Road Trips: South Lake Tahoe

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.

Road Trips: A hike up Mt. Rose

Ah, Reno. One of my favorite places to visit in every season! My son was attending school UNR so I had many more opportunities (and reasons!) to visit, but you can find me up at Tahoe for skiing in the winter, or on a hike like the one I recently took. No complaints either way from me!

On one of my recent trips to Reno I took a drive back home via Mt. Rose and Lake Tahoe.  At the top of Mt. Rose summit, is a trail head for various hikes. The path taken this day was a 2.5-mile trail in and out of a beautiful waterfall. It’s amazing to see what these majestic Tahoe mountains have to offer us when they aren’t covered in snow or recently dusted after a storm – check out the difference!

After the hike, my friend drove back to Reno and I continued on home via a stop at Char Burger. Since it was Labor Day weekend, and the last of summer vacations, it was crowded and a line was way out the door, but the wait was worth it.

Even though this might be a long way to go for a day trip, it is something you might consider on to a longer vacation to the area and a nice tidbit of information.  I personally always feel rejuvenated after time spent in Tahoe and the surrounding mountains by taking advantage of this little slice of heaven.  On another blog, I will highlight more details about Reno where I grew up and am one day looking forward to where I will retire, me and everybody else from California!

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Road Trips: Burma Superstar

I have a super tasty, local road trip for you all this week! It’s really a restaurant review, but I was able to go do a couple other things in the vicinity that made it more into a day trip that ended up being a blast! You may have heard of the restaurant: Burma Superstar! I went for the first time to the Alameda location (there is one in San Francisco and Oakland, too), and it was really good!

Honestly, I was a little bit disappointed in the spicy shrimp noodles, as they were a little too sweet, and I would have liked a little more spice. It was more like a pad thai dish than I was expecting. I had a chili cocktail, which was essentially beer, ginger, and squeezed lemon. That was really tasty and offset the spicy chili beef. They also had phenomenal coconut rice!  The fermented tea leaf salad was a burst of many flavors and definitely worth trying.

We also stopped into a cute little shop next to Burma Superstar called Daisie. It is perfectly situated because Burma Superstar tends to have lines and while people are waiting outside, they meander into Daisie’s homes goods/gift shop. I really enjoyed wandering through and found a cool vase. And, lastly, we were hoping to get into a little local theater production company but we couldn’t get there in time and they would not let us in because the stage was a circle you would have to walk over. We moved the reservation to September.

It was a great day out in Alameda. I finally got a taste of a popular restaurant, got to explore the local shops, and at least got to see the local theater company, even if we weren’t on time for the show itself. I’d highly recommend checking out Alameda, which is an often-overlooked part of the East Bay.

Road Trips: Pt. Reyes & Hog Island

There are a lot of fun, interesting things to do in the Bay Area. That’s part of the allure of living here – visiting San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley never gets old, and you have art, music, culture, food, drink, and outdoor adventure literally surrounding you at all times. But, there are still hidden gems out there that stand above the rest in their uniqueness. Recently, I took a day trip to do one of those things!

If you’ve never been to Point Reyes, you’re missing out. This is an underrated activity in the Bay Area. I spent a day enjoying oysters and drinking beer at Hog Island Oyster Company with friends, then we visited Drake’s Beach via Pt. Reyes Station, and Cowgirl Creamery. The area itself is a bit of a drive up, we took the route via Skywalker Ranch/Nicasio – a stunningly beautiful, but winding way to go to do something fun and out of the ordinary.

We went to Hog Island first, where there is only outside picnic bench seating or standing room (on a wine barrel) if you don’t have reservations. It also happened to be one of the nicest and warmest days the coast had to offer, so it was packed. You have the option of having your oyster shucked and ordering off the menu, or booking the area with grills and bringing your own food after you buy the oysters from Hog Island.

It was a wonderful experience and the food was outstanding. I think the ambiance and friends made it taste even better. We also stopped at Drake’s Beach, which has a bluff protecting the beach from the ocean’s breeze, so we had a warm summer day on an empty beach (which I’m sure is different than a place like Stinson Beach!) From there, we visited Pt. Reyes Station, meandered around the town, and took a peek around Cowgirl Creamery, where we tried their cheese at lunch. Take a look at the photo slideshow below to get an idea of how much fun it was!

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Road Trips: Whistler

Okay, now I’m really stretching this whole Road Trips theme. You could, hypothetically, drive all the way to Canada from the Bay Area. It would take a solid 16 hours and would be a pretty nice drive through Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. But, I’d recommend flying.

I recently took a 2 1/2-day trip to Whistler. I left at 4 pm on Saturday afternoon and got to Whistler at 10 pm. I skied Sunday and Monday and flew back to the bay area at 6 am on Tuesday. I was back at work by noon! With the tail end of the skiing season approaching, Whistler – which always has great snow – recently got dumped on much like Tahoe. I met a couple of friends up there and had amazing snow to ski. It was a great trip.

I had a room at the Westin on the hill on the Blackcomb side. The Whistler-Blackcomb mountain resort is also massive, it has a glacier and the longest peak-to-peak tram in the world. There is also lost of expert skiing available. I wonder if the weather is a little different because the resort is so close to the ocean, but the clouds would come in and out. At one point I felt like I was skiing in soup, could not see in front of me and we just happened to be in the Whistler Bowl (a black diamond run) at the end of the day.

And if you aren’t feeling the snow vibe, but just want to explore the area, Whistler is a really cool place itself. The village has some great restaurants; we ate at 21 Steps, which serves great comfort food and a good selection of fish, pork and meat. I would also explore the rest of the area if you have the time. Just outside the Whistler area, you can trek back to Vancouver and explore one of the underrated cities of the Pacific Northwest.

Next year: Revelstoke and Heli-skiing!

Road Trips: Albany Bulb

With this installation of Road Trips, we’re taking a bit more of a bohemian angle. Fittingly, we’ll be going just to the fringe of Berkeley, to the little town of Albany. It’s not for a park, or a theater, or anything like that. I’m actually recommending a visit to a landfill with a wild history and a ton of unique art.

In the late 1930’s, the creation of the Albany “Bulb” began. Land was leveled and moved around and pushed into the Albany peninsula for the creation of the racetrack at Golden Gate Fields. Over time, the land was protected by Save The Bay, and became somewhat of a lost project. For many years, the peninsula served as an occasional hiking and dog-walking spot, as well as being home to many local species of plants and animals.

Eventually, the Bulb became a homeless haven, with as many as 60 squatters living there before being evicted (some forcibly) by local authorities. While that population was on the Bulb, they created sculptures, and paintings, and even a makeshift library that has since been burned to the ground. But, today, it is still a sight to see: views of the Bay, art everywhere, unique traces of generations past.

For those who aren’t into the graffiti, wooden art or macabre feel (kinda feels like a scene from The Walking Dead), there is a beach nearby that dogs can be on without a leash. The Albany Bulb is a weird, exciting, confusing display of East Bay history.

You can easily spend half a day wandering its pathways and finding strange art from decades ago. Try going out there on a nice day, and you can always go back into Berkeley for a nice lunch or dinner on your way home!

Road Trips: Sutro Baths

Our road trip blogs have ranged far and wide over the months, but one easy, must-do road trip from the East Bay is a simple jaunt across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco! You can’t beat the beauty of San Francisco, which is truly one of the most spectacular places in the world, and right in our backyard.

Of all the cool things to do in the city, one of my favorite experiences is hiking around Sutro Baths at the furthest West point. If you drive in over the Bay Bridge (or, if you want to save some gas, take BART and then a city bus), follow directions to Ocean Beach and take in the sights and smells of the ocean (warning: it’s always windy!).

From there, you can walk up the hill past the famous Cliff House restaurant (their bar is actually affordable if you need a quick drink!). On the other side of that are the Sutro Baths. Back in the day, this area was a public bath house right on the ocean that look more like Roman ruins now than anything else.

Extend your day after exploring the Baths, by following one of the mild hiking trails next to the upper parking lot, which will take you through tall trees to the Golden Gate Bridge side of the peninsula. You’ll get a clear view (most days) of the bridge, the ocean and the Marin headlands.

And to think, all these picturesque views are contained in a tiny corner of San Francisco! If you’ve never taken the kiddos to see this part of San Francisco, I’d highly recommend it!

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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