Weekend at Lake Tahoe

I just returned from a 5-day weekend getaway to Lake Tahoe, which straddles the border between California and Nevada. What can only be described as a breathtaking experience, is in itself an understatement.

Our journey started out last Thursday at 4:30am. We looked at the pros and cons of leaving at such an hour, it really wasn’t so bad in the end; knowing we wouldn’t hit any traffic in Los Angeles, and we would avoid most of the heat of the day from the Eastern Sierras. After a grueling 10 hours (driven entirely by yours truly), we made it to the pristine blue shores of Lake Tahoe at South Lake Tahoe, California. What lay before us is the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest in the United States; it boasts clear blue waters tumbling over large smooth granite boulders, surrounded by pine forests and snow-capped mountains…heaven.

If you’ve never heard of Lake Tahoe, the pictures accompanied by this post should be taken with a grain of salt, as it would seem no photo is worthy of capturing the awe-inspiring beauty that one can only truly experience in person.

Over the course of the next few days we kayaked, hiked, swam, walked, and circumnavigated this lake region. Each town, cove, shore, park and peak offered something different for the senses – a mix of sights, sounds, and smells. My favorite activity I think was hunting down the giant Sugar Pine cones. The Sugar Pine is the tallest and most massive pine tree, and has the longest cones of any conifer – some even being quoted at 26 inches long! I was lucky enough to find one measuring in at just 12 inches in length (and might I add in perfect condition).

Ending our journey, we took an alternate route, following the I5 south from Sacramento back home. We have seen a large area of our new state; not surprisingly, we plan to do a “Californi-cation” every year. Whether it be HWY 1/101, Redwoods, Big Bear Lake, Los Angeles, etc. we will be traversing our great state in some form to discover all of her many facets.

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The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range – Eastern side.

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Lake Tahoe as seen from Logan Shoals Vista Point.

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Chimney Beach area of Lake Tahoe’s Eastern Shore.

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Sugar Pine cone measuring 12 inches in length. 

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Kayaking at Zephyr Cove. 

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Emerald Bay on the California side – southwest corner. 

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Vikingsholm Estate on Emerald Bay 

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Secret Cove / Beach – a naturist/nudist local with crystal blue waters. 

 

Black’s Beach

Most of you have heard of San Diego, California. I would guess that a majority would also have heard of La Jolla, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, etc. I would however bet that most have never heard of Black’s Beach. This stretch of beach north of La Jolla Shores, but south of Torrey Pines is one of Americas far and few between nude/clothing optional beaches.

Many Americans in general I would assume probably balk at the idea of being completely nude in public, much less at a beach. However, I think there is something to it; this idea that being on the beach, the expanse of the ocean in front of you, nothing but a towel between your bottom and the sand, an umbrella between you and the sun filled sky.  All of this opens your mind – you see people as equal – we all have the same parts albeit in a few different shapes, sizes and colors. Overall, I truly believe that these types of situations promote a healthy view of the body; often in our world where perfection is key and having a cookie cutter body is better. Many people develop a complex in which they see airbrushed beauties on magazines covers and can’t help but look in the mirror and see imperfection everywhere.

While I absolutely encourage everyone to live a healthy lifestyle; it is also our duty I think to respect boundaries and promote a healthy, positive body image society regardless of shape, size, color, etc.

Another aspect I enjoy about Black’s is this kind of solitude that I find there. I connect with myself and nature in a way that I’ve never really experienced before. I think it all starts at the top of the make-shift stairs; where one has a view down to the waters below, La Jolla off in the distance, paragliders soaring above. Once you hit the trail and you traverse the man-made steps and well beaten path you realize you aren’t the only one to make this journey today, yesterday or even decades before. You reach the bottom and begin the trek to whichever spot calls your name. It can be very relaxing just to walk the beaches length entirely; gazing up at the cliffs and the surf to your side. You eye up a spot just below the cliffs towards the back, remote and private. Umbrella and towel set up, stripped down to skin; one can now rest and feast their eyes to the waves, the wind in their hair and the sun bathing all in powerful rays.

It’s all very sensory and something that should be noticed in the deepest of details; inhaling and exhaling the breeze of the oceans waves; the fresh taste in the air, sand in your feet, the warmth of your skin, the beads of light and reflection from every surface. It is all to be absorbed.

Pictures below from a recent visit to Black’s. I did have one photo lined up with a very strategically placed beach ball… however I’m not sure how readers would feel. Let me know in the comments your thoughts on tasteful nudes where nothing is showing.

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California Heat, Sunburns & Summer Looks

With much of the American southwest experiencing sweltering temps (even to the point of grounding aircraft), San Diego (which has some of the best weather year-round) on the other hand hovers around the upper 70’s and into the 80’s. Coming from the upper Midwest, the sun to me isn’t something to be avoided in the summer; rather embraced after our long winters. Since coming to Southern California, I have so far fallen victim to the suns intense rays twice (both occasions burning my scalp – which I HIGHLY do not recommend).  It hadn’t set in yet that I am going to be in this type of weather for some time and I better learn to be more cautious and careful with my delicate northern skin. I love the beach and frequent it at least once a week if my schedule allows, however I have been under estimating all the factors around me (only applying SPF 4) and getting too crispy. As of yesterday, I have purchased for the first time in years an SPF 30 sunscreen. It is literally a wake-up call that an umbrella coupled with an SPF lower than 10 just won’t cut it anymore and I am setting myself up for the risk of skin cancer.

That being said, good times are ahead…now that I’m being more sensible with a higher SPF (and wearing a hat).

I hope to roll out a few summer looks within the next few weeks. I have a friend visiting me and so it will offer many opportunities for photos.

Until next time,

W

The House Hunt Begins…

As we round off our first year of living in California, it has become apparent that 1): Housing is expensive 2): We need to get a place of our own. I think this has become more apparent each month; starting out with the cost of our bills from day one, then progressing to our neighbor’s dogs barking at all hours of the day, lastly tenants below us grilling on their balcony (which forces us to close our balcony door). Normally these types of thing don’t get to me, however it just seems like it is becoming more and more intolerable.

My partner and I have concluded that we can only rent one more year before it is time to plant some real roots – ones that will hopefully grow deep over the next 30+ years. Here is where I introduce my good friend Zillow. The housing website has become a small addiction lately; looking at properties, neighborhoods, schools, etc. Luckily we agree for the most part about our top priorities and it’s a short list compared to I think to most couples who are engaging in a house hunt.

Our short list:

Distance: No more than 25 minutes to both of our places of work. This means central San Diego to North County San Diego

Price: With property taxes and insurance, etc. – at or below budget and possibility of some renovations if needed.

3+ Bedrooms / 2+ Bathrooms

Neighborhood / School Quality

2 Car Garage

Lawn (Small/manageable with push mower ideal)

Built 1960 to 1980 (I prefer the appearance of homes that are from the 1970s – but this is a good range for some character).

So far the prospects look good – which is surprising. After looking at Zillow, and scouring a few other realtor sites, I’ve concluded that this might be a straightforward home purchase. Having worked in finance for 10 years I know how hard purchasing a home from start to finish can be. This is coupled with all the stories we have heard from others about house hunting in this Southern California Mecca.

I think people often get discouraged as it is from the thought of house hunting, then again I think some love the thrill of the chase, the adrenaline of finding the place to call home. My partner and I obviously know that we won’t be able to check everything off our list (I for one love the idea of renovating – so I’m more open to ideas than he is), but we at least have a good basis to start.

All in all, there is a little bit of hope in Southern California

Vacation Season

June is literally around the corner and I think to myself it is that time of year again; I call it the fifth season – Vacation Season. Some might say that it coincides with summer, however I define this fifth time of the year from the beginning of May until the end of September. We are currently in the upswing as students are finishing another year of school, and us adults are thinking of far away destinations, or perhaps a stay-cation. June is when it really picks up and people really have vacation on their mind. 

For me this time of year comes after what can be months of planning. Flights are booked, hotels picked, the research has been done; and now it is time to just do. This year for me can only be described as a bumper crop of travels. Starting in February I returned to Germany for 10 days. The ticket was too good to pass up; for a short trip to Europe it was a nice needed break. This however fell outside my normal traveling time and so I will focus on Vacation Season and my travels ahead.

Looking ahead to July, my partner and I have a 4 day stay in Lake Tahoe planned. An 8-hour drive north of us, straddling California and Nevada is North America’s largest Alpine lake. This is a very unplanned vacation for us, as all it requires is the car and a hotel which we’ve already taken care of. For once we are playing everything by ear, no set plans other than when we will arrive and depart the Lake Tahoe area. What we need is some real nature again – having lived in Wisconsin and now San Diego, we are missing the outdoors.

August on the other hand is completely different animal; one that has required the last 6 months of planning. Originally planned for May of 2016, my trip to Sweden and Denmark was cancelled a week before departure (a fact I am still a little sour about) due to our moving to San Diego. However, that trip has been resurrected and we will now be spending a full month in Europe – from Stockholm to Munich. What I can only describe as the longest journey I have yet to plan (and yes I plan/research everything down to the detail), this was a bigger undertaking than any trip prior.

Once we have crossed the fly-over states and wide ocean; 10 hours later we land in Stockholm, spending a full 7 days in the Swedish capital (including Mariefred and Uppsala). Crossing the Oresund via train, Copenhagen gets 1 ½ days of sightseeing before we are whisked away to Berlin for 4 ½ days. After Berlin, we board a train bound for Munich and southern Germany. The bulk of our time (13 full days) will be spent visiting family and friends besides sightseeing (mainly for my partner, as I have been to Munich/Bavaria many times).

This may all seem straightforward, however think about the journey times between these destinations, coordinating trains, etc. It is a bit daunting keeping it all organized, and with a less-flexible itinerary; it requires a lot of research as to when everything is open, how much it all costs, etc. Nonetheless I am beyond excited, as most of the work is already done; and now one can truly enjoy a very stress free getaway (with hopefully very few unwanted surprises).

Anza-Borrego

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To the people of Southern California this winter season has brought a generous amount of rain – and it has been well received. Following years of drought, California has now received enough rain to fill her reservoirs and have water to spare – relieving much of the state from severe drought conditions. Another added benefit of all that rain combined with the many days of sunshine is the super-blooms seen across many deserts in the state. Anzo-Borrego State Park had people literally lining up to see the epic super-bloom that has lasted from the end of February and into March.

Glasses: Ted Baker 

Button Down: J.Crew

Jeans: Tom Tailor Denim

Boots: Palladium 

Looking past the façade of San Diego…

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Having moved recently to the San Diego area from the Upper Midwest, I sometimes find it to be extremely difficult to be in this new place I call “home”. I like having four distinct seasons, I love having lush greenery and placid lakes around me, and I miss the slower paced life that was my hometown and surrounding state of Wisconsin. Oddly enough I never really think of the United States or American as my nationality and always seem to run away from being the typical American.

I am as I’ve mentioned a traveler; and anybody who can relate, all share the standard trait of wanderlust. I used to travel on average once a year to Europe, and this year I had to cancel my pre-booked trip a week before departure due to moving to California (ugh the disappointment).

So what does this all have to do with San Diego and this supposed façade? Well, when you not only have to cancel a vacation to a place where you feel most comfortable, and you leave your hometown and state, you are no longer surrounded with landscapes that you enjoy; the place you move to becomes your enemy and you no longer find it appealing. It seemed to me that everyone believed that San Diego is a piece of some glamorous SoCal life. In my mind I thought that this place was filled with people who are too busy and self-obsessed, the lifestyle is super exaggerated and overrated (and horribly expensive), the landscape is boring and brown (the palm trees are awesome I will say) and that I couldn’t come to terms with calling this place “my home”.  How could I relate to a place that I quietly disdained because of inner bias and judgement?

It finally came to me this weekend while at Balboa Park; and it seems to me that the façade I had placed on San Diego has been lifted. I realized that it is going to take more time to meet people and form bonds here, after all it is a huge city and I came from a town of 3,600. Second, the weather is great (still finding it hard to accept no snow or cold in November and onward through winter). Lastly, has anyone ever been to Nice, France? What about Valencia, Spain? It took some actual looking around for me to realize that I am living a semi-European life right here in Southern California. Take a moment to Google images of Nice and Valencia, and you will see a lot of similarities with San Diego. This is by no means a substitute for going abroad; if you are however trying to give a new place a chance and are struggling, then seeing the similarities to other places you would enjoy can help. Now mind you the south of France is probably just as expensive as SoCal, but it was a mindset that I would love to go there, but I’m living it right here and now.  If I could accept the south of France so easily, well then it could be twice as easy to accept Southern California.

Outfit:

Glasses: See Eyewear

Polo: Uniqlo

Messenger Bag: Tom Tailor

Pants: Gap Skinny Khaki

Shoes: Palladium