Tag Archives: Lake Tahoe

A spring adventure – The Hikes

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Spring Break, 2021

I don’t recall having a real Spring Break trip last year… If I’m remembering correctly, I did a short Spring Break trip down to Joshua Tree back in 2019, but 2020 didn’t quite lend itself to much traveling…

With that in mind, and looking at how much vacation time I’d accumulated over the last year or so, I realized that I really did need to take some time off to escape from work, from Wilsonville, and from getting stuck in my own head. Thankfully, most travel restrictions on the West Coast have been lifted, and my back’s been feeling a lot better… and I was able to finally make the long trek down to Sacramento to visit my friend Mike and finally meet his girlfriend Michelle!

It was a long drive, and a full week of stepping out of my usual little patch of world. I didn’t really go into it expecting anything specific, but I came out having even more appreciation for my friends, and feeling gloriously rested and recharged. I’m not quite back to my old self yet… but this trip was an amazing change to stretch back into myself, and just… explore.



Wednesday, 05-May-2021

Lake Tahoe is gorgeous!

I mean, I’ve seen pictures before, and I’d already visited once… but the visit doesn’t really count thanks to the whole “breaking my leg” big, and everyone knows that pictures can only do so much justice to a place.

Getting to drive around the perimeter of the lake, and see the amazing views off the side… well, that was a special treat.



Our plan for Wednesday was for Mike and Michelle to ski Squaw Valley, and I would track down some interesting hiking trail to explore. Looking around, I found a few trail options… but after talking with the folks at the information booth I learned that none of the trailheads were open yet, thanks to all the snow they still had.

That… frankly confused me quite a bit, since Instagram was already showing tons of photos from those hikes.

But you know what? Screw Instagram, man. There’s no doubt that it, and a ton of other social media platforms (Ed Note: The irony of Ben saying this on a blog, which is inherently a form of social media, is not lost on him) have been having a rather negative effect on the world… so let’s forget what Instagram says, and instead go on a hike!



Instead of my original target, I ended up taking the wandering version of a hike. I hitched a ride on the gondola with Mike and Michelle, watched them zoom off into the distance on their doom-planks, and then started off in a random direction.

I chose my trail mostly by looking at what people couldn’t ski, and going there.

Not the “can’t ski because it’s hard” option, of course, since Squaw was the site of the Olympics and people there can probably ski things I can’t even imagine. Instead, I took the “can’t ski because there’s no snow” option. It was fairly early in the year still, but the sun had been pretty toasty so far it seemed – while there was still enough snow to ski, it was definitely getting thin in a lot of areas, and had even been burned completely off a lot of the ridgelines.

Which was perfectly fortuitous for me, since I love hiking on ridgelines!

I zipped and zoomed all over, taking in the cool snowy air and enjoying the amazing views afforded by the trees and ski lifts. There’s just something about snow travel that really clicks with me… I love the smell of snow, and I love the cool breezes that come off a snow field when the wind picks up… This was perfect for me, and I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it.



After hiking at Squaw, Mike and Michelle headed directly back toward Sacramento. They both had work to finish up that evening, but thankfully for me I had no such compulsions… which meant that I could take a circuitous route back into town, driving back around the lake and then home via the same winding mountain drives that had brought me to Tahoe in the first place.

(Ed Note: See Ben’s other post titled “The drives” for some info and pictures from those beautiful mountain passes)


On the way, I stopped in at a trail that I’d noticed on the way in, but hadn’t quite had time to stop and check out. A trail called “Pyramid Creek” was calling to me, and I had to answer.

I think it’s a callback from one of my earliest backpacking trips – when I hiked the Tripyramids out in New Hampshire back in 2009ish – but I don’t really know why I felt so compelled to explore this particular hike. I’m glad I did though, since it was exactly the right length to help me keep the blood flowing, while granting some rather excellent views:



I’m pretty proud of myself – I probably did three miles in just a little over an hour, with some legit elevation gain and quite a few stops for photos along the way (obviously, since I posted so many just above this paragraph). It felt good, and I was quite happy with how the quick hike turned out.

I enjoyed, had a snack, and was back to the car before the sun had set – ready to turn up the music and start the beautifully winding road back to civilization…

A spring adventure – The Lake

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Spring Break, 2021

I don’t recall having a real Spring Break trip last year… If I’m remembering correctly, I did a short Spring Break trip down to Joshua Tree back in 2019, but 2020 didn’t quite lend itself to much traveling…

With that in mind, and looking at how much vacation time I’d accumulated over the last year or so, I realized that I really did need to take some time off to escape from work, from Wilsonville, and from getting stuck in my own head. Thankfully, most travel restrictions on the West Coast have been lifted, and my back’s been feeling a lot better… and I was able to finally make the long trek down to Sacramento to visit my friend Mike and finally meet his girlfriend Michelle!

It was a long drive, and a full week of stepping out of my usual little patch of world. I didn’t really go into it expecting anything specific, but I came out having even more appreciation for my friends, and feeling gloriously rested and recharged. I’m not quite back to my old self yet… but this trip was an amazing change to stretch back into myself, and just… explore.

Tuesday and Wednesday, 04 & 05-May-2021

A big part of our plans for the week was going out to Lake Tahoe – a gorgeous outdoors mecca, that I’d visited previously to rather spectacular disaster when I broke my leg. Interestingly, Michelle’d also broken her knee there too… though she’s jumped back into skiing far more adroitly than I did… you know, since I haven’t skied again since that accident.

This was a chance for me to revisit Tahoe itself, and hopefully make a few new memories of the area. Positive ones, full of happiness and adventure!

(Ed Note: There are a few other adventures that Ben went on in Tahoe that aren’t covered in this post – specifically some hikes and cycling trips. Please see, “A spring adventure – The Rides” and “A spring adventure – The Hikes” for those photo galleries)


Tuesday, 04-May

Tuesday morning saw us get onto the road fairly quickly – Not rushed, of course, but… we were moving at a pretty reasonable time. Soon enough the morning saw us breakfasted, our cars gassed up, and the top down on the Mustang as we cruised down the highway toward the mountains.

The drive was gorgeous – instead of taking the main highway toward Squaw Valley, like Mike and I had done the last time I’d visited, we took a Southern route toward the far South end of Lake Tahoe, where Michelle’s family has a vacation house. This road was gorgeous, and absolutely perfect to drive with the top down and some good music playing… sweeping curves, tall mountains, and just enough sun to make me thankful for the sunscreen that I’d applied before we left Sacramento.

Once we arrived, we lazily got ourselves energized and started ambling around town. Lunch, then a bike ride (Ed Note: See the post titled “The Rides” for more info there) saw us back in action and feeling great. With Michelle having to step inside for a meeting, Mike and I took the chance to launch some kayaks and do a bit of river exploration.

It’s been ages since I’ve been in a rigid kayak.

I… may have forgotten just how nice it is, compared to my little inflatable dinghy. A kayak that doesn’t try to spin like a drunken top every time I paddle? A kayak with a rudder, letting me make fine course adjustments?

Yeah… I enjoyed the heck out of this trip around the lake.



After we finished out our waterborn adventures and beached the Kayaks, we spent a bit of time relaxing around the house before starting out for a bit of sightseeing. There’s a neat little bay near where we were called Emerald Bay that I’d been really excited to see – a painting of it was hanging in the livingroom back in Sacramento, so I was really excited to see the inspiration for the view.

Let me tell you – while the painting was absolutely excellent, it wasn’t quite as sweeping as the real thing.

Lake Tahoe really is beautiful… I’d only ever seen it with its winter coat on, but Mike had been telling me about how amazing it is for years. Finally being able to come back and see what he meant in person was absolutely excellent.


The rest of the evening was relaxation. We picked up a pizza, hung out at the house, did a bit of a whiskey tasting, and finally got the downtime to just be. To sit and talk, catch up, and appreciate the fact that we didn’t have anywhere to go.





Wednesday, 05-May

Wednesday dawned beautifully bright; my room was looking out over the lake, and I definitely spent a bit of time just appreciating the sun sparking off the water after I woke up (and after I put in my contacts, of course). Tahoe really is pretty, and this was yet another excellent morning on a beautifully relaxed vacation.

In counterpoint to the lazy wake-up, we actually got ourselves mobile fairly quick once we were awake – Cleaning up and closing out the house, we got ourselves moving toward Squaw in fairly short order. Unrushed, to an extent, since we did take a quick break to drive out and pick up some breakfast before we finished out the last of the chores.


Once clean and closed, we make our way North, toward Squaw valley itself…

(Ed note: From here, the adventures can be found in two places: The posts titled “The rides” and “The hikes” each have one adventure from Squaw Valley)

Skiing Squaw Valley, and my newest injury

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Skiing Squaw Valley, and my newest injury

Saturday, 25-Feb-2017

 

I went skiing in California!

Sarah and I had started skiing earlier this year, and I’ll be honest – I’d gotten pretty good, and was really starting to enjoy myself. Combine that with my friend Mike telling me all about how great skiing in California is, and that I hadn’t seen Mike for a while… well, I bought tickets and flew out. Rented get in Hood River, of course, which just added to the fun of flying. Yay huge bags!

I actually flew into Sac on Friday night, after a day of climbing with Sarah at the gym… I felt bad about running off, but she’d mentioned a desire to stay in Portland and see some friends of hers, so I figured that this would be a good excuse for us to have some individual adventures, and then catch back up the following week.

 

So I flew into Sac. Stayed at Mike’s place Friday night, and then drove out to Squaw Valley the next morning.

It was a drive. Mike and I hadn’t caught up in a while, and this drive definitely gave us time to catch up. What was normally a 2.5hour drive quickly turned into a 5 hour one, what with having to pull over to put on chains, be told that we couldn’t put chains on where we were (we were <5ft past one sign, but 10ft in front of another…), turn around, sit in more traffic, put on chains, then sit in more traffic, then get caught in some more traffic.

 

Then, after the traffic, we found out that the parking lot was full. So Mike, being amazing, dropped me off out front, and then went to get lunch while I got a few runs in.

By the time he got back, I’d done maybe half a dozen runs throughout the easy area, and was starting to feel pretty okay about Squaw. It was steep, and carved out, but definitely fun… and I was really looking forward to learning some tips and tricks from the ski extraordinaire hanging out with me.

Once Mike got a parking spot, we hit up the far side of the mountain, a lift run called Shirley. And that’s where I should have turned tail and run… it was all blues, but much steeper and more carved out than I was used to. In fact, the runs were mostly moguls… not something I’d ever dealt with before. But I gave it a shot, and our first run went pretty well.

 

Our second run didn’t.

 

I did the first half of the run well, and stopped for a quick breather about 70% the way down the run… before starting into that mogul field again. But this time, I didn’t hit them right. This time, I caught a ski, and went down.

My knee went another way. I screamed.

By the time I got down to Mike, shock was setting in. I couldn’t press down with my heel, and I was confident that I couldn’t ski out.

We asked a lift operator for a hand, and he quickly proved his incompetance by suggesting that I ski out… even going so far as to say that I needed to wait in line, and then ski down a green to get back to the lodge. Honestly, I’m like 90% certain that he was stoned… which I wouldn’t normally mind, but… you know… shock. Pain. Injured skier asking for help. Screw that guy.

 

So I walked away, and asked the next lift operator if he could help.

“Ohh god! Yeah man, get on this next chair, I’ll hold some folks back for you. What’s your name? I’ll call up, and ski patrol will be waiting for you”. THAT is how you react to someone saying that they’re in shock, and unable to ski out.

One snowmobile ride later I can’t put any weight on the knee at all, and I’m on a tram down to the urgent care area. Then two hours of waiting (1.5 hours of that in the outside waiting room), and then meeting a nurse for x-rays, and a doctor for a diagnosis.

 

Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

 

The four words that every skiier, soccer player, footballer, or really any athlete fears. I was told that I was now a member of that club, and that I should go see an orthopedist for an MRI within two weeks. That I wouldn’t be able to walk for a month, and that recovery could take anywhere from six months to a year.

The rest of the night was blurred. I called loved ones, then ate a huge plate of nachos. Mike helped me carry my gear into the motel room, and I settled myself into the bed, trying to learn how to hold myself to keep the knee elevated, but not painful.

I guess I’ve got time to learn, though… we’ll see how recovery goes.