Tag Archives: Sierra Nevada

Ice Dams Remain

Partial snow load from off of roof

As I detailed earlier (Those Ice Dam Blues), the Tahoe house developed thick ice dams all around to the point where I was getting water intrusion where the dormers meet the roof above the deck.  Turning the poorly-installed heat tape/cables back on, and leaving them on 24/7, let the melt water drain off (and re-freeze into a thick layer on the deck).  I called around and found Millers Roofing would be able to come out and clear the snow and ice from the roof about a week later.  (Boy would that suck if the heat tape hadn’t been able to get the water to drain.)

Well… it would seem that I had some entirely unfounded expectations over what to expect.  I was thinking that a service to clear the snow and ice from the roof would leave the roof relatively clear of both (at least until the next snow storm).  Though I had no idea how they would safely remove the foot-plus thick ice, I was surprised to discover that they apparently don’t actually remove all of the snow or apparently any of the ice.  Six hours of work for three guys (and $2250) and what they do is remove about three-quarters of the snow off the top.  Troy sent me a photo of the front of the house two days after the roof snow removal crew finished (and after another storm dropped some more snow).  Here’s the before/after shots:

One week before and two days after the clearing work

When I did get to the house about ten days later, I was dismayed to see that while a lot of snow was dumped off the roof, the ice dams remain everywhere around the house except for where the heat tape/cables run beneath the dormers:


And there’s quite the load of snow and ice from the roof on the deck now:


The concern here is how the melt water from the roof continues to fall and refreeze into a slab of ice on the deck – getting up to the door thresholds.  We are starting to get a little bit warmer weather so we’ll see how this goes in the coming months but this clearly needs some work to avoid this mess in the future – both the ice dam formation and the ice slab on the deck.

All of this makes me wonder if it was worth hiring that crew to do that partial snow load removal.  I can see some more shingles are peeling off the roof eaves but maybe it would be worse.  On the other hand, the ice dams remain until they eventually melt away and there’s plenty of snow remaining (and to come) to feed them.  Hopefully there won’t be any water intrusion elsewhere on the roof where there are no heat cables installed.

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Those Ice Dam Blues


Record loads of snowfall (and occasional bouts of rain) mean lots of snow and ice on the Tahoe house – enough to build up ice dams all the way around the house and to eventually find water streaming down the walls in the dining room.

It looks like the problem spot is where one of the dormers meets the roof.  Melting snow collects above the ice dam below the dormers, getting under the shingles until it gets high enough to stream down where the dormer wall joins the roof.  There is some heat tape installed under these dormers to create drainage through the ice dams but it’s not installed quite correctly and I had mistakenly understood that it’s not necessary to run it at night when the temperatures get down to the teens outside.  Apparently there’s enough heat getting through the roof to melt the snow even when it’s that cold outside.  So I ended up with water streaming down the inside walls (past electrical outlets, to boot):


Not good.  I’ve got a crew coming from Mills Roofing later this week to remove the snow and ice buildup.   There will be more snow and then more melt and more ice dams though.  The heat tape that is there now is only on a portion of the rear of the house and it wasn’t installed properly.  It doesn’t hang over the edge of the eaves as it should (to let the water drain off the roof) and a good 8-10 feet of it is wasted strung up on the wall coming from the junction box.  I was able to rearrange some of it but the roof here is too steep for me to deal with most of it.

I’ve been in contact with Brian from Summit Ice Melt Systems and will be looking into potentially installing their product to prevent these ice dams from forming at all.  However, that still leaves the issue of all this melt water collecting and refreezing on the deck below – and potentially leading to further water intrusion into the house:


There’s also still the outstanding damage to the roof from prior seasons.  There are several sections of shingles missing from the roof but I wasn’t able to find anyone that wasn’t already booked up to repair the damage over this past year.  I did eventually sign up with Jeff’s Roofing Truckee but he also wasn’t able to get to it before the first snows arrived.  He did manage to locate a supply of the Tamko shingles in South Lake Tahoe though.  Hopefully, he’ll get to my roof later this year once the snow and cold weather is gone:


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Frie Family Visit in Tahoe

Darlene’s brother John, his wife Sandy, and daughters Joslyn and Carlyn came out to visit in Tahoe for a week.  We were able to finish up our road trip to join them for some activities including hiking, kayaking and climbing in the trees at the treetop adventure park in Tahoe Vista.

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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.


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.)


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…


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


(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 more 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.)

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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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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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Eastern Sierra Colors

Darlene and I headed over to the Eastern Sierra for a few days last week to catch the fall colors of the aspen climbing the mountain valleys. We came over Sonora Pass, visited Bodie and camped the first night near Lundy Lake, hit Mammoth Lakes and then camped below Rock Creek Lake before finally having to make our way back via Tioga Pass and through Yosemite.

Seems like we might have been about a week early to catch the peak but it also seemed that a lot of the aspen were really dry and drying out quickly after turning yellow (skipping over orange and red), presumably due to the extended drought.

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Riding Lake Tahoe Trails

Darlene and I went up to Lake Tahoe for a couple days of mountain biking midweek last week.  We did a bit of Sawtooth Ridge near Truckee after driving up on Wednesday – these are some nice wandering trails overlooking the Truckee River and highway 89 – and chipmunks everywhere!

On Thursday we went for a full day’s ride centered around the awesome views of the Tahoe Flume Trail, overlooking Lake Tahoe.  Here’s a two-minute video montage from the ride:

Tahoe Rim and Flume Trails

Richard fell sick and wasn’t able to join us so we caught the shuttle up to Tahoe Meadows (near Mt. Rose).  Our route started with the Tahoe Rim Trail heading south, then catching the Red House Flume Trail running clockwise, then back up the Sunflower Hill Trail, round Marlette Lake until finally getting to enjoy the Flume Trail proper.  Sweet and long 25-mile day with lots of breaks to enjoy the views and even snag a geocache along the way.

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Cycling Around Lake Tahoe

Darlene and I joined some of her cycling friends in a biking event around Lake Tahoe this past Sunday, June 1st: “23rd Annual America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride“.  The main route is 72 miles around the lake and a total of about 4000 ft of elevation gain.


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Here’s a short (three minute, 50 MB) video montage I put together of the whole ride around the lake:


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Eastern Sierra Cycling Weekend

Here are some pictures and video from a few days of cycling and camping in the Eastern Sierra in and around the Mono Lake Basin, Mammoth and June lakes, Long Valley and Rock Creek Canyon over May 24th-27th.  It was Darlene’s first time seeing the area.  We came over by way of highway 108 and Sonora Pass and down through Bridgeport and Lee Vining to camp out on national forest land near highway 395 and June Lake on Saturday night.

Mono Lake (click for full gallery)

Mono Lake (click for full gallery)

Sunday we set out for a bike ride to the South Tufa area at Mono Lake via the June Lake loop.  That worked out to about 38 miles.  Afterward, we stopped in for groceries at Mammoth Lakes and then set out on Benton Crossing Road to find a nice spot in the rocky hills east of Crowley Lake to use as our base camp Sunday and Monday nights.  That night I was up late exploring the wonderfully dark (and moonless) skies with my telescope.

Long Valley looking towards Mammoth

Long Valley looking towards Mammoth (click for full gallery)

Monday morning we left our camp standing and drove into Tom’s Place at the base of Rock Creek Canyon to set off on our bikes to climb the 2600 ft. up to Rock Creek Lake (at 9682 ft).  Alas, there was to be no Pie in the Sky today at the Rock Creek Lodge so lunch was back down at Tom’s Place.

After breaking camp on Tuesday we stopped in at Mammoth Lakes again for breakfast and a bit of shopping before heading home, this time via Yosemite and Tioga Pass/Road.

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Climbing Mt. Whitney

These are pictures and videos from a three day backpacking trip with Stéphane and Darlene to summit Mt. Whitney (14,505 ft).  Second time for me!  (Here’s the first.)

We chose to camp at Outpost Camp (10,400 ft), a relatively short 3.8 miles from the Whitney Portal trailhead at 8360 ft. However, this made for a long summit day of over 14 miles round trip. We made it though and enjoyed a beautiful day and stupendous views all along the way!

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More Mtn Biking near Truckee

Here’s some pictures from two days of mountain biking near Truckee, CA with Richard on Oct 4-5th. First day was Mills Peak, near Sierraville.  It’s a long but pleasant nearly three-hour climb to the top and the fire lookout tower and a very fun one hour ride back down.  The second day we did the “Super-D” trail from Watson Lake down to the 06 fire road south of Truckee.


There’s a great panoramic view from atop Mt. Watson, looking south over Lake Tahoe:

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Mtn Biking near Truckee

Pictures from a fun weekend of mountain biking near Tahoe/Truckee with the Outdoor Adventure Club – Hole in the Ground loop, the Sawtooth Ridge area and some riding near Prosser Lake:


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Hiking/Biking in Tahoe

Pictures from a weekend of hiking and biking with the Bay Area Outdoor Adventure Club in and around Lake Tahoe:


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Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River

This is a collection of pictures from a four day backpacking trip down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River
in Yosemite National Park with the Bay Area Outdoor Adventure Club:


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