If there is one place I can never get enough of in the Lake Tahoe area, it is Desolation Wilderness. The 63,000 acre area with endless trail systems and lakes has a solid permit system that keeps it from being overcrowded. Although this sometimes works to your disadvantage if you can’t secure a permit, it is worth the solitude. Every time I go, it is a different experience with memories to cherish for a lifetime. This past weekend with Brian and our fur babies was no different.

I’ve written several blog posts about my time in Desolation Wilderness. Other adventures include:

This weekend we opted to backpack to Stony Ridge Lake, a zone and trail that I have never explored. We entered from the Meeks Bay trailhead, which is on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. If you are coming from Tahoe City, the trailhead is just past the Meeks Bay Resort on the right side. There is a small parking lot with room for maybe 8 cars, but plenty of parking on the road. We parked on the road and didn’t have any problems. In the parking lot, you’ll see the trailhead, map, and permit kiosk for day hikers.

From the trailhead, you’ll hike 1.2 miles on a flat dirt service road until it splits. Here, you’ll want to take the single track trail up and to the right. There is a sign for the trail here and it’s pretty hard to miss.

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This is where the trail splits and begins the climb into Desolation Wilderness.

The next mile or so is a moderate uphill on mostly dirt, with some rocky sections. After about a mile, you’ll reach Meeks Creek and the trail will start to level out. This section was probably my favorite of the whole hike. It is lush and still full of wildflowers for this late in the season.

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So many beautiful wildflowers on the trail in late August.

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Another stunning part of the trail, full of old growth.

Continuing on the trail, you’ll come to creek crossing after a little bit. There are logs that you can balance across or do what I did, and just walk across the very shallow creek. I also wanted to check out the water resistance on my newish Solomon Quest 4d 2 Gtx W Backpacking Boots. (That has to be the longest boot model name evveeer.) I was happy to say that I still had dry feet on the other side of the creek!

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Creek crossing on the trail, or you could just walk across the very shallow creek.

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Taking a break on the trail to Lake Genevieve.

After this, the trail begins another moderate ascent until you reach the first of the lakes on this trail, Lake Genevieve. This is a pretty little gem of a lake that we stopped at for a minute to let the dogs swim. We saw one other couple camped on this lake.

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Lake Genevieve, Desolation Wilderness.

We continued on and passed the next lake shortly after, Crag Lake. This is a bigger, beautiful lake with several islands and it looks like it would be great for swimming. We saw several good campsites and only one other group was there.

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Crag Lake, Desolation Wilderness.

After Crag Lake, the trail starts going up again over some rocky terrain and another creek to make the final 1.5 mile push to Stony Ridge Lake. At one point, there is a junction in the trail to the right and down a steep hill where you can see Hidden Lake from above. We opted to stay on our trail to Stony Ridge and did not make the side trip.

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Final ascent to Stony Ridge Lake. It’s definitely stony!

We made it to Stony Ridge in a little over 3 hours and according to my Apple watch‘s GPS, exactly 6 miles. In that 6 miles, you’ve climbed 1,500+ feet of elevation, which makes the arrival at your final destination that much sweeter.

As soon as we got to the lake, we took a hard left across the dam to the other side, away from the trail. There is a bit of an awkward boulder in the middle of the dam crossing, so I opted to go downstream a couple hundred feet and find a nice little rock crossing instead.

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Dam crossing coming back to the main trail from our campsite.

We continued on for less than an eighth of a mile and found an amazing little spot that was perched above the lake, but still had good water access and was flat dirt. There were also some great trees for our hammocks since we planned on spending the night in those. We brought a small tent, but that was really just to keep the dogs from wondering off at night. Although, I don’t think it did any good… Sometime in the middle of the night my little Jack Russell, Roxanne, jumped up in my hammock with me and cuddled in the space behind my knees until I woke up in the morning and realized she was there. I still have no idea how she got out of the tent and into my hammock. She is a little Houdini!

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Our campsite at Stony Ridge Lake and little Houdini herself (front).

Our time spent at the lake consisted of floating in tubes, playing Yahtzee, making some amazing sloppy joes for dinner (recipe here), watching the Milky Way light up the sky, and sipping on boxed wine. To top it off, we had the whole lake to ourselves and didn’t see any other campers the entire time we were there.

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Wez was not impressed with our Yahtzee game.

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Stony Ridge Lake at sunrise.

We only had time for a one-night trip and had to pack up the next morning and head back to reality. It is always bittersweet coming back from a weekend in wilderness, but dang, did that shower and cold beer feel good when we got home!

Of all the places (and the list is small compared to the possibilities!) that I have explored in Desolation Wilderness, the Meeks Bay trailhead has to be one of my favorites. The climb is moderate, the trail is in good condition (and dog friendly), and the scenery is stunning. I am definitely looking forward to going back. What is your favorite place in Desolation? Leave a comment below!

I have been toying with the idea of dehydrating my own backpacking food for quite some time . Sure, I love Mountain House, Ramen, and oatmeal, but I really wanted to find a way to make delicious backpacking meals that didn’t make you question what you were really eating. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure where to start. I love cooking, but dehydrating can be a little intimidating in that it requires special knowledge and equipment.

Don’t fret! I’ve put lots of hours into researching and experimenting for you, and have to say that my first finished product turned out better than any prepackaged meal I’ve had. A couple of things before I get to that recipe. To start, you’ll need a few things:

Dehydrator – Not knowing if I was going to even like dehydrating or not, I went for a less expensive dehydrator that still had good reviews. This one is about $60. As for my personal experience with it, so far, so good! I don’t have anything to compare it to, but it definitely does the job. Link below with the one I purchased.

Vacuum Sealer – To store your dehydrated meals, you could use a zip top freezer bag, or you could use a vacuum sealer. The benefits of using a vacuum sealer is that the food will last much longer in the fridge, pantry, or in your pack. Like the dehydrator, I went with this one that was less expensive. It works for what I need. If one day I decide to vacuum seal 10 bags a day, I might opt for a more expensive version.Heavy Duty Vacuum Seal Bags – Of course, these are only required if you go with the vacuum sealer option. These bags are heavy duty, hold boiling water, and are BPA free.

Oxygen Absorber Packets – Lastly, to make sure your well-prepared food has the absolute best shelf-life, I recommend you throw in an oxygen absorber packet like these.

All the above will cost you a little over $120 to get going. In the long run though, you’ll distribute those costs out over your meals and end up saving, compared to what you would pay for the expensive freeze-dried, sodium-laden, premade meals you could buy elsewhere. Not to mention, preparing your own food and then sharing it with friends and loved ones in the wilderness is just that much more enjoyable.

After I got everything I needed, I was excited to try it out for our backpacking trip into Desolation Wilderness this past weekend. This trip was only one night, so I made sure that our dinner and breakfast were something that would be a good start into the world of dehydrating.

The sloppy joe recipe I made for dinner below was so good that I plan on making it a backpacking dinner staple. It was easy to make at home in the dehydrator and even easier to rehydrate at camp. Not to mention, totally hit the spot after a long hike. For breakfast the next morning, I made some cheesy loaded potatoes, which I am excited to share in an upcoming post. Can you say nom na na nom nom! Stay tuned!

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Dehydrated Trail Sloppy Joes make for the perfect backpacking dinner.

Dehydrated Trail Sloppy Joes

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 med green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 med red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp dried mustard
  • 1 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook until no longer pink. Drain off any fat.
  2. Add bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
    Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes, until thick. At this point, you could just call it a night and make some delicious sloppies at home, or you could dehydrate it to enjoy in the wilderness.
  3. Allow to cool slightly and split the mixture into four servings on dehydrator sheets set in dehydrator trays. Pat down each portion to make an even layer.
  4. Dehydrate at 155 degrees F for 11 to 12 hours, flipping after 5 to 6 hours. When the top of the sloppy joe mixture is dry, you know it is time to flip. Flip the sheet over so the mixture is directly on top of the dehydrator tray and carefully peel the sheet off the mixture. Continue dehydrating for the remaining time.
  5. After done and cooled, crumble each of the mixtures and store in individual freezer bags (regular or vacuum seal). Regular freezer bags will last up to 1 month in the fridge and 5 days once removed. If in vacuum seal bags with oxygen absorbers, they will last 1 month in the pantry or 6 months in the refrigerator.
  6. To prepare on the trail, simply add about ¾ cup of boiling water to the bag, mix it with a utensil, and let sit for 5 minutes in a mylar bag, or a beanie works, too. Highly recommended: serve on a roll.

In a couple of short weeks, I’ll be heading out on a 7-night backpacking trip and can’t wait to experiment more with my dehydrator. I have some ideas like beef stroganoff, cheesy pasta with veggies, quinoa chicken pilaf, and more. What else do you think I should make?? Leave a suggestion in the comments section below!

I am so excited that I got my first girls’ backpacking trip in this summer! Several summers ago my friends, Lisa and Jenn, became my wilderness soul sisters. We backpacked together four times that summer (Desolation Wilderness, Grouse Ridge, Bear Lake, and Star Lake) and haven’t done it since. We made a point to get out the other weekend to somewhere new and beautiful, Loch Leven Lakes.

There are two different ways (that I know of) to get to the lakes. The first, is a more commonly traveled trail off of I-80 near Truckee. This route is about 3.6 miles with 1,600+ feet of elevation gain to the first lake, Lower Loch Leven. We took the alternate route through Salmon Lake, which is definitely the more moderate route. It is about the same distance as the first route (3.5 miles) but only about 600 feet of elevation gain. To get there you have to be willing to drive about 6 miles on a dirt road, but it is nothing that a Subaru couldn’t handle.

To get to the Salmon Lake Trail from Tahoe take the Yuba Gap exit on I-80. Go left at the exit (over the interstate) and when you see the fork in the road after about a quarter mile, go right toward Lodgepole campground on Lake Valley Road. After another mile (the first big gravel road, just watch your mileage), turn left, this is not marked but has recently been reworked. The road splits at one point and you will want to stay left. There is a tree spray painted with 19, for forest service road 19 at this point. Drive four miles and then take another left on forest service road 38. After 1.5 miles you will reach Huysink Lake and continue on the road for another .5 miles to the trailhead. You will see big pullout for about 6-8 cars on the left and a trail that goes through the trees with a small wooden sign nailed on a tree right before the pullout.

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One of the first meadows you will get to, full of wildflowers.

Once you are on the trail you’ll go through a couple of beautiful meadows full of wildflowers (we were there in late July on a giant snow year). Here is where you will start ascending. After about 1.25 miles, you’ll pass a pretty little lake and then go up again over some boulders and granite. After this, you’ll reach Salmon Lake in another 1.25 miles. After seeing the lake from above, follow the trail down to the lake and then take a slight left away from the lake (there was a homemade trail sign made out of a plastic bag). From here, it is a mellow mile to Lower Loch Leven. We made a right at this point and headed toward Middle Loch Leven.

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Lower Loch Level from the trail.

Our original mission was to make it to High Loch Leven, but after walking around the back of Middle Loch Leven, where we thought the trail was, we ended up losing it. We hiked around and up a canyon for a while trying to find it, but never did. At this point, we had been on our feet for several hours with heavy packs (it was the floatie’s and booze’s fault, the bare necessities) that we decided to find the most perfect spot at Middle Loch Leven.

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Trying to get to Upper Loch Leven and lost…

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Calling it and going back to Middle Loch Leven.

This is the biggest lake of the three, with lots of picturesque islands, so I was okay with that. We picked a spot on the backside that was beautiful. We didn’t have any neighbors and the only people we could see were the two other groups on the other side of the lake.

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Sunrise on Middle Loch Leven, magic.

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These are the makings of great memories.

When we were there we were allowed to have fires with a permit, so we had a small one each night. Along with that we floated in the pristine lake, rocked in our hammocks, and drank Fireball and box wine, duh. We had a great two nights and then hiked out on Friday morning. There were a couple of groups coming in. If you are planning on coming in a weekend, my advice would be to get there early.

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Wine and floaties, go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Have you ever been to Loch Leven Lakes? What trail was your favorite and why? Leave a comment below!

 

 

 

Summertime in the Sierras is in full-swing and I was so happy to get a camping trip in this past weekend. Because of other commitments on the weekends and a snowpack that is still monstrous at high elevations, this was our first camping trip in the mountains this year. Either way, it felt good to get back in the woods for a few nights, cook over an open fire, and swim in a cold mountain lake.

Our choice this past weekend was Gold Lake, located off of Gold Lake Highway in Plumas National Forest. The lake is one of dozens of lakes in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. A couple of summers ago when we hiked the nearby Sierra Buttes, you could see all the lakes in the area from the peak. It is definitely a beautiful sight.

A couple of our friends told us about Gold Lake when we hiked the Buttes and we have been wanting to get out there. Luckily they were able to join us this year and recommended they head out on Thursday afternoon to secure a spot. Both Brian and I had to work on Friday and headed out after work to meet them. We were so grateful they got out a day early. Had we tried to come in Friday afternoon, there wouldn’t have been any sites left.

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Gold Lake looking like glass in the morning.

The Gold Lake 4×4 campground is located on the West end of the lake. There are about 15 sites and no facilities (yes, bring a shovel for squatting in the woods). It is also first come, first serve, with no options for reservations. To get to the campground, you’ll turn off of Gold Lake Highway at the sign for the Gold Lake Boat Ramp. At the boat ramp, hang a left and you’ll see the 4×4 trail. From here, it is a slooooow and rocky 1 1/2 miles to the campsites. One word of warning, this is a true 4×4 trail. Please, don’t try this with your Subaru Forrester. If you do, let me know if your Subi survived to tell the tale. If you still want to checkout Gold Lake but don’t have the right vehicle for the 4×4 trail, there is also the main campground on the Southeast side of the lake, or a nice lodge with real beds, if that is your thing.

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Our campsite for the weekend, #7.

We arrived at the campground at about 7:30 on Friday night, set-up, and put our pre-made hobo pockets in the fire. If you’ve never made a hobo, load up a piece of foil with whatever meat, veggies, seasoning, cheese, or whatever, then wrap that a few more times with even more foil. Put the packet in some hot coals, flip it occasionally, and wait for about an hour for everything to be done and delicious. It is the best way to cook dinner on the first night when you don’t get there till a little later in the day.

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Peach and berry cobbler for breakfast.

The next day, we woke up, made an awesome berry and peach cobbler (recipe coming soon!), and spent the day swimming, paddling, and just relaxing around the campsite. To top it off, dinner was a campfire stew that we tried for the first time when we camped in Dillon Beach (another recipe coming soon!).

Our time went by too fast, as it always does, and here it is Monday. Till the next adventure—in a couple of short days when I’ll head out with some girlfriends. Leave a comment below if you have ever been to the Gold Lake 4×4 and what your favorite part of your trip was.

 

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Someone wants to try and paddle… the other, not so much.

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Nothing like quality hammock time.

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You dirty dog, you.

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Sometimes I think he is half otter.

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Paddle, swim, relax, repeat.

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This is a precious kind of love.


 

The first five days of my June 100 Mile Challenge have come to a close. I’ve gotten a pretty good start on my mileage and put in 13.15 miles in the first 5 days – only 80 some-odd miles to go in 25 days! Below is a recap of what the first few days looked like:

  • Thursday (6/1) – 5.58 miles on the elliptical
  • Friday (6/2) – 3.09 mile run by the Lake
  • Saturday (6/3) – 1.42 mile hike in Galena Forest
  • Sunday (6/4) – no miles; just gardening and lots of house chores
  • Monday (6/5) – 3.06 mile run by the Lake
  • TOTAL MILES @ 6/5 – 13.15

It has been so nice to be outside in Tahoe lately. Spring (summer?) is finally here and the weather has been perfect the past few days. If you’re anything like me, when the weather gets warm, one of my go-to things to eat for lunch on a weekday is a big salad with whatever leftover protein I have in the fridge from the night before.

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When I graduated with my MBA this time last year, I told myself that I was going to get back to one simple thing that helps make me feel whole–running. Well, a year has passed and I haven’t run more than a few days in each week…and there have been lots of weeks when I didn’t run at all. We can all relate to the excuses of work, life, weather, etc., but the fact is, if you really want it, just do it.

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In my last post, I wrote about finding a little gem of a beach when we were driving home from Tomales Bay, CA a little over a month ago. This past weekend was Memorial Day and we decided to make a trip back to the coast to explore here some more. The little town of Dillon Beach, CA is located at the mouth of Tomales Bay on the Sonoma Coast. Without traffic, it is almost exactly a four hour drive from Lake Tahoe. We packed up and left on Saturday morning and were at the campground by mid-day.

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Looking outside on a gloomy Tahoe afternoon in April, all I can think about is the beautiful adventure we were lucky enough to go on this weekend. I didn’t know anything about where we were about to go. Only that my parents were there for the first time in September and fell in love with this quaint little area on the California coast. They loved it so much that they wanted to share it with us this weekend (thanks Mom and Dad!), so we packed our bags for a four hour road trip to Nick’s Cove, located in Tomales Bay, CA.

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Yesterday was our oldest fur baby’s 13th birthday. Yep. 13. I guess there is something about the fresh Lake Tahoe air and fetching tennis balls in the ice cold, crystal clear water. We would have loved to take the old dude for a dip in the Lake, but it was a pretty miserable day with rain and snow showers. Side bar, Mother Nature, did you get the message that it is supposed to be Spring??!?

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Paleo Shepherd’s Pie

I am so glad this week is finally over. I have been hanging on by a thread, just trying to make it to the weekend, without whatever crud I have in my head turning into a full blown cold. This weekend is going to consist of nothing but naps, movies, and some delicious shepherd’s pie. Oh, and snow. Did I forget to mention snow?

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Happy Valentine’s Day all you sweet people! Whether you are in a relationship, single, or undecided (???), this ooey gooey Hallmark holiday is great reminder that we need to spread love every. single. day. Walking around full of hate and victim thinking does nothing good for anyone. Nothing. Let today be a reminder that love heals all things, and it is absolutely free to give to someone else!

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Doggie Cupcakes!

It was our youngest fur baby’s birthday over the weekend. Well, we don’t really know when his official date of birth is since he was a rescue, but Friday was close enough and we made sure that we celebrated this big ball of love’s special day. I have never met a dog like Wez and he stole my heart from the day his dad introduced me to him. Well played, Brian, well played. Wez is some sort of Aussie Shepherd mix and a constant source of laughter. When he isn’t on squirrel guard, he is in your face or lap, trying to get as much attention and love that he can. He is the most loyal dog I have ever met and I am so happy that I get to share a part of my life with him.

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Feather Falls Hike

I love being surprised. Or maybe should I say, I love being pleasantly surprised because bad surprises are dumb. This weekend was definitely a pleasant surprise when I got to adventure in a new area that I really knew nothing about. I’ve lived 3 hours away from Feather Falls, CA almost my entire life, but I have never explored here. Maybe it is because it is off the beaten path, or maybe it is because I thought all of Central California was the same—nothing but rolling brown hills and lots of cows. I’m glad to squash this preconception. Feather Falls and the surrounding areas are full of lush green forests, crystal clear mountain streams, and some amazing trails.

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It finally happened. For the past two months, I have been dodging the crud like Superman dodges kryptonite. Then Saturday morning I woke up with that feeling. My throat was sore and I had a headache that could disable even the mightiest ninja. I was sick.

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The first week of 2017 is coming to a close and I still haven’t gotten used to writing 2017 on stuff. It is still 2016 in my proverbial book, or on my checks, or on my letters, or on everything else that I have to sign. I’m sure I’ll get with the program… just in time for 2018 to roll around.

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New Year’s Reso…What?

It’s that time of year. The time of year where everyone is talking about what grandiose resolutions they are going to make in the coming year. Personally, I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe it is because they are often forgotten about by February, or maybe it is because if I break them, I feel like the whole year is shot. Case-in-point: I had a resolution to run five days a week, well, in the third week of January I didn’t, so I might as well blow that off for the rest of the entire year. FML.

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One day late last week, my man and I were sitting around drinking a beer or two after work and we decided that we needed to go camping. The next day. We started gathering our gear and making a shopping list, and the next afternoon, we were ready to leave after work. Thank you drunk-self for deciding on such an awesome and spontaneous adventure!

A few weeks prior we had done some off-roading in the Jeep and discovered the most beautiful lake, White Rock Lake. This lake is located in the Tahoe National Forest off of Highway 89. Disclaimer: this is not a destination that I would recommend for a regular passenger car. You will probably get stuck or high-centered and your weekend is surely to be ruined. You could probably get here in a Subaru Outback, but I am not going to endorse that. You’ll have to make that call yourself, but there is something that makes the adventure all the more fun when you add a little challenge to it. Right?

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A little over a year ago I saw an amazing picture on Instagram-a pristine Alpine lake scattered with little granite islands that had pine trees adorned on top of each. The backdrop was a towering granite mountain and beautiful blue sky that Sierra Nevada is known so well for. One of the tags under the picture was #desolationwilderness, but I wanted to know where. I had to go here. After asking the photographer, he simply replied back with, “I’ll give you a hint. It is a Scooby Doo character.” I did my diligent Google research and put two and two together. It was one of the Velma Lakes.

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I’m back! Like literally, back. Well okay, I have been for about two months now, but there has been so much going on, I have been neglecting this little blog of mine. That is going to end right here, right now. I miss documenting all of my adventures on the trails and in the kitchen, and plan on doing more of that now that things have settled down.

This entire year has been a little bit of a whirlwind for me. First of all, I wrapped up my MBA and can officially put initials after my name. Woohoo! Secondly, I bought a house! Like a real adult! It has been a dream of mine as a child to own a tiny chunk of land in Lake Tahoe and I did that a couple of months ago, with a cute house on it to boot! Lastly, I explored Switzerland for three weeks in June as part of my last MBA class. What an awesome experience and a great way to end my MBA. I promise it wasn’t all hiking and yodeling in the Alps. We really did do some school work learning about leadership in different cultures while we were there, buuuuuut, we also did do some awesome backpacking in the Alps for a week, which is what this post is all about.

The Trans Swiss Trail consists of 488 kilometers (or 303 miles) and 32 stages, spanning the entire length of Switzerland. How cool is that? You can literally hike across Switzerland in 32 days. We didn’t do the entire trail (obviously), but we did stages 21 to 27, with a slight detour, for a total of roughly 79 miles and countless elevation gains and losses. Did you know the Alps are NOT flat? Anywhere. Up and down and up and up and up and up. The area we were in is Andermatt and the trail travels over the Gotthard Pass.

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The past few weeks have been some of the busiest of my entire life. Between work and getting ready to graduate with my Master’s degree in May, I was starting to feel pretty burned out. When this past weekend came around and it was time for a road trip with my favorite person, it could not have been at a more perfect time. And what better way to rejuvenate the soul than with sand, sun, and the sea??

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The last time I was in Fort Bragg was when I was a little girl. It is an easy 5 ½ hour drive from Lake Tahoe and now I am wondering why I haven’t explored there more. We got out of town around 8:30 and the wildflowers and green hillsides of California made for a beautiful drive the entire way. As we started to get closer to the coast and entered the Jackson State Forest, the landscape turned to second growth redwoods that are absolutely breathtaking.

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