Backpacking Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite!

Details: Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite

Trail Head At: Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Rancheria Falls Trailhead

Length:  20 Miles (f**k me)

Elevation Gain: 2100 Feet

Okay guys, this hike was unbelievably beautiful. In fact, the more I think about it, (and the more time I have had to recover) the more impressed I am with the landscape. It was full of cascading waterfalls, lush alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, those sharp granite cliffs Yosemite is famous for and epic views of the glittering reservoir.

A little background about Hetch Hetchy – this area is part of Yosemite, north of Yosemite Valley. So, it boasts less crowds then the valley, a quicker drive from the Bay Area and the same gob smackingly beautiful scenery.

Wildflowers - Hetch Hetchy Hiking Trail Yosemite

This trail is quite dreamy. You spend about seven miles of the hike winding along the gorgeous, sprawling, reservoir. We noticed almost non stop evidence of bears, but unfortunately did not have any sightings this trip.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite
Hetch Hetchy reservoir is a dream

It was also an absolute bitch. We hiked 20 miles total in two days, with plenty of steep switch backs, mosquitoes and very little shade. The last day was definitely the most difficult.  At one point in the hike, on our return trip home, I really thought we might just die there on the trail.

 

Hetch Hetchy reservoir, Yosemite

Waterfall number 1, Hetchy Hetchy Yosemite
Waterfall # 1!

We took a break at Rancheria Falls for lunch and it was the most epic lunch spot, with the waterfalls cascading down the silvery granite rocks to the green pools below.

Rancheria Falls - our lunch break view!
Rancheria Falls – our lunch break view!

The first campsites are located in the forest near Rancheria Falls, so you could end your hike there but we decided to trek on to the Tiltilly Valley, because Brad had camped there on a previous trip and said it was pretty spectacular.

Lily Pond Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite
Views on the way to the valley. Getting close to the meadow!

So, there were two difficult parts to this hike:

  • THE SWITCHBACKS
  • THE BOG

After about a mile plus of steep switchbacks, we arrived at the Tiltill Valley  (yesssss). Then had about a mile left to go through straight up bog. I’m talking balancing on rocks and water submerged logs, Brad on one end, me on the other, as we tried to avoid falling in the sludgy, muddy, foot deep water. Bugs were swarming in clouds, mosquitoes were biting and I had to hardcore compartmentalize because if I hadn’t mentioned it before, I am terrified of snakes, and it was 100% Snake City. I did see one slithering away into the high grass, but just for a moment. (Insert mind exploding).

But, after we had had slogged through, we were rewarded with this magnificent, beckoning, view.

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Tiltill Valley – We made it to the meadow!

And Look at Our Campsite:

Our campsite - Tiltilly Valley, Yosemite
No biggie, just our campsite at the edge of the MEADOW
Our campfire and chairs, Tiltill Valley Yosemite
View from our campfire complete with chairs 🙂
River Tiltill Valley, Yosemite
River right next to our campsite

This was very convenient for getting water. Brad even went for a swim! Per usual, I need the weather to be a little warmer for submerging in that frigid water. I love hearing the rushing water as we fell asleep in our tent.

Brad hanging by the river, Tiltill Valley, Yosemite
Brad, chilling by the river
Tiltill Valley - Yosemite
Our meadow 😀 We earned this view !

We loved falling asleep to the sounds of  an owl hooting in the tree, as the glittering stars filled the ink black sky.

The Trip Back:

We woke up pretty early, sipped our steaming coffee and ate our breakfast bars while watching deer graze in the meadow. We packed up our campsite, squared our shoulders and set off for the bog.

Wildflowers, Hetch Hetchy Hiking Trails

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When we finally finished the hike we got home around 8pm, and collapsed on the couch with a Trader Joe’s pesto veggie pizza and wine. We, (well I) was sunburned to the nines, covered in bites, and parts of me hurt that I didn’t even know existed, but we made it! And it really was an epically gorgeous hike. Next time, I would recommend planning three days for this trip, so that you have a day in between to enjoy the surrounding, relax and recover before the 10 mile trek back. Also – bring Deet. Ours hadn’t arrived yet from Amazon, and we figured we could make it. MISTAKE.

Next up on the hiking blog: Three days in the Velma Lakes, Desolation Wilderness Tahoe!

 

 

 

Backpacking Mount Shasta to Seven Lakes Basin

Our Campsite on the Alpine Lake - Mount Shasta

Here’s a Great Backpacking Trip to Take During the Lockdown!

Summer is officially here which means it’s camping and backpacking time!  Luckily, hiking trails in Mount Shasta are still open, and this is a great getaway for backpacking trips, where it is easy to social distance. Because this is a rather secluded place, we saw very few people, and had an entire lake to ourselves for camping!

Brie Hiking Mount Shasta
I’m going on an adventure!

Details: Seven Lakes Basin Via the PCT, Mount Shasta

Trail Head At: Gumboot Trail

Length: 7.8 Miles Give or Take,  More if you hike to other secluded lakes

Elevation Gain: 1,309 feet 

Mount Shasta Hike Itinerary:

We drove up Friday afternoon, and spent the evening at Gumboot Campgrounds, a first-come-first-serve surprisingly lovely campsite on a crystal clear lake. We arrived around 5pm, gathered wood and started a fire. This campground is at fairly high altitude and got very chilly as soon as the sun went down, so we threw our sleeping bags over our shoulders and snuggled up next to the fire. We breathed in the fresh pine, ate our turkey and sharp cheddar sandwiches and lost ourselves in the mesmerizing heat, flicker and crackle of the fire.

Camping Gumboot Campground
First camping trip of the season!

In the morning we packed our things, gobbled our PB and dark chocolate protein bars, sipped our steaming hot coffees fortifying ourselves for the day and headed to Gumboot Trail for the hike. This hike begins at the PCT and then branches off toward the Seven Lakes Basin trail.

Beginning the Hike! Gumboot Trail, Mount Shasta
Beginning the Hike – We’re on the PCT!

Our favorite parts of the hike were the panoramic views of Mount Shasta, the sparkling lakes below and the stunning alpine vistas. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and we soaked in the sunshine and wide open spaces.

Seven Lakes Basin Mount Shasta 1

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Brad Seven Lakes Basin Mount Shasta

We also loved hiking the PCT. Ever since reading and then watching Wild, I have wanted to hike part of the PCT, so that was great fun.

This trail is about eight miles so not too long of a hike, but there are several patches of slippery snow from the winter to hike through, and a steep descent covered in loose rocks down to the lakes which make it a little more difficult.

A Lakefront Campsite, Campfires and a Sky Full of Stars

When we reached the lower lakes, we had them completely to ourselves and chose an epic spot on the shores of the glistening emerald green lake, with a fire ring.

Our Campsite on the Alpine Lake - Mount Shasta
Our view ❤

After resting and having a bit of lunch, we hiked to another pristine lake about twenty minutes away through some golden meadows, surrounded by snow and evergreens. I was sure we were going to see some bears, the setting just felt right, but we have the entire summer ahead of us. We spent the afternoon setting up camp, lazing by the lake and reading books. I read the second book in the Nevernight series, which if you haven’t read is absolutely brilliant.

Pristine Alpine Lake - Seven Lakes Basin
I’m such a sucker for an alpine lake!

Our Campsite Mount Shasta

Alpine Lake Mount Shasta
How’s that emerald water?

Right around sunset things got really chilly, with the wind whipping through the trees. We braved it out in our tent, reading books and relaxing and after the sunset the weather was quite pleasant. We loved snuggling up to the fire pit and taking in the pristine views. We just slung our sleeping bags around our shoulders for warmth. At night the shimmering stars were absolutely amazing, filling up the sky.

Sunset Alpine Lake Campsite Mount Shasta
How’s this mirror like lake after sunset?

Mount Shasta Campsite - Stars

I really had fun this trip learning how to make a bag drop, start a fire from scratch and use a flint. Usually Brad handles the campsite set up, but I think it’s high time I learn. Plus, I pretty much felt like Katniss Everdeen.

The next morning we slept in, then crawled outside our tent to have breakfast and start the fire. We nibbled on some strawberry breakfast bars while lazily sipping our coffee and Kahluas and gazing out over the lake. After a leisurely morning, we headed home about midday, energized by all that fresh mountain air and exercise, excited about our new backpacking spot.

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Mount Shasta Seven Lakes Basin Trail

Brad Seven Lakes Basin - Snow!

Next up on the hiking blog: Backpacking in Stanislaus National Forest (hopefully). National forests are supposedly opening up in June, so finger’s crossed this is true and we can get a permit. Bring on the bears! Bring on the meadows! Bring on that mountain air!

 

 

How to Spend a Wonderful Winter Weekend in Lake Tahoe

Oh, how I love Lake Tahoe! Brad and I usually visit a few times a year – once in the summer, once in the winter and if we’re lucky, once in the fall, but I dream about it year round. About a three and a half  hour drive from Oakland, Tahoe is a gorgeous destination for a long weekend. Our favorite place to stay is South Lake Tahoe, at the Lakeshore Lodge and Spa. We love the deck, fireplace, hot tub, pool, and perfect lakefront views. This trip we stayed at The Hard Rock Hotel as a free holiday through the Kars 4 Kids program, so we mainly stayed around Heavenly Village.

Here are some of our favorite things to do for a fabulous winter holiday:

Go for a hike and breathe in the breathtaking views:

Lake Tahoe Hike
Beautiful views, beautiful Tahoe

Hikes are gorgeous and plentiful in Lake Tahoe! We drove straight to Heavenly and chose a trail at Van Sickle National Park. We used the All Trails app.

Hiking Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Hike

Have some lunch at Heavenly Village: we like California Burger Company. Grab a place by the outdoor fire pits, order a happy hour boozy slushie (I highly recommend the Cherry Limeade),  a gourmet burger with onion rings, and if you’re lucky soak up the sun! Enjoy the live music and views of the surrounding snow topped mountains. The bustling, joyous atmosphere can’t be beat.

Outdoor Fire Pits Heavenly Village
Enjoying the sunshine and vibes at the outdoor fire pits at Heavenly

Go snowshoeing! Rent your gear from Rip N Willies, Choose one of the many gorgeous trails, marvel at the sprawling cabins along the road on the drive up, and enjoy sweeping views with almost no people! Hiking through the glittering snow, the scent of pine in the air, fresh stag prints in the snow, and the panoramic views was incredibly peaceful. We had glorious weather – sunny and about 50 degrees in January. Aside: snowshoeing really takes it out of you. Brad swears our trip was only 3 miles, but it felt like at least 6! Tip: The earlier, the better for a hike.

Gorgeous hiking views south Tahoe
Breaktime! Taking in the gorgeous views, while dreaming about breakfast at the Driftwood Cafe!

Brie Tahoe Snowshoeing

We've got this! Snowshoeing with Brad
We’re going on an adventure!
Stag prints in snow south Tahoe
Fresh stag prints ❤

Sweeping views south Tahoe Winter

Grab  a fantastic breakfast at The Driftwood Cafe. Homey, cozy cafe with super friendly staff at Heavenly Village. Serves brekkie until 3pm. We woke up early, went snowshoeing and then for pancakes. It was a perfect day!

Breakfast time Driftwood Cafe

Nightlife: Lounge by the fire pits, enjoy some live music at Basecamp Pizza and check out one of the bustling eateries at Heavenly Village. We like Azul for the vibrant scene and shrimp fajita bowls. We also really like McDuff’s – a rustic scottish pub in South Lake serving comfort pub food with a chill vibe.

Wine by the fire Tahoe
Flickering flames, bubbles and perfect winter vibes. How’s that for a wine pour?!

Alpine Union – Bar outside of Hard Rock cafe with patio and expansive fire pits. We swear we saw Fitz & The Tantrums performing here one year, before they were famous!

Fire Pits at Alpine Union Lake Tahoe
Alpine Union’s expansive fire pits ❤

Check out the listings for cabins for sale and drive around dreaming about living in Tahoe year round!

Final notes: Winter trips to Tahoe are a completely different experience to summer. Summer holidays all about enjoying the glittering, cerulean lake, swimming in the refreshingly frigid, take your breath away water, hiking one of the many glorious trails, picnics, and lounging on a deck sipping your drink of choice while the sun sets magenta and fire orange over the mountains. I plan to write about a summer Tahoe getaway in an upcoming post.

More Tahoe Pics: