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!