Friday, August 7, 2015

Vacationing at Tahoe

Sourabh and I spent five days up at Tahoe (with a short layover in Mammoth Lakes) for a post-bar exam trip / summer vacation.

Be forewarned: there will be a LOT of pictures. The Eastern Sierras are completely, totally, jaw-droppingly incredible. This trip was hopefully just the first of what will be many excursions up Highway 395 to explore the vast expanse of wilderness up there.

I left the office 90 minutes later than I'd hoped due to work that just kept coming in, which I had to take care of before I could leave. Unfortunately that meant I was stuck driving in rush hour traffic, and the drive took about an hour and 45 minutes instead of an hour. It's times like these that I'm so grateful Mason is a good traveler. Driving solo in rush hour with a dog that didn't like car rides would be rough.

[Side note: In case anyone is wondering why we take Mason on trips so often, the reason is because we adopted him when he was three, and he's always been very skittish around new people. Whether he was attacked by someone as a pup or just not well socialized we don't know, but kenneling would be a terrifying experience for him, and a petsitter that stays over is prohibitively expensive for more than a couple days. He's a great traveler, so we just pack him up and take him along with us on most trips. If anyone in SoCal wants to become a Mason-sitter, though, please let me know ;)]

The many shades of Mason on vacation.
We'd planned that I would pick Sourabh up in Pasadena after his third day of the CA bar exam, and then we'd drive north from there, rather than us doing the full 8 hour drive in a day. We had a delicious pizza dinner at The Luggage Room Pizzeria with our friends Leah and Björn (Leah had just finished the bar exam as well) then started the drive north to Bishop, CA.

Caught this gorgeous sunset as we drove over the San Gabriel Mountains on Highway 2.
It was actually an incredible drive because the mountains were slightly lit with the full moon, so you could just make them out on either side of the highway. If you have to drive four hours at night, that's the way to do it. I still had a couple hours of work to finish, but then promptly passed out at 2 a.m.

We used quite a few of Lynn's recommendations over the long weekend (if you're planning a trip to the Tahoe area, read her blog!), and the first was the coffee I got at Black Sheep Coffee Roasters & Espresso Bar in Bishop. I was running off approximately 4 hours of sleep, and their dirty chai latte kept me going for most of the rest of the day.

Driving up Highway 395.

Mono Lake
Once we got to Tahoe, we had lunch then checked in to our hotel. We were pretty wiped out after the minimal sleep and long drive, so we just explored Squaw Valley a bit, grabbed dinner at our hotel then crashed. We stayed at the Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn, which I would definitely stay at again. There's a pet fee, but it allows you to leave your dog in the room unattended as long as it's not a disturbance. Given that Mason grew up in NYC, he's used to apartment-type noises, so he's a pretty reliable non-disturbance :) The rooms were great and the included breakfast buffet was delicious.

Saturday morning, we hiked up Donner Peak (a 4 mile out and back). It's a great short hike with tremendous views from the top.

This was emblematic of the weather we had for most of the trip -- veering between sunny and rainy in the span of 30 minutes. I was glad I'd packed my rain shell! 

Donner Lake (yes, those Donners)

Donner Peak "summit" -- great rock climbing at the top!

I don't normally selfie, but when I do, it's at 8,000 ft.

Donner Peak!

I told you there was good rock climbing! (No, I did not climb up that way. I scrambled up the much less steep side.)

According to Lynn's guide, there are rock climbing tours up here, which would be super cool.

After our hike, we rode the hotel's free cruiser bikes the 7.5 miles into Tahoe City to grab lunch. Um, cruiser bikes are ridiculously heavy. We did not realize this. Although, everything seems more draining at 6-7,000 ft., especially when it's 2 p.m. and you haven't eaten since 8 a.m. The bike ride back was definitely easier after an iced coffee and veggie hummus sandwich (which was great and has inspired my lunches this week).

Sourabh illustrating how we felt about the out portion of the out-and-back bike ride.

Squaw Valley.

We had dinner at Fireside Pizza Company in Squaw Valley. To be honest, we were totally unadventurous on this trip, and didn't do a lot of seeking out of the best food in Tahoe. There's a lot of great food in OC, and we spent four years eating our way through NYC, so given how tired we were, we didn't end up venturing out of the walking distance of our hotel that much.

Sunday we drove an hour south to hike Mt. Tallac. (Squaw Valley is on the northwest corner of Lake Tahoe, and it's about 2 hours to get around the whole lake.) Guys, this was a tough hike. Lynn's guide said you should be pretty in shape to do this. That kind of thing always makes me turn into a total asshole. "Psh, I'm in shape, I'll be fine." Um, the altitude definitely got to me, and a big chunk of the 3,500 ft. elevation gain is in the last 2 miles of the 4.75 miles to the top, so I was seriously struggling from ~7,500 ft. to ~8,500 ft. Somehow I caught a second wind for the last stretch to the top at 9,700 ft. However, most of the hike has spectacular views that made the struggle worth it. Also, there were extremely adorable chipmunks at the top.
I remarked on how melodramatic it was to call an area "Desolation Wilderness", but as you'll see from the pictures, that's probably a pretty accurate name for the wilderness area.

See? Pretty desolate.
Extremely desolate.

The rock scramble to the summit.
I told you there were adorable chipmunks.
Family picture at the summit!
Minus the cats because they would never engage in such ridiculous behavior as to hike up a mountain.
(And also because we didn't bring them, that would be weird.)
Lake Tahoe is huge. And stunning. And deep (approx. 1,500 ft. deep, second deepest lake in the country!). 

Mt. Tallac! It cleared up once we got down, of course.

The Sierras are stunning. Did I mention that yet?

We missed a sign and took the wrong turn on the way back, which added a mile to the hike, so we ended up hiking 10.5 miles on Sunday. With the elevation gain and altitude, we were beat, so we nixed our plan to hang out on a beach post-hike (especially given that it wasn't super warm out) then have dinner in Truckee, and instead headed back to our hotel and ate at Fireside Pizza again.

Did I mention we both went into this trip exhausted and sleep-deprived?

Monday we drove to Mammoth Lakes, which was OMG GORGEOUS, and which I cannot wait to visit again. Unfortunately I got stuck doing a couple hours of work when we got there, so we couldn't explore that much, but we did spend an hour chilling at Lake Mary and ate a tasty dinner at the Mammoth Brewing Company.

Mono Lake again

Things to do on our next visit: rent a boat and float on Lake Mary.


We will 100% be back to Mammoth for more exploring soon. I know I say this a lot, but I feel really lucky to have these kinds of incredible places within driving distance.

Most of my out-the-window driving pictures didn't really turn out, but this one did.
Mt. Tom -- 13,000 ft.!

Tuesday we drove back to Orange County. I've been dealing with a major vacation hangover ever since. However, marathon training has started, so that's been a nice distraction. Training recaps start next week!


  1. I will continue to be envious of the beauty you are surrounded with out west! Looks like a really lovely trip.

    1. Haha but nowhere near the quantity of good bagels or pizza ;)

  2. Why oh why am I living in NYC? I mean, I know why I am, but still ... those are some seriously breathtaking pictures. They're making me even more excited to go to Salt Lake City later this month!

    1. You will love SLC! Utah is SOOOO gorgeous. I hope you can get some trail runs in!