SUP Adventure on Lake Tahoe

IMG_4378My favorite thing to do in the summer in Lake Tahoe is anything a the Lake! When I moved back to the ‘mainland’ from Hawaii being near water was of utmost priority and this is a main reason that my husband and I chose to restart our lives in Lake Tahoe.  Right before I moved to Lake Tahoe the stand up paddle boarding (SUP) craze was taking flight and I jumped on the board… literally.  I first learned to SUP in Maui and was thrilled that it was an activity I could take with me when I moved to Lake Tahoe.  I have been enjoying SUP’ing in Lake Tahoe every summer since and here I want to share with you my favorite SUP adventure.

My favorite is to take a trip from Sand Harbor State Beach to Thunderbird Lodge along the East Shore in Lake Tahoe.   Start by traveling to Sand Harbor State Beach, park in the parking lot and bring your equipment to the sandy shore.  Hop on your board and begin heading south along the East Shore.  As you glide on top of the waters enjoying views of the sandy beach bottom below you will quickly travel past the buoys reaching deeper blue waters.  As you hug the coast you will enjoy various shades of blue as the depths of the Lake change below you. One of my favorite spots is just outside Sand Harbor where the waters are crystal clear blue where sand lies below surrounded by dark blue IMG_4448waters of the giant rocks below.   Half way to the Thunderbird Lodge there is a popular rocky beach and swimming area before you enter the deep blue waters of the cove approaching the historic mansion.  As you sail close to the famous Thunderbird Lodge you will get a insider view of the famous compound including the boat house, lighthouse, private beach, main house and its gardens.  The day I visited I was spectating alongside two other famous boats – the Sierra Cloud Catamaran and the Grand-Craft Wild Goose II, obviously the place to be for the day!  From here I turn around and head back to Sand Harbor and return up the East Shore.   The entire trip takes about 45-mins to an hour each way for a total of 2 hrs.  Once you are back at the beach, ditch your board and enjoy swimming, sunbathing or various games at this spectacular beach for a perfect day at Lake Tahoe.

No description will do it justice so watch my video below and see the beauty of this SUP adventure from Sand Harbor State Beach to the Thunderbird Lodge along the East Shore of Lake Tahoe:

I see a lot of people trying to SUP or wanting to try it but afraid to and really it’s quite easy!  Here are a few tips that I learned that may help you!

  • A body in motion….. will stay in motion! – This is the most common mistake I see – don’t try to start standing on the board from a still position.  Often you will teeter back and forth until you loose your balance and fall, instead sit on your knees and paddle until the board is sailing across the water smoothly and then try to stand up!
  • Don’t look down! – This is the #2 mistake and is very easy to do.  Looking down makes it easier to loose your balance and distracts you.  Instead, look ahead at 12 o’clock and scan the horizon back and forth.
  • Calm waters – This is a no brainer!  Don’t try to learn in choppy, windy waters.  Instead start in calm, smooth waters making it a lot easier to learn and giving you confidence.
  • Boards matters – I often see people new to the sport buying expensive boards that they don’t need.  Guess what?  These expensive boards are often harder to learn with because they are thinner.  Instead, get a thicker, sturdy board and a soft-top if you can.  They have better grip and more durable to transport.
  • Take a lesson – My first SUP experience was with a friend who was an instructor and it made all the difference to know where to stand on the board and how to grip the paddle.  This 1-2 hour lesson is money well spent and will save you hours of falling in the water!

IMG_4571There are great local outfitters in the North Lake Tahoe region where you can rent SUP boards and take lessons as well as sign up for private and group excursions.  A few in particular I recommend are: Adrift Tahoe in Kings Beach, Tahoe Adventure Company in Tahoe City and Action Water Sports of Incline Village.

Have you ever enjoyed a stand up paddle boarding adventure on Lake Tahoe? If so, share in the comments below your favorite adventures to enjoy!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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The Sky is the Limit with Blue Sky Events

Robin Endicott and Mitch wedding Regan Beach and EdgewoodLake Tahoe is a perfect destination to celebrate “I do” amongst your family, friends and loved ones.  Celebrating 250+ days of bright blue skies, picturesque snow-capped mountain backdrops, lakeside beach ceremony stages and cool, crisp evenings it makes for the BEST destination wedding location.  So I do have to preface  that I am a bit biased since Lake Tahoe also happens to be the location where I chose to marry four years ago along the shores of Edgewood Tahoe Golf Resort.  But planning a destination wedding isn’t easy and I couldn’t have done it without the professional planning and expertise of Kerry Hawk and her team at Blue Sky Events.

wedding robin mitch 061409When I became engaged I was living in Maui, Hawaii but my husband and I decided to plan a destination wedding celebration in Lake Tahoe since it is a special place to us.  Attempting to plan from afar and not familiar with the wedding players in Lake Tahoe, I knew immediately I would need assistance.  I also knew that being someone who had worked in the luxury hospitality market for years prior, I wasn’t going to be the easiest of customers.  I knew what I wanted, was overly detailed by nature and that nearly anything was possible.  Enters Kerry Hawk and team to save the day!

Over the next 6 months+ Kerry and I arranged conference calls where we began creating my perfect day 2,500 miles apart.  I had hired Blue Sky Events to assist with pre-event planning as well as on-site coordination on our wedding day. Kerry was readily able to answer all my wedding planning questions and provide perfect local solutions for all of my needs.   She knew the region like the back of her hand and had key partnerships with reliable local vendors whom I ultimately choose my stylist, florist and cake designer from her sacred “list”.  Beyond the usual responsibilities and tasks expected from a wedding coordination team, Kerry personally went above and beyond the call of duty which I want to share with you here.

wedding robin mitch 061409First, since my husband and I had met and were currently living in Maui yet hosting our ceremony on the ‘mainland’ we wanted to incorporate a traditional island ritual into our special day.  Specifically, we wanted to include a Hawaiian lei ritual into our ceremony.  After calling dozens of florists, I learned that they really didn’t have access to the tropical flowers needed to make authentic leis.  I found a company in Maui that would FedEx real Hawaiian leis for our ceremony but there was one big glitch.  They wouldn’t ship them to a hotel (which is where we would be staying) yet only to a home residence since upon delivery they had to immediately be refrigerated and stored.  After searching for a solution Kerry immediately stepped in and offered to have them delivered to her personal residence!  To say the least, the leis were delivered, stored and transported by Kerry successfully and were an integral part of our ceremony.  These special leis are wedding robin mitch 061409dried and still hang in my house today!

The big day arrived.  And of course… there is always at least one thing (if your lucky!) that goes not as planned.  For us it was our DJs who were NOT one of the recommended vendors on Kerry’s list – lesson learned!  In short, they were terrible – late, without our extensive list of preselected wedding songs and totally clueless.  At one point in the night they were actually sitting at the bar!  The great news ….is that I barely noticed thanks to Kerry Hawk.  I will never forget walking into our reception as Kerry calmly walked alongside me reassuring me not to worry but purposefully asked what our signature first dance song selections were because the DJ didn’t have them!  Later, I learned that Kerry had downloaded the songs to her iPod and had them playing on queue so that no one besides us ever knew what had happened.  This woman could simply do it all!

Photo from Blue SkyI had the privilege of recently reconnecting with Kerry to ask her about what projects she and Blue Sky Events were currently working on and where she sees the future of her company headed.  I learned that Blue Sky Events has expanded immensely into the incentive and corporate event planning realm in addition to their full-time wedding coordination business.  Jason Hawk, Kerry’s husband, has also joined the company and is now co-owner greatly contributing to the expansion of their business into corporate and resort event management.  As part of their event management portfolio they have added a roster of events including the annual Tahoe Snowcial, Discount Tires annual incentive trip with over 500 attendees and are the preferred event planning team for on and off snow events for Heavenly Mountain Resort just to name a few.  Blue Sky Events also plans the Tahoe South Heavenly Holidays for a two week run of events in the Heavenly Village, that culminates on New Years Eve with an event bringing in thousands of attendees loaded with entertainment and the worlds only Gondola Ball Drop and Fireworks!  Quite the Lake Tahoe local superstar planners.

Tahoe Snowcial - MC Hammer

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 2.05.50 PMWhen asked what contributes to her success, Kerry emphasized the ability to pull from so many resources within the area thanks to the well-established relationships they have created – a key success factor when operating in a small region like ours.  Kerry sees the future of their company continuing to “give amazing service to all people visiting the Lake Tahoe region to ensure that their time is well spent while here” and hopes to create a unique, annual festival all of their own!  Can’t wait to see what Kerry, Jason and Blue Sky Events have in the making!

Do you have a wedding, special event or corporate conference that you need assistance with planning?  Do as I did to ensure a flawless experience by consulting with Kerry and Jason Hawk at Blue Sky Events.  You will never look back.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Photo credits:  Kerry Hawk & Robin Penning

My Favorite – The Five Lakes Hike

Hiking in Lake Tahoe is one of the top attractions visitors and locals enjoy throughout the basin.  There are hundreds of miles of trails to choose from and explore, but year after year my favorite hike to enjoy each summer is the Five Lakes Hike on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.

The Five Lakes Trail is located in the Granite Chief Wilderness in between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski resorts and is easily accessible at the intersection of Alpine Meadows and Deer Park roads.  The 5-mile moderate trail ascends approximately 900-1000 ft. along granite canyons and pine forests to a high-altitude meadow that creates a bowl of five lakes in between the rugged mountain peaks towering from above including a peak of Squaw Valley ski resort.  As you ascend the trail, you will enjoy view of the Alpine Meadows ski resort from a distance, traverse under an abandon ski resort chair lift (said to be created to link the two ski resorts at one time) and climb along the rocky, granite cliff until you pass a waterfall and reach the high-altitude meadow.  The hike takes only about one-hour to reach the meadow and lakes but I recommend spending at least a 1/2-day on the trail in order to fully explore and enjoy the lakes above.  Since it is such a popular hike, the trail can become crowded, especially on weekends, but not to worry as there are plenty of nooks and coves to relax, picnic, swim and even fish in the lakes.

Check out a video of my recent trips along the Five Lakes Hike in Lake Tahoe and learn tips and see pictures of this gorgeous trail!

A few local tips on the Five Lakes Hike:  

  • Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen!  This hike is primarily exposed and can be very hot during the midday until you reach the shady meadows above
  • Pack lots of water and snacks.  As you quickly ascend the trail it is roughly a 2.5-mile straight climb until you reach the top.  The added elevation factor in the mountains can surprise out-of-town visitor
  • Sometimes finding all 5 lakes can be tricky but take your time enjoying and exploring the high elevation meadows and trails connecting the lakes throughout.
  • Worth the wait!  Due to its high elevation, I recommend enjoying this hike later in the summer season as high-altitude snow is likely to remain throughout spring.  One year over 4th of July friends and I did this hike and there was still snow covering the trail and the lakes were frozen over!

To learn more about this popular trail visit this online trail guide that including stage by stage directions as well as this complete review in SFGate.com.  Have you ever hiked Five Lakes?  If so do you have any tips to share on how to find all five lakes? Please share them in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Truckee Thursday Time!

Truckee Thursday ReturnsThis past Thursday evening Truckee-Tahoe locals from all around gathered to welcome back a favorite summer event, Truckee Thursday!  Every Thursday evening from 5-9pm this summer until August 29th locals will gather to eat, drink, shop and reunite on the city blocks of downtown historic Truckee, CA  for this weekly celebration.  Hosted by the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association, Truckee Thursdays are a fantastic way for visitors,  locals and businesses to reunite and celebrate their local community.

Truckee Thursday ReturnsSo what exactly is Truckee Thursdays?   Picture farmer’s market meets street party in the mountains.  The downtown blocks of historic Truckee are closed to vehicle traffic for the evening and in its place local merchants including farmers, artisans, crafters and restaurants and invited to secure booths to feature their products, services and culinary arts.  It is great event celebrated by guests of all ages from newborns to seniors and even dogs are welcome!

Truckee Thursday Returns
Allow me to take you on a quick tour of my usual visit to Truckee Thursday to give you a better picture.  I usually carpool with friends and park in either the lot on East River Street (if it isn’t full already) or along the street.  First stop, I like perusing the local vendor booths set up in the street selling fruits and vegetables along with crafts such as candles, jewelry and home furnishings – perfect for gifts!  These vendors often leave on the early side so it is good to go there first.  Then after a bit of shopping, I head to the beer garden to grab a draft, meet up with friends and listen to the guest band performance.  By now I have worked up an appetite and head to the food trucks and stations to see what looks good for the evening.  My two favorites… anything from Red Truck or the famed Tri-Trip sandwich from Full Belli Deli (both pictured below).  End your evening with one of the many sweet treats available including crepes, chocolate covered frozen bananas on a stick or ice cream that you can find throughout.  As the sun sets, temperatures drop and the Truckee Thursday celebration winds down, if you aren’t quite ready to go home I recommend continuing the party at the historic Bar of America in the hub of downtown Truckee.

Truckee Thursday ReturnsTruckee Thursday ReturnsEach week at Truckee Thursday presents a local merchant sponsor along with a non-profit partner band showcasing the main stage in the beer gardens.  Check their website for the schedule of events of sponsors including Burger Me!, Northstar California and California 89 to see what lies ahead this summer at Truckee Thursday.

This season, Truckee Thursday also announced a few new additions to their line-up!  New is a second ‘corner stage’ on the corner of Bridge Street and Donner Pass Road and enjoy Bike Valet hosted by the Truckee Thursday ReturnsTruckee Donner Historical Society so you can ride your bikes and avoid the parking jam.  New lifestyle and apparel store, California 89, will also be featuring movies for downtown visitors seeking a break from the busy street action.  I also heard rumor that for those residents living in Tahoe Donner, a new shuttle route has been added to transport residents after Truckee Thursday events.  Can anyone confirm if this is true?!

 A few local tips to enjoy the BEST evening at Truckee Thursday.  Be sure to arrive earlier in order to find parking as it fills up fast!  Bring cash as that is all most vendors accept.  Another good reason to come early is that the best food will sell-out fast and you won’t want to miss it!  Carpooling helps with parking AND be sure to have a safe and sober driver with you if you plan on drinking.

If you frequent Truckee Thursday, what do you most look forward to buying, eating, sipping while you are there? Share your comments below.  I hope to see you next Thursday!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Truckin’ the Truckee River

images2With summer in full swing in Lake Tahoe I was thrilled to hear last night that one of my FAVORITE summer activities had reopened for the summer, and early this season too!  I am so excited – I had to share information with you about my previous experiences here!  Whether you are traveling by a large commercial blue raft, personal inner tube or maneuvering on a kayak, “floating” the Truckee River is a quintessential summer activity to enjoy with family, friends or your significant other.   It’s also an annual tradition in Lake Tahoe that locals and visitors have been enjoying for decades.

The Truckee River is the only outlet of Lake Tahoe, the second largest Alpine Lake in North America, which begins at the fork in Tahoe City at Fanny Bridge.  Start your day by heading to Tahoe City where the East  and North Shores of Lake Tahoe meet.  Be sure to grab supplies along the way including drinks, picnic lunch, sunscreen, coolers, floating devices (if you aren’t interested in renting) and maybe even some super soakers if you are planning to make some new friends along the float.  There are two most popular methods of floating – personal oversized inner tubes which can be purchased for about $25 at various convenience and grocery stores or you can rent large, commerical rafts from the Truckee River Raft Company right at the start of the River in Tahoe City.

Truckee River Raft Company is the original and most popular rafting supplier in the area whose individual and group tours provide options for any and all interested floaters.  Rentals include free parking, shuttle bus, paddles, and life jackets for rafters 2 years and older. They also have the best equipment with all rafts being large, sturdy, commercial white water grade and comfortable to fit 2-20 people.  I definitely recommend them for families, large groups and first-time floaters!

Along the 5-mile, 2-3 hr float you will be entertained with many sights, thanks to both the scenic beauty surrounding you as well as the diversity of fellow floaters alongside you.  The river weaves through tall pine trees, varies between shallow sandy portions and deep, rocky emerald waters, tall grasses, ducks under wooden bridges, introduces sandy beaches great for picnic lunches and glides along the bike path as well as Highway 89 to your right.  During a day on the river you are likely to meet visitors and locals of all ages and purpose.  You will meet multi-generational families on family summer vacations, romantic couples and rowdy entourages setting up “party” camp along beaches and shallow portions of the river.  I have seen it all… from floating small Weber BBQs to queen-size bed air mattresses as floating devices, you will be sure to be entertained by the sites around you.

images3Celebrate the end of your journey, dry-off and reward yourself with food and drinks at River Ranch Lodge and Restaurant at the entrance to Alpine Meadows, where floaters must stop their journey along this section of the Truckee River.  Enjoy your return to dry ground and watch the other adventurers rush down the last and largest section of rapids into the large pool of emerald waters in front of the restaurant’s large viewing and sunning deck (shown to the right).  Then, when you are ready, pile your equipment and damp belongings into busses provided by Truckee River Raft Company to shuttle you back to your vehicle at the beginning of the river.

Have you floated the Truckee River before or plan to do so this summer?  Share your experiences and preferred flotation vessel to use along your journey in the comments below.  Look forward to seeing you on the river this summer!

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Photo 1, Photo 2

Midsummer Night Dreams Come True!

IMG_1909Picture yourself sitting in a beach chair, your toes in the sand, sipping on a glass of your favorite wine while you nibble on tasty cheese and crackers, listening to the waves clap against the sand in the background.  Just another day at the beach in Lake Tahoe?  No way!  Instead you are sitting amongst an audience under the stars at Sand Harbor State Park enjoying a live performance of William Shakespeare’s as part of Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.  And the best part, you don’t even have to be a fan of Shakespeare’s work to have an extraordinary time.

Last year marked my first visit to the amphitheater at Sand Harbor where I immediately became enchanted by the venue and its magical performance full of music, singing, costumes, theater and even… a dog amongst the cast members in last year’s rendition of Two Gentlemen of Verona.  Upon return home that evening, I jumped online and quickly purchased tickets to return to the performance later in the season since I had such a remarkable time.  Even my husband loved going and Shakespeare is not his typical cup of tea.

Each year the cast at Sand Harbor performs a different Shakespeare classic.  This upcoming summer they will feature one of my all-time favorites, A Midsummer Night’s Dreama perfect fit for this venue along the shores of Lake Tahoe.  A famous Shakespearean classic, this comedy celebrates the story of love, mischief and magic. Not your traditional screening, this season’s Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s rendition is inspired by a rock ‘n’ roll infused 1960s London culture which is sure to be the biggest craze in Lake Tahoe this summer.  I can’t WAIT to go see it.

So I realize that there may be some of you that I haven’t yet convinced.  That you may still be traumatized from your high school English teachers when it comes to anything Shakespeare related.  Don’t worry, you can still enjoy this remarkable venue which offers a wide variety of performances all summer long.  Others include:  The Reno Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Broadway on the Beach, the Reno Chamber Orchestra’s performance of Classical Music Under the Stars with the Nevada Chamber Music Festival at the Lake, the Sierra Nevada Ballet’s rendition of Coppelia,  The Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess by the Reno Jazz Orchestra, Les Miserables in Concert performed by TOCCATA and the 2013 Lake Tahoe Summerfest.  Talk about a line-up.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival performances run from mid-July through the end of August and are presented on a stage whose backdrop is Lake Tahoe along the East Shore at Sand Harbor State Park.  The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is a nonprofit organization established for the cultural benefit and entertainment of all visitors and residents to the region.  It began in 1972 and was originally hosted at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the opposite side of Lake Tahoe until four years later it was relocated to Sand Harbor State Park where it has been held ever since.

The venue includes a large amphitheater with stadium seating amongst the sandy hillside overlooking Lake Tahoe.  Facilities include ample parking, restrooms and delicious culinary options provided by Brimm’s catering, a full-bar and even table service depending on which section you purchase your seats.  You can learn everything that you need to know about the venue including seating maps and how to book your ticket’s on the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival website.

Have you been to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival before? Which Shakespeare play or live concert performance would you like to see at Sand Harbor State Beach this summer?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Opening Day to Bike & Hike at Northstar California

547284_349278815154232_1618896414_nWith temperatures around the basin heating up and the sun slipping behind the mountains later each day, it is no secret – summertime has arrived in Lake Tahoe.  What does that mean besides BBQs, beach days and summer weekend traffic? It means that resorts and vendors throughout the basin will begin launching their summer schedule of activity programs.

A big player in the region did just that today.  Northstar California owned by Vail Resorts starting turning their chairlifts again, celebrating the opening day of their downhill mountain bike park and trail lift access for the summer season.

Northstar California is home to Northern California’s largest mountain bike park offering beginner to advanced cross country and downhill mountain biking trails, bike rentals and repair, lift access throughout the resort and its own Bike Academy.  Whether you are an expert or a novice downhill mountain biker like me, this place has something for you.  The ultimate perk, with lift access you can cut out 1/2 the work by riding the chair lifts up the mountain alongside your bike and focus your time and energy on enjoying the thrill of riding down the mountain instead.

My personal favorite and recommendation for beginners is to sign-up for a lesson with Northstar’s Bike Academy Bike 101 program.  It’s the perfect introduction to both mountain biking as well as the resort terrain teaching you all the basic skills needed, familiarity with the equipment 2013-summer-trail-mapand safety instructions.  The Bike 101 program includes half-day bike rental, safety gear and helmet as well as a lift ticket to enjoy the mountain which you can explore all day after your lesson.  I tried the experience last summer, loved it and looking forward to returning this year.  The staff is phenomenal, well versed in mountain biking techniques as well as knowledge of the mountain.

Also, if you have never ridden a chairlift in the summertime, frankly you’re missing out.  Most associate chairlifts with wintertime activities, but here you can enjoy the gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and glimpses of nearby Lake Tahoe all summer long on the hiking trails of Northstar California.  With three main chairlift access open including the Gondola, Tahoe Zephyr Express or Vista Express chairlifts, families and friends can explore the mountainside enjoying scenic views of Lake Tahoe, Martis Valley and the Sierra Crest of in the distance.  Easy lift access, clearly marked trails and parameters of the resort, make it easy for out-of-town families to explore hiking trails safely and with more familiarity than in the open, backcountry of the basin.

Afraid you and your kids might get hooked?  No problem, Northstar California offers competitive season passes packages allowing guests to enjoy access to the biking trails and hiking trails all summer long through September.  Learn more about mountain bike and hiking pass pricing as well as season passes.   Also learn more about the resort’s hours of operations as well as answers to all of your questions about the mountain experience.

Do you enjoy downhill mountain biking and if so, where are your favorite places to ride in Lake Tahoe? Please share your feedback in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Photo Credit 2