53 bug bites and an itch ain’t one

Considering I’ve been resisting the itch non-stop for five days, that title is about as catchy as I can get. We spent the Fourth in our new favorite camping spot near South Lake Tahoe, only this time the mosquitoes (and flies and yellow jackets and wasps and bees) were out with a vengeance.

bug bites galore7 bites on my right ankle alone! One of them with a nice little white bump growing on it, and all of them painful as heck with hiking boots on. (Sidenote: I really have to take a non-cankle like picture of my feet one of these days.) Word on the street is that mosquitoes find some people more attractive than others and it’s the women doing all the blood-shedding. Now on my to-do list: researching wild plants to reduce the insane desire to scratch my skin off itch.

Bugs and bites be damned, we still had a grand ole time. There was some off-roading.

20130707_111613 20130707_111405Exploring a new to us spot, Indian Valley in the Tamarack Lakes Recreation Area.

P1000762 P1000758 P1000759 P1000755And enjoying the delights of our campsite.

P1000749 P1000443 P1000481 P1000464We ate like royalty (spanish rice, fajitas, chicken quesadillas, steak and asparagus and beans oh my!) but I was on vacation from everything including excessive picture-taking. Had a sad panda moment when we learned no campfires allowed for the whole weekend. That meant no campfire cones and no hobo packs, but we survived and didn’t lose any bits or pieces to frostbite. I even turned the leftover hobo pack ingredients into some tasty fajitas our first night back (marinade needs a little perfecting before I post the recipe).

steak fajitas

 

Thanks again to B and J for coming out and spending the weekend with us, and one more Happy Birthday to J!

Always, Sierra

How was your Fourth?

Do mosquitoes eat you alive too?

Any tips to make delicious fajitas?

 

Memorial Day Weekend: Camping in Tahoe

The mountains are calling and I must go.    – John Muir

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Camp was established.

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Fishing commenced.

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Some were released.

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Some were eated.

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Nature was enjoyed.

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P1000472The nights were chilly, the days sunny and brisk. Cell phones were turned off, emails, blogs, and social networks forgotten. There were quiet moments alone basking in the sun, and shared moments of joy over fish caught and full moons. Captain Crunch was consumed and tasted of childhood, fresh trout were consumed and tasted of clean wildness. Carving moments of bliss out of busy schedules is what life is all about.

Always, Sierra

How was your Memorial Day?

What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

When’s the last time you went camping? Where’d you go?

 

Hiking Angel Island State Park

One of the advantages of having a birthday awesome friends is being able to persuade them to do crazy things like wake up at 8:00 am on a Saturday, take an hour-long ferry ride and go on a 5+ mile hike just for fun.

Angel Island group pic

{at the end of the day}

We stuck mostly to the primary trail on Angel Island, a 5 mile Perimeter Road that loops around the entire island. From the Perimeter Road, there are lots of side excursions and secondary trails, including some that will lead you to the top of the island, Mt. Livermore.

angel island map

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Our first order of business was an impromptu photo shoot.

angel island

{borrowed from Y}

Angel Island is sometimes called the Ellis Island of the West. In the early 1900s it was used as a processing center for immigrants coming to the United States, primarily from China. The immigration station has been turned into a museum, and tours are available to detail the experiences of the immigrants.

Immigration Station

The museum is about a mile from the ferry docking area. As you continue farther along the Perimeter Road, there’s no shortage of views…

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views

…or spooky ruins. Could you imagine camping here?! It’s got B-horror movie set written all over it!

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Halfway through our hike, it was time to refuel. White wine and salsa verde Doritos, because we’re classy like that.

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There’s a cantina and a cafe on the island for lunch offerings, but there are so many awesome picnic opportunities on the island, it’s worth it to pack in your own food and drinks.

Refueled and ready to go, we found a nice little beach that we had all to ourselves.

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Going off the main path to explore all the nooks and crannies Angel Island has to offer is a must, but be prepared for inclines and stairs of doom to get back to the main trail. Buns of steel!

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If you do eat at one of the places by the ferry dock, it’ll be overpriced and nothing to write home about. The quinoa salad at the cafe was a win, especially with chicken added to it.

lunch

A couple of ice cold beers later, and we were ready to sail off into the sunset.

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RouteWhen you get off the ferry, you’ll see a sign for the Northridge Trail, and 140 lovely, steep steps. Take these steps (and feel the burn) until you get to the second paved road with signs for the Perimeter Road.  You can go left or right around the Perimeter Road, or follow signs leading to Mt. Livermore. If you choose not to go up to Mt. Livermore at this point, there are trails further down the Perimeter Road that will also take you to the top. The summit of Mt. Livermore is at 788 feet.

Details: The Perimeter Road is a paved, easy, 5 mile loop with a few gently rolling hills. If you plan on going up to Mt. Livermore, or connecting some of the inside trails to the Perimeter Road for a longer hike, difficulty will become moderate to hard.

Rules: Bikes are allowed on the paved Perimeter Road, but not on other trails.

Tips: Angel Island is only accessible by ferry or private boat. If you’re vacationing in the San Francisco Bay area, taking a day trip to explore Angel Island is a great way to add an active day to your vacation. If you’re not up for a hike, there are other options including bike rentals, segway tours, and tram rides. The island is mostly direct exposure, so sun screen is a must and hats/sunglasses are a good idea. We had gorgeous weather, but it’s easy to see how a windy day could be miserable. Be sure to bring layersThere’s a ton of history on Angel Island, so check out the state park website to figure out what spots you want to explore in-depth.

A shout out to my peoples for being up for an adventure and making my birthday unforgettable! Happy hiking!

Always, Sierra

fun times

{borrowed from J}

Exploring Point Reyes National Seashore

This past weekend the Mr. and I had an adventure day at Point Reyes National Seashore, a nature preserve in Marin County covering 50,000+ acres with a ton of things to do. Depending on when you time your visit, you can see gray whale migrations from the Point Reyes Lighthouse, harbor seal pups along Drakes Esteros, and elephant seals breeding or molting out at Chimney Rock.

pt reyes map

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We started at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, a stop everyone should make. Volunteers at the information counter give you the low down on where the hot spots for bird watching or wildlife viewing are, and can answer your questions about beach fire or back-country camping permits. The Mr. and I snagged ourselves a park map and then hightailed it out of there when the locals started getting restless.

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There are a lot of popular hiking trails leading out from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, including a hike along the famous San Andreas Fault that gives California all those earthquakes it’s famous for. We were looking for something a little more off the beaten path and settled for the Estero-Glenbrook-Muddy Hollow Loop.

Within minutes of setting out from the Muddy Hollow staging area, we paused for a moment to listen…nothing but silence, and it was glorious. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of meditation but good luck trying to get me to sit still and quiet my thoughts for more than two seconds. Hiking is my meditation, my way of re-centering and finding joy. All that blue sky and green trees makes me feel as free as a kid on a summer morning.

We didn’t run into any people on the trails until the end of our hike, but there were lots of quail out for afternoon strolls…

…and lots of wildflowers in bloom.

(Castilleja or paintbrush. I wish I had known about it’s magical hair shininess powers while we were there!)

We must have scared all the wildlife off with out heavy clomping about, but Tule elk herds, rabbits, hawks, and song birds are all common along this route. You might even see a fox or a bobcat or a unicorn if you’re lucky.

The trail starts and ends in a Riparian zone, following along Glenbrook Creek. There’s all kinds of berry shrubs interspersed here and there with Bishop pines and Eucalyptus trees. When we made it up to the coastal bluffs overlooking Drakes and Limantour Esteros (pictured below), there were lots of long tall grasses and stubby Manzanita shrubs that the turkey vultures were catching a late lunch in. All of it was beautiful.

Hiking towards the blueness of the ocean was entrancing, and I was kinda disappointed when the trail hooked back into the valley. Disappointed until I  saw the clump of trees straight ahead on the left…

The picture may not convey it well, but I swear the way the late afternoon sun lit these trees and the entire valley, I felt like I was in Jurassic Park and a brontosaurus was going to pop up at any minute. It was also right around these trees that I discovered stinging nettle is alive and well in this part of the park. I had never brushed against it before, that stuff is lame!

I was more than ready for a cold beer and some nommage by the time we saw the trail post letting us know we were almost back at the staging area.

We had started out on the loop guesstimating the distance on the map, thinking it was maybe 5 miles tops. Three and a halfish hours later and a little over seven miles under our belts, I was running low on energy and happy we had taken plenty of water and snacks with us.

Route: Start at Muddy Hollow Staging area (lots of parking) off Limantour Road. Follow Muddy Hollow Road to the Glenbrook Trail Junction. Less than a mile later, continue straight as Glenbrook transitions into Estero. Estero joins up with Muddy Hollow Trail, where you’ll see the above sign, and it’s another 0.3 miles back to the staging area.

Details: This particular loop is 7.3 miles, with a minimal elevation change. Experienced hikers will find it on the easy side, newer hikers may find the distance challenging.

Rules: No dogs, no bikers, horses okay.

Tips: Check out the National Park Service website, there are maps of all kinds but there’s also lots of information about the history of the park and the flora and fauna. Bring layers! We were fortunate enough to have lots of sunshine and a slight breeze, but hiking along the coast means the weather can easily change. This trail is pretty isolated, always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan on being back. The majority of the hike is in direct exposure, wear sunscreen and bring lots of water. Last but not least, do a tick check when you get back to the car.

Happy hiking!

Always, Sierra

Spring Fever Strikes!

The weather here today has been too glorious to resist. I carved a few hours out of the day and swung by my place to pick up this little creature…

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…so that we could do a little adventuring.

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Hiking with your dog on a sunny day? Don’t forget to protect yourself and your pup. Pack a hat and slather on the sunscreen for you, and bring along water and snacks for both of you. If your dog’s new to hiking, start with shorter hikes in the cooler morning/evening hours a few times a week to help build their stamina and toughen up their paws. Having a first aid kit on hikes of any length is also smart. Since my pup is allergic to bee stings I make sure to carry Benadryl with me too. Keep your eyes open for signs of overheating and for signs of cow patties…so gross when they decide to get down and dirty in one.

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We weren’t the only adventurers out enjoying the sunshine. This lil guy scampered off the warm trail as we walked by…

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…and I’ve never seen a sunbather look so content.

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Happy Trails!

Always, Sierra