That one time at yoga camp, aka my first Wanderlust

Wanderlust Squaw 2014
Wanderlust in a nutshell.

Last week, my friend Lauren and I had the opportunity to attend Wanderlust and write about our experiences for its blog.

The irony here is that neither of us are what you would call yoga enthusiasts. Heck, neither of us are what you’d call stretching enthusiasts. So it was certainly outside our collective comfort zones.

Let me take a step back. The Wanderlust Festival is an event that has been held the past 6 years at Squaw Valley. There are similar Wanderlust festivals all over the world, allowing yoga lovers to get their Om on in exotic locales like Oahu, Aspen Snowmass and Squaw Valley. I was familiar with the Squaw event, though I had never attended.

Until this year.

My friends chortled when I told them I was going to a yoga festival, as it was endlessly amusing for them to imagine me on a yoga mat, amidst a bunch of hippies.  I was as surprised as they were to discover that I actually enjoyed it. I even learned some stuff that I can apply to my real life.

You don’t have to go all in
Like the many activities I love (skiing, mountain biking, swimming), yoga doesn’t require you to jump in whole hog to enjoy them. I can dabble in yoga and reap the benefits, even if I still can’t touch my toes.

Breathe
The meditation and wellness classes were the ones that freaked me out the most, as I’m one of those OCD people who can’t sit still without thinking about the mental checklist in my head, or some future task that I. must. get. done. Learning to stop and take a deep breath or three was the single best idea I took home. It’s not just good at quieting the barrel of monkeys in my brain, but it’s also useful when I’m out playing, as it helps combat the occasional bouts of exercise induced asthma.

Let go
I wrote about this for Wanderlust, but it’s relevant enough to me to deserve restating here. Sure, there were people there that appeared to be very concerned about their appearance (apparently putting on makeup before yoga is a thing), but generally speaking, folks didn’t care who I was, what I was wearing, or if I could hold whatever crazy-ass pose we were doing next. Which was very freeing.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to become some headstand-selfie-taking yoga zealot anytime soon. Adrenaline is still far more appealing than Nidra. But I do realize that yoga (and stretching) in moderation are good for me, and that putting myself outside my comfort zone every now and again isn’t a bad thing.

Check out my other pieces on Wanderlust:
The Wanderlust Newbies: Part 1
Five Ways to Be the Best Wanderlust Newbie Ever
Confessions of a Roller Disco Queen
The Wanderlust Newbies: Part 2
Why Yoga Should be on Every Athlete’s Radar

Fears, Tears and Beers: My First Mountain Bike Race

Mountain Biking through a Casino PC - Photo John
Why I entered my first enduro. Photo: Photo John

It was the casino part that hooked me. When else would I get to ride my mountain bike through a casino? The Fears, Tears and Beers race in Ely is not your typical mountain bike race, as it begins riding through the Jailhouse Casino. The inherent whimsy in that made it appealing to this non-racer.

Let me back up. If you had asked me to enter a mountain bike race a few years ago, I’d have laughed at your audacity. It’s taken me a long time to embrace this sport. I’ve owned a mountain bike for well over 10 years, though it’s only been in the last few that I’ve come to understand the joy of gravity, and the gratification of earning my descent.

An enduro race, especially one like Fears, Tears and Beers, meant that I only had to race a few timed downhill sections, with the rest of the course being essentially a ride with friends.

That seemed manageable.

Because it was my first race, I started small by entering the Fun category. Only twelve miles and two timed descents. I could do that. But when a good friend learned my intentions, she called me out.

“You can totally do more than that. You should be in at least the Beginner category, but probably Sport.”

I may not have a lot of confidence in my ability, but pride prevented me from being perceived as a sandbagger. I capitulated, and convinced the three women who made the trip with me from Lake Tahoe to upgrade to Sport too. None of us had any idea what we were getting into, but at least we would be discovering it together.

The morning of the race dawned sunny and clear, and we gathered with the other riders in Ely’s Broadbent Park to wait for the start. I let my utter ignorance of the course be my guide, and tried to be in the moment. This meant enjoying the novelty of inhaling stale cigarette smoke as I rode past slot machines; savoring the views of the mountains, wildflowers and juniper trees on the untimed climbs; chatting with my friends as we took ample breaks; and pedaling my lungs out whenever I hit a timed section. I finished the race tired, happy, only slightly bloody, and full of a sense of achievement.

That I rode faster than nine other women to take first in the Sport category was a confirmation that I was capable of more than I thought possible.

Fears, Tears, Beers Sport First Place Award 2014
My lovely parting gift.

Lesson learned. I am not a sandbagger.

The 2nd Annual All-Tahoe Clothing Swap

2014 All Tahoe Clothing SwapLast year, in a fit of relative spontaneity, some friends and I decide to throw the mother of all clothing swaps. The All-Tahoe Clothing Swap, held at the American Legion Hall in South Lake Tahoe, was more successful than any of us had imagined. So much so that we had to do it again.

Mark your calendar for May 13th. That’s when the 2nd Annual All-Tahoe Clothing Swap returns to the American Legion.   Like last year the event is open to everyone, and the price of admission is low – a canned good or other nonperishable item for local charity Christmas Cheer.

If you’ve never been to the All-Tahoe Clothing Swap, here are three reasons why you should make it a priority this year.

  1. It’s free – I’m going out a limb and calling the price of a few canned goods a great trade for some new clothing. Last year’s event also featured shoes and accessories, a nice bit of added value.
  2. It’s fun – While shopping at the American Legion may seem an unusual location for a shopping spree, consider this fact: it has a bar. Plus you don’t have to worry about what that armload of clothes is going to run you in the end (see #1).
  3. It’s for a good cause – In addition to supporting Christmas Cheer, the All-Tahoe Clothing Swap also provides those remaining clothes to local charities.

More information (including clothing drop-off locations) can be found at the event Facebook page.

My Badass Friend

Skier jumping off cliff
Meghan sending it at Kirkwood

My friend Meghan is one part badass, two parts fun and a whole lot of inspiration.   She loves skiing more than I do (which says something), and has found her bliss doing just that, which has entailed travels, sponsorship and a lot of jumping.  She’s an adventurer and scientist who also serves as the head of the Northern California Chapter of SheJumps, an organization whose mission, increasing female participation in outdoor activities, is one that is both awesome and so fitting.

Because that’s clearly not enough, she’s now organizing a ski and sail expedition to Iceland and Greenland.

I had a chance to interview her for the TahoeSouth blog.  Check it out, and if you’re feeling inspired, donate to her fundraising campaign. 

And then it snowed

Snowy chairlift ride

So apparently all it took was a blog post.  It started snowing in late February, leaving the Tahoe ski resorts with up to 4 feet by the time the week was up.

Feels like winter
Feels like winter

The first weekend in March attracted every powderhound within a 500 mile radius – or so it seemed.  So after a day at the resorts with 12,000 of my closest friends, I spent the next day going for a stroll with N.  Nice views and great snow for the top half of the descent made for a fun morning.

Nice day for a walk.
Nice day for a walk.

The old man appears to be back for now.  But there’s no harm in continuing to drink for snow, right?

Tahoe Winter Update

telemark skier tilt shift kirkwood
Tiny boyfriend enjoying some fresh snow at Kirkwood over Presidents Day weekend

You might have noticed that I’ve not posted much about this winter.  I’ll be honest – it’s not been an ideal year for crowing about those 2-4 foot Sierra storms that leave nothing but grinning skiers in their wake.  Certainly the ski resorts have been able to make a lot of decent snow to cover the groomers (and I’m grateful they have).  But it’s been the year to travel for backcountry turns, which we have done.  That does get expensive, especially when one has a season pass and a home in what usually is a pretty awesome ski destination.  So we’ve made lemonade out of the situation, skiing the resorts because that’s where the snow has been, enjoying more early afternoon beers with friends than I typically do, and generally trying to chill the F out about things that I cannot control.

But after a few late-in-coming storms, it finally feels like winter, assuming you’re at the ski resorts or up above 7500 feet.  Upper elevations are surprisingly well covered, considering that the lower elevations and lake level have little to no snow left.  I had heard that conditions at Kirkwood were good, and confirmed that over the weekend.   Let’s just say that if you looked carefully you could find chalky snow and ski lines that you didn’t think would be possible this season.

That said, I’d be happy if March lived up to its ‘Miracle’ name of yore, both for my personal desire to have some powder turns as well as the state’s painful need to combat the drought.   The storm that’s forecast to arrive later this week certainly helps, but we need more.

Since this whole snow dancing thing didn’t work to well in my favor (I danced, I swear), I’ve turned to drinking for snow, which is inherently more enjoyable.

Who wants to join me?

Return to Powder Creek

Powder Creek Lodge panorama
View from the lodge helipad

A couple years ago, N surprised me with what was the Best. Gift. Ever. for this skier – a week long trip to Powder Creek Lodge, a backcountry lodge located in British Columbia.  It was a fantastic trip, and we both hoped we could do it again.  When one of the folks we met that week let us know that he was organizing a trip for this past January, we didn’t hesitate.

Skier in Powder Creek Drainage, Purcells
N found his backcountry legs pretty quickly

What was even better this time around was that my brother came along.  He’s become a backcountry skier – I’d like to think in part because of the many tales that N and I have recounted, but I can’t be sure – and since he had a significant birthday recently, he wanted to fete it in a significant way.  We all agreed that a week of backcountry skiing in Canada was significant.

Views from Powder Creek, Purcells, British Columbia
Views like this never get old.

Cue to this winter.  Or rather, non-winter.  We’d had no opportunities to backcountry ski prior to the trip, thanks to little precipitation at Lake Tahoe.  We were not alone, since many of the folks going on the trip were from Oregon, which had also seen little snow by January.    It meant excitement ran high, even if ski fitness ran low.

powder creek lodge sunset views
The views from the lodge weren’t too shabby either

Our timing was perfect this year.  While our helicopter flight in was delayed a few hours due to weather, and while said flight in was much bumpier than I would have preferred, we got into the lodge on arrival day just before the real weather moved in, leaving us with over 3 feet of new snow in the first two days.

Skiers climbing up slope
Ridiculously beautiful scenery made the uphill part less painful

One of the many things I love about Powder Creek Lodge is the location.  It’s situated at 7000 feet, just above treeline.  There are low angle slopes in the trees, along with a variety of slopes in the alpine, ranging from wide open gentle slopes to steeper chutes.  So we had ample options even when avalanche danger was high.  It meant we skied 5-6 hours a day in search of untracked snow, which wasn’t hard to find.

Throw in running water, solar electricity, hot showers and a sauna, a full kitchen (we were self-catered, so this was important), stunning views and comfortable beds, and you can understand why Powder Creek Lodge is my perfect vacation.  I’m pretty sure it became my brother’s as well, as he had a big grin the whole time – especially when he got turns like this.

Powder Creek powder skier
Living up to the name at Powder Creek.

Overall it was another great week.  The group got along well, and had no real gear issues or injuries outside of some colorful blisters.  And we found out later that it didn’t snow again there for another two weeks.  Confirming that our timing could not have been more perfect.

If You Go

Powder Creek Lodge – This popular alpine style ski lodge offers both catered and self-catered options.  Plan to book out a year in advance at a minimum.

Getting there – From Spokane it’s approximately a 3 hour drive to Nelson, where Powder Creek Lodge’s helicopter transportation is located.   There is a shuttle service that goes from Spokane to Nelson if you don’t want to rent a car.

Hume Hotel – This recently renovated historic hotel in central Nelson is my favorite place to stay.

Mountain Hound Inn – These affordable accommodations are located on Nelson’s main drag, and the combination of location and price make it popular with skiers.

The Outer Clove – Groovy garlic themed restaurant with a pretty extensive menu and the ability to accommodate a large group makes it our go-to spot for dinner before we leave for Powder Creek.   Two words – quasar burger.

Oso Negro Coffee – Nelson’s best coffee roaster and café.  Your lodge mates will love you if you bring a pound or so of their beans with you.

Full Circle Café – Tasty breakfasts, and the fact that it opens at 6.30 am makes it a great option if you have to be at the helipad at 8 am.

Fresh Tracks Café – Located at Whitewater Ski Resort, it’s got an amazingly diverse menu (my favorite is the yam poutine with miso mushroom gravy).  Perfect place for lunch on your way back home (assuming you’re not taking the shuttle).  Also worth exploring if you have an extra day to ski or ride before or after your trip.

Bad Ass Women Redux

It’s been a disappointing start to the winter here, to say the least.  Endorphin hunting has trumped powder hunting, at least for now.  So while I wait until my secret mission takes me to powder snow, I’ve been finding inspiration in Lynsey Dyer’s all-women ski movie fundraiser on Kickstarter.  As well as in Rachael Burke’s Female Wolfpack video (below).

I’m not a fundraiser or group-hug type typically, but Lynsey’s project is something that resonates with me, after having seen many, MANY ski movies over the years that offer a single token female skier/snowboarder at best.  If you’re a skier, or a woman,  both, or neither, I ask you to consider supporting this project at whatever level you can.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/55469067]

And if you can, a snow dance (or six) would be appreciated too!

Anticipating winter

Snowy trees Oct 2013

Even after all these years of living in the mountains, I’m still so excited by the promise of winter.  This year is no exception.  I returned home from Nashville (post to come) late Sunday night to a storm, including winds, lashing rain and sleet.  When I woke up the next morning and drew back the curtains, I saw this.  And promptly got giddy.

Snowy backyard

This time of year brings out the kid in me.  It’s the only season where the weather can generate both adrenaline and the promise of possibility.  Will it snow tonight? Will it snow a lot? Will I see more powder days this year than last? Ski those lines I’ve dreamed about? Learn how to jump (and land) things more than a few inches high?

To me, the snow and cold weather at this time of year is inspiring.  Walking the dog, not typically a thrilling task, is just that when the air is crisp and there’s snow on the ground.

I know the weather is forecast to change tomorrow, but I’m going to revel in the inherent optimism that the promise of winter brings now.

Time to go practice my jumps.

Mountain biking the Tahoe Rim Trail (in the snow)

Snowy singletrack

We humans are an inherently optimistic bunch.  How else to explain lottery tickets, multi-level marketing schemes, and blind dates? Or in my case, signing up for our local mountain biking organization’s annual 60+ mile (self-supported) ride along the Tahoe Rim Trail?

The Rose to Toad’s ride is usually held over Labor Day weekend.  This year, due to the smoke from the Yosemite Rim Fire, it was postponed until later in September.  I knew this would mean cooler temps (a plus), but didn’t count on snow.  Or a sub-freezing start.

When the forecasters proved correct on Saturday, the rain and sleet had me rethinking my gear (and my sanity).  In went the hand warmers, beanie and extra layer, out went the shorts and fingerless gloves.  I appeared to be dressed more for skiing, but I knew that because the ride started at 8750 feet, at 7 in the morning, I’d be a lot less miserable, even if I ended up carrying it in my pack for much of the ride.  Which, for the record, I didn’t.

A group of 45 hardy (or foolish, depending on your perspective) mountain bikers showed up at the meeting point just shy of 6 am yesterday.  The day dawned clear and very cold, and though we started a bit later than anticipated, it was still below freezing.  The first section of the Tahoe Rim Trail is scenic and beautiful, though much of it covered in snow, making for interesting riding conditions.  By the time we got to the Flume trail, the snow had melted, which proved to be tacky goodness.  It wasn’t much warmer, but that just encouraged me to keep moving.  TAMBA, which organized the ride, had a much welcomed rest stop at the top of Spooner Summit by the start of the next section of trail.  Who knew packet hot cocoa could taste so good?

Our plan all along had been to make it to the Van Sickle Trail and descend it to the Himmel Haus for a much needed beer.  By the time I got halfway up the next climb to the Bench, I was wondering if that was too ambitious.  The snow had begun to melt, leaving the trails a slushy, muddy mess.   I was getting a bit tired by this time too.  And grumpy.  Let’s just say this section of the ride is one I’m happy to forget.

hoe Rim Trail to the Bench
big views, long trails

The Bench was the next section, and is a great ride unto itself.  The descent back to Kingsbury Grade, while muddy, was one of the ride’s highlights.  I think it was because it was mostly downhill, and I was tired enough to roll over some of the technical sections I have a tendency to overthink.  Mud in the teeth was a sign that I was grinning during this part.

There was another rest stop before our final climb to the Van Sickle trail.  The trail angels had thoughtfully provided chain lube and brushes, allowing riders to clean the decomposed granite and other grit off their derailleurs. This isn’t something we typically need on a Tahoe mountain bike ride, so it was a nice touch.

From here we climbed up.  The hard-core folks continued up along the Tahoe Rim Trail to Star Lake and then over Freel Pass up to the start of Toad’s (see map).  We did not.  We dropped the Van Sickle trail, one of my favorite trails, and it was a terrific end to the ride.  Trail conditions were the best I’ve seen, making for one smooth and fast descent.  From there it was a short climb up to Heavenly’s California Lodge area and the Himmel Haus.

A beer has never tasted so good.

Total stats: 43 miles, a LOT of up and down, and lots of calories expended.

If you go:

Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association – These guys organize this event, so if you’re keen to try it, you’ll want to join the organization first.  Then you’ll want to help out with a trail day or two (so you feel really good when you ride that section of trail).  Also, get some miles in on your mountain bike.  This is a self-supported ride, and while there are a number of bail-out points, they are not as frequent as you might think.  (Trust me, I speak from experience here.)

Tahoe Rim Trail Association – If the entire Rose to Toad’s ride is daunting, why not take it in sections? The Tahoe Rim Trail offers maps and information on its website.  You can feel extra good about yourself by becoming a TRTA member too.