Thursday, October 15, 2015

Take one grandkid, add a ropes course, some mountains and a lake...

My first grandson turned 9 this year....but I was in Hawaii riding my bike up a volcano when it happened.
So, in an effort to make amends for my missing this very special occasion (and my inability to manage my calendar) I told him we'd head to Tahoe for a "boy's weekend".

I picked him up from school on Friday and after gassing up the car and stocking up on skittles, sour patch kids and vitamin water, we got on the road.....with a hundred bazillion other people trying to get out of the bay area. Eventually (5 hours) we arrived in Tahoe City at my sister's house to begin our weekend.

Saturday morning dawned clear and warm and after breakfast (and coffee) Maureen, the little guy and I headed over to the ropes course at Granlibakken where they got him situated, harnessed, trained and ready to go....I wasn't sure how this was all going to play out. I've seen him sometime respond to new things fearfully and at other times with reckless abandon.

I'm never sure what triggers which it that some days he's confident and others he's not? Is it how I present the different events to him? Or do some things just scare him and others do not?
I'm not sure.  Last year for instance I took him skiing. In the morning, before his group lesson he and I went up the lift and started coming down. Immediately, there were words like "I can't, it's scary, what if...." Another time I took him on a bike ride with some pretty decent uphills and downhills and he went at it with no fear and a devil may care attitude....

Not sure which version of the kid I would get and knowing that Maureen had paid good money for him to do this, I went to great lengths to emphasize the fun and minimize the risk....but when I saw how high up the ropes were, and how fearful a couple of the other kids were, I planned for the worst. As I, in my head, began making backup plans and trying to come up with good arguments about how not scary this was, he clipped his harness to the first obstacle and was 20 feet off the ground before I knew what was going on. Ok, so that answers that question....

For the next 2 hours, he climbed, ran, walked, and zip-lined his way around the property trying new variations and ever more death defying ways to complete each one point the instructor told him to try to do the zip-line upside down and he spent the entire ride down the line trying to flip himself head over heals....gutsy, crazy, kid.

After the ropes course, we ate the lunch we had packed, drove down the road and parked to begin our next adventure. We would ride our bikes down the bike path to Squaw Valley and back. A 10 mile ride on the bike path is no big deal for anyone that rides, but for a 9 year old on a 20" bmx bike, it's a pretty big accomplishment. Of course, as you'd expect, there was a stop at the River Ranch bar for a root beer and some play time in the river to break things up.....we are on vacation after all.
Maureen had left us at the ropes course to go play in a tennis tournament she had previously committed to so we got back to the house before she did and relaxed for a bit watching football with my brother in law. It wasn't long before she got home though and she wanted to take Caleb to the tennis courts for a lesson. Wait, you want me to lay on the couch and watch football while you continue to wear out my grandson....OK!

After the lesson, we had a nice dinner and with Caleb being completely thrashed and worn out, we called it a day...more adventures were in store for Sunday.
Sunday we woke to another perfect summer day in Tahoe (unfortunately it's October and we need rain) it was sunny with blue skies and warm temperatures. Today, my friend Min was running the Lake Tahoe marathon which was to be her last marathon in celebration of her 50th birthday. (I've never seen the need to run my first marathon so needing to close the loop and run my last has never happened)

Her husband Chris dropped her off at the start then came and met up with Caleb and I. The plan was to drive to south shore where the finish line was, unload our bikes and ride backwards till we met up with her.

Chris though, had a surprise for Caleb. He had brought his kayak so we stopped at Sand Harbor and he got to go kayaking, play in the water and catch crawdads before we continued on to south shore.

After finding the finish line we unloaded our bikes and began to ride the route backwards. We had gone back to mile 22 before we saw her....the really crazy part is that she was still smiling. We decided to ride back towards the finish and intercept her along the way but somehow we got behind her when we thought we were in front of her so when we finally hooked up again, she had already finished.
After lunch at a local brewery, where Caleb had a rootbeer, we got on the road and headed down the hill and back to reality. Pretty sure he lasted at least 10 minutes before he crashed out and slept most of the way home.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Not Riding In Tahoe....

I was in Tahoe this past weekend with my friend Diane and I purposely did not bring my bike.....I know...weird....right?
I was actually up there to hike...yes, I said it. I went to the mountains with the purpose of hiking and not biking.....(there would still be beer involved if that's any consolation)

The hike we were planning was from Fallen Leaf Lake to the top of Mt Tallac and to be completely honest, I was a little worried about it. I'm not much of a hiker and although I have been riding regularly for the past few months and I walk a ton at work, the act of hiking 6 miles up a mountain had me a bit freaked out. I really don't like doing stuff I'm not good at which causes me anxiety and stress.....Dumb right? Something that should be fun being stressful....just the way I'm wired....

We started fairly early and as we got ready in the parking lot to begin, I took some solace in the fact that I at least looked the part of a hiker. (there were other "hikers" there so I had a pretty good frame of reference)
I had on boots that were made for hiking, good wool socks, actual hiking poles and a camelbak stuffed with food and water. As I always say on the bike, if you're not fast, you should at least look the part and it appears that the mantra translates to hiking as well.

As we left the parking area, the trail meanders along for a ways allowing my legs (and lungs) to warm up. It wasn't long though, before the trail went up and it pretty much continued going up for the next 6 miles. And, as you can probably imagine, when you go up for 6 miles, you gain this case almost 3500ft of elevation.

The trail was in good condition and well marked and provided amazing views along the way. If I hadn't been suffering from oxygen deprivation, I might even have enjoyed those views....
In all seriousness though, it really is a beautiful hike.

As we were nearing what I had been promised was our rest stop, Gilmore Lake, we met a guy that exclaimed his joy at seeing us....turns out he was lost. Well, technically, he wasn't lost, he just didn't know how to get from where he was to where he was supposed to be meeting his brother. (Velma Lakes)
After a few minutes comparing his map with ours, and figuring out where he needed to go, he headed out and we made the last few steps to Lake Gilmore which is an amazingly beautiful lake.
(In this pic you can see how crystal clear the water is and that the moon is still out)

We rested, ate rice krispy treats and finished off the small thermos of coffee we had brought with us. I was enjoying the break and the scenery and was actually starting to think that maybe this hike wasn't so bad after all. We had done 4 miles, I was still vertical and surprisingly I felt good.....right up to the point where Diane said, now we start going up"....wait...what???? we've been going up for 4 miles already, what is she talking about????

Well, I found out soon enough. The last 2 miles from Lake Gilmore to the summit feels like its straight up.  It's funny that one of the websites I found describes it as an easy and steady 1300 ft climb.

I stopped a few times on the last section, just to take pictures of course, not because I was dying, and the views behind us were incredible.

When you reach the top, the last several hundred yards are a scramble around and over large loose boulders. Surprisingly, there were quite a few people up and there and we arrived to the final strains of someone singing happy birthday to one of their group.....turns out he was celebrating his 70th birthday with the hike.....yes, I felt lame and weak and like a baby for all the complaining that was going on in my head.

The views from the summit are amazing. To the northwest you see the entirety of the Tahoe valley, and back to the west you see the Desolation Wilderness, several other peaks and the myriad of sparkling blue lakes that dot the wilderness area.

We found a spot out of the wind, which was blowing cold and strong at the top, and ate the sandwiches and snacks that Diane had brought along for us. As good as a nap would have been, there wasn't a flat spot to be found and the wind was cold enough to motivate us to begin our descent.

You would assume that hiking down a mountain would be easier and faster than hiking up, but that wasn't the case. The steps, loose rock and my old knees kept our pace down and required constant attention to avoid falling. The hiking poles were a huge benefit and saved me from embarrassment and possible injury on more than one occasion.

The wind kept up and the weather had cooled to the point that we had our jackets on most of the way down and with the Aspen in full color, you could tell that Autumn had arrived in the Sierras.

As we finally got to the bottom and back to our car, we had yet another Autumn celebration to look forward to....we were headed to the Oktoberfest celebration being held over at Camp Richardson....brats and beer after a long hike....what could be better?