California 2022: Part 3!

From beaches to snowy slopes to spring mountain meadows to more Redwood forests…away we go!!


There are a number of towns/neighborhoods scattered around and just outside of Santa Cruz proper that have their own thing going on – separate little downtowns, squares, beaches, etc. One of these that we’ve checked out a few times is Capitola, CA! Capitola is situated right where Soquel Creek meets the Monterey Bay, so it’s a unique beach spanning either side of the stream, small enough to walk across and stand in if you want. We enjoyed this cute area with a interesting shops, restaurants, and colorful beach homes lining the shore. It was a very family- friendly beach.

One of our favorite weekend trips this past spring has been skiing in Lake Tahoe…and of course we are both biased having been Coloradoans for 7 years and being total ski-bum snow bunnies. Our first stop on the way to our mountainside cabin Airbnb was the town of Truckee and Fifty Fifty Brewing! David had no idea this brewery was located here until a week before we left and he was stoked. This brewery has been making one of the best bourbon barrel aged stouts in the land for a long time – The Eclipse. Every bottle is capped then wax dipped to seal it completely. The color of the wax tells you what variant it is, and they change the colors change every year. We discovered Eclipse at our very first GABF in Denver, so it’s a really cool feeling to “complete the circle” and finally make it to one of the renowned breweries we’d been wondering about for years. We told our server that story and she also was geeked out about it. Craft beer nerds live everywhere! It was also exciting that they had the base stout fresh at the brewery. Nummy nummy. We bought a couple different bottles…

This was our first time skiing in California. Also first time hitting the slopes since before we backpacked South America, so likely it’s been since the spring of 2019. We’ve both missed this most epic recreational activity so very much… being amongst the snowy mountaintops again felt like coming home.

Granted, with your ski legs, if you don’t use them…you lose them!! Oh man, we were soooore. Gabrielle especially almost died the first day, her muscles were on FIRE (i.e. the “collapsed on couch w/ cheetos” pic below). David says it’s like riding a bike. You don’t forget how to ride but you just don’t have the stamina you used to have. Needless to say, the hot tub at our cabin was a godsend after both full ski days. 

Just this past year, the company that owns the Ikon Pass properties bought Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley resorts, renaming and rebranding Squaw to Olympic Valley (Squaw hosted the 1960 winter olympics). They are currently in construction connecting the two resorts via a 2 mile gondola to create the 3rd largest ski resort in North America named Palisades Tahoe. 

We did the first day at Alpine, the second at Olympic Valley. Our morning at Alpine was cloud covered and a tad windy, but we didn’t mind in the slightest because it brought the welcome gift of fresh flurries and powder skiing! Always a good thing. 

These are our first views we got of Lake Tahoe from up top, seen through the clouds – so mystical!

The clouds had mostly cleared up by the afternoon, and we just continued to marvel at the vibrant, delicious blues of Lake Tahoe dominating the skyline to the East.

Our day at Olympic Valley dawned clear and sunny, which was a nice change because we got to have sweeping vistas ALL day in every direction. Lucky for the day before’s teensy snowstorm, our skiing this day still had some untouched areas and wasn’t as “crunchy” as it would have been on month-old snow 😉

Olympic Valley is also considerably larger than Alpine, so we had a lot more ground to cover. Siberia Bowl was our favorite area – the snow was the best here, the views spectacular. A number of the photos below are from the top of the Siberia Express lift. 

It was a magical weekend. 

Always the seekers of an Après-ski, we wandered into a retro-looking place called The Loft Bar. Found out it was THE old school hangout spot! Been around since they hosted the winter olympics. The outside bar was bumping so we ventured upstairs to find this: 

They had a ton of olympic memorabilia and old ski equipment displayed. The Après experience of sitting, cheersing, and looking out the windows at the slopes we were just on as the endorphins still pump through in your veins…it’s incredibly satisfying and brings a calm that is deeply rooted. Be sure to clock our very red windburnt faces.

Sitting clean and freshly showered in the cabin on our last night (post-hot tub), tummies full (had just devoured some pizza), and totally pooped…Gabrielle suggested we go out and grab a dessert at a place on the lake for the final cherry on top of the trip. Because, you know, skiing just makes you want to eat and eat and then eat some more. Plus, we hadn’t yet seen the lake at night. We roused ourselves and drove just down the road to the first place that looked like a local spot that wasn’t a chain restaurant. 

The location was Sunnyside Restaurant & Lodge. Our chosen dessert to share was called “Hula Pie” – macadamia nut ice cream with hot fudge and chocolate cookie crust. No one told us it was going to be ENORMOUS. We ate it all. The ambiance of the calm lake at evening was lovely.

Another weekend this spring we drove north, crossed the Golden Gate, and spent a few days in Petaluma and Santa Rosa. The downtown area of Petaluma is centered partly around a river canal that snakes through before it heads southeast to San Pablo Bay. We walked the streets, eyed some restaurants and decided to come back for breakfast. But for now it was on to… you guessed it! More breweries! 

We had gotten a recommendation from a fellow beer lover to visit Hen House Brewing when we made it to Petaluma. David loved that they brought us out the taster tray on the patio and the beertender gave us a very professional rundown of the entire tray with short histories of each beer, ABVs, IBUs, & tasting notes! Beer was impressive, and they are ALL about having the freshest beer. They pull their beer from the shelves more quickly than any other brewery we know of, so if you see it in store, you KNOW it’s going to be fresh – it’s made for a solid local following. Cool marketing idea!

We toured the Lagunitas Chicago location years ago and of course their beer is everywhere now thanks to Heineken (who now owns them completely). Needless to say, however, the original Lagunitas in Petaluma is still a must-stop. One could tell our waiter had been there a while and he hooked us up with as many splashes as we wanted! He even gave us the extra tap handle sticker for the new sour they had just tapped: Foederfied Aunt Sally! Be sure to note the skeleton in the hoop swinging from the ceiling of the quirky taproom.

The next morning we had breakfast at River Front Cafe downtown on the river! Now time to head north again to Santa Rosa to try and meet up with one of Gabrielle’s old coworkers.

We had some time to kill before she was available so we stopped at a regional park called Taylor Mountain. Hiking up through the cliffs sides that gave way to amazing meadows of wild flowers in many different colors and nice views of Santa Rosa.

Unfortunately Gabrielle’s coworker couldn’t make it out but we still had a grand time seeing Santa Rosa and going in the coolest Barnes and Noble ever! Also the amount of Redwoods that line the streets of the downtown there is impressive. 

Does anybody know what Santa Rosa is famous for? Well you can google that if you want but for David it’s Russian River Brewing Company! Back in the day a Russian River beer was a mystical beer of legend that one would only be so lucky to behold (get it? “be hold…ing?” HA). Known in the industry for brewing and producing some of the best IPAs out there, Russian River’s most well-known beers would likely be the flagship Pliny the Elder, found most everywhere, and its cousin, the rare Pliny the Younger as well as Bling Pig. The Younger only comes out once a year, and people stand in line and buy tickets for a single glass. Only a select few taprooms anywhere get a barrel of it, and it’s gone usually the weekend it comes out. Russian River also makes barrel-aged sours that are amazing. This brewery has won more awards over the years than I dare to list. And if I haven’t hyped up RRBC enough, wait till you see the biggest taster tray ever! 

Since we always say what our top 3 favs are, this time we decided to say top 5. It turned out we both picked Beatification as our #1 and the girl at the table next to us asked us which one we chose because she wanted it after watching us dissect this monster tray. Food was also really good, so we highly recommend for the kitchen eats as well. Just another one of the GOATs checked off the list!

A different weekend we hiked around Loch Lomond recreation area just north of Felton in the Santa Cruz Mountains. David had just gotten his new Google Pixel 6 Pro and the camera is ridiculously good for a phone camera so time to try it out! Great hike, lots of views and wildlife: A turkey napping in the middle of the trail that David thought was leaves and almost stepped on, bright yellow banana slugs, raptors, lots of fish, deer, lizards, and a baby rattlesnake! 

Believe it or not, we’ve actually dialed back the RV traveling a bit this summer, especially trips that are longer drives. With how high gas prices have been and inflation running rampant, the miles and excursions were definitely taking a toll on our wallets. RVs already get very little MPG, and on top of the inflation I already mentioned there is just the fact that California prices of you-name-it are just flat out higher than anywhere else. It’s no joke.

Nevertheless! We’ve found our summer happy vibes in the South Bay/Monterey Bay areas without having to look too far or try too hard 🙂 There’s always something happening. Our summer has – for the large part – been marked by peace, reflection, fun spontaneity, welcome rest, and ocean.

Always the ocean.

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