Tahoe Timeline: Our Summer Vaca Plans

This summer has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I had to say goodbye to way too many amazing, loving people in Chicago. I had to leave what was probably the most utopic teaching environment that I’ll ever encounter. I’ve been on a handful of adventures! California is truly the most beautiful and varied landscape I have ever viewed and I’m spending more quality time with Danny than ever before… but just as frequently I’m hanging out by myself (which lost its appeal about 2 weeks in).

I know, I know… break out the violins. I’m just saying this to explain why I have mostly positive feelings about the summer drawing to a close. I have nearly sealed the deal for a middle school teaching position at a small school outside of town, and though I know I will regret saying this once I’m knee deep in back to school stress – I’m ready.
Well, almost ready. 🙂 Danny has 4 scheduled weeks of vacation each year of his residency, and next week will be our first week off together since our trip to Florida last summer! We decided a few months ago that Lake Tahoe would be the perfect destination for late July, since the Central Valley will be HOT. So we’re fleeing to the mountains. Here’s the game plan.

Drive to Tahoe in the AM (5 hours) and hike the General Creek Trail at Sugar Pine SP. This trail offers a 6.5 mile RT hike to “Lilly Pond” or a 14.5 mile RT hike to “Lost Lake”. Naturally, Lost Lake is supposed to be infinitely more beautiful and scenic, so that’s our end goal.

We can check in to our site as early as 2pm, but I imagine we’ll get there around dinner time. I plan to have dinner packed and ready for the fire (maybe a foodie camping post should be in the works for this trip). Dan and I always set up the tent together, he builds the fire and I… wait for the s’mores. I’m always wait’n for those s’mores!

Wednesday we’re going to head over to Emerald Bay SP. I’m especially excited to trek around this area. It looks gorgeous! I am planning an easy-going morning with a visit to Vikingsholm, an early 20th century Scandinavian “summer house” (read: mansion). Who says you can’t combine a little culture with your camping?! Then we’re going to head to the beach and soak in a little mountain sunshine.

In the afternoon, we’ll head onto the Rubicon Trail. We should be able to keep the lake in sight during the entire 6.5 mile track.

We’ve reserved our campsite at Sugar Pine for Wednesday night, too! The fewer times we have to set up camp, the more time to soak up all that wilderness.


Thursday is all about the lake! We’ll pack up our camp and drive north to Tahoe City. Here I’m hoping to rent a 2 person kayak so that we can go out on the lake for a few hours to explore the shoreline. Last summer, we toured an estuary/lagoon in West Florida via canoe and (when we weren’t threatening to joust each other with the paddles) we LOVED it! Now that I’m reminiscing, I must say that I truly felt that canoeing was a test of our marriage commitment (and then I saw a dolphin and we navigated through some mangrove forests). Dan was ecstatic about the idea, but we’ll have to see how it goes this time… in closer proximity even. 😉

Afterwards, I’m looking forward to touring around Tahoe City for a bit. I expect it to be a bit of a tourist trap, but I just love looking in little shops and experiencing the character of towns. That evening, I’m hoping to land a spot on a sunset sailing cruise. Danny and I have regularly daydreamed about owning a little sail boat and scooting off somewhere… sigh. Not that we have ever been sailing or know anything about it (though I suspect the vocabulary will be my biggest contribution), but you know – ya gotta start somewhere!

We haven’t booked anything for Thursday night yet because we’re toying around with the idea of driving down to Sacramento. As a teacher, I feel a sense of responsibility to familiarize myself with our state capital (and hey, it’s gotta be better than Springfield!). I’m hoping to hang out in Old Sacramento. It looks shamefully like a tourist trap, but the kid in me just can’t say no to reenactments!


And that’s the plan! We’ll see what slips through the cracks. 🙂

Garrapata & Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks

Though our trip to the Monterey area did not go quite as planned (as was predicted by some), I think it was actually so much more enjoyable this way, not to mention beautiful and completely unforgettable.

The drive there was quick and easy – no hairpin mountain switch-backs like on our recent trip to Shaver Lake. The closer we got to the ocean, the more fog we encountered. It was a sleepy, cool seaside kind of fog and reminded me of childhood trips into Michigan. We found Garrapata fairly easily even though it was not as well marked as larger parks (which made it less busy as well). Right away we noticed a sign stating that the back half of the loop connecting Soberanes Canyon to Rocky Ridge was closed due to extreme terrain. We decided to head right at the trail head toward the canyon to see some of the Redwoods.

Trail toward Soberanes Canyon, Garrapata State Park, Carmel, California

The canyon was arid and filled with scrub and even cactus at the beginning. After about 1.5 miles we began to enter into a Redwood forest where the trail followed a stream bordered by big lush ferns. The contrast between the canyon and the forest was pretty incredible. The fresh, herbaceous cool in the wood was completely intoxicating (not to wax poetic, but it was just absolutely amazing).

Coastal Redwoods

The trail started to get steep pretty quickly. We hiked about another mile or so in, rested and turned back. We hiked about 4 miles and spent about two hours on this trail total. Then we refueled and walked across the highway toward the ocean to explore the Soberanes Point trail. This trail lead through more wildflower scrub and overlooked the rocky Pacific coastline. We spent another hour or so out here, climbing down onto the rocky outcroppings and snatching a few pictures (and some succulents) for home.

As you can see, the views were pretty overwhelming. I am so excited to be living in such a gorgeous and variable landscape! It was between 65-70 degrees in this area. We could hear some sea lions off on one of the farther rocks, but couldn’t see them. Whales are often spotted in this area between January and February and it was easy to imagine viewing them here. The best time to come to Garrapata is supposedly April, when the wildflowers are most vivid. We might go back then and attempt the whole loop!

Since we didn’t hike nearly as far here, we left around 12:30 – two hours earlier than we planned. We drove another 40 minutes south to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and picnicked once we arrived. Per Dan’s request, we had pasta salad (I have a recipe that’s a family favorite), cheese & crackers, veggies & dip, roast beef + smoked gouda sandwiches and Scotcheroos for desert. It was so tasty that we didn’t even mind fighting off the puff-chested jay that was stalking our picnic table. Fortified, we set off on the .5 mile trail to the Overlook at McWay Falls. McWay Falls is the only waterfall that flows directly into the Pacific. It is located in this beautiful cove surrounded by huge evergreens.

McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Carmel, California

This was a super accessible park and great for families with little ones due to the well-constructed trails and perfect photo opps. We toured the park for another hour or so, but by this point we were both somewhat “hiked out”. Hopefully we will have more stamina next time, but we got a huge reward for the effort that we put in!

We drove back to Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is exactly as quaint and picturesque as it sounds (even though it was only 60 degrees and completely overcast). At Carmel Beach we dipped our toes into the Pacific, snuggled to keep warm, lost and searched for my sunglasses (tragedy!). From there we drove into Monterey, which is was not nearly as cute, and walked onto Fisherman’s Wharf, where we dined at the Old Fisherman’s Grotto (delish!) We left the area around 6:30 and I managed to stay awake the whole way home, entertaining Danny with variations of “Name the Category” and that game where you have a post-it on your head with a famous person’s name and you have to ask yes/no questions to identify yourself (minus the post-its). Long car rides are typically dreaming/planning sessions for us since our conversations don’t typically last as long in our day-to-day life, but it was fun to goof around as best friends.

He has a lot to do with my pink-tinged perspective. 🙂

Day Tripper

Danny has Saturday and Sunday off (a golden weekend!), so we’re taking a day trip to Monterey. I’ve been planning this trip off and on for a few weeks (or you could say months)… basically ever since my dad sent me the link to this video on Walkifornia waaay back in April, when I had very little conceptual understanding of California geography. You’ll understand the simplicity of the decision if you watch a bit of the video, find yourself drooling and inwardly declaring “I’m gonna go there!”. Luckily for me, Garrapata State Park is about a 3 hour drive.

I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little terrified when Danny piped in that he would really like to visit “This state park that my sister told me about… it’s like a lady’s name… she said it was gorgeous.” Oh dread! Would this nondescript whimsy waylay my plans to experience seaside, wildflowers AND redwoods in one hike? A frantic Google Maps search quickly calmed me: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is just a 50 minute drive south of Garrapata. Now if that doesn’t sound like the perfect day trip, I don’t know what does?!

So, here’s the agenda (with some swiped pics), and I’ll update you on how things actually went on Sunday or Monday. Kapeesh?!

6:30am – Hit the road! Picnic packed and we’re ready to go!

9:30am – Arrive at Garrapata State Park. Transfer some snacks to the Camelbak, and start the 4.7 mile Rocky Ridge/Soberanes Canyon trail.

I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous about this hike. It’s a half-day hike and sounds sorta strenuous with boulders and quick elevation changes. Dan and I haven’t hiked like this since we were in Rocky Mountain National Park three years ago. We’ll see how it goes!

Lunch – Picnic at Garrapata Beach after the hike (menu to come!)

2:30pm – Head out to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

3:30pm – See McWay Falls via the .5 mile Overlook Trail, take in the beauty, try not to pass out from exhaustion (and probably drive around the park, get out to take pictures and ramble on and on about how gorgeous it is).

5:00pm – Head back to the Monterey area for a few more sights & dinner.

6:00pm – Pit stop at Carmel Beach for a little more sand time (I have a Midwestern-lifetime of deprivation from sand & sea, it will take a while to meet this quota). 🙂

7:00pm – Explore “New Monterey”, also known as the Lighthouse District – because this wouldn’t be any trip at all without a little shopping!

8:00pm – Reservations at Monterey’s Fish House, where I will consciously not order more than one glass of wine so that I can provide moral support to my husband-at-the-wheel for at least the first 30 minutes. (Hey, I know myself, okay? It’s called self-awareness.)

9:30pm – Back on the road to Fres-yes 🙂 Approximate arrival time: 12:30am.

Wish us luck! And because the best of life happens when you’re busy making plans (or something like that) I reserve the right to scratch this entirely, but I’ll let you know how it goes!


To what extent can we control how quickly or thoroughly we heal from past wounds? I admit that I am of the “buck up, and move on” camp when it comes to dwelling on errors, wrongings and inflicted insecurities, yet to some degree I do define parts of my own persona as scars.

In my freshman year of college I “took advantage” of the free therapy sessions provided to all students and shortly after found myself blubbering in a chair about my childhood (which I had so definitively “moved on” from). I asked him, “When will I be okay about this? When will it stop mattering, stop hurting?”

He said that each new transition may unearth the new growth and leave me feeling things fresh as new.

Cheery, right? Job security is what my more skeptical voice would love to call it if only I didn’t know it to be true.

Chicago toughened me a lot. It was big enough to pour on plenty of bad, but plenty of happiness, too. I learned that sometimes the safest place to be is in the masses. Though you may not hand-select them, a community of good people is bound to weather you through the lowest, most scraping realities.

Here we have only us. Here I have to be as strong as ten God-fearing small group members (for now). Yet to some degree, I’ve never felt more sure, more pointed in the right direction. It’s funny – I’m always looking out “there” for my purpose, but sometimes the service lies on deck.