Lake Tahoe area


Ever since I can remember, Lake Tahoe has always been synonymous of adventure in my head. When I worked in outdoor retail stores, there was always a Tahoe Jacket or aTahoe something... I collected pictures of Caribbean blue beaches with a snowy mountain tops background on my Pinterest boards and kept hoping we could make it there before it got too cold... it was always next year... Finally, we made it (by crossing the border much earlier than usual) and it's beautiful, warm and sunny. We got to ride amazing trails (the Corral trail system in South Tahoe is amazing, don't miss Upper and Lower Corral, Armstrong connector, Sidewinder and for a longer ride, Mr. Toads wild ride). 

JF went for a long run on the Tahoe Rim trail and the girls and I set to go explore Tahoe most beautiful beach at Sand Harbor State Park. After driving for one hour, we found out that we could not get in because we had the dog with us. They would not let us in even if the dog would stay in the Westy and I would just get out to take pictures. Have you ever heard of such a stupid rule? I get that dogs are not allowed on beaches and trails, no problem. But not allowed to enter a state park and stay in the vehicle for 20 minutes??? I was NOT happy. This is the beach I had waited to photograph and visit for 5 + years... Oh and the entrance fee is $12...  So we turned around, very disappointed and headed 6 miles south to Chimney Beach, a free public beach where dogs are allowed. We were not expecting much, but we were sweaty and determined to swim in Tahoe. Well, Chimney Beach was awesome!! You have to walk down a half mile path to the shore where there are tons of little rocky coves you can choose from (you can either go left or right once you get to the bottom of the trail, just keep exploring until you find a private spot you like... if you go left for a bit, you will encounter a nude beach, just so you know!). We went right and found a beautiful crescent beach where we spend a few hours WITH Stout! And as you can see from the pictures, the water was as turquoise as in Sand Harbor. 

Lake Tahoe is very expensive and since we needed gas, groceries, laudry, etc., we decided to stay in Gardnerville, NV, where everything is much cheaper and accessible. We could have camped on the shore of Lake Tahoe for $36/night, but we stayed in a quiet Walmart parking lot in Gardnerville. Not exactly by the lake, but the lower altitude made for warmer nights and we stocked up on groceries before heading down the Sierras where it would take a while to see big grocery stores. There is a Grocery Outlet and a Raley's (great grocery store) 4 miles north from the Walmart in Gardnerville and a great cheap 24 hours Laudromat 6 miles north (Village Laundromat). There is another Walmart where you can spend the night in Carson City, but it's much busier and not as quiet (but there is a Trader Joe's right by and a Costco).

 If you are planning to enjoy the Tahoe activities for more than a few days, it might be a good idea to pick a campsite near the Lake (I'd say between South Tahoe and Sand Harbor State Park, on the Nevada side) and go for a weekly rate. Driving from Gardnerville to the Lake requires you go over passes and it is longer than Google will tell you, especially with a Westfalia with its original engine...

Las Vegas Bay Campground, NV

That's the back of our campsite, a long point along the canyon rim. Pretty cool. Awesome for sunrise and sunset watching. Note the chairs in the background. Note that there are no trees to tie the dog. Mara thought it was a good idea to tie him to the black chair. Five minutes later, our Dutch neighbor came frantically knocking on our window screaming: Da dag is ranning dawn da canyon with da chair!!! Ahem.

The Bluff trail, right from the campground.

Let me tell you a bit about my fixation with cups and glasses. We've been making do with thrift store plastic glasses since we are on the road and I really wanted to upgrade to some nice durable stainless steel ones. I used some of my birthday money (thanks Dad and Hélène!) to get 4 tall smoothie glasses, 4 small ones - perfect for a sip of water and wine - (love them!!) and two medium cocktail ones - great for red wine too. I've realized that if I can't live clutter free (an impossible task when you live in a bus with 4 other persons), I at least need to surround myself with some beautiful and useful objects. And looking at these glasses all neatly aligned in the cup holders along the kitchen wall make me so ridiculously happy! Oh, and my story wouldn't be complete without telling you about my favorite pottery mug (a gift from my friend Helen Ann, from her hometown in BC) for my morning triple shot latte and my bilke cup (from my friend Martine, from Rossland, BC, an avid biker) for my afternoon two shot latte (I know this sounds totally coffee snob, but you'd think otherwise if I'd make you one!). And there's also my Jennifer souvenir mug (absent for the picture) for the mornings when I need a 4 shots one or a warm tea at night!

Just walking to the end of our site...

Glory bowl in the making. One of our staple camp recipe.

One of the most dangerous beer there is. So refreshing and delicious! Not your Father's Ginger Ale from Small Town Brewery.

Making Negronis! Yum! It tastes like Italy!

Some bus and bike mechanics, lots of drawing and writing by the canyon, some drink mixing, lots of delicious food cooking outside (and playing cards by the lantern light). That's the right way to start a vacation!

We camped here last year and deemed it the best campground we stayed at (campsite #52). It was only $10/night last year, but it is now $20/night (no services, water and dump onsite, no shower building). It is still a gorgeous place, but with Lake Mead Rec Area BLM right there (free), it felt like a big splurge. Still, having a campsite with your own canyon rim is a pretty cool thing!

We also went back to Bootleg Canyon for a bike ride on my official birthday (I know, I know, bear with me...). I remembered that I hadn't liked that trail network much last year, but thought it might be a matter of experience. Well, it wasn't. I just don't care for loose rock and poorly maintained eroded trails (much worst than last year) with slippery narrow exposed sections... It really wasn't our best ride... And you know what it reminded me? That I have taken to celebrate my birthday over a long period instead of on that one day because historically, since we have had kids, it almost always ended being a really rough day with the girls and a birthday flop. So cheers to a birthday month! And yes, it's over now. You won't hear about it till next year!

Hiking Ice Box Canyon, Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, NV

This is the waterfall at the end of the trail. Some people tried to climb all the way up there (think people coming to Vegas and that never hiked before...). It is very steep and sleek. Much easier to climb than to downclimb... All of a sudden, we heard a big splash!

Seriously, people!

And a nice guy and his girlfriend helped that woman come down... She had fallen into the upper pool of the waterfall... And in the next 30 min, we saw a few (asian) tourists try to go up and get in very tricky situations... 

With a name like that, especially on a warm day, that canyon sounded very appealing! We came to Red Rock last year and did some scrambling in the Calico area and some awesome rock climbing too. Red Rock is a climbing paradise and our plan this year was to come spend 4-5 days to climb at the beginning of JF's vacation since there is no cell signal at the campground. However, since JF broke his finger mountain biking in Virgin, that plan went out the window.

We instead stayed at one of our favorite campgrounds (Las Vegas Bay, next post!) and came hiking to Red Rock. We wanted to hike Turtlehead Peak, but while doing some research on it, I found out that a woman had fallen to her death down the trail 10 days ago (lots of loose rocks on this exposed trail). However, given what we witnessed today at the waterfall, I understand that people die on hiking trails... Red Rock is only a 20 minute drive from the Vegas Strip and most people that go to Vegas, come to Red Rock... so lots of inexperience hikers doing things too hard for them or being unprepared = lots of accidents.

Ice Box Canyon was a nice hike that meanders through the desert for about a mile before dropping down into a canyon that ends at a waterfall. There is some scrambling required and a fair bit of rock hopping, which makes it a moderate 3 mile hike. 

Rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is well-known by rock climbers. It is a sandstone paradise! The approach walks are challenging and fun (a 30 minute scramble up) and the view is amazing. Once we reached our destination, we had the whole wall to ourselves (there are nearly 2000 routes in the park, so the climbers are pretty spread out). The kids did their Junior Ranger activity booklet while JF set up the route. We were on the South facing slope, so the sun was cooking and we were soon looking for shade under the rocks.

Notice the barrel cactus at the bottom of our route (covered with a cloth bag in case JF had a fall...).

Two tailless lizards...

You can see the barrel cactus under our route pretty well in that picture! It sure was an added challenge!

*Many of the pictures have been taken by my friend Jennifer, since I didn't bring my camera (that's also why there are more pictures of me!).

That day is undeniably up there in our top 10 memorable adventures. It is so fun to have met friends that are just a little crazy like us and love a good adventure!

If ever you plan on going rock climbing there, we highly recommend you get this rock climbing guide book. It would have been pretty impossible to find a route without it. This place is a real maze (but a super fun one!).


Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Las Vegas Bay Campground

I think I can say without a doubt that this has been the best campsite we have ever had in our life! You see this overlook in the last two pictures? It was on our campsite. Our own private overlook. Every morning, we watched the sunrise in bed, snuggled together.

There was a beautiful trail to walk along the cliffs and amazing rocks to collect and crack open (inspired by the beautiful geodes our friends' parents found near Rockhound State Park, NM, and showed the kids while they camped here with us for a few days. It was so lovely to have such sweet grandparents around!).

We also went mountain biking in Boulder City (Bootleg Canyon is a moutain biking mecca!), but the camera did not come with us...

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed by petrifaction of ancient sand dunes during the Jurassic era, 160 million years ago. The exposed rock responsible for the dramatic colors and formations is Aztec sandstone. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.

Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park, dedicated in 1935. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs.

We hiked the White Domes and Fire Wave trails; both were simply breathtaking. Valley of Fire is up there among my favorite State/National Parks, not very far behind Arches NP and Bryce NP.

I simply cannot imagine how hot this place must be in the summer. It is only mid-March and some of us were seriously overheating. On the Fire Wave hike, JF and our friend helped an elderly man down a slippery sandstone path. He was hiking in this rough terrain by himself with his cane and no water, and we left him a bit concerned. On our way back, we stopped at the Visitor Center and JF let the rangers know about him. They took notes and said they would be there in about 30 minutes. I am always amazed at how sensitive JF is to others… He also made the girls and I drink a full bottle of water before heading back on the road to make sure we would not be dehydrated.

As we drove back to Vegas (there is no cell connexion in the Valley of Fire campground, by the way…), I put my sandy feet up on the dash of the Westy, rolled down the window so the wind would cool me down, and let all that beauty sink into my soul. What an amazing day we had!

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas famous Strip. Unfortunately there is no cell signal at the campground, so we could not camp there during the week. We stayed at an RV park in the hood in Vegas. The hood is the bad part of town (not that there is a good part of Vegas...). There were couples fighting and screaming in building appartments right outside the RV park and 4 hookers walking in front of the gate at any time of the day. JF even got a few waves! And from 4 pm on, ambulances every 20 minutes... Oh, and planes every ten minutes, 24/7. If I extended my arm through the bedroom window, I could touch the neighbors' trailer's slide out... 

I don't remember if I talked about the fact that I was electrosensitive here or not. I found out the hard way after we had installed the solar system on the bus and I started feeling very unwell. I shortly found out that I was reacting to the dirty electricity from the EMF. Long story short, we fixed the problem and I am usually OK, as long as we turn off the electricity and the Wifi before going to bed. But when we are in big cities with lots of cellphone waves and wifi, even when I turn off everything in the bus, I toss and turn all night (like the princess on the pea), wake up with a headache, burning eyes and nausea. I feel irritable and my brain is foggy.

Needless to say, I was desperate to get out of there. Sitting on top of the red rocks after a very fun scramble up, I felt like myself again.

Since I found out about my (low-level) electrosensitivity, I understand better why the city drains me and nature helps me come back to center... If only we didn't need cell connexion for work...!