Tag Archives: California

Things to Do Around Lake Tahoe

This activity list is intended for those who might not be very familiar with the Lake Tahoe area, but staying at our house in Tahoe Vista, on the north side of the lake.  The whole lake is a big tourist destination year round but the north side is less built up than the south side.  There’s of course lots more info available on the web.

Skiing (Downhill, Cross-Country and Backcountry)

The house is just a couple of minutes from the Northstar ski resort and about 35-40 minutes from Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Homewood, Sugar Bowl, Donner Ski RanchDiamond Peak and Mt. Rose ski resorts.  Heavenly, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood ski resorts are farther afield (60-100 minutes).

Besides the downhill and cr0ss-country skiing at the various resorts, there’s cross-country ski trails about a half-mile away from the house at the North Tahoe Regional Park as well as popular backcountry trails off of nearby Brockway Summit and of course elsewhere all around Lake Tahoe.  The end of Regency Way also provides access to snowmobile routes.

Sledding

There’s a couple of snow sleds in the garage that you’re welcome to use and all other equipment (skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles, etc.) can be rented in town and skis can be rented at the ski resorts.

Dog Sledding

Dog sledding is offered by Sierra Adventures as well as Wilderness Adventures (which does it out of Northstar, Squaw Valley and Sugar Bowl).

Ice Skating

There’s an ice skating rink at nearby Northstar Village as well as up on top of the mountain at Squaw Valley (accessible via the gondola).

Hiking / Snowshoeing

There’s lots of trails of various sorts all around (whether that be for skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, moutain biking or motorized travel), including directly from the house.  The very popular Tahoe Rim Trail (which circles the entire lake, interactive map) runs very near the house and the always busy (winter and summer) trailhead parking on highway 267 is nearby and even accessible via a trail from the house.  (This access trail isn’t on any maps that I’ve seen – I’ll map it out here soon.)

An easy but unusual and popular hike to recommend is hiking to and through the now abandoned Donner Summit train tunnel snow sheds – a portion of the first transcontinental railroad across the U.S.  You’ll also see the remains of the historic Lincoln Highway here – that’s right, the first transcontinental highway crosses the first transcontinental railway here near Donner Summit.  (There are also gorgeous views from here.)

Bicycling

There’s lots of paved biking paths (see the excellent map on/in the coffee table in the living room).  One stellar example is the paved riding trail along the Truckee river between Tahoe City and Olympic Valley.  Besides the distinct bike paths, there’s a lot of scenic highways to bike on.  There’s also a large, yearly event ride (“America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride”) that goes all the way around Lake Tahoe.  (We did it one year.)

Mountain Biking

Most of the trails around Lake Tahoe are open to mountain biking but there are some exceptions (like parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail run through designated wilderness areas).

Here’s an overview of mountain bike trails in North Lake Tahoe.  Check out the trails running from the house towards Painted Rock, Burton Creek State Park and Tahoe City.  Also try the fun Sawtooth Ridge mountain bike trails near Truckee and the epic Hole-in-the-Ground loop near Donner Summit but don’t miss the gorgeous panoramic views of Lake Tahoe from the Flume Trail.  Here’s what it’s like riding the gorgeous Flume Trail.  These guys offer a shuttle service for the Flume Trail, which is super convenient.

Northstar operates a mountain biking park in the summer.

Nearby Regional Park: Zip Lines, Treetop Obstacle Course, Disc Golf Course, Ball Fields, Playground, Ski Trails

Less than a mile of walking distance from the house (it’s much farther if you drive) is the North Tahoe Regional Park which has a disc golf course, ball fields, an extensive playground, cross-country skiing trails, and is home to a treetop adventure park obstacle course with zip lines, etc.  (For the zip-line course, just make sure you book a reservation with the right location – they have three locations around Tahoe!)

Water Sports

On and around the lake, there’s boating, kayaking, waterskiing, windsurfing, jet skiing, parasailing, etc or you can just hang out at one of the beaches, including nearby Kings Beach.

(add some specific kayaking recommendations here)

There’s both whitewater river rafting as well as calm river floating available nearby.  One popular river floating section is on the Truckee River, starting at the edge of Tahoe City and running to River Ranch (where the road to Alpine Meadows meets the river).  Truckee River Rafting offers rentals and shuttle service.  Another popular spot is also on the Truckee River but east of the town of Truckee.

There are a couple of inflatable float tubes and two inflatable rafts in the garage.  And soon, I’ll have a small collection of PFD’s (life vests) available too.  Otherwise, you can rent gear at…

Fishing

There are of course many fishing opportunities on and around Lake Tahoe, but also at many surrounding lakes, rivers and streams.

Fireworks

(list locations of holiday fireworks)

Glider Rides

Truckee Tahoe Soaring Association offers glider rides out of the nearby Truckee airport.  I gotta try this soon!

Sightseeing / Other

(list sightseeing examples)

Emerald Bay – Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm is a popular destination at Lake Tahoe for visitors.

Squaw Valley – Even in summer, you can take aerial tram rides up to the “High Camp” up top the mountain where there’s a swimming pool and ice skating rink.

There’s gambling and concerts at the casinos on the Nevada side.

Donner Party / Emigrant Trail – The Visitor Center at the Donner Memorial State Park near Donner Lake and Truckee has a wonderful set of exhibits explaining the story of the infamous Donner Party (cannibalism!) and the history of the area and the Emigrant Trail and the building of the transcontinental railroad.  The visitor web site doesn’t provide much info but it’s well worth a visit.  The exhibits are really well done!

National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada (“The Harrah Collection”) – This is a cool place and definitely worth a trip to visit, even for non-car aficionados.  It’s super-easy to get caught up and lose several hours in this place checking out the hundreds of vintage vehicles.  It’s fun to see and learn how things evolved so haphazardly from the original notions of the “horseless carriage”.  It’s quite an amazing collection and full of surprises.

Events / Festivals

(list events)

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Hoan’s Family Visit to Tahoe

Hoan’s extended family came up to the Tahoe house for 4th of July weekend and Darlene and I were able to join them.  Six adults and six kids at the house!  Over the course of four days, we caught the fireworks at Donner Lake, checked out the nearby North Tahoe Regional Park, hiked up to the vista point on the Tahoe Rim Trail above the house (and Brockway Summit) for a sunset view, kayaked from Homewood to Sugar Point State Park (and back), hiked from Donner Summit through the old train tunnels and hung out a bit at Kings Beach.  Hoan, Samantha, Justine and Phong also gave one of the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks a try.  (One of them is just a mile or so from the house.)

Click through for the full gallery – my pics plus some from everybody else:

      

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Mud and Snow in Tahoe

Troy, Resi and Aiden came up to the Tahoe house in mid-April to get a couple of last days in before Homewood and several other Tahoe resorts had their closing weekend.  Definitely spring skiing conditions with slush (and mud) at the bottom and, up top, overnight frozen snow turning too soft mid-way through the day.  But then, as they headed back to the Bay Area, the temperatures dropped and we got another snow storm Sunday night.  Jon joined me at Alpine Meadows and then Squaw Valley to enjoy a last couple of powder days for the season!

Troy got a friendly visit from a bear overnight.  He woke to find all four doors on his truck open and the evidence of a bit of ransacking from a dirty bear – so lucky it was unlocked or the bear might have broken in:

  

A cute little video of Pan falling asleep at the wheel:

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Return to Mammoth Mountain

I haven’t been skiing at Mammoth since the early nineties, after college, but it’s where I learned to ski in high school from nearby Bishop.  And I had forgotten what a great big and diverse ski mountain it is – though I’m sure I also wasn’t skiing as much of any mountain’s terrain back then either.  Anyway, driving to Mammoth from Santa Cruz/San Jose in the winter isn’t very convenient (given all the Sierra passes are closed) and  you have to essentially drive by many other great ski resorts to do it.  However, with an extended stay at our new place in Tahoe last week, it was easy to hop down to Mammoth for a couple of days (just a three hour drive) and make use of our Mountain Collective passes.

We got some nice, typical spring skiing conditions: overnight frozen snow, following the sun as the slopes softened up from east to west to north.  Plus Mammoth is so high (peaking at 11,000 ft), it was easy to avoid any sticky slush that would develop lower down.

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A Little More Snow in Tahoe

Darlene and I joined Resi, Troy and Aiden at Homewood this past weekend to play in the much needed new snow.  Click through for the gallery:

  

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Long Awaited Snow in Tahoe

  

Finally got some snow to ski in Tahoe this past week.  Chased the storm up with Troy on Thursday night.  We had eighteen inches of powder to play with at Homewood, which was nice, but there wasn’t much of a base (like 25″), so still tons of obstacles to watch out for everywhere.  Creeks and rocks and trees and those sneaky, ski- and board-eating shrubberies!  As a result, lots of terrain wasn’t really accessible and you had to be pretty careful where you went, but there was still plenty of room for fun.

Here’s some pictures and a little video – though I really should’ve recorded some of the obstacle-dodging craziness and the digging of ourselves out of heavy, sun-saturated powder traps!

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Backpacking the Silver Divide

I had promised Darlene a substitute backpacking trip when we found out she would no longer be able to go on our upcoming backpacking trip in Washington state.  We were able to take four days over the Labor Day weekend and I picked out a promising area that I hadn’t been to north of Lake Thomas A. Edison that would give Darlene another taste of the High Sierra.

We took off Saturday afternoon amid some unusual high temps as well as heavy smoke that had blown down from numerous wildfires in Oregon and Northern California.  It was a five and a half hour drive to get to the trailhead, including an interesting drive over a very rough, one lane road from Huntington Lake that goes over Kaiser Pass at 9184 feet.  We found a spot to camp along the road near the High Sierra Ranger Station on Saturday night and to wait to get a wilderness pass in the morning.

A meadow along Silver Pass Creek

We had our pick of numerous trailheads near Lake Edison but settled on doing a loop up and over part of the Silver Divide by following the John Muir Trail / Pacific Crest Trail over Silver Pass and then returning via Goodale Pass.  (View map.)  The smoke from the distant fires was still pretty heavy and worrisome on Sunday morning but we managed to just barely catch the backpacker’s ferry boat across Lake Edison and that cut out four miles of hiking our way around the reservoir to get started.  From the ferry landing (7643 ft), it’s about nine miles to the top of Silver Pass (10,900 ft).

Our room with a view over Chief Lake at 10,400 ft.

There’s lots of small, alpine lakes scattered along the divide and we found a lovely spot to spend two nights overlooking Chief Lake just below Silver Pass at about 10,400 ft.  Thankfully the smoke wasn’t too bad at altitude and it mostly cleared out overnight with the winds and occasional brief showers.  Not much to see in the way of stars though with a very bright full moon on display.

Sunset skies over the distant Minarets to the north

In the morning, we were treated to views of the distant Minarets (part of the Ritter Range) up near Mammoth.  There were a good deal of mosquitos in the morning and evening but not as much as I had feared given our really wet winter this year.  The weather alternated between periods of sunshine and heavy clouds with brief sprinkling while we ventured up a nearby ridge on the Silver Divide to get some more stupendous views of our surroundings.

Enjoying the panorama perched on a ridge above Silver Pass

Monday night was tough to sleep through as we had hours of heavy gusting winds but eventually it quieted down.  Our return journey on Tuesday was about 12 miles over Goodale Pass (10,997 ft) down to the Vermillion Resort on Lake Edison.  However, it was clear my boots were not going to make it – the soles were completely disintegrating.  They’re probably also why I lost my footing and ended up crashing into a creek when I attempted to push off one rock to leap to another.  I ended up using my shoelaces to tie the soles to the bottom of my shoes and keep them from coming completely separated before reaching the end of the trail.  I might need some new boots now though.

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Bridge Out!

Big Sur got hit hard with the heavy rains earlier this year, with several massive land slides and the forced demolition of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge.  This severely isolated the community around Big Sur and so a temporary, emergency foot path was created to allow residents to get supplies.  They’ve since opened up a path through to the public.  So, until the replacement bridge is completed (end of September), you can park down near the road closure at the Pfieffer Big Sur State Park, hike the steep 1/2 mile trail and get to ride highway 1 with much reduced traffic.

And that’s what I did today with Mark and his family and friends!  We hiked over and rode as far as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and the McWay Falls (about 20 miles round trip).

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Flying Over Humpbacks

I saw this news article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel this morning talking about how active the humpback whales have been near shore off of Santa Cruz and Aptos these past few weeks.  So Darlene and I grabbed the drone and dashed down to Seacliff State Beach.  I’ve been wanting to try flying the drone to get nice, aerial views of the whales.  (A lot of the coastline is protected via the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary but flying in this area is allowed.)

There were probably a dozen of them near shore – you could see them popping up every which way!  The lighting wasn’t great (completely overcast) as the marine layer had yet to burn off but it was still very fun to hang around with the drone waiting for them to appear.

It’s quite the challenge to find them and stay with them using the narrow view of the drone’s camera – even when you can easily see them from shore.  Darlene was helping by watching the feed with the goggles because it’s also hard to see small/distant details on the iPhone or iPad screen, particularly when you’re outside. It’s much easier to see with the goggles but then of course all you can see is what the drone sees.

It was hard tracking them too because once they go under it’s hard to predict where to be looking when they come back up. You want to get closer for more detail but if you’re too close you won’t see them at all when they resurface off camera (which happened repeatedly) – and of course not so close as to harass them.  I should point out that the limited view angle of the drone’s camera makes them appear closer than they really are and yet I still had to heavily crop every one of these clips to make the whales appear large enough in the frame – even in the most distant shots.

I did put a polarizer on the drone camera to try to cut through the reflection of the water surface but it didn’t work that well with the diffuse overcast light so it might work better in directed sunlight.

Need more practice! ;-)

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On the Mendocino Coast

Last week, Darlene and I were able to spend six days following the Mendocino Coast (with the cats in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, of course), continuing north from where we left off on the Sonoma Coast in December, just north of Fort Ross.  We discovered that all the state park campgrounds were full going up the coast for the coming days but we kept managing to find something.

We stayed the first night at Stillwater Cove and then snagged a spot in an overflow area at Salt Point State Park, where we spent an afternoon mountain biking up to the top of the park and part of the morning flying the drone around.  We visited the Point Arena Lighthouse, which turned out to be more interesting than I expected and we snagged a nice spot in another overflow area on the beach at the Van Damme State Park.  We were able to grab a vacated spot in the park the next morning and then headed out to explore the Mendocino Headlands.  We also checked out the Russian Gulch State Park.

This area around Mendocino has a lot of cool sea caves – we’ll need to come back some time and book a guided sea kayak tour to check them out.  Fort Bragg turned out to be pretty uninteresting and we just passed through, stopping at MacKerricher State Park instead for lunch and to walk around.  Our final and fifth night was at Westport Union Landing State Beach overlooking the bluffs.  At this point, Highway 1 turns inland and you leave the coast for good.  Our last day was essentially spent just getting back home to lots of traffic jams.

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