Exactly one year ago last September, we went on a backpacking trip to Coast Camp in Point Reyes as part of our anniversary celebrations. We were hoping to go again this year, but the area is closed due to COVID-19 and fire damage (I know, dark days in California). In celebration of this beautiful hike, here are a few highlights:
We had the beach pretty much to ourselves, and spent the day exploring the coast line, enjoying the wildlife, picnicking and sipping champagne (yeah, the hike is so easy we carried in a bottle of bubbles and put it in our water pouch for easy sipping – #winningatadulting).
We had breakfast the next morning on the beach and hung out with playful seals who popped up in front of us in the surf to say hello, flocks of pelicans, coyotes and a family of beach deer who came down to the sand to graze and play! I didn’t even know deer liked the beach!
The hike is easy peasy – a two mile flat stretch in and out. It is minimum input and maximum payoff considering the proximity to the beautiful beach and sweeping views. We stayed at Coast Camp, a five minute walk from the beach. We loved hearing the waves from our campsite, spotting deer and coyote, and watching the fog roll in during the evening.
It was a beautiful, relaxing, soul restoring trip. I always feel rejuvenated after a trip to the seaside – don’t you? We hope to return in the future, when the world has become less apoplectic. We love Point Reyes. September was a fantastic time to camp, because the weather was still lovely, but there were very few people. We went up on a Sunday and returned Monday. This can be done as a day trip as well.
Next up in hiking and camping – Rubicon, South Tahoe!
Running Motto for the Trip: “I do love this granite” said by Brad, about a dozen times 😀
Note: This is a fairly high elevation, and we were dragging ass right from the beginning.
Ten Lakes via White Wolf Hike Itinerary:
We left work early on Friday to try and get a jump on the traffic up to Yosemite. It still took about four hours. I really think that hiking trails have been more crowded than usual due to Covid-19, because peeps are just desperate for some sort of fresh air and outdoor activity. One quick note, we spent the evening at White Wolf trailhead, and this place has the best restrooms we have come across. They were super clean, warm, and fully stocked with hand sanitizer. Well done rangers!
This was a beautiful hike. We particularly loved the sweeping views of the turquoise high sierra lakes, the wildlife, our campsite on a granite plateau overlooking the valley and the magical sunsets.
A Gorgeous Campsite and a Magenta Sunset
We saw quite a few people at Ten Lakes, so we decided to branch off and find one of the smaller lakes in the hopes of finding a secluded campsite. On our way, we saw the cutest like marmoset sunning on a rock then playfully scrambing from rock to rock, following us along our hike. We also saw a stag amongst the pines, who wasn’t at all alarmed to see us, which I love. We originally set up our tent overlooking Grant Lake, but then found this beautiful plateau and had to set up camp here, knowing it would boast some unbelievable sunsets. Other bonuses of the plateau – very easy to set up your tent, and easy to walk on. Especially if you take off your shoes.
We picked a prime spot on our rock outcropping, had our coffee and Kahluas ready, breathed in the steam and took in the sunset as the colors changed from peach to magenta, to scarlet.
During the hike back Brad spied this beautiful doe, nestled underneath a hedge. She wasn’t bothered by us all – just lifted her gorgeous head, stared at us with her golden orb eyes and continued lounging. Moments like this while hiking feel like such a fairy tale, they always make me feel like a Disney princess swanning about in the woods.
What I read: What kind of books do you take on vacation? While backpacking I tend to go for fantasies shock full of action or twisty-turny mysteries. This trip I read Red Sister and The Twisted Ones. This one is a bit of a slow burn. Red Sister is a fantasy about a secret sect of warrior nuns who run a school to educate young girls about the fine arts of assassination – you guys, I know, and a fierce little girl who finds herself the school’s most promising pupil. The Twisted Ones is a genre-bender – it’s a comedy/folk horror about a gal and her dog who must clear out their crotchety/hoarder grandmother’s home after she has passed away and find some very weird sh*t along the way.
Travel ensemble: I realized I have a go to ensemble when backpacking. The first day I usually wear a pair of black exercise pants, my bright pink “Team Sloth” t shirt – it’s a sloth hiking in the mountains that says “We’ll get there when we get there,” and a baseball cap. What do you like to wear when camping?
Next up on the blog – Backpacking Rubicon in South Tahoe for Labor Day.
Details: Kennedy Meadows – Stanislaus National Forest
Trail Head At: Kennedy Meadow’s Trailhead Parking Lot
Elevation Gain:1,991 Feet
Recommendation: Set up camp just before the lake, on the south side of the river. To avoid the foot traffic, we opted to find a campsite on a rushing river overlooking the gorgeous valley, before Kennedy Lake. If you want to hike to Kennedy Lake: stay left around the cabin on the high ground to avoid the bog. Stick to the upper trail ((listen to this sh*t guys!) We did this and we still hit the bog.
This was a great hike. Idyllic AF, really. Kennedy Meadows opens up into a lush sweeping valley, filled with crystal clear rivers. It felt like we were camping in a different state – like Colorado or Montana.
This is a horse trail – meaning people can book horse tours and then camp, which has it’s pros and cons. Pros: watching the horses grazing in the valley, slowly swishing their bristly tails was the stuff of dreams. Cons: A ton of horse poop and flies and dust, plus more foot traffic then we like.
One less then bright spot: it rained, and we opted not to bring the f**king rain flap. BIG MISTAKE. So, we had to fashion our tent into a tarp and sit underneath it. Brad did a great job of MacGyvering it, (his outdoors skills are on point) but the idea of sleeping huddled together under that tarp in the cold really bummed me out hard, guys. Luckily, luckily it stopped raining and we had blue skies for the rest of the evening.
The morning was pretty frosty, so we read books, munched on dark PB protein bars, (the Nature Valley extra large ones are my new fav, because they are gluten free),and sipped our hot coffees. We packed up our tent and blasted through the hike. We took a break at this gorgeous spot for some raw nuts, dried cranberries and M&M trail mix and this view 😀
After a little over three hours, we arrived at the car. I somehow wrenched my knee going down the switchbacks and tore up my feet quite a bit so I was THRILLED to reach the car.
We got home, ate Trader Joe’s pesto veggie pizza topped with extra kalamata olives, sipped chilled Vino Verde and watched White Gold on Netflix. This has rapidly become our go-to meal after hiking. If you haven’t watched White Gold, it’s about a cocky double glazing window salesmen in Essex in the 80s. Ed Westwick or Chuck Bass, from Gossip Girl fame is in the titular role. He was a complete rogue, charming as hell and great fun. Turns out, when he gets to do a role with his normal accent, he’s bloody brilliant!
What I read: I finished up Darkdawn, the third and final book in the Nevernight series, a rip roaring revenge fantasy, about an elite school of assassins in an alternative version of medieval Venice and a woman on an epic quest of vengeance. Fantastic finale to an explosive trilogy.
Note:This hike was quite popular. I do think backpacking trails are more crowded this year, because peeps just don’t have many other options for activities and are desperate to get outside. We found a site we loved, and around twilight as we were stretched out lounging in the meadow reading books, I noticed some dude stomping around in the tall grass who proceeded to set up a tent within sight of our campsite. Now there isn’t really much etiquette towards other backpackers when camping to follow, but a pretty major one is to keep your distance! If you put in 7 + miles of hard hiking to make it to the backcountry, you’ve earned some effing solitude. It was ridiculous. Alright – rant over.
Next up on the blog: Backpacking White Wolf, Yosemite!
Details: Middle Velma Lake – Desolation Wilderness
Trail Head At: Bayview Trailhead Campground, South Lake Tahoe
Length: 10 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2100 Feet
This was our first time backpacking Desolation Wilderness in South Tahoe and we absolutely loved it! We took a long weekend, hiked to Middle Velma Lake, and were blown away by the alpine lake dotted with fir tree covered islands, sparkling crystal clear waters, our own private swimming cove, and violet sunsets.
We made our first stop at the bright green Granite lake for some water and a little break. We drove up right after work, spent the evening sleeping in our car and woke up bright and early to hit the trail head, because we wanted to make sure and beat any possible crowds. Truthfully, we were pretty exhausted. We didn’t get to the campground until around 9:30pm (partly to blame was the half hour it took in the drive through at InNOut,) so we had enough time to change into our jams and then crashed out. Oddly, BayView Campground doesn’t have any potable water, so we had to fill at Granite Lake.
Our Campsite and own Personal Swimming Cove
We found a gorgeous campsite right on the water’s edge, and had the most wonderful time swimming in the crisp take-your-breath-away refreshing waters, swimming to the little islands, lounging on our rock in the sunshine and reading. We even had a mama duck and her babies share the cove with us, paddling around and leaping out of the water in ridiculous little cute flop movements, propelling themselves out of the water.
I don’t know about you, but I have to ease myself into cold waters. For me, this means standing in the water to my waist for about twenty minutes just shaking my head before going in. This trip, we decided to go for a morning swim, and as Brad was bout to dive in I just went for it and jumped. I think the latter is a much better way to go about things. Gives your body less time to acknowledge the frigidity and just feels more adventurous!
Mosquitoes were a little intense at night, so we just avoided them entirely by getting into our tent for dinner around 7:30pm. We lounged in our tent reading, taking in the woodsy lake view, and munched on veggie korma with salty ramen, and later creamy hot chocolates with trail mix Cliff Bars (my new fav).
I knew the sunsets were going to be spectacular. South Tahoe boasts amazing sunsets and I was really looking forward to this one at our mountain campsite. We were fairly worried about mosquitoes, especially as the sun went down after our massacre at Young Lakes, Yosemite but this was just fine, particularly near the water’s edge where the breeze kept them at bay. We slapped on some Deet and found a perfect spot on a flat rock outcropping to settle. We sipped our steaming coffee and Kahluas, as the sun set deep purple over the undulating lake.
What I read: I read two great books this camping trip! The Guest List – twisty turny mystery thriller in the vein of Agatha Christie, set during a glamourous wedding on a stormy island off the coast of Ireland. I also read Darkdawn, the third and final book in the Nevernight series, a rip roaring revenge fantasy, about an elite school of assassins and a woman on an epic quest of vengeance.
New purchase: We also absolutely loved our new sleeping pads, the NeoAir XTherm courtesy of my Aunt Bea, as an early anniversary gift. These pads are excellent – they kept us very warm (which, for me, is always a very pressing concern), they were comfy and well padded, and they weigh less then a pound! Great purchase.
Next up on the Hiking Blog – Kennedy Lake, Stanislaus National Forest!
I just grabbed two great sparkling rosés at Trader Joe’s and had to share them!
Opaline Pinot Noir Brut Rosé ($7.99):
This bottle is such a show stopper I had to grab it. Look how pretty and bright and glam it is! And, at under 8 bucks, you really can’t go wrong. It is refreshing and light, with hints of strawberry, raspberry and citrus. Great summer sipping wine. I’m actually quite excited about picking up more of these babies.
La Burgondie Cremant du Burgogne Rosé ($10.99):
I love a good Cremant! This french sparkler is crisp and fruity with light floral notes. It reminds me of sipping bubbles and basking in the sunshine at outdoor cafes in Strasbourg or Paris. And I don’t know about you, but anything that makes me feel transported is something I definitely want to participate in right now. I can also personally attest that it makes a great Sunday morning mimosa – particularly to watch during a Harry Potter marathon 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Tiltill Valley, because Brad had camped there on a previous trip and said it was pretty spectacular.
So, there were two difficult parts to this hike:
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.
And Look at 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.
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.
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 at Velma Lakes in Desolation Wilderness Tahoe!
Spoiler Alert: I would not recommend taking this trip in early summer!
This weekend we really wanted to fit in a backpacking trip, get some fresh air, clear our minds and just enjoy the beauty of the back country. Many national forests will be opening up next weekend (YES Yosemite!), but most were still closed this weekend. Tahoe National Forest was open and had decent weather so we decided to try our luck. As you’ve probably picked up from some of these blog posts, I am an eternal optimist. Mostly things turn out well. This time, it bit me right in the ass.
Details: Paradise Lake, Tahoe National Forest
Trail Head At: Paradise Lake Trailhead, parking north side of I-80 at Exit 176
Length: 14.9 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,582 feet
While the hike was beautiful and sunny, it was also almost completely covered in snow. I figured I’d give it the old college try, but after hiking about four miles and biting it pretty several times, I was done. About half way through the hike, I slipped, twisted my ankle and decided that’s it! I’m calling it! Brad was a total Champ and took some of the heaviest items out of my pack to carry so the return trek would be easier for me.
We could have finished hiking to Paradise Lake. since we had a downloaded map we were still able to follow the trail through the snow, but trudging and slipping and falling then trying to recover with those heavy packs is fairly miserable. At least for this gal! Guess I’m just a fair weather camper. John Muir would probably have been quite disappointed in me. We headed home and drove directly to InNOut 😀
Me feeling quite sorry for myself
So my advice on hiking Paradise Lake: I think it depends on the season and amount of snow fall, but in general terms, for elevation over 7,000 feet in the future I will wait for at least mid summer. This hike was very beautiful though. I think it will have amazing sunsets and swimming in the lake will be super refreshing, so we hope to try this trip again in August!
Next up on the hiking blog – Hetch Hetchy Yosemite!
Here are some of the best, most escapist, most binge worthy things I have watched on Amazon during the Pandemic:
Fleabag: I watched this show about a year ago and just rewatched it last week. I highly, highly recommend doing this right now for your state of mind. It’s a feel good, hysterical, whip smart, empowering show. Phoebe Waller Bridge is a flat out genius. My very favorite is the second season – it’s a perfect show. Also, get your hands on a Gin & Tonic in a can to drink while watching. Then you can cheers Fleabag and her priest properly.
Synopsis: A dry-witted, free-spirited, woman, known only as Fleabag, has no filter as she navigates life and love in London while trying to cope with tragedy and her insane family.
Poldark: Oh for the love of God just watch this beautiful, transporting show. The scenery is dazzling, the leads are magnetic and this is pure English seaside escapist magic.
Synopsis: Set in the late 1700s in Cornwall, it follows the story of the dashing Ross Poldark, recently returned from the war to find his father dead, his mine is disrepair and his fiance married to another. And CUE SCENE!
TrueBlood – This show is pure escapist fun. The original, racy vampire series features Sookie Stackhouse,a blonde Anna Paquin, who works as a bartender in Bon Temps, Louisiana and can read minds. Fresh, exciting, sassy and funny as hell. PLUS, Alexander Skarsgaard stars as a viking. Also, I just really love walking around the house saying SOOKIE! (Rhymes with Cookie). Lafayette is and might always be one of my favorite all time characters. I am very seriously considering naming my future corgi puppy LaLa in tribute. I know Bill is exceedingly annoying and resembles a reptile, but you can get past it. The first three seasons are definitely the best, but my very favorite scene comes in the second to last season, when Lafayette makes amazing margaritas for the ladies who work at Merlottes and they settle in sipping their margs to watch the show as Maurella the fairy gives birth, (orgasmically somehow?!), to five babies. I told you, it’s bonkers.
Synopsis: In a time when vampires have entered the mainstream, young Lousiana waitress Sookie Stackhouse sets out to prove not only can vamps and humans co-exist, they can find true love.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I’m Sampling the Budget Bubbly At Whole Foods – And Listing the Tastiest Options!
Considering the state of things right now, I have been limiting my trips to the grocery store as much as possible. Our local Trader Joe’s has been so insanely crowded lately, that I’ve been trying out other grocery stores in the area. We have a Whole Foods in walking distance and while doing a quick grocery run, I spied this Vino Verde and Cava both under $10, and figured I should probably snatch them up.
My First Budget Option Wine Picks:
I will continue to pick up different options each trip until I have found the very best budget friendly choices. Here are my first samples:
Broadbent Vinho Verde ($9.99): Vino Verde is one of my go-to favs for spring and summer. It is a lightly effervescent, refreshing, crisp white wine with pretty floral notes from the green region of Portugal. We fell in love with this wine on holiday in Lisbon two years ago, and are always on the lookout. It’s a great summer sipping wine. Whenever I see the tall, thin bottle tinted green with a screw top on the shelves I make a beeline for it.
Cava Roger D’Anoia ($8.99) Dry and crisp with nice bubbles. This was a decent Cava, but I will probably try another my next trip.
Additionally, I have been drinking pink lemonade lately as a treat. Remember that frozen lemonade concentrate you used to drink as a kid? Well, I’ve started making pitchers of it to keep in the fridge on weekends for Brad and I, and I highly recommend. Nothing like pink lemonade to lift your mood! 😀 It’s our go-to treat after backpacking as well. A trip to InNOut and a large pink lemonade! Also, the frozen limeade makes a fantastic margarita! Who knew?!
I think it’s a good idea to treat ourselves right now, and Happy Hour is a great way to make things feel celebratory.
Next up on the wine blog:
Sampling the Budget Bubbles at Safeway. Stay tuned for the next round of picks!