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Archive for May, 2011

Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic – Stage 2 dispatch

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

In this Adventure of the Week, we get an exclusive dispatch from photographer Vince M. Camiolo, who’s in State College covering the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic, Pennsylvania mountain biking at its most hard core. Enjoy!

WHO: Vince M. Camiolo

WHAT: the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic

WHERE: State College, Pennsylvania

WHEN: May 29 to June 4, 2011

GEAR: Reef board shorts for creek-soaking, bike gear in case I can steal a ride in between or after shooting

Hello from mountain bike fantasy sleep-away camp.

Only in its second year, the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic is already a must-do on many top pro endurance mountain bikers’ calendars and graces the wish lists of others. And although the word “epic” seems to have infiltrated the pop culture vernacular, stripping it of all authentic meaning — like “amazing” or “ironic” — this stage race embodies the original definition, challenging racers with seven days of punishing Central Pennsylvania trails. More than half the days have racers pedaling up and down the notoriously technical trails for between 38 and 47 miles.

This year Mother Nature has upped the ante with mid-July-like heat and humidity, testing these athletes’ claims of masochism (case in point: Racer Rebecca Rusch, arguably one of the greatest female endurance athletes in the world, embraces the moniker “The Queen of Pain”).

The race may attract big names and boast big ambitions, but it is glaringly grassroots (for you West Coasters think the Downieville Classic, but a week long). Organizers/promoters, locals Mike Kuhn and Ray Adams, have their hands (and bull-horn assisted voices) in every going-on during the week. In fact, this event serves as the biggest fundraiser of the year for their Outdoor Experience Organization, whose mission is to build, improve upon and document forest trails in the state of Pennsylvania (again, not unlike the Downieville Classic).

The coolest thing about this event is that five of the seven stages begin and end at the Seven Mountains Scout Camp, a sprawling mountaintop camp that includes a full dining hall for racers (and support staff/family) and accommodations ranging from private cabins to dormitory-style lodges, RV parking to tent camping. Add to that a picturesque pond for swimming and fishing, a bathhouse, swimming pool and post-race cold-water muscle soothing courtesy of a brisk stream… this event is nothing less than a mountain bike fantasy sleep-away camp.

But I’m just here to shoot.

And what I do can be anguishingly difficult. Not because of the two sleepless nights nursing an ailing laptop back to health prior to my four-hour drive to get here. It’s not the lugging of several bags of heavy camera gear over root- and rock-ridden trails in order to find the ideal location from which to shoot (and then another, and so on). It’s not even the thought of my beer getting increasingly warmer in the greenhouse that is my car with every second that passes (incidentally, I drink the good stuff, so ice cold isn’t necessary or even preferred). The anguishingly difficult thing about what I do is being so close to people doing what I love to do when I can’t do it myself. My consolation, however, is that the only thing that rivals my passion for mountain biking (and other outdoor pursuits) is documenting others’ passions for it.

After all, it’s the documentation of my passions that often gets me through a day stuck in the office, or motivates me to get some dirt under my tires during a lazy spell. If my work can provide that to someone else, that’s all the motivation I need to leave the bike — or climbing shoes, etc. — in the garage in exchange for a camera, notebook and pen.

*Note to editors and other content-purchasers: Please don’t read too much into that final statement. I still like to pay my rent.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, surf, climb or Pennsylvania mountain bike) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Beat the Bugs this Summer: Mosquito repellent and head nets

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Ah, summertime in the outdoors. Long, warm days, clear starry nights … and mosquitoes. How to prevent mosquitoes is an oft-debated topic in the summer months, and everybody is looking for the best bug repellent out there.

For those of you looking for a DEET free bug repellent, we really like the All Terrain Herbal line of natural bug repellent available in a bug repellent spray, lotion, and a kids mosquito stopper.

All Terrain natural bug repellent uses a unique formula that contains five natural essential oils recognized by the EPA as repellents, clinically proven to be 100 percent effective for more than two hours, 95.8 percent effective  for three hours and 77.1 percent effective at four hours!

But it comes down to more than just bug repellent spray: picking when and where you go outside and how you dress can make a big difference too. Pick a light colored, long-sleeve backpacking shirt like the Mountain Hardwear Canyon long sleeve that covers more skin without making you hot on your hike.

And if you don’t want to put bug spray or lotion on your face and neck, a mosquito head net is a great alternative, particularly when hanging around camp in the evening or morning, when some mosquitoes are most active.

Outdoor Research has great head net hats like the Outdoor Research Bug Bucket and the Bug Net Cap, integrating a bug headnet into a bucket-style hat or baseball cap so you’re always ready for biting bugs.

We also like the Outdoor Research Sentinel Handkerchief, a bandanna made of mosquito repellent fabric you can wear dozens of ways to protect your head or neck while you’re on the trail.

Aim for ridges and peaks where a breeze will keep the bugs at bay, and figure out when your local mosquitoes are most active, so you can spend that time in less infested areas or in your tent, rather than hiking or cooking at their peak. Skip scented deodorants, lotions or soaps, and take a dip in a lake or stream to wash off the sweat at the end of the day to give the mosquitoes less to hone in on.

Combining these tips, natural bug repellents, the right clothes and a mosquito headnet, you can prevent mosquitoes this summer – or at least keep their annoying bites to a minimum. But most of all, don’t let biting bugs discourage you from going out and enjoying the outdoors!

Car Camping List – our checklist of essential car camping gear

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Car camping? Want to make sure you’ve got it all on board? Our essential car camping list can be your checklist the next time you hit the road. I am fresh out of the car from a great camping and climbing trip to Bishop, California, so I thought I’d round up what we brought, along with some tips on packing and staying organized.

As you can see in the picture above (taken at the Horton Creek Campground), we filled up my Subaru (with 2 crash pads taking up lots of the space), but used every bit that we brought. Car camping is all about comfort; don’t be afraid to bring a few extra luxuries you wouldn’t pack when full-on backpacking.

  • FULL MESS KIT – Go ahead and bring the full monty for cooking, why not? A cutting board, a sharp knife, a Coleman double burner, a coffee press, a double-wall mug, a kitchen towel, a tupperware to act as both plate, bowl and daypack sandwich holder, stacking utensils and a Snow Peak cookset are my essentials, but I expand that to include much more depending on the length of the trip.
  • COOLER – Stocked with ice, of course, for perishable items (we know you won’t forget the beer, but don’t forget the creamer for your coffee).
  • FOOD – No dehydrated anything if you don’t want – you’ve got a deluxe camp kitchen!
  • SUN SHOWER – This is a car camping essential in my book. Hook it to your hatchback, or set it on your roof top or a tree branch.
  • 5–7 GALLON WATER JUG – When you live in a place with as good of drinking water as Tahoe, no other water will do. Plus, this is the best way to easily refill your water bottles and pots for cooking. (more…)

How To Clean a Camelbak – from easy rinsing to disinfecting

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Water is an essential part of any outdoor recreation, that’s why it’s so important to know how to clean a Camelbak or any other similar hydration reservoir. There are essentially three ways to do it: rinsing, deep cleaning and disinfecting. We compiled this guide to make your Camelbak cleaning efforts as painless as possible.


To keep your water reservoir in top shape, rinse thoroughly with hot water (optional soap) after every use, especially if you’re filling it with anything other than water. In any case, the key here is the DRAIN and DRY.  Because all the reservoirs on the market (by Platypus Hydration, Camelbak, Osprey or Deuter) are soft-sided, they’re tough to dry with the sides sticking and trapping moisture.

I have a perfect drying set-up at my house with an oscillating towel rack (pictured below, cost about $15 at our local kitchen shop) that is great for hanging my reservoir upside down. I use the orange slider seal on my Deuter Streamer to keep the top open so it dries best; I’ve also read of people using a Q-tip to prop open the top. However you choose to dry your reservoir, remember it’s one of the most important steps you can take.


I use Platypus’s recommended method since it seems to be most thorough and well explained. Here are the steps:

1)    Add ¼ cup baking soda to ¾ cup of water per liter volume of your reservoir and shake for 30 seconds

2)    Add ¼ cup lemon juice, shake for 10 seconds, then vent by loosening cap away from face (note that adding lemon juice causes effervescence/pressure)

3)    Repeat shake/vent 3 times

4)    Expel as much air as possible and soak for 20 minutes

5)    Rinse 3 times with hot water

The deep clean should also include brushing out the inner surface, including the tube. I use the CamelBak Cleaning Kit, which includes brushes for the tube and reservoir. Simply disassemble all the parts and give them each a scrubbing. I brush AFTER the baking soda/lemon application to help clean out all the baking soda residue.


May Powder Skiing – Awesome!!!

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Tahoe Sunrise

Tahoe Sunrise

WHO: Dave, Kevin and Jeff

WHAT: Backcountry Skiing Lake Tahoe

WHERE: West Shore of Lake Tahoe

WHEN: May 17–18, 2011

GEAR USED: Black Diamond Drift Skis with Quadrant Boots, Outdoor Research soft shell pants and Smith Trace sunglasses because when that sun gets high in the sky this time of year, shades  are essential!

After the Amgen Tour of California folks decided to leave town due to a snow storm, we were all a little disappointed. BUTTTT, did I say snow storm? Yup, you bet I did. Since Sunday, Tahoe’s higher elevations have received 2-3 feet of some of the coldest and driest snow we have seen all winter and since none of us are really into road biking anyways, we decided to venture out and see what the coverage was like with the hopes of making some sweet powder turns. Wow, were we surprised to find that conditions were still like mid-winter in many places and the snow was insanely phenomenal!

We hit up Grouse Rock on the backside of Alpine Meadows on Tuesday in the midst of the storm. We were the first ones up so we broke trail most of the way and got to ski down first, always my favorite part. The bottom over here got a little wet and manky so we decided that as long as it snowed a little more, we were going to head further down the West Shore and see what some of those peaks had to hold. We were a bit unsure if we would even be able to ski from the road as we hadn’t been down there in a good month and didn’t know the status of the snow levels.

On Wednesday, we decided the snow had fallen and Rubicon Peak was the goal. We were able to skin right from the car as you can see in the pic at the top of this post. It started to clear a little as we made our way up and we got some nice views of the lake.

Skiing up Rubicon

Skiing up Rubicon

The higher we got, the deeper the trail-breaking got and we were about 1-1.5 feet deep in the skin track by the time we hit the top. We were also worried the sun was going to come out fast and furious today but lucky enough, there was just enough light cloud cover that the snow was staying perfect and we were getting more and more psyched for our descent. After topping out and taking in some of the views, it was time to go down and both Jeff and I could not stop yelling to each other how good the snow really was and how psyched we were to be skiing dry, light, fluffy, DEEP powder on May 18th. If you are in Tahoe, go get some and if you are reading this from somewhere else, hopefully it is warm and nice out there because our winter is still going strong!


Here are a couple more pics from our morning on Rubicon.

Top of Rubicon Peak

Top of Rubicon Peak

Descent from Rubicon

Descent from Rubicon

Jeff skiing down

Jeff skiing down

Deuter Backpack Review: Deuter ACT Zero 50+15

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Deuter Backpacks has the best pack going for 2011, the Deuter ACT Zero 50+15. It’s the one backpack that can do it all from ultralight overnighters to big load–hauling multiweek trips.

But don’t take our word for it, Outside Magazine, who awarded the Deuter Backpack the 2011 Gear of the Year Award, said; “It’s the best kind of mutant. Part minimalist fast-packer, part monster hauler, the ACT Zero seemed like the perfect tool no matter what the mission.”

The Outside editors went on in their ACT Zero 50+15 Deuter backpack review to say “At this price, the pack’s a steal.”

Check out our overview of the Deuter Zero series pack features here:

We like the fact that you can haul up to 65 liters (3,950 cubic inches) or 50 pounds in a 3 pound 5 ounce (1.48 kilogram) backpack — the hauling realm of 5+ pound packs in the recent past.

And if you don’t want or need to bring that much, you can strip the floating top lid off, turning the Deuter ACT pack into a streamlined roll-top ultralight pack.

Of course you get great storage and organization with water bottle pockets, a stash pocket on the back, the top lid and hipbelt pockets, but you can also attach an ice ax or trekking poles to designated loops, and stash your reservoir in the built-in hydration system holder.

Fit is a snap, with men’s and women’s specific geometry, and the VariQuick shoulder harness dials in a custom fit for a variety of torso lengths.

Once you’ve got the fit dialed in, it stays comfortable mile after mile no matter how challenging the terrain you face, thanks to the VariFlex hip belt that follows your movement organically.

The ACT system pumps cool air up your back in a channel to keep you cool on a warm summer hike, and all the harness padding is extremely breathable — developed for use in Mercedes and BMW air filters — so you stay more comfortable.

So if you’re looking for the perfect backpack for a fast-and-light overnight, a multiweek wilderness trek, oversees travel or any other adventure you can conjure up, the Deuter ACT Zero 50+15 and the Deuter ACT Zero 45+15 SL Women’s backpacks are tough to beat.

Top 10 spots to watch the Amgen Tour of California in Tahoe and Truckee

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

For six years, the top professionals of cycling have tackled the winding roads of California in a Tour de France–style race with diverse challenges and amazing scenery. This year, the race kicks off at Lake Tahoe, and goes through Truckee on day 2. All we can say is, what took them so long? Our region’s breathtaking landscapes, exhilarating roads and athletic culture fit perfectly with this world-class event.

With that in mind, we’ve been working on a list of places to watch the world’s top cyclists compete for the leaders’ jerseys in their different disciplines.

Top scenic spots:

Emerald Bay: It’s going to be tough to beat Emerald Bay for a great shot of the peleton (cycling speak for pack) snaking its way up the switchbacks of Highway 89.  Located on Highway 89 between Homewood and South Lake Tahoe. Bonus: Racers will go by twice. What to bring: you’ll have to stake out a spot early here, so bring a Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover to stay warm in the early morning hours.

Cave Rock: The East Shore’s famous cave rock also offers spectacular scenery on Lake Tahoe’s shore. Spectators who started in South Lake Tahoe may migrate here, so finding the best view may require some hiking or scrambling. We recommend The North Face Crestone hiking shoes to get you to the perfect spot sure-footedly.

Tahoe Mountain Sports: Yes, of course we’re in our own list, but for good reason. Located right across the street from the beach, you can’t beat the scenery, and racers will pass on their way back to South Lake Tahoe, and around the corner on their way up Highway 267 on the way to the Northstar-at-Tahoe finish. Bonus: easy access to supplies in case you didn’t dress right for the weather.

Truckee Mousehole: Truckee is putting on “The King of the Mousehole” competition on day two, where the first rider to sprint through the Mousehole (the Highway 89 undercrossing tunnel of the railroad) wins points and the title of king, guaranteeing nail-biting action for spectators.  Fans are sure to be cheering loudly here, so bring a Summit Bugle Bulb Horn to add to the din of excitement.

Donner Summit: Snaking their way up Old Highway 40 on day two, racers will be competing for King of the Mountain points at the top. They’ll cross the iconic Rainbow Bridge with Donner Lake in the background and under Donner Peak. Grab a Thermarest Trail Seat to stay warm and comfy sitting on the rocks.

Party picks:

Homewood/West Shore Cafe: With not one but two chances to watch the racers go by, Homewood resort and the West Shore Cafe across the street will be prime viewing locations with lots going on. Park for free at Homewood’s North Lodge, grab barbecue from the West Short Cafe, hit up the beer garden for craft brews, listen to live music by Boogaloo and compete in a race-inspired costume contest. Lodging packages are available.

Blue Onion Cafe: Kings Beach is another two-fer place to party. Cyclists go through Kings Beach once on the way back to South Lake Tahoe (lap 1) and turn right past the Blue Onion on the way to Northstar-at-Tahoe (lap 2). Live music, food, kids activities and much more are on tap for this local favorite cafe.

Northstar-at-Tahoe: The finish line for day one of the Tour of California, Northstar is no stranger to bicycle racing. The Village at Northstar offers a plethora of viewing locations and all the amenities. A festival expo, live music, a bike fit clinic, live TV viewing of the race and, of course, the dramatic finish are just a few offerings on the schedule.

Squaw Valley USA: True to its Olympic heritage, Squaw Valley starts off day two of the Amgen Tour of California. Watch the riders sign in under the Olympic Rings in the Village before they hit the road. Keep up with all the action with live coverage on the Jumbotron, enjoy live music and then go skiing for just $39!

Mountain Hardware & Sports: After racers speed up Highway 89 from Squaw Valley along the Truckee River, they’ll make a sweeping turn into Truckee, right past Mountain Hardware & Sports on the corner of Donner Pass Road. Live music and more will keep you entertained while you wait for the racers to arrive.

Want more? Here’s a complete list of the Amgen Tour of California events around Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe Area Bike Swaps

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

With the Amgen Tour of California about to hit town and everyone digging into their gear closets for spring pursuits, bike swaps are happening in all corners of the lake. Here’s a quick list of places to buy, sell and trade your bike gear this month:

Biking for a Better World’s Tahoe Bike Swap

Saturday May 14, 2011, Village at Squaw Valley, 11 am to 4 pm

Located at the Village at Squaw (right by Uncorked), this swap benefits a local nonprofit that uses the act of riding a bike to better both our local community and communities in need worldwide. You might remember the group’s do-goodings from our post on cleaning up the Truckee River last fall. Twenty percent of every sale at this swap benefits the nonprofit, and a $3 entry/donation gets you in to browse the goods. Drop-off your equipment to sell Friday from 5 to 9 pm, or Saturday morning from 7 to 9 am. All biking-related items accepted.

North Tahoe Business Association’s Everything Bike Sale

Saturday May 14, 2011, North Tahoe Event Center, Kings Beach, 11 am to 4 pm

This swap features lots of used bicycles, including parts/pick & pull. There’s also an air pressure, brake and chain check sponsored by Kiwanis Bikes so be sure to stop by regardless of your gear needs. The Tahoe Mountain Sports team will be there too, selling new gear including bike baskets, bike bells and Keen bike shoes. An on-site ice cream social and bake sale benefit the Children’s Network. $3 entry for adults, children under 12 are free. If you have a bike and/or parts to sell, drop them off from 9:30 to 11 am, pick them up 4 to 5:30 pm. After 5: 30, it’s a donation.

Sierra Ski & Cycle Works Bike Swap Party

Sunday May 15, 2011, Sierra Ski & Cycle Works, South Lake Tahoe, 10:30 am

This South Lake Tahoe bike swap is a great place to find used bikes and gear, plus you’ll have the whole shop to look around for new items. A BBQ will also be going on at the shop as the whole town will be out celebrating the Amgen Tour of California Stage 1 start here.

Reno Bike Project’s Bike Day & Bike Swap

Saturday May 21, 2011, West Street Market, Reno, 10 am

Expect the whole lot (cruisers, road bikes, mountain bikes, fixies) at this popular Reno swap. Plus, the day is a full-on celebration of all things bicycle, with an expo of local cycling clubs, groups, organizations, and teams; rides; a kid’s rodeo; music and food; raffles and awards; and games. Reno Bike Project will sell your bike at the swap for 20 percent consignment and parts for 50 percent consignment. Items to sell can be dropped off the day of the event or at the Reno Bike Project shop on East Fourth Street two weeks prior.

Reno River Festival – Look for TMS, Keen and Outdoor Research!

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011


That’s good news for the 8th annual Reno River Festival, May 6–8, which kicks off in a big way on Friday. Reno River Fest is one of our favorite events of the year since it ushers in a whole new season of outdoor fun for us. This year, we’re joining forces with Keen and Outdoor Research at our booth so be sure to stop by.

If you’ve never been to Reno River Festival, then this is your year to come. Temps are forecasted to be in the 70s with sunny skies and there’s loads of fun and new events on tap.

The highlight of the festival is, of course, the Truckee River, where open freestyle, boatercross and stand-up paddleboarding competitions will take place. Plus, there are free whitewater clinics, a kick-off party with ‘80s 2-tone ska band English Beat in the park on Friday night at 8pm, food and beer gardens, the Run Amuck fun run with a 60-foot mud pit in the course, the Humans in Motion short video contest, a Home Brew competition, yoga in the park each morning and live music all weekend long. View the full Reno River Fest schedule online. Some 40,000 people come to the festival during the long weekend, so it’s definitely the place to be!

We’ll be selling Keen water shoes/sandals along with Outdoor Research hats and dry bags at our tent. Don’t miss out on our Reno River Fest promotions, including a FREE Pair of Socks with every pair of Keens purchased, a raffle in which you can win FREE Keen sandals, and more giveaways just for stopping by. See you at the river!

The Great Escape: Auburn Mountain Biking + Sugarloaf Climbing

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

WHO: Lis, Chris and friends

WHAT: A weekend of no snow

WHERE: Auburn and Sugarloaf

WHEN: April 30 and May 1

GEAR: Deuter Trans Alpine backpack (about as small as I can go for a day’s worth of cragging, sans any trad gear since the others carried it in), Black Diamond climbing gear, the padded bike shorts I wish I’d brought

As is evidenced by my posts on this blog, I like snow. But after more than 700 inches this winter, I had to get out!! Chris and I decided to spend the weekend in as close yet as warm of places as possible, so we chose Auburn and Sugarloaf for our getaways. Looking to do the same? Here’s the quick guide to ditching snow for sun during spring in Tahoe:

SATURDAY: Auburn, mountain biking the Foresthill Divide Loop Trail + Connector

This was my first time mountain biking in Auburn and it was awesome! Great early season riding since the trails are so smooth and roll-y. We took the connector (4 miles one-way) into the Foresthill Divide Loop (11.3 miles) to add a little more length to the ride. It was the perfect amount of cardio and nothing too technical, so it was great for easing back into riding. Though I learned one important thing: don’t forget your padded bike shorts on the first ride of the season. Ouch! The trail is super popular so it was a bit crowded on our way in via the connector. I actually think we timed it well (leaving Tahoe at 9am) since our second half of the ride was less crowded.

SUNDAY: Sugarloaf, rock climbing

Sugarloaf, a bit farther than Lover’s Leap, is only a short 30-minute drive from South Lake Tahoe yet feels far away in climate. There are various aspects to climb here so you can essentially be in the sun all day if you want. The main Sugarloaf formation is beautiful, as pictured above, with Chris on Captain Fingers (5.12c). It’s a great spot for a crag dog too (as modeled below by Fern) but watch out for ticks. None this time, but she came home with a few after our last trip here.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, surf, climb, bike) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

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