Four Reasons You Should Plan a Trip to California’s Eastern Sierra

I had lived in Reno for almost 8 years. I’d been to Gardnerville countless times, but never any further south on Hwy 395. One day I randomly came across a picture of Bodie, a mining ghost town located just south of Bridgeport, and instantly became infatuated. I convinced a few of my friends to head down there for a weekend getaway and instantly fell in love with the area. Here are 4 reasons why you should plan a trip to the Eastern Sierra.

Hot Springs

The land along Hwy 395 is loaded with hot springs perfect for soaking those sore muscles after a long day of skiing or just relaxing and enjoying the breathtaking views. You can either pay to enjoy a natural hot spring that has been funneled into a man-made pool like at Grover’s Hot Springs or David Wally’s, or you can venture into the unknown and find a natural hot spring. If you decided to go the natural route, please read this blog on hot spring etiquette. Finding them is always the tough part. You can definitely google “Eastern Sierra Hot Springs”, but I think the best thing to do is adventure out and find one on your own!

Natural Park Areas

We’ve all heard of Yosemite, turn right at Lee Vining from Hwy 395 to see its granite cliffs and magnificent waterfalls. If you’d like to read more, check out my blog on Half Dome. However, there are plenty of great parks located in Eastern California without climbing Tioga Pass. Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve is located near the Yosemite turnoff. This shallow saline soda lake is considered prehistoric and filled with large Tufa Towers or limestone towers. Bodie is a California Historic Landmark and a preserved mining ghost town. Rumor has it that during the gold boom Bodie was the 3rd largest city in California. The mines started to close, and by the early 1900s, the once-booming city was now considered a ghost town. The people left so abruptly, that they left behind vehicles, clothes, dishes among other items now on display in the historic town.

Skiing

You can’t write a blog about Hwy 395 and the Eastern Sierra without mentioning skiing and Mammoth Mountain. With over 3,500 skiable acres and an elevation of over 11,000 ft, Mammoth Mountain is often the training mountain for Olympic winter athletes. If you want to avoid the long lift lines at Mammoth, you can give June Mountain a try. With 1,500 skiable acres, June is a much smaller mountain, but still great to ski and a local’s favorite after a storm. Backcountry skiing is also really popular in this area. I was camping in the Bridgeport area Memorial Weekend after the epic 16/17 ski season. The mountains were still deep with snow and backcountry skiing was a popular activity. We were hiking a trail near Twin Lakes, and we were the only group not hiking with skis on our back. We saw the bowl everyone was hiking too and a couple of my friends started drooling.

Outdoor Recreation

Basically, if you are looking for a weekend getaway and love the outdoors, you should plan a trip south (or north if you’re coming from Southern California) on Hwy 395 and explore the Eastern Sierra. Here you can camp, hike, fish and play on or in the water with the beautiful Sierra as your backdrop. Paddleboard on Lake Mary or cast your line in the East Walker River.

For more information check out VisitMammoth.com or MonoCounty.org. Have you explored much in the Eastern Sierra? Where is your favorite place to go or thing to do? Tell me in the comments below!

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Your Guide to Nevada’s Ruby Mountains

Known as the Nevada Swiss Alps, The Ruby Mountains are located near the town of Elko in eastern Nevada. Home to Big Horn Sheep and steep jagged mountains, this place was made for the adventurist. The Ruby Mountain are about 5 hours east of Reno and right of I-80, which makes this the perfect weekend getaway if you’re coming from Reno, or a great pit-stop if you are road tripping along I-80. So, what should you do in the Ruby Mountains? Where should you stay? Keep reading to find out.

Where to Stay

If you prefer a hotel, you can stay in Elko and drive in, but there are plenty of great camping options in the Ruby Mountains. Popular places include Thomas Canyon Campground in Lamoille Canyon or South Ruby Campground located near the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. There are around 10 different camping areas nearby, so visit recreation.gov and take your pick.

What to Do

The area is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. They have hiking trails galore. I would start inside Lamoille Canyon. If you are staying at Thomas Canyon Campground, there is a hiking trail inside called Thomas Creek Trail. This trail is an out and back and follows the creek to a vast meadow and a waterfall. I went in August, so the waterfall was a trickle, but I imagine it’s much larger in the spring. This trail is not well traveled, so do keep an eye out for the path. My sister and I got lost a couple of times. She decided to turn back, but I was determined to find this waterfall (and I did).

Another great hiking area is at the end of Lamoille Canyon. This out and back trail will take you by alpine lakes, granite cliffs and rocks, and you’ll even find some patches of snow. The trek is part of a hike through called the Ruby Crest Trail. The Ruby Crest Trail is 42 miles longs, so you could hike a part of it as a day hike, or backpack the trail in a few days.

Hunting and fishing are also popular near the Ruby Mountains. When I went with my dad and sister, we didn’t catch any fish but did see a rather large marmot.

In the winter you can heli-ski! I don’t know much about heli-skiing in the Ruby Mountains, but you can read more here.

Insider Tips

Whether you are staying in Elko or camping out, if you get a chance to go out to dinner one night, you have to try the Star Hotel. This place has some of the best Basque Food you’ll find in the U.S. Another great tip is beware of the altitude. If you are coming from Reno, you probably won’t have an issue with the altitude, but if you’re like my sister and coming from sea-level, it might take a bit to get used to. Adjust, take it easy and try to wait a day or two before doing anything strenuous. Also, the nights will be cool! So, come prepared for warmer days and cool nights, but most importantly remember to have fun!

Did you know Nevada is the most mountainous state? You’ve probably heard of the Sierra Nevada, so now it’s time to check out the Ruby Mountains. Have you been before? What were some of your favorite trails or camping spots? Tell me in the comments below.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Backpacking the Tahoe Rim Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail is 165 miles long and goes around the entirety of Lake Tahoe. You can choose to complete the thru-hike in one fell swoop, you can do day hikes on portions of it, or you can choose to backpack just parts of it. I have done the latter two, but I want to talk specifically about backpacking from Mt. Rose Summit to Spooner Summit on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

The Trail

You technically start just south of Mt Rose Summit (within walking distance) at Tahoe Meadows. There is a huge parking lot where you can leave your car and a proper toilet before embarking into the wilderness. This section of the TRT is about 25 miles long. We hiked around 15 miles the first day and 10 miles the last day. I recommend you leave a car at the Spooner Summit Trail head. You might be able to hitch a ride back, but I was so beat after this trek, that the last thing I wanted to worry about was how I getting back to my car. The trail takes you up along the east shore of Lake Tahoe, and the highlight of our first day is when you reach the summit above Marlette Lake. Here you get a view of Marlette and Tahoe in one shot. If you are keen on visiting Marlette Lake, read my blog about the Lake Tahoe Flume Trail. From this point, your first day of hiking is almost complete. There is a campground you can stay at called Marlette Peak Campground. They have vault toilets, bear lockers, a picnic table, a fire ring and most importantly – potable water. We made dinner, played cards and enjoyed some whiskey after a long day of hiking.

On day two, you’ll wind alongside a mountain offering picturesque views of Lake Tahoe before you head into the trees until you reach Spooner Summit and the end of the hike. Do look out for the TRT signs. At one point we ended up on the Flume Trail and had to back pedal. We probably added about 1 mile to our overall hike with this little detour.

The Essentials

You might be a seasoned pro at backpacking and not need a list. For me, this was my first trip. I had a backpack – it was the one I had trekked all through New Zealand, Europe, and Peru – and that was it. It’s a little small compared to some traditional backpacking backpacks – 46L – but I am just over 5’, and when that thing is stuffed, it’s heavy for me. Outside of my backpack and hiking clothes, I didn’t own anything needed for backpacking. I borrowed a sleeping bag from a friend. I opted for her warmer bag because I get cold easily, and we were going to be camping high in the Sierra. I didn’t have a stove, so I brought food that didn’t require heat. I packed tortillas, peanut butter, nuts, jerky, protein bars, and a couple of Mountain House’s freeze-dried meal Granola with Blueberries and Milk – just add cold water. One of my friends brought his Jet Boil and ended up trading me one of my Granola meals for a Steak and Pepper meal. It was pretty tasty, but then again anything is pretty tasty after a 10-mile hike carrying a 15 lb. backpack. I also brought a tarp to sleep on that night (I didn’t own a tent, nor would a tent fit in my backpack). However, one of my friends brought a tent but didn’t care to sleep in it, so he let me borrow it. I also packed an ultra-lightweight sleeping pad (borrowed), and whatever toiletries or clothes I thought I needed. Lucky for me, my friends had packed the playing cards and the whiskey.

Do pack extra socks! The last thing you want is your feet to develop blisters on this long trek, so a fresh pair of socks is mandatory! Also mandatory is water. I brought 4 water bottles. I did not bring a filtration system because the campground had potable water (and lots of bees, but that’s beside the point).

I don’t have a packing list for backpacking to share with you (though I most likely will end up creating one), but if you have any thoughts or questions about what to bring, or what life is like on the TRT either leave me a comment below or tweet me at @keeliec5. I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time…..

Cheers!

Keelie

Girls Trip – Bucks Lake, CA

You might have read my blog post on Why Costa Rica Should Be Your Next Girls Trip, well, this one is filled with just as much adventure but a little closer to home. Camping is always a great adventure, so why not mix it up and turn it into a Girls Trip?

Pick an Awesome Location

Although you can have an awesome time anywhere with your girls, picking a stellar location just adds to its amazingness. My choice for a camping Girls Trip is Bucks Lake, CA. Bucks Lake is located 25 miles west of Quincy, CA, and the perfect weekend getaway for anyone living in Reno. It has everything. About two hours from home, an awesome lake, hiking trails and some nearby restaurants. There are quite a few campgrounds along Bucks Lakes, most of them first come first serve. We were lucky enough to grab a lakefront site at Sundew Campground. We had to wait for the current people to vacate the site, so we decided to grab breakfast at Bucks Lake Lodge and then spend the early afternoon at Sandy Point Day Use. Sandy beaches, paddle boarding and swimming – sounds like the perfect day.

Play Some Fun Games

When the sun goes down, that’s when the games start. My camping games of choice are Drinking Jenga and Cards Against Humanity. In Drinking Jenga, each of the tiles has a task written on it. Its kind of like Kings Cup but Jenga style. Sangria, Jell-O Shots, beer and water are all necessary drinks for a girls camping trip. Both of these games will ensure a laugh-out-loud good time.

Don’t Forget the Propane Tank!

You might be thinking – what an odd heading? Well, for me, it was true. We had the car loaded and ready for our girls camping trip. As we were unloading the car and setting up camp, we came to the realization that I brought the camping stove, but no propane tank to fuel it! Luckily, I was with some bad ass girls and we were able to improvise. Dinner that night was kebabs that we could roast over the fire, and we did our best to make pancakes over the flame for breakfast in the morning. But that’s what makes a trip memorable right? We didn’t let a little lack of fuel ruin our trip!

Summer is right around the corner, so if you are looking for a place to plan a fun girls weekend getaway, go a little off the beaten path and explore Bucks Lake! Bring your favorite water toys, beach gear, camping games and don’t forget the propane! Oh, and on your way back to Reno stop by the Polka Dot in Quincy for a fantastic milkshake! Have you even been on an all-girls camping trip? Where is your favorite place to go? Tell me in the comments below!

Until next time…..

Cheers!

Keelie