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The View

The View

Most weekends we’ll flee the city in search of better weather and greener pastures, but when the weather is finally warm in San Francisco (usually September or October), the best we can manage is a quickie in Marin to satisfy the outdoors bug before heading back and drinking sangria at an outdoor cafe.

The warm weather and lack of fog in San Francisco made it an ideal day for otherwise windy and chilly Marin Headlands. We drove out to Rodeo Beach and had a long lazy picnic with sandwiches and wine. The beach was not overly crowded and we hung out for a while chatting and digging holes in the sand.

Stairs

Stairs

We took the Coastal Trail up to Hill 88. This was by far the most scenic part of the hike and also the most challenging. It’s basically a climb from sea level to the top of the cliff, with views of the beach, the coast and ocean, and the San Francisco skyline including Twin Peaks. We could see the fog start to roll in around Coit Tower. It’s definitely better to watch it roll in than to feel it roll in.

Hill 88

Hill 88

At the top of the ridge, we passed the junction with the Wolf Ridge Trail and continued to the top to see Hill 88. It’s easy to forget that this area used to be a military site, but along the trails, you’ll see some stark reminders. At the top of the hill, we took a break at the former radar station with its eerie abandoned buildings with graffiti.

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

We then turned around and walked back to the junction with Wolf Ridge Trail. This trail then meets up with the Miwok Trail. These trails go around the backside of the ridge and is less scenic. We also came across a snake, but at least this time it was slithering away from me, not towards me (like in the Alamere Falls hike). The Miwok trail took us around the Rodeo Lagoon and back to the parking lot.

If I were to do this hike again, I would probably turn around at the top of Hill 88 and do an out-and-back hike just on the Coastal Trail. The rest of the hike wasn’t scenic enough for me.

Overall Rating: Flip-flops

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Shirley Lake

Shirley Lake

It’s always interesting to see what someone or something looks like without all the adornment - the fancy clothes, the makeup, the accessories, or in this case, snow. The naked Squaw Valley looks very different and less magical than the winter version with its beautiful white coat. Although, to be fair, Squaw looked a lot better than the other ski resorts like Homewood or Northstar.

Reflection

Reflection

After three hikes over two days and being so exhausted I could barely speak (and that’s true exhaustion for you!), Closet Granola said he would, in his words, “take it easy on me”. We would do a short hike before we headed back to the Bay Area. He chose a hike that was just 2.5 miles each way on an out-and-bike hike to Shirley Lake in Squaw Valley. On our way there, I read the description and practically hit the roof. His idea of “taking it easy” was to climb roughly 1,300 feet in elevation over 2.5 miles over rocky granite cliffs. This hike could barely be classified as a hike…it was more like rock climbing. I know I spent a good deal of time on all fours climbing over the rocks.

Shirley Lake Trail

Shirley Lake Trail

The first part of the hike was rather well-shaded, walking through a forest, climbing over fallen trees. In the spring, I would imagine that the creek would be full, but by September it was rather bare. In the winter, I would bet that this looks like one of Robert Frost’s poems about snowy woods on the way to grandmother’s house.

On our way out of the woods, we could hear a solo hiker mumbling about where the trail was. We soon learned why. The trail on the rocky section was extremely hard to find. I got my first lesson on looking for cairns (little stacks of rocks) and paint to find the trail. It was kind of fun and I was really bad at it, getting us completely off the “trail” many times. Good thing this wasn’t a night hike like Eagle Lake! While climbing up the rock, even if you’re scared of heights, don’t forget to turn around and look at the view. We could see Squaw Valley Resort at the bottom and it looked so small.

Shirley Lake

Shirley Lake

After 1300 feet in elevation, we arrived at Shirley Lake about an hour before sundown duringthe magic hour. The reflection of the granite boulders in the lake was perfect for photography. We spent about half an hour taking photos and hanging out watching the chipmunks before heading back down.

Tip #1: Labor Day weekend in Tahoe is a great time to stop at Tahoe Dave’s. They offer great discounts on demo skis from the last season. If you’re lucky, you’ll get great skis for a fraction of the price.

Tip #2: Stop by the Starbucks at Squaw Valley before heading out and you’ll have enough energy to get up the mountain and back.

I was in the prime of my hiking career, having spent the last six months or so hiking all over California (or so I thought). Since we were up in Tahoe for Labor Day weekend, I was going to make the most of my time up there and get in as much hiking as we could. Perhaps then, Closet Granola’s need to be outdoors would be satiated and we could spend the next few weekends shopping.

What a great idea, I thought, to do two hikes in one day. After all, we were staying up in Truckee and a drive down to Emerald Bay took about an hour. Always one for efficiency and ambition, we decided to do the Eagle Lake Hike in Desolation Wilderness after the Emerald Bay hike. The entrance to the Eagle Lake trail is right across the street from the Vikingsholm entrance to the Emerald Bay hike. How incredibly efficient!

When we finished the Emerald Bay hike, Closet Granola was a bit skeptical of whether we could handle another hike. Sunset was in one hour and it was a new moon (which I learned was the opposite of a full moon), but I reasoned that it was only a 2.5 mile hike and there’s usually light long after the sun sets. He reluctantly consented, but said, “I’m stupid to go along with this, and you just don’t know any better.” I just waved off his conservative attitude and said, “We’ll be fine.” So off we went, with one headlamp, the remainder of our water from the Emerald Bay hike, two cameras, and two tripods.

Shortly after the beginning of the hike, we reached the Eagle Lake Trail Vista, where we stopped to take photos. We could see the sun setting over Emerald Bay and the colors were absolutely lovely over the lake and the trees. We also set up the tripod to take photos of the two of us…great picture spot but I won’t be sharing the personal photos!

After that, we tried to race to Eagle Lake as the sun set. There’s not much elevation gain, but the trail is very rocky. By the time we made it to Eagle Lake, there was just enough light left to make out the lake. Completely serene and desolate (there was one tent on the lake), we sat for five minutes to enjoy the peacefulness of the lake before heading back. We were on a mission to get out of there before we couldn’t see anymore, but we didn’t quite make it. After many near falls and broken ankles, I decided to use the headlamp. For some reason, Closet Granola could handle the darkness much better than I could. Even with the headlamp, it was still rather scary, creepy, and lonely out there (Desolation Wilderness is a very apt name). It was not an ideal trail or hike for a night hike, but that’s what happens when a City Girl convinces a Closet Granola to throw caution to the wind. Famous last words, “We’ll be fine.”

Overall Rating: Flip-flops during the day, Trailblazers at night

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: If you plan on doing two hikes in one day, be sure to start the first one before lunchtime.

Tip #2: Headlamps can be a girl’s best friend on a night hike. They’re inexpensive, light, small, and will help prevent you from breaking your leg and not being able to wear heels for a long, long time.

Low Loch Leven Lake

Low Loch Leven Lake

What kind of a hike a man likes says a lot about him. Today I learned that there are two very different styles of hiking (I’m sure there are more, but for now, these two are startlingly apparent). Barely having recovered from the first day of hiking, we decided to try a more difficult, but shorter hike. The hike to Loch Leven Lakes had an elevation gain of roughly 1,200 feet over 4 miles, for a total out-and-back distance of 8 miles.

Mid Loch Leven Lake

Mid Loch Leven Lake

The three lakes are named, Low, Mid and High Loch Leven, and they are approached in that order. Most of the elevation gain and mileage occurred before reaching Low Loch Leven Lake. It took a while to get there given the elevation gain, but once there, it was beautiful, but in a way that Lake Tahoe is not. Lake Tahoe, and especially Emerald Bay, is majestic and grand and overwhelming in its beauty. It’s like a beautiful woman who knows she’s hot. The Loch Leven Lakes with its granite-backed calm waters are subtler, more serene and peaceful, and more private. Even the most crowded of the Loch Leven Lakes, the Low and first one, had one tent and perhaps 15 people and 3 dogs hanging about while we ate our lunch on the rock overlooking the lake. Closet Granola would say that these lakes are more like the girl-next-door, which he has a thing for.

Speedo Man

Speedo Man

After our picnic lunch, we headed towards Mid Loch Leven Lake, only about 0.5 miles away from the first one. This lake was prettier than the first and had fewer people. Unfortunately, it had one particular person we didn’t need to see…Speedo Man. Our comedy show of the day consisted of watching him jump off a rock, in his Speedos, while his friends tried to get the perfect picture of his less-than-acrobatic-moves. I’m not sure what was funnier, the way he looked or the fact that he wanted a picture of it. We tried to ignore him while we sat on our blanket and read our books. This lake has a lot of nooks and crannies that allow for a little privacy…not enough to do anything scandalous, but enough to feel like you’re not surrounded by people.

High Loch Leven Sign

High Loch Leven Sign

Once our annoyance threshold had reached potentially-dangerous levels, we left and hiked the rest of the way to High Loch Leven Lake, about another 1 mile away. Each lake was prettier and less crowded than the previous and this one was no exception. There was not a single soul up there other than us and we took our time taking pictures of the granite rocks and trees and their reflections in the clear blue of the lake.

After the climax of the hike, it was 4 miles back out to the parking area and almost all downhill. Our poor knees and shins were begging for mercy by the time we got back.

High Loch Leven Lake

High Loch Leven Lake

After the hike, I asked Closet Granola which hike he preferred, Emerald Bay or Loch Leven. Being the complete opposites that we are, I preferred Emerald Bay and he preferred Loch Leven. I loved the constant beauty of the Rubicon Trail and how at every turn, it was the same thing but you saw a different side to it. I didn’t like that you had to climb over so many rocks with just an ugly view of the highway and nothing pretty to look at or photograph. Not until the end, did you get to see something that made the hike worthwhile. I guess this is the difference between men and women…we prefer the constancy of one wonderful thing because we see it in different ways all the time, while men prefer the chase and the exciting climactic ending.

Overall rating: Pumas

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: Don’t wear Speedos to jump into the lake. One, no one is hot enough to wear Speedos…not even Michael Phelps. And two, the laughter you hear is really at your expense.

Tip #2: This is a great hike for water pooches. There were many dogs swimming in the lake chasing after balls and many dogs hiking down the trail all wet…and yes, they looked less ridiculous than that man in a Speedo.

About two weeks before Labor Day weekend, we started the process of discussing where to go for the holiday. First on the list was Yosemite, but being just 2 weeks before Labor Day, all hotels were booked up, except for the $350+ nightly rate rooms. So I suggested camping as Craigslist had a few campsite for sale. Here’s how the conversation went:

City Girl: Maybe we should just camp. Otherwise, it’ll cost $1,000 to see dirt, trees, and dried up waterfalls.

Closet Granola (after a few seconds of speechlessness): Camping? I thought you said you would never go camping. I don’t know about this…

City Girl: Oh, it’ll be fine. I’d rather camp than pay that much money. Maybe it’ll be romantic.

Closet Granola: Ummmm, okay. Let me do some research.

City Girl: But I have a few questions first.

Closet Granola: Oh boy.

City Girl: Where do people take showers or baths? Do I have to share a bathroom?

Closet Granola: Maybe but people don’t usually take showers.

City Girl: What?! But you get all sweaty and dirty on the hikes, how can there be no showers?

Closet Granola: <<silence>>

City Girl: Well, how about food? How far are the restaurants? Within driving distance?

Closet Granola: There are no restaurants. You have to bring the food to the campsite and cook it there.

City Girl: What? No restaurants? What kind of food can you cook at a campsite? Can we bring a large cooler to plug into the car and keep food fresh? We can bring cheese and wine, some cold cuts, fruits, meat. We could bring some pots and pans and cooking utensils and a coffee maker or French press and a table stove…

Closet Granola: We’re not going camping.

And that’s how we ended up in Lake Tahoe, staying at a not-so-nice hotel but with running water and restaurants within walking distance. We ended up hiking all three days, despite the promise of easy days floating on a raft down Truckee River which was never realized.

Our first hike was in Emerald Bay on the southwest side of Lake Tahoe. It is, in my opinion, the best and prettiest of the hikes that we went on with postcard picture opportunities. Unfortunately, it’s not a well-kept secret and there are plenty of tourists at both the D.L. Bliss entrance and the Vikingsholm entrance. As you can imagine, the parking is a nightmare. After being turned away at D.L. Bliss due to a full parking lot, we drove further down to the Vikingsholm entrance. Due to some great parking karma, we found a spot immediately.

Although some guidebooks recommend doing the hike from Vikingsholm to D.L. Bliss, I think the views are prettier and the elevation gain easier coming the other way. So if you’re going to do this hike one-way and then take the free Emerald Bay shuttle back to your starting point, then I would highly recommend D.L. Bliss to Vikingsholm. Of course, taking a shuttle back is cheating in Closet Granola’s eyes and therefore we had to do the hike out-and-bike. Luckily for him, the hike was pretty enough that I didn’t mind. At almost 10 miles roundtrip and only 500 ft in elevation gain, it’s definitely doable if you have the time.

The hike alternates between being high above the lake and beach level so there are many different angles to take photos from. The water in the lake alternates between a sapphire blue and emerald green, which is just stunning…what girl doesn’t like sparkly sapphire and emeralds?

Vikingsholm is named for the house at the bottom of the trail originally owned by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight. It is apparently one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the West. I think it’s rather cute. Mrs. Knight also owned the only island in all of Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island. From the Rubicon Trail, we could see where she hosted her tea parties at “The Teahouse.” Oh, to be rich and eccentric…

Other than Vikingsholm and Fannette Island, the only “thing to see” on this hike is Emerald Bay itself. But despite the fact that you’re looking at the same thing for 10 miles, it’s still stunning with the mountains behind it, with dogs swimming or riding kayaks, with people lunching on the rocks or drinking cocktails on their boat.

I cannot recommend this hike enough for Lake Tahoe, although I don’t really want more people on this hike. The funniest part of the hike was when we saw a girl walking up from Vikingsholm with heels on! They were kitten heels, but heels nonetheless. Closet Granola and I just looked at each other, rolled our eyes and snickered. I wish I had gotten a picture of that! Perhaps I’m becoming a bit of a hiking snob.

Overall rating: Flip-flops (not even kitten heels)

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip: Staying in Truckee? Grab coffee and a lox bagel to go from Wild Cherries. We stopped by there every morning!

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