Category: Photography

The End of Winter

Kirkwood

As the snow melts away from a surprise April storm and the last of the Tahoe resorts close for the season, I can’t help but think about all the amazing days I had on the mountains this year. While locals look at me in disbelief when I say I had a fantastic season, I’m quite serious about what a great season this was for me. In the midst of Sierra’s worst snowpack since the 1970s, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself.

Fresh air and crisp skies

As a first time season passholder, I honestly had no idea what life would be like having such easy access to the mountains. Would I get tired of the crowds and be a grumpy, picky local who only went for pure, fresh powder days? Would I know anyone to ski with? Would I get tired of skiing by myself? Would I get bored of the same runs? Would I be able to improve over the season?

Snowy trees at Sierra-at-Tahoe

Of those questions, the one I was most worried about was skiing by myself. At the start of the season I knew no one here, and my only reference for skiing solo was from a few years ago when I went to Heavenly during a business trip. I didn’t enjoy it at all. I hated riding the lifts all day by myself and not knowing anyone. But, turns out… I really enjoyed hitting the mountain myself. The beauty of having the pass really shined here. Once I was tired or had enough for the day, I could go home whenever I wanted without worrying about not getting my day’s value in. Ski for a few hours, have a beer, and call it a day.

Fresh powder day at Kirkwood

Not long into the season, I started meeting fellow skiers through a few Meetup groups. Spending the weekends with these friends on the mountain started turning into a weekly ritual, much like bike riding was in Dallas. We started planning our weekends on Monday and looking forward to the snow all week. Having friends of various ability to ride with helped me improve my skills, until by the end of the season I started noticing a significant improvement in my abilities. What a blast it was to share the season with so many new friends.

Throughout most of the season, I’d be getting up to the mountain by 9 or 10am… but the last few weekends at Heavenly, I discovered the bliss of the first chair and fresh groomed runs. Runs that I thought I knew were totally different and absolutely amazing. You should have seen the grin on my face after rushing down a perfectly clean groomed run!

Fresh corduroy, just for me!

The views from the tops of the runs of Lake Tahoe continue to take my breath away. I took hundreds of photos, yet none capture the beauty quite right. Every time I was on the mountain, I was so happy and excited. The rush of taking runs and the beauty all around is simply unbeatable.

The Heavenly Tram

 

For my last day on the mountain, I decided to attempt something I’d been hearing others do… three sports in one day. As I was coming down the Gondola from a fun couple of hours at Heavenly, I put plans into motion and pulled off mountain biking and kayaking all in the same day. What a great way to transition into a Tahoe summer!

 

All in all, this season was everything I’d hoped for when I moved here. It’s fitting that I’m publishing this a year after I announced I was leaving Dallas. The move has been rewarding in many ways, and I’m glad every day that I put in the effort to make it happen.

I’m already looking forward to next season.

Alibi Ale Works

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Tahoe’s craft beer scene has been one of the oddest parts of my move. It’s no secret that I love good brews, and I was deeply spoiled in Dallas with Strangeways. I assumed since Tahoe is so near to the massive west coast craft beer scene that it would have a similar selection and availability of the Bay Area. While we certainly can get some great items (I helped finish off a keg of Pliney the other day at a nearby pub), there seems to be just a standard set of taps that everyone carries and that’s it.

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As far as actual local breweries goes, I can count on one hand. And the ones that are actually good….. ahem.

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That’s why when I found out that a couple of enthusiastic home brewers were starting up a real craft brewery (not a brew pub!) in Incline Village, I jumped to find out if they were any good. On my first visit, they poured me a couple of samples that were quite delicious… and I was hooked. Over the past few months I’ve put in a couple of hours of volunteer manual labor in (pallet splitting and linoleum stripping!) and got to know Rich and Kevin a bit.

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Now, finally they opened up the tap room and have some extended holiday hours.

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After my visit today, my suspicions were confirmed–Alibi is going to be a superb addition to Tahoe as a high quality local craft beer house. In the next few months they’ll start rolling with distribution and kegs to area restaurants. Until then, the comfortable and beautifully fitted tap room is the best way to sample the brews and take a growler (or two) home. Plus, you get the added bonus of touring the shop and likely meeting Kevin or Rich (who both seem to live there!).

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Today they had a number of great beers to choose from — not a bad one in the bunch. I got samplers of each: a White IPA, a regular IPA, a Saison with pomegranete, a Dark Strong Saison, a Coffee Porter on nitro, and a standard Porter. Kevin really likes saisons and experimenting with the flavors, so I suspect there will always be at least a couple of saisons around.

For tap room hours and new brews happening, check out their Facebook page. Their website seems to be in a little bit of a flux right now (I get the new site on my phone, but not on my PC). Alibi’s address is 204 East Enterprise, Incline Village, Nevada.

First Snow Day

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Finally.

After weeks of anticipation and watching weather reports (and a Thanksgiving holiday blackout on my pass), I got my ski gear together and hit the slopes. While the mountains aren’t fully open yet (not enough snow & high temperatures), there was enough for me to decide it was time to go.

This is my first season to own a pair of skis and to have a pass. In the past I had not been really fond of skiing by myself, but this weekend I loved it. The combined freedom of living right next to the Heavenly gondola, having a pass, and being by myself was beautiful. On Saturday I was able to ski for a few hours before the crowds started showing up, and headed out just as the lift lines started to grow exponentially. The crowds were thinner on Sunday and I took my time to enjoy a few more runs.

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By pure chance, on one of my last lift rides of the day, “L” by Tycho came on my rdio. Suddenly the perfect soundtrack was playing  as I was watching the sun make shadows across the glittering snow.

 

Really looking forward to this season of snow and hanging out on the mountain. What a life change.

Bikecamping to Star Lake

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Even though I’ve only been in the Tahoe area for a few months now, I really wanted to get a bikecamping trip in before winter set in. After discussing various routes with folks on the Tahoe mountain bike group and chatting with Gary at Sierra Ski and Cycle, the Tahoe Rim Trail to Star Lake looked like the best option for a weekend trip with minimal driving. Star Lake is very close to South Lake Tahoe, so we’d never be far away from the city in case we had issue; but yet we’d still be up in the mountains. Then, coming back down from Star Lake we had a couple of route options, and they all dropped us back to neighborhood roads that would easily take us home.

With a weekend free and overnight temperatures still above freezing, my friend Kyle and I decided to take the rare opportunity and go for it. We drove Kyle’s truck with our gear to Stagecoach, then started our ascent. We were excited and ready to get out there, but after the first 20 minutes…. I’ll be honest, I thought we really got ourselves in over our heads. Instead of pedaling, we were spending a lot of time hiking our bikes. Hikers were starting pass us! This wasn’t what I was hoping for! But the weather was great and there weren’t many people on the trails, so we kept on. I’m glad we did. The Rim Trail weaved us between peaks to give us spectacular views of Carson Valley, Heavenly Valley, and, of course, Lake Tahoe.

Climb to Star Lake

Six hours later…. we had climbed 2200 feet in just 9 miles. The views along the climb were simply spectacular. We crossed paths with hikers and mountain bikers along the way, but nobody else was bikecamping. Folks were very encouraging as they saw us loaded up and pushing/pulling/carrying our bikes along the trail. The majority of this trail was definitely not made for mountain biking. But it was worth it. We stopped at an overlook of Carson Valley for some afternoon snacks and just marveled at how far up we were.

As we rounded the last bit of the trail and saw Star Lake, I was thrilled, exhausted, and hungry. There were two groups of hikers already at the lake and had taken a couple spots closest to the trails. Kyle had quite a bit more energy than me, so he scrambled around the lake to find us a fantastic camp spot. We had enough time to gather some firewood (the ban had just been lifted the week before!) and get our hammocks set up before dark started coming on. Kyle’s friend Gunner hiked to meet us up with two of his friends, so we had a good little group ready to camp.

The stars that night were fantastic. For the first time, I had a glimpse at the milky way. Star Lake was so calm and peaceful that we could see stars reflect in the water. The moon didn’t show itself until late that night, well after we were asleep.

As the fire crackled and popped, we passed around salami, cheese, and whiskey, and talked about our hopes for the ski season. Nobody was in a rush to end the night, and I’m pretty sure every drop of that whiskey was properly enjoyed.

After dreaming of bears sniffing us in our sleep, we all roused with the morning breeze crossing the lake. We slowly made some coffee and breakfast and watched the sun light up the forest.

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Now it was time for the way back. Since Star Lake sits at 9,100 feet and South Lake Tahoe is at 6,200 feet, we were both pretty excited about letting gravity bring us home instead of our legs. Thankfully, that’s exactly how it worked out…. instead of the 9 miles in 6 hours that it took us to get to Star Lake, we did 10 miles home in just 1.5 hours. The trails down were a blast, and definitely could be ridden faster if we were more familiar with them and didn’t have a lot of extra bulk on our bikes.

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All the way home we were treated to gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe. We had a couple of creek crossings as well… one toward the end almost had me all in the water.

We finished the day off with a celebratory beer and greasy burger Big Daddy’s. No flats, no injuries, and no bears. A perfect weekend on the bike.

Even in the hardest parts of the trip… when I thought my lungs and legs were literally just going to stop working, I kept thinking, this is why I want to be here. This is what my move has been about: being able to take a weekend adventure high up in the mountains with some great friends and away from normal life. Breathing in the beautifully clean air and watching the stars migrate across the sky. These are the adventures that refresh my soul; even when I’m hurting and aching and my lungs are burning for oxygen.

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P.S. If you’re looking to do some of this route, check out this blog on some of the tricky details and some good pictures of the obstacles along the Rim Trail. I was too busy trying to get over the obstacles to stop for a photo.

A Big Easy Birthday

Jackson Square

Way back in early January, I organized a quick trip to New Orleans for my birthday. I’d been wanting to re-visit NOLA for awhile and experience some more of the food, music, and atmosphere of the French Quarter. After a quick wedding trip a few years ago, I’ve had it on my travel wish list to go back. My birthday was a great excuse, and I managed to round up Curtis, my brother, and Tyler, a good friend, to come along with–even though it was right after the holidays. That’s the problem with an early January birthday… everyone is usually travel and spent out to be interested in doing something out of the ordinary.

The weekend went off great. We found some amazing food, cigars, coffee, beer, and music… exactly as I’d hoped. All within the French Quarter and no car required. As a bonus, the weather was brilliant. I left loving New Orleans even more than I had before, and can’t wait to go back to explore more.

Oh, and I also got myself a snazzy new hat.

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Foggy Dusk

A few nights ago, an interesting fog rolled over East Dallas just after the sun set. I rushed over to White Rock Lake with my camera to capture a few shots of the skyline as the fog moved in. Click each photo to see it larger.

Brew Pub

Brew Pub

As seen in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania.

 

A Lake Walk

Spring makes a surprise appearance

Spring makes a surprise appearance

Twice a day I take Drake the Dog for a walk or jog. Most of the week I just do some loops around my neighborhood. White Rock Lake is just a few miles away, though, so I’ll often shake things up and take him for a walk there.

Morning Mist

Morning Mist

Rarely can I visit the east side of the lake without taking a photo. Whether it’s early in the morning when the mist is still in the air, or in the late evening when the sun sets over downtown.

Good evening

Good evening

I can hardly resist that gorgeous sky.

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