Around Here (with Beast + Babe)

I love summer in Lake Tahoe. It means jumping in the cold water everyday, squeezing in hikes after work, buying fresh produce at the farmers market, and steeping sun tea on the deck.

And gardening, of course. This year I planted heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and asparagus. I went to a gardening workshop a couple of weeks ago that focused solely on planting asparagus in the Sierra Nevada. I was pretty much the only one under the age of 70, but that was totally cool with me. Those are my peeps.

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In other news, two articles I wrote just came out in the summer edition of Tahoe Magazine. If you feel so inclined, you can check them out here. One is about the trip Charlie and I took to the wine country in the Sierra Foothills, and the other is on the best places to snorkel in Lake Tahoe.

I’ve been hiking at least two or three times a week, which makes me really happy. There’s still snow on some of the higher elevation trails after the record-breaking winter we had here — some of the ski resorts tallied over 600 inches of snow — but it doesn’t bother me. Plus, Daisy loves it. She rolls her whole body around in the snow before taking a big bite of it.

She’s been rocking her new Beast + Babe collar, which deserves a mention because I love spreading the word on small companies run by badass women. Kelsie Macray, inspired by her rescue pup Yogi, crafts awesome collars, leashes and beds out of textiles she sources from around the world. She creates them in her California studio, and a portion of each sale goes towards the nonprofit Peace Animals, which works to spay and neuter homeless and neglected dogs and cats in Mexico. The products are cute, but sturdy, and Daisy’s Coastline Collar has been standing up to all the dirt and water we’ve encountered on the trails.

Speaking on which, it's time to swap the screen for some epic views. The mountains are calling.

Laguna Beach

Two weekends ago Charlie and I were in Laguna Beach for a wedding. We were lucky enough to stay in a seaside villa built in 1918. It was incredible. Tall, panned windows opened up to the rocky beach below, and at night we laid in bed listening to the waves crashing. The villa, which is a historical national landmark,  sits right on the edge of a cliff and is surrounded by native succulents and sweet-smelling floral bushes. Winding stone staircases with chandeliers take you to various parts of the property. Pretty magical.

These last couple of months have been so busy. Charlie's knee-deep in grad school, and I've had my plate full writing for the Tahoe Daily Tribune and Tahoe Magazine (plus some new side projects I'm excited to announce soon!). But weekends like the one in Laguna are the perfect anecdote to busy weeks.

I think I've penned at least four blog posts since I started the blog in December 2013 where I've said, "Oh my gosh it's been so long since I've written because [insert excuse] but now I'm back!" (Peep the first blog post I ever wrote after returning from Greece - I can't believe how long it's been.) This place has always been a creative outlet for me when I haven't had a job that fulfilled me in that way. Now that I do, It's time to let this space shift and grow. I'm not quite sure what that looks like just yet, but I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I've got a fun collab with Beast + Babe coming soon!

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The Southwest + Six Years

Tomorrow marks six years of adventuring with this dude. Together we've moved to Greece and Canada, climbed mountains, swam in too many lakes to count, driven thousands of miles across North America, and put a sizable dent in the world's supply of craft beer. This time last week we were cruising through the Southwest crossing more National Parks off our list. 

Here's to many more years of exploring, Charlie. 

Lately

It's been a while. About a month and a half. I allowed myself a bit of a break from writing about life to focus on reporting for the Tahoe Tribune. Just like with other writing jobs I've had, it takes time to find a balance between writing for pay and writing for pleasure in my free time. 

It is officially fall in Tahoe, and though these pictures make me miss the summer weather, I can say with absolute certainty that I took advantage of every bit of it. Every moment spent out hiking with Daisy or in the Bay Area visiting friends or jumping into alpine lakes or just driving through the mountains from point A to point B has been a special experience for me. The kind where I think to myself, "Yes, this is exactly where I'm supposed to be." 

In short, I'm happy.

Soon enough Charlie will be back here for good, too.

For now, I'll ease back in with this short post, but more to come. 

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Forest Fort + American Mules (with Tito's Handmade Vodka)

Along the Truckee River, if you know just the right pyramid-shaped rock to turn left at, ignore the tree branches blocking the lightly-treaded path, and aren’t afraid to walk across two giant logs traversing deep ditches, you will find an epic fort.

And not just any fort. The fort of your childhood dreams. A fort made of gnarly logs with multiple rooms and pieces of wisdom (plus some idiotic statements, of course) scrawled across its walls. Inside there are logs to sit on and little trinkets made from wood and rock and whatever else hanging from the ceiling; right outside the doorway the river runs by.

Sitting inside the fort after a light but sweat-inducing hike, I felt like a kid again. It reminded me of those days when you’d be out playing with your friends in the neighborhood after school until your mom called you in for dinner (in my case, she radioed in over our sweet walkie talkies).

Back in the day I was the president and founding member of my neighborhood’s Pet Lovers Club. We used to ride around like a gang on our bicycles with horns and get paid 50 cents to walk peoples’ dogs. We even had Polaroid photos of the dogs pinned to our clubhouse walls with the owner’s name, address, and phone number written on it, just in case we found a missing dog and needed to locate its owner. I was super cool like that.

Though I may have delved into some serious childhood nostalgia in the fort, I did not forget about the adult goodies I brought along with me: all the fixings for an oh-so-simple Mule. Ginger beer, lime and Tito’s Vodka meld together for a beverage that is all at once refreshing and tangy. Here’s my on-the-go, no fuss recipe:

Tito's American Mule

1.5 oz Tito’s Handmade Vodka
3 oz Ginger Beer
0.5 oz Lime

In your camp mug or mason jar, pour in a generous slug of Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Fill the rest of your cup up with ginger beer, then give it a taste to see how the strength is. Next, squeeze a sliver of lime in and give the cup a swirl to make sure it’s all mixed together. Cheers!

Dogs on the Road Tip #5

Losing your pet in your neighborhood is bad enough, but losing your dog when you’re on the road or out exploring in unfamiliar territory is even worse. It goes without saying that it is imperative for your dog to always have up-to-date tags, but there are other things you can do to ensure your pet is found and safely returned. Above all, never underestimate the power of social media. If you are in an unfamiliar area, post a photo of your dog on Facebook and alert local animal rescue organizations so they can share the photo on their Facebook pages to locals who may be able to find your furry friend. I’ve heard so many cases of complete strangers going out to look for (and ultimately find!) other people’s dogs. It’s heartwarming.

Another piece of advice is to leave an item of your clothing with a bowl of water where you last saw your dog. Your smell will help orient the dog, who is likely to return to that spot. Don’t leave out food as this will only attract wild animals. Keep checking back at this original spot. And don’t give up hope!

This post was in partnership with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Seek + Scout!

Mokelumne Wilderness + Mojitos (with Tito’s Handmade Vodka)

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Up in the mountains is where I belong. Above the treeline, climbing over rocks, naming wildflowers, crossing streams, galloping along dirt trails. That’s the best part about living in the Sierra Nevadas--you could hike every day and still find new trails to explore.

But there are some trails that you can hike over and over again, and they feel just as magical as they did the first time around. For me, that trail lies in the Mokelumne Wilderness. The hike is a 5-mile loop featuring three epic alpine lakes, each in their own unique shade of turquoise or blue; an abandoned mine; meadows filled with purple lupines and bright orange indian paintbrushes; and a stream to serenade you along the way.

I love exploring the area where the mine once was. There’s a car with wooden spokes--which I don’t know how they were able to get up here--that is slowly disintegrating into the ground and what used to be an old cabin, but is now a pile of collapsed timber around a doorframe. I like to think about how this place used to look and the type of people whose lives depended on pulling that gold out of the ground.

This time around, Daisy and I swam in two out of the three lakes even though there were still patches of snow around it at that elevation. It’s a moderately challenging hike, but worth the sore muscles the next day.

I capped off the long hike with a refreshing cocktail. I wanted something cool and crisp, so I whipped up a Vodka Mojito with mint from the garden back home, lime, a dash of sugar, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and club soda. Planning ahead with a cooler in this instance was pretty clutch. Here’s how to make your own post-hike libation: 

Vodka Mojito

Handful of fresh mint
Sugar
Lime
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Club soda

My biggest complaint with the average mojito on the market is it tends to be far too sweet. I prefer a lightly sweetened beverage, heavy on the mint and lime. To start, muddle a handful of mint leaves in the bottom of your glass (I use the end of a wooden spoon) with the juice of ½ a lime. Next, throw in a dash of sugar, depending on how sweet you like you drink. Pour over a shot (or two!) of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, then top off with a healthy pour of club soda. Stir and taste to see if you need more sugar. Cheers!

Dogs on the Road Tip #4

To boot or not to boot? That is, when you’re going on a long hike with your dog or perhaps a series of hikes while you’re on a road trip, should you outfit your pup with hiking boots? That depends--not only on your dog, but the type of terrain you’ll encounter on the trail. Generally Daisy only wears dog boots in the winter when it gets below zero, but there have been a few hikes that I was kicking myself for not having them on her. Rocky hikes, as you might expect, can cause some serious damage to your dog’s paw pads. On a really hot day, your dog can even get burns from the rocks roasting in the sun. As dogs get older and their pads have endured more wear and tear, hiking boots are a very good idea. If you’re on the fence about using hiking boots, observe your pup on the trail. If he or she appears uncomfortable when walking over rocky areas or frequently injures his or her paw pads, go with the boots. The last thing you want is for your dog’s pad to get injured when you’re three miles into a hike. That’s no fun for all parties involved, believe me, I’ve seen it happen.

This post was in partnership with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Seek + Scout!

Meadow Biking + Blackberry Fizz (with Tito's Handmade Vodka)

I fly past the pond on my bike and into the meadow where the sagebrush is bursting with yellow flowers amongst tall tan grasses and purple flowers (which I make a mental note to look up in my guide book when I get home--Gracias Sage, as it turns out). Daisy runs in front, tongue hanging out the side of her mouth because it’s hot. Hot, but oh so beautiful.

Through the meadow we go, over the bridge, and down into the trees. The landscape changes as we enter the shade of the pines, which stand towering over giant piles of boulders. Daisy quickly climbs atop the rocks and stares at me with the goofy grin she gets when we get outside and she can run, run, run. Have I mentioned before how much I love this dog? She gets me.

My bike begins to slow when we hit the sand. Daisy knows we’re close to the beach. She sprints ahead, and I walk my bike down to the water. I don’t care how many times I walk out to the shoreline of Lake Tahoe, this place moves me. After a quick swim, I hop on the bike and we head back into the meadow. It’s cocktail and sage harvesting time.

Back in the meadow, Kahle Open Space to be precise, I park my bike amongst the sagebrush. I pull out the scissors I conveniently stored in my bike basket and clip away at a few bushes. Back at home I’ll wrap the clippings in twine for smudge sticks to burn later. It’s the best natural smell to fill a room.

For my bike ride happy hour, the cocktail is a Blackberry Fizz. So we sit, just me and Daze, staring out into the meadow, drink in hand. When you sit writing at a computer all day, this is the perfect antidote to screen time. A good drink with a good dog--I highly recommend it.

Blackberry Fizz

Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Blackberries
Lemon
Tonic Water

Muddle 4 to 5 blackberries in the bottom of a cup. Pour in a shot of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, then top with a generous pour of tonic water. Finish with a squeeze of lemon. Cheers!

Dogs on the Road Tip #3

Meadows. They seem like the perfect place to frolic without a care in the world. But if you’re a dog, or perhaps a person without shoes, they actually can be quite painful. Certain tall grasses can actually cause quite the problem for your four-legged buddy. Foxtails, for example, have needle-like seed heads that are meant to catch on animals’ fur for transportation and eventually reproduction in a new location, but unfortunately they can also find their way into dogs’ noses and in between their toes.

I speak from experience. Daisy, unbeknownst to me, had over 10 foxtails caught between her toes. By the time I noticed, she had licked the skin between her toes almost raw and had to be put under by a vet so her feet could be shaved and the foxtails all removed. So my advice is this: if you happen to be travelling with your favorite fluff ball and find yourself amongst foreign grass, make sure to watch your dog for signs of irritation. This could mean compulsive licking, or if it’s caught in their noses, convulsive sneezing.

This post was in partnership with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Seek + Scout!

Lake Tahoe + Spiked Basil Lemonade (with Tito's Handmade Vodka)

Sometimes after a long week at work, the prospect of staying closer to home is quite appealing. So this weekend instead of hoping in the car for a few hours of driving, I decided to indulge in a bit of a staycation.

On Sunday as temperatures peaked into the 90’s, Daisy and I walked down to our favorite cove for some swimming and lounging on the rocks.

I don’t know what it is about swimming in freezing cold water, but it energizes me more than any cup of coffee. Right now Tahoe is warmer than it’s ever been (which is actually bad news for the crystal clear waters), but even at its warmest the average surface temperature is only 53.3 degrees. This summer it’s been my goal to swim in every lake I come across, so Tahoe actually feels quite warm compared to some of the alpine lakes high in the Sierras that still have patches of snow around them.

Out on the rocks I whipped up a simple Spiked Basil Lemonade before heading out for a spin on the kayak. It was just the sort of relaxing Sunday that puts me in a good mood for the week ahead.

Spiked Basil Lemonade

Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Lemonade
Fresh basil leaves

Only three ingredients and no fancy cocktail utensils necessary! To start, add a healthy pour of Tito’s to your cup, then fill the rest of your cup with lemonade. Next, grab a large basil leaf, hold it in your palm, then slap it with your other hand. This wakes up the flavor of the herb. Add the basil to your drink and enjoy!

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Dogs on the Road Tip #2

Whether you’re into kayaking, SUPing, boating, or just swimming around, it’s always more fun if your dog is along for the ride. I love taking Daisy out on the kayak and SUP with me, but I am also very aware of the complications that can arise when you bring canines on watercrafts. Daisy isn’t the strongest swimmer, so whenever I take her out in deeper water I make sure she has a life vest on, but even if your dog is a strong swimmer, a life vest could save his or her life if something happened to your craft when you’re far from land. Personally, the handle on Daisy’s life vest have been a huge help when she’s accidentally fallen off the SUP. It makes dragging her back on so much easier.

Foggy California Coast

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the weekend back in the Bay Area with friends. One of the days we headed out to Half Moon Bay for beach time at Mavericks and a walk along some trails on the upper cliffs of the coastline. It was a typical foggy NorCal summer day. We got to see three humpback whales surfacing in a feeding frenzy while birds of all sizes flocked above the water. You could tell where the whales were about to surface because the birds would swarm in one area just as the whales pushed schools of fish to the surface.

That same weekend I also got to meet Nic (plus Jack and Keeper!) of Wildlandia. Nic and I been pen pals for almost two years now, but with me all the way in Red Lake, it never worked to get together. I think both of us were pretty nervous about it being awkward or weird ('cuz let's be honest, we both can be a little of both of those), but it was the exact opposite. I once read something about how friendships that start of the Internet are often so successful because you connect over shared interests and passions, not just proximity. We had a really great time hiking with the dogs in the Berkeley hills. We got to witness some goat grazing program they have going on there, and fawn over the border collies there to herd the goats (and get peed on by a little puppy in my case). 

Next weekend I'll be back in the Bay Area for the Alabama Shakes concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley with Nic and my other friend Nicole. It's so nice having my favorite people just a few hours away instead of 35.

Happy Sunday!

Santa Cruz + Cucumber Vodka Tonics (with Tito’s Handmade Vodka)

After winding our way down Highway 17 towards Santa Cruz delving deep into nostalgia with my recently rediscovered (and ridiculously named) playlists from college, we find a precarious parking spot on the side of the road. Picnic basket and towels in hand, we hop out of the car and head down through the woods with Daisy leading the way. She knows this trek by heart.

Through the redwoods, over the train tracks, and down to our secret river spot we go. We hear the rushing of the water before we see it, and Daisy quickens her pace. The drink mixings jostle about in the basket as we cross the river in search of that perfect sun-drenched sandy bank hidden among the trees. It’s a place we used to come to often when we all lived in the same city, but that was three years and a handful of cities and countries ago for me.

The San Lorenzo River will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s where Charlie and I would go for whole afternoons, just the two of us, to swim and lay in the sun and watch Daisy get the zoomies after we toss her in the water. Even on a classic foggy NorCal summer day, it was the place my best friend and I would sit sipping beers and playing countless games of cards.

And what better way to commemorate our return to this magical spot than with a cocktail that signifies not just how much better we are at organizing our adventures, but how much more discerning we’ve become when it comes to alcohol. Alright, I'll cop to it...at one point in my life my vodka was coming out of a plastic bottle. But no longer, rest assured.

So we toast my return to the U.S. with Cucumber Vodka Tonics we crafted right there on the beach, and I swell with gratitude to be back with the people I love so much in my home country. Life is complicated and messy sometimes, but simple moments like this--enjoying a cool drink with my favorite people and my favorite dog by the river--well, that’s what makes it all worth it.

Cucumber Vodka Tonic

Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Tonic Water
Cucumber
Lime

Muddle a few slices of cucumber in the bottom of your cup. Pour in one to one-and-a-half shots of vodka (a shot is 1.5 oz). Top with a healthy pour of tonic water and a squeeze of a lime wedge. Stir and enjoy.

As you can see I like to keep my drink recipes easy breezy when I’m on the road. Though I’m sure a mixologist would scoff at the idea of imprecise measurements, you have to be realistic when you’re making cocktails outside of a home environment.

A few more tips for making cocktails on the go. If you’re not traveling with a cooler, keep your vodka in the freezer right up until you hit the road. If you don’t want to bring a muddler with you (or don’t have one), consider pre-muddling or pureeing the cucumbers in a blender ahead of time. Throw it in a tupperware or jar and you’re good to go. You can also pre-slice the limes.

One more thing. For the month of August I, in conjunction with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, will be giving you weekly tips for being on the road with dogs (along with awesome drink recipes!). Tito Beveridge, the creator of the vodka, has a real soft spot for dogs. In fact, his distillery outside Austin has dogs everywhere, many of whom wandered on to the property as strays. The company launched a campaign called Vodka For Dog People several years ago and has done amazing work when it comes to spaying/neutering animals and finding them homes. You can read more about it in one of my previous blog posts.

Dogs on the Road Tip #1

Ticks. They are the worst. And with a fluffy long-haired dog like Daisy, I constantly worry that one of them has crawled on her and I’m just not finding it. Usually when we’re jumping in the car for a weekend away, we’re headed somewhere forested, so I am vigilant about checking her for ticks. To do that, run your hands along your dog’s body, feeling for any bumps. Make sure to feel everywhere, including in the ears and armpits, around the face, and in between the toes. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers by grabbing as closely to the dog’s skin as possible and pulling outward in a straight motion. It is a good idea to put the tick in jar with a bit of isopropyl alcohol to kill the tick, that way if your dog shows symptoms of a tick-borne illness, you have something to show the vet. Finish the job off by treating the tick-removal area with an antiseptic.

This post was in partnership with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Seek + Scout!