Revisiting favorite ski resorts with some ability challenges

Revisiting favorite ski resorts with some ability challenges

 

Wide-open spaces is what West Bowl at Sierra-at-Tahoe is now all about. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s like riding a bike.

I lost count of how many people told me that before I hit the slopes last month for the first time in more than six years.

They were right. Just like when I’m on my ebike on a mountain bike trail I seem to fall at least once. Same with skiing. Only I did it after being stopped. It’s like I just fell over. I laughed while my friend looked at me wondering what the heck just happened.

I will tell you it’s easier to get up after a mountain bike fall than a skiing tumble. I didn’t remember it being any big deal to pop up after falling in the snow. Apparently, I don’t pop up anymore. I wriggle, and laugh and wonder, like my friend, what the hell is happening here.

Darla Sadler finds some soft snow to ski through at Sierra on Jan. 23. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This is my friend, Darla, who I grew up skiing with. She’s a beautiful skier. So fluid, and seemingly effortless. I’ve never demonstrated those traits on skis. Even less so in January. It was obvious I was rusty.

We spent a day at Sierra-at-Tahoe and a day at Palisades Tahoe. Both were working ski days for me. I know, tough job. Sierra was always my favorite resort when I lived in South Lake Tahoe. Palisades was my favorite growing up in the Bay Area. Both are places where Darla and I have had countless days of fun.

Wow. It’s the simplest word I have to describe West Bowl at Sierra. I stopped, paused, looked all around, took deep breaths with tears in my eyes before pushing on to the lift.

The devastation from the 2021 Caldor Fire is profound. It ripped through this ski resort near Echo Summit with such intensity that the landscape is forever changed. It will never be the same ski resort. So much of the tree skiing is gone as well as the stashes of powder that could linger for days after a storm. That’s because the trees are gone—all 34,000 of them.

My profound visceral experience surprised me. I have driven through the burn area multiple times. I’ve hiked parts of it. I’ve mountain biked in the burn. Something, though, about skiing at Sierra jarred me. Thinking about it still moves me.

Kae figuring out what to do on the slopes. (Image: Darla Sadler)

I used to have a ritual where I would start at the farthest run off West Bowl, then ski each one. This was my favorite area of the mountain. On this particular day, while the coverage was good, the conditions varied. It was slick on many of the West Bowl runs because the wind blows through there like never before. Other runs were left ungroomed, but this was not a powder day so we opted not to try them.

I need to go again. To see how this area really skis. This one experience was not enough.

In the past I also enjoyed a ton of runs off the Grandview lift. On this particular day I was not about to go on any black diamonds. I’ve never been an advanced skier, but I could always get down just about anything. I knew better than to test my luck that day. Nonetheless, we found plenty of fun groomed runs off Grandview, where the conditions were wonderful. Not a single complaint—other than my ability being subpar.

Even more amazing is how the fire swept through this area. At a point near the top of the Grandview lift it’s impossible (honest) to not know such a devastating fire hit the resort. Trees were tall, with boughs covered in snow. It was just like I remembered.

Between Grandview and West Bowl it was as though I had skied two extremely different resorts, and, yet, this was still the one wonderful Sierra-at-Tahoe. It’s always been one of my favorite resorts. If I were still living at Lake Tahoe (or even still considered myself a regular skier), this is where I would still go. I’d take the time to learn how it skis post-fire, find which runs would be my new favorites. Maybe discover new trees to schuss through.

Kae Reed and John Rice, general manager of Sierra.

The Sierra vibe is still intact. That hasn’t gone away. But West Bowl, wow, just wow.

The next day it was onto Palisades Tahoe. What different conditions these were compared to the last time I was at the resort—which was in July 2017 when I was wearing shorts to ski in. This January day was blustery and visibility was horrendous.

We were there for me to do a story about the Base to Base Gondola that links Palisades and Alpine. This really seems like an engineering marvel to me.

With the crappy weather day we didn’t see a ton. Lake Tahoe was out there somewhere. Nonetheless, it was an incredibly smooth ride—especially considering the windy conditions. We didn’t ski the Alpine side even though we were over there. This had to do with the threat of winds getting worse, meaning if the gondola shutdown, we would have to take a bus back to our starting point. Plus, neither of us knows the resort that well, so better to go back to Palisades where we spent much of our youth.

The skiing, well, the visibility had me losing my confidence. The snow was less than ideal. It was just one of those days where if I had a choice, I would not have been there. But work called and this was our chosen day.

I’d like to ride the gondola again to really appreciate the views. While it’s open for sightseers, it only operates in the winter.

What I realized, though, is that I really don’t miss skiing. These two days didn’t invigorate me to want to ski more often. I’m not ready to sell or give away my equipment, but it is the first time those thoughts have crossed my mind.

One thing that shocked me about both resorts is the cost of a daily lift ticket—$145 at Sierra and $259 at Palisades. I realize the most expensive way to buy a ticket in this modern world is to walk up to the window that day. Purchasing a ticket online in advance, multi-day packages and season tickets will drop the price. Still, it’s hard for me to justify that kind of money going forward.

Sprawling outdoor museum pays homage to logging industry

Sprawling outdoor museum pays homage to logging industry

A fresh log becomes wood planks at the Oregon museum. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Remnants of the logging industry are scattered about Oregon like sawdust.

One place this is evident is at the Collier Logging Museum, which is less than two hours south of Bend, Ore., on Highway 97.

People have been cutting down trees for millennia—for fire, shelter, weapons, tools, money, environmental health. You name it. The evolution of tools to cut that timber and move it are on display at the Collier museum, which culls history from the late 1800s to present day.

The name of this state-owned site comes from brothers Alfred and Andrew Collier who gave Oregon 146 acres in 1945 to honor their parents. The state parlayed that into a 536-acre park, with the museum occupying the 146 acres the brothers intended for preservation.

The museum lost about 100 of its 10,000 artifacts in the 2020 Two-Four-Two Fire that burned through the park. Damage is still evident.

Free self-guided walking tours allow for one to set the pace of exploration. Relics from the 1860s to today fill the landscape. The trail is sectioned off with Horse and Oxen—1860-1900, Steam—1890-1920, and Internal Combustion (1920-today).

Some of the equipment is so rusted it looks like it belongs in a scrap heap, while most appears to be useable today.

While signage with explanations of what various apparatus were used for are plentiful, it was still at times hard to imagine how exactly these things worked. To see them fired up would be an incredible experience.

Logging equipment that looks like something out of an erector set. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The innovation, creativity, know-how to understand how to develop these tools and then use them is amazing. To see a machine limb a tree and be able to stack the “poles” in piles is mesmerizing.

Fresh cut planks at the museum proved that some of the machines are still put to use at least for demonstration purposes.

At the museum an old blacksmith shop with tools from another era show the ingenuity of those tasked with creating and maintaining instruments for the industry. With how little use my chain saw gets these days, maybe I should donate it to the collection here.

Timber was once big business in Oregon.

“In the 1970s, timber employed over 80,000 Oregonians. This accounted for roughly 1 in 10 private sector jobs, 12 percent of Oregon’s gross domestic product, and 13 percent of private sector wages. By 2019, Oregon’s logging industry amounted to only 30,000 employees, closer to 1 in 50 private sector jobs,” according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Much of the equipment at the museum is large in size. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A key advance was the railroad. As one sign says, “The railroad pushed into the Klamath forest in 1909 to haul the timber out where roads weren’t feasible. It allowed loggers to penetrate more deeply into forests and gave them access to many more trees than before. Logging operations could now move their mills far from the logging site.”

In the section starting in 1980, it says, “Engineering took the upper hand in the late 20th century logging. Both machinery and roads reflected the ingenuity and changing times. Powerful caterpillars, skidders, yarders, machines with grapple hooks, helicopter sky cranes, and balloons with ‘sky hooks’ enabled loggers to move trees from canyons and hillsides. New roads with bridges, rather than culverts, heavy gravel or paving and special grades to prevent erosion were part of lagging mandated by state forest practices laws.”

I recognize there are plenty of reasons not to like the logging industry—raping of the land being a big one. But I live in a wood house. I have a wood fence. I have burned wood for fuel. I work in the newspaper industry and want people to buy my books. I don’t see wood products not being part of my life in some aspect even if it’s not something I think about on a daily basis. That’s why I won’t condemn responsible logging.

I will advocate for better management of forests, while at the same time admiring the innovation that allows for growing, harvesting and milling of that wood.

Big blades are needed to saw through large-diameter trees. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

According to OurWordInData website, “10,000 years ago 57 percent of the world’s habitable land was covered by forest. That’s 6 billion hectares. Today, only 4 billion hectares are left. The world has lost one-third of its forest—an area twice the size of the United States.”

The museum acknowledges the pains of decades of logging.

“Workers, sawmill owners, and corporate investors confronted bad news in the late 20th century. The mosaic forests—old-growth, regenerating trees, and brush fields from fires were nearly all cut. The flow of timer from national forest dropped dramatically because of part harvest rats, set asides of wilderness area, and impact of environmental legislation.”

At the same time, part of the blame for the decline in logging and lumber manufacturing, according the museum, is put on “protection for fish, birds, mammals, rare and endangered plants, and cultural resources.”

While this is true, the tone came across as an either/or scenario instead of embracing cooperation, understanding and compromise. That was unfortunate.

Information goes on to say, “Timber companies developed habitat protection plans and set aside protection zones along streams. Reforestation became essential for the company that wanted to have a future. Some saw the logger and mill worker as yet another obsolete profession.”

The Collier Logging Museum in Chiloquin, Ore., offers free walking tours. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

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Deets:

  • Address: 46000 Highway 97 North, Chiloquin, Oregon
  • Phone number: 541.783.2471
  • Hours: 8am to 8pm June-September, and 8am to 4pm October-May
  • Website

 

Soft, sandy dirt adds challenge to ride in Carson Valley

Soft, sandy dirt adds challenge to ride in Carson Valley

 

Multiple choices for hikers, bikers and equestrians at the Fay Luther Trailhead. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“It’s sandy, especially at the start.” That was the warning from the anonymous man parked at the Fay Luther Trailhead.

He wasn’t kidding. It was like being at the beach or on some of the trails in Todos Santos, Mexico. If it weren’t for the motor, it easily could have become a walk instead of bike ride.

I’ve hiked most of these trails along Foothill Road in Carson Valley, so this time I wanted to explore by bike.

(Note: This trail links with the Jobs Peak Ranch Trailhead that also starts on Foothill, but no bikes of any kind are allowed from that starting point nor are they allowed on the connector trail.)

The Valley View trail is single track dirt with some rocks. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mostly the Fay Luther system is a series of loops. I opted for the Valley View Loop because I had already done some riding that day and I was pretty sure I would be able to take a short cut to the house where I was cat sitting. Plus, any trail with the word “view” in it is going to be scenic.

Expansive views of the Carson Valley unfolded before me. So much green in late June.

Other than the soft dirt at the get-go, the Valley Loop was easy to navigate through a mix of sage brush and conifers. With it not being the heart of summer heat, the exposed areas were tolerable without shade midday. This would not be true all the time.

The Carson Valley seems to go on forever. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A slew of routes are available from Fay Luther. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I had to cross water twice. Once I could have easily pedaled across, the second was going to be too deep with a sudden uphill pitch to have made it successfully. I walked the bike through both sections since I didn’t know what I was in for.

Biking on a weekday meant I had the trails to myself. The only person I saw was the informative guy in the parking lot.

What always surprises me is the bulk of this trail system is in California.

Mother Nature puts on a show at Black Butte Lake

Mother Nature puts on a show at Black Butte Lake

Black Butte is in the foreground with the coastal range in the distance covered in snow. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Snow isn’t usually the focal point when the highest elevation of the hike is 764 feet.

But it was on this last Saturday of February. The bitter cold storm that inundated all of California brought the white stuff to sea level.

While there were splotches of snow along the trail, the bulk of what was of interest was in the distance, enshrouding the coastal range.

Mother Nature is one interesting creature.

While the 16 of us from Chico Oroville Outdoor Adventurers were bundled up to ward off the 40-something degree temps (who knows what it was with the wind chill), a few wildflowers were holding on for dear life. Field marigolds, blue dicks, and dicots dominated the landscape.

The scenery at Black Butte Lake is a mix of rock, grass, flowers and water. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A couple more weeks and it is sure to be a carpet of color here in the green grasses that are set against the dark basalt rock.

Black Butte Lake near Orland was formed in 1963 when Black Butte Dam on Stony Creek was built. When full it has a surface area of 4,460 acres.

“The dam reduces flood risk for the surrounding communities and provides irrigation water to agricultural lands immediately downstream of the dam,” according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

On our 5.2 mile hike we barely touched the numerous trails. After all, the lake is 7 miles long and has a shoreline of 40 miles.

The view of Black Butte Lake, the butte and the coastal range from the parking lot. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

After crossing the paved dam we headed up a mostly single-track route that was a mix of hardpack dirt and basalt rock. Our destination was the top of Black Butte.

The views here are stunning. Even more amazing, though, is one would not have to set foot on any trail because the vista from the parking lot is outstanding.

Once at the top of the butte, instead of going back the way we came we headed over the other side onto what really wasn’t a trail. I would not need to do this route again because of the hidden rocks under the grass and slickness of the wet ground.

Still, we were thrilled to be out on the blustery day seeing terrain most of us had never visited before.

Place of worship an architectural history lesson

Place of worship an architectural history lesson

The church at New Clairvaux Abbey is a work of art. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Rays of sunlight beam through the windows. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by the detail in the stonework. The triple-arched Gothic entry is stunning.

The church at New Clairvaux Abbey is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s a magnificent structure that is a blend of old and new. The guest entrance is through a 200 pound wooden door.

According to our tour guide, it was built to last a thousand years. Considering the history of the abbey already goes back about a thousand years, it seems appropriate this place of worship in Northern California should last another millennia.

Pews where the monks conduct their prayers. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Dwite, our guide, told us that about 35 percent of the stones used to build the church were from a 12th century “chapter house” that was originally part of Santa Maria de Ovila Cistercian Abbey in Spain, another 35 percent were cut in Spain, while the remaining sandstone came from Texas.

According to information provided by the abbey, this is the “largest example of original Cistercian-Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere, and the oldest building in the United States west of the Mississippi.”

The pipe organ came from a church in Redding. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It will be four years this month since the church opened for worship. But during the pandemic, the facilities were closed to the public until late last year. To witness the monks in prayer in their sacred place was a bonus to the day.

We were all quiet as we sat in the visitors’ area while the monks drifted in, bowed and then went to their assigned pews. It was the shortest service of any denomination I’ve attended. Mostly it was about being quiet, with a prayer and a song part of the ritual.

While the monks who reside in this monastery in Vina, about 20 miles north of Chico, worship multiple times a day, we were there for just one session. This was the conclusion of our guided tour.

Guided and self-guided tours at the monastery are available. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

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Deets:

  • Self-guided tours available Monday-Saturday, 2:30-5pm.
  • Docent led tours available all but Sundays by appointment.
  • More information is available online.
  • Address: 26240 7th St., Vina

 

Mylo the dog and all of his ‘other ladies’

Mylo the dog and all of his ‘other ladies’

Mylo takes over the driver’s seat of the Jeep. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

When mom and I moved in together last year we each came with four-legged creatures. Mine lived with us full time, while hers is a part-timer.

Mylo is a 14-year-old Shih Tzu who my mom and sister Jann share custody of. So, Mylo has two moms. They are referred to as “the other lady”—as in it’s time to go to the other lady’s house.

By default, this makes me the “other other lady.” I like to think of myself as the fun one, but don’t tell my mom or sister. It’s a little secret between me and Mylo.

You see, I have dog treats. And Mylo knows where they are. It means I need to keep the pantry door shut so he doesn’t help himself.

Mylo never turns down the opportunity to go on a walk. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I also take him to Bidwell Park when it’s hot out. This gives him a chance to walk in the shade and drink from the creek. On walks anywhere I let him sniff butts with other dogs. I’m also way more lenient about where he does his business, but don’t tell my mom because I told her I would follow her rules when she’s not around.

At home I get down on the floor and play-wrestle with Mylo. The other ladies don’t do this.

If he were up for it, he could sleep in my bed when he’s here with me alone. For now, he’s content to be in his bed. When AJ was still here and it was the three of us for a few days Mylo refused to sleep in my room. To him, AJ at 35 pounds seemed like a big dog. Plus, dogs understand territorial boundaries, and just coming into my room was verboten per AJ’s authority. Now, though, Mylo is perfectly content to sleep in his bed in my room when it’s the two of us. When it’s the three of us, he is in the other lady’s bedroom.

This is one spoiled/high maintenance dog. He’s a dog that requires grooming. And boy does it make a difference. I’ve never had a dog that required this type of care.

The other ladies have started to moisten his food, which gets him to eat it more rapidly. Oddly, or not, he never has a problem wolfing down the hard treats he gets from me, or the occasional piece of carrot that finds its way to the floor accidentally or purposefully.

Then he gets fed four times a day. And each one of those is divided in half to slow the ingestion process to ensure it all stays down.

Big Chico Creek is a great place for Mylo to cool off in the summer. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Each morning he has to be walked in order to poop. Mom has softened in the last year to the point she is OK with his initial pee and last pee of the night being out back—even on her plants. If he were my dog, he’d get walked on my schedule, which could be any time of day. He’s not my dog, so he gets his morning walk. Then I usually take him out later in the day with me to pick up the mail, which is a short walk to the cluster of boxes, or we might go somewhere else depending on my work day. It’s a good break for me, and gets us both some fresh air. He really isn’t much of an outdoor dog; he tends to stay indoors even when the back door is open all day.

He likes to be with his people. When mom is here Mylo is usually at her side. When it’s just me, well, his second bed is in my office. Yep, just like Bailey and AJ, Mylo has become my office-mate. There is something comforting about this. It feels good to be the other other lady.

This is what the American Kennel Club says about Shih Tzus, “As a small dog bred to spend most of their day inside royal palaces, they make a great pet if you live in an apartment or lack a big backyard. Some dogs live to dig holes and chase cats, but a Shih Tzu’s idea of fun is sitting in your lap acting adorable as you try to watch TV.”

Well, we don’t have a royal palace, but the fact Mylo has multiple dwellings to call home, several vehicles to ferry him about, and all these “other ladies,” well, perhaps he is the royalty and not any of his other ladies.

Abundance of beauty on trek to fish ladder

Abundance of beauty on trek to fish ladder

A hint of fall along Deer Creek in Lassen National Forest. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In less than 2 miles we arrived at a man-made contraption in the middle of the forest that is saving the lives of countless fish.

“The project is truly an engineering marvel: located in a deep canyon, with no road access, approximately 500 tons of rock were excavated out of the old fishway area while a new one was built, using pre-cast concrete panels roughly 7 feet deep, 10 feet long, and almost 7 feet wide, to form a series of 14 pools and 15 weirs that help fish get upstream of the waterfall,” according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The fish ladder, at a cost of $2.5 million, was completed in December 2017, replacing a steeper less elaborate one built in the 1940s.

The fish ladder at Lower Deer Creek Falls doubles as a human viewing platform. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Fish ladders are built to help fish around culverts, dams and waterfalls. In the case of Deer Creek there is about a 15-foot waterfall impeding their migration. (Salmon swim upstream to spawn, with the little ones going downstream to the river.) The ladders allow them to jump into a pool where they can rest before jumping into the next one until they bypass the obstruction.

We only saw one salmon in the pool (outside the ladder) before the waterfall.

Lower Deer Creek Waterfall remains impressive even in early fall. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Deer Creek, Mill Creek and Butte Creek are the remaining tributaries of the Sacramento River with native runs of the Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon. There used to be more than 2,000 miles of stream habitat for these fish; now there are only a few hundred miles.

Lower Deer Creek Falls is about 35 miles upstream from the Sacramento River.

We started off Highway 32 in the Lassen National Forest. Though the trek is fairly easy, the beauty was incredible along the entire route.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has this to say about woolly bear caterpillars: “If their rusty band is wide, then it will be a mild winter. The more black there is, the more severe the winter.” (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This is a mixed conifer zone, so the landscape seemed to be changing as we headed downstream from our starting point. Douglas fir were the predominant trees in the low dry zone, though oaks were interspersed. Ponderosa pines were closer to the starting point.

Spires of volcanic rock rose from both sides of the creek.

The path was compact dirt most of the way, with some embedded rocks that made looking down a necessity. One spot required a bit of limbo with the fallen tree.

Deer Creek will eventually flow into the Sacramento River. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

We could hear and see Deer Creek most of the hike. What was most surprising was how much water was flowing on the first Saturday of October. At times the water was tranquil, other times it was rushing. This was especially true at the fish ladder where the water roared through the canyon.

This would clearly be a completely different hike in spring/early summer with the runoff. A few times we passed what would have been areas to cross with water on the trail during the wet season.

Not much fall color was to be seen, but still there was a distinct sense the seasons are changing.

While no bears were visible, their scat was. The only interesting wildlife was a woolly bear caterpillar. The folklore in Tahoe was that seeing one means winter is on its way.

We started at 3,323 feet, with the lowest point being 3,131 feet. We logged 3.96 miles. The 19 of us on this hike were part of this Chico Oroville Outdoor Adventurers.

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