as long as you have good weather, it could be a fun date idea or family adventure.  When we were parking one car at DL Bliss, two guys were running down the hill at a good pace.  As we started on the trail at Emerald Bay, here came the same two runners, making great time, but they still had a big hill to climb up.



This hike is mesmerizing! It is called the Rubicon Trail, primarily running along the water’s edge and afforded breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe, the pictures say more than a thousand words. On my way home I stopped at  Camp Davidson for some food. They are known for their rum runners and summer parties on the beach with live bands – but that will have to be another blog. Next time you head up to Tahoe, definitely give this hike a try; in summer months the parking is tough. October is the perfect month: not too crowded and before the snow hits and 89 closes.

Best spots in the Bay to pitch a tent

TimeOut.com came out with an interesting list recently, about the 12 best places to pitch your tent and go camping in the Bay Area. One of the biggest perks of living where we do is access to the beautiful outdoors in any direction. We have great camping on Mt. Diablo right in our backyard which has amazing sunset views, or we can go out on the coast or up into the mountains to get an even bigger thrill.

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I’ve taken a few of TimeOut’s suggestions and curated a list with my favorites to combine into a top-5 camping must-visit list in our area. Where are your favorite spots to camp? Add to the list!

Pantoll Campground (Mt. Tamalpais)

Pantoll Campground is a phenomenally-located area on the windy roads of Mt. Tam. There are hiking trails (including some long ones down to the beach see previous blog – great hike) and good-sized campgrounds with tables and fire pits under heavy tree cover. It’s first-come, first-served, so get there early!

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Big Sur)

This is a hike-in campground, but you can’t beat the beauty of Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns. You can hike all around the campground, enjoy a picturesque, relaxing night under the stars listening to the ocean, and even see McWay Falls, which tumble into the Pacific. It’s truly a beautiful place to pitch your tent.

Juniper and Live Oak Campground (Mt. Diablo)

You know I had to get one on this list in our own backyard. Mt. Diablo, for all its splendor, is an even better place to hike, bike and camp. One of the best spots is Juniper and Live Oak Campground, which gives you spacious campsites and unbelievable views of all of the Bay Area.

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Desolation Wilderness (Lake Tahoe)

This is cheating, a little bit. Lake Tahoe is not in the vicinity of the Bay Area, but it’s close enough that you can make a last-minute trip up there. If you want to camp in the gorgeous Desolation Wilderness, among the peaks and lakes, you will have to plan ahead. Get a permit, prepare to hike, and bring some snacks. You won’t regret it.  This is one my favorites as I love Tahoe and the surrounding area.

Redwood Regional (Oakland)

I’ll be honest – I knew about Redwood Regional near Oakland, but I had no idea it was a prime camping spot. This is a good place to go if you want something different from Mt. Diablo, don’t want to tangle with dozens of other campers for a spot, and don’t want to drive hours to get somewhere. California is famous for its redwoods, so hang a hammock here and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature.

Road Trips: Mt. Rose

Winter is here, and it’s time to hit the slopes! Hopefully, we get some more snow this week! I love going up to Tahoe to ski, especially when the sky is blue and the snow is powdery. But, unlike many who probably prefer Northstar, Squaw and Heavenly, I love Mt.Rose!  It is where I learned to ski growing up, it is a local’s resort and it has some great runs, especially if the chutes are open.

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Mt. Rose is the highest peak in Tahoe and usually gets the most snow every winter. But it’s also just a cool place to hang out! Most of the mountains in Tahoe have villages, bars, restaurants, ice skating rinks, and other things to help you relax and recover after a day on the snow. And Mt. Rose is no exception, but it has a more casual local vibe with fun activities on the mountain and just some great runs (“Northwest” is my favorite), including a few with a view of Lake Tahoe!

In fact, they have some unique events like the Santa Crawl, where you can get heavily discounted lift tickets by dressing up as Santa for the day while you’re on the mountain. They also do a Beerfest, New Year’s Eve spectacular, poker runs and many other events throughout the year. Recently, they also added a “Magic” lift, a dual conveyer belt for one of their hills (it’s the 1st one in North America and only the 2nd one in the world!).

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I always have a great time when I go to Mt. Rose. Usually, I stay in Reno and then it is just a 20-minute drive up the hill, but it is also easily accessed from Incline or Kings Beach; even from Northstar. They have a newer lodge on the old Slide side of the hill and many locals on a nice day will tailgate in the parking area. The Mt. Rose lodge is more crowded, but the bar is my favorite, with no kids allowed and a taco/burrito bar.

Road Trips: Knee Deep Brewing

People know Auburn, CA for many things: a gateway to Lake Tahoe and a multitude of ratable rivers and some great local camping spots. My kids know it for the last In-N-Out before Tahoe. I know it as the place where my friends Jane and Troy live!

But, what many may not know, is that Auburn is also home to a great brewery called Knee Deep! I recently stopped there when I was traveling back from Tahoe to meet up with my friends and a have quick drink. I loved it!

They have an extensive list of beers, corn hole, and picnic tables inside and out. There is only snack food, but they do have a food truck that is occasionally parked out front.  

The Brewery itself is a family-run independent Microbrewery founded in 2010. It has tasty beer that is unique in its style. They recently won an award for an IPA, and have multiple award-winning beers. And, as a bonus: the tasting room is both pet and kid-friendly!

It’s been cool to see a small, local brewery like Knee Deep gain in popularity so heavily that it’s now sold in 30 different states and six foreign countries! I’d highly recommend stopping by next time you want a break on the way to and from Tahoe, it is just a mile from off the freeway exit of Bell Road – you won’t regret it!

Road Trips: Carmel

For all the beautiful, picturesque landscapes in California, it seems like the Central coast can often be overlooked. Everyone knows about the National Parks, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, the SoCal beaches, etc. But one of the best gems of the entire state is just a couple hours South of the East Bay!

If you’ve never taken a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to reach the 17-mile drive through Carmel and Monterey, you don’t know what you’re missing! You’ll hit miles of stunning coastline, as well as some of the cutest inland towns you can imagine.

One of my favorite day trips is a jaunt down to Carmel. I love all the little shops, restaurants and the beautiful beach to enjoy the Pacific Ocean at sunset. Carmel is also very dog-friendly – it seems that everybody has a dog and they are free to run on the beach (where most gravitate to the right side). I have even gone to a Weimaraner gathering here. Anybody who has rescued a Weim from NorCal Weim Rescue gets an invite. It is a fun sight to see: a bunch of Weimaraners playing and frolicking in the waves.

Monterey and Carmel also have a great wine scene and amazing golf. It’s such an easy trip, and so close to home. I recently did the 17-mile drive; that was a first for me after all these years and definitely worth the money and scenic stops. Now might be the perfect time to go, too. It is Fall, so the leaves will be brilliant and the weather will be perfectly crisp…a perfect day for a stroll on the beach, as long as you are bundled up and there is no fog!

 

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Another La Nina this year? Start with Warren Miller …

According to multiple weather reports, La Nina is expected to strike certain parts of the U.S. this winter – the Rockies are on the path. Though after a big season for snowfall in Northern California last year, they are predicting it to be less wet and snowy in the upcoming months, without so much that it’ll be difficult to get to like last year!

With the season turning and snow on the mind, let me recommend a really cool annual event coming up tomorrow. Warren Miller’s “Line of Descent” is the latest in a series of snow documentaries that brings a traveling event to towns across the world. Last year I watched it at Squaw with Johnny Moseley as MC.

This year? Walnut Creek! You can see the show at the Lesher Center’s Hofmann Theater at 8 p.m. tomorrow night. There were a few balcony tickets left last I checked, but they will go fast. Tickets are about $23 right now, but it’s well worth it. The movie itself is always really awesome, and you can win free snow swag at the show!

If you love to ski or ride like me, make sure to check out this year’s trailer above. Then, once you’re thoroughly pumped up for snow season, go buy a ticket and meet me at the Warren Miller show! As you can see in the trailer, they’re featuring Squaw Valley in part of this year’s movie. How cool is that?

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Time for this summer to get in-tents!

Hah, get it? It’s officially summer in the Bay Area (if you couldn’t tell by the triple-digit heat…), which means it’s time for you to plan some fun camping trips!

Luckily, we live in one of the most serene, nature-filled parts of the country and dozens of great campgrounds are just a short drive away. That brings me to this list of local campgrounds provided by Placer Title Company.

Some you’ve probably heard of, some you haven’t, but either way you can’t beat the Northern California summer. Some of my favorite areas are Tahoe (of course) and the Redwoods.

On this list, I can’t recommend the Tahoe State Recreation Area, Big Basin or Tuolumne Meadows (Yosemite, so get reservations like…yesterday!) enough. I’ve also found that Desolation Wilderness near Tahoe is an amazing, remote spot for hike-in camping.

If you have kids, Angel Island is a simple ferry ride (also fun for the kiddos!) and close enough to home that you can do an easy one-nighter. Obviously, if you want to be extremely close to home in the East Bay, hit up Mt. Diablo. They have pretty great campgrounds and almost every single one has a great view of the entire East Bay.

I love camping, whether it be in a car or a tent, in the warm NorCal summers. Check out that list, pack your car, and take a weekend off to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Our natural surroundings are some of the best parts about living in California, so take advantage of it soon!

Road Trips: Mt. Rose

Have you been to Tahoe this season? It is absolutely breathtaking how much snow has fallen! Check out this panoramic picture from my ski trip to Mt. Rose a couple weekends ago:

My research confirms what I’ve heard: that Mt. Rose has the most snow in the nation (more than 600 inches this year alone!). Because of its elevation (base elevation: 8,260 ft.), Mt. Rose was still getting snow when places like Squaw were getting rain. Check out this picture from the Mt. Rose website:

Right now, Rose has the best conditions in Tahoe by far. They have 53 feet (!!!) of snow already. It’s a record-breaking year. Here is a chart from Weather.com to give you a good idea of the snowfall on the West Coast:

Pick up a lift ticket and check it out before the season ends. This is a once-in-a-lifetime stellar snow season!

The Ultimate Guide to Tahoe

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! You know what all this Bay Area rain has meant for Tahoe, right? Take a look:

Diablo Magazine has written an “Ultimate Guide to Tahoe” for those who are planning trips to the area for some winter fun. And given all the fresh snow over the last couple weeks, who wouldn’t want to take a weekend to Tahoe? I know I will!

I grew up in Reno and two of my favorite ski resorts are Mt. Rose and Kirkwood – both get more snow than the rest of Tahoe, and Mt. Rose has some really challenging runs with the development and opening of the chutes.

If you want to stay at a great resort with short walks from the lift to the lodge, Sugar Bowl is your spot (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the easiest resorts to get to from the Bay Area). If you’re not much of a skier or snowboarder, head to Old Town Truckee for some shopping.

No matter what you do, get up to Tahoe this winter and take advantage of the epic snowfall. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few days! 2017 is shaping up to be a stellar ski season, and I am off to Mammoth soon to celebrate my birthday!

East Bay New Year’s Eve events

This New Year’s Eve, there seems to be a ton of fun events at local establishments for you to ring in 2017 with.

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For me, New Year’s is a time to reflect on the year that has just passed and to focus forward with new resolutions – what can be improved, how to get into shape and what can I do better. I tend to struggle with the idea that one has to have a special celebration for this event, as I always find the hype does not live up to the expectation, and I am left with disappointment.

My best New Year’s celebrations have always been the unexpected. My favorite was a last-minute ski trip to Sugar Bowl where we scored a small room due to a cancellation. Our kids had the run of the lodge because the only way in was by gondola, and we could walk out the door to the lift.  To our surprise, they had night skiing, champagne and sparkling cider at the hut atop the hill. Then, at 11:30, those who wanted to participate did the torch run, and when all were safely down, the fireworks exploded! So as the clock hits midnight, we all turn the page and start looking forward to new adventures in 2017.

If you feel that you have to do something and have made no plans, but don’t want to venture all the way to San Francisco, take a look at a couple of local events taking place on New Year’s Eve:

  1. The Groove Doctors at San Ramon Marriott (8:30 p.m. for $77/ticket)
  2. Phantom of the Opera Masquerade at Nica Lounge in Concord (8:30 p.m. for $15-50/ticket)
  3. New Year’s Eve at Jack’s in Pleasant Hill (9:00 p.m. for $40/ticket)

Of course, you could always do something unexpected and maybe have the best New Year’s ever! No matter what you choose, I wish you a delightful evening and a prosperous 2017!