Why You Should Volunteer

I’ve been volunteering my time quite a bit lately and as always, it feels wonderful. I’m republishing this post in hopes that you’ll research a new volunteering opportunity in your area and field of interest. If you have any experience volunteering or suggestions for others, throw them in the comments. 

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Happy Monday!  Over a year ago, when Katie and I started this blog, we had intended for our Mondays to be inspiring.  We thought, what better to read on a Monday morning than something that will amp you up for the rest of the week or at the very least, make your Monday a bit better.  We’ve strayed a little bit from that scheduling because we realized we have so much to share in all spheres, but today we’re going back to our roots and inspiring you to help out a little. You know, volunteer a few hours or a few days, whatever you can. Today I’m sharing my two cents on why you should volunteer followed by a recap of my recent volunteer experience on the Appalachian Trail that includes a remembrance of our dear hiking friend.

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Winter (Van) Camping

We like to get outside every chance we get, whether it’s a quick run, a day-long hike, or a weekend camping trip. You can see all of our outdoor adventures here, and more of our Colorado hikes here.

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Last weekend we packed up the van and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park for an overnight adventure! Since winter camping is not a common past time, especially if you have little kids, I thought I’d share some details about our adventure, and hopefully encourage you to take off into the snowy mountains for a weekend of fun.

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Within RMNP, Moraine Park is the only campground that’s open year-round, and in the winter it offers 77 sites on a first-come-first-served basis (for only $18/night!). When we arrived on Saturday, there were a handful of other campers, but most of the sites were open!… at that point, Calder and I considered this trip a success, because it’s often impossible to get a campsite in Colorado without reservations made months in advance.

The Moraine Park area is a wide valley within the park that’s great year-round for wildlife watching and in the winter, it provides a beautiful backdrop for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

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What do you do during a winter camping trip? Much of the same stuff that you do in the summer. Instead of just hiking, you do it with snowshoes, and instead of shorts and a t-shirt, you do it with plenty of layers.

We arrived Saturday afternoon, set up our site and let the boys explore, and then went out for an adventure. Calder skied with Alex on his back while I snowshoed with Luc. Once we got back to the van, we lit a fire and started in on dinner. After breakfast the next day, we headed out to the Fern Lake Trailhead for a long hike, and then we hopped in the car, drove into Estes for lunch, and headed home.
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What gear did we take? Great question. Since we were van-camping, we had the luxury of being able to bring more gear than we would on a hiking trip, but even so, we keep it very simple.

CLOTHES : We are notoriously light packers, and even for this trip we kept it simple. Since we already do a lot of winter day-trips, it’s easy for us to pack our bags with the exact winter layers that each person needs. For each of us, that includes good boots, a hat, gloves, coat, snow pants, and an under-layer. We brought a change of clothes for everyone, but honestly, Alex is the only person that needed extra clothes because he has a knack for covered himself in muck. The rest of us were too lazy and warm to change out of our clothes for day two.

SNOW GEAR : We brought the chains for our van (they are always packed), a snow shovel, a sled, snowshoes, and a pair of skis fitted with AT bindings and skins.

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CAMPING GEAR : I talked about most of this gear in another post on van camping, but I’ll give you a quick run-down here. We brought our camping box that contains all the basic necessities for eating – matches, cookware, camping stove, silverware, french press, can opener, etc. During the winter, we’re serious about a warm and cozy bed set-up, so we bring two extra large thermarests that cover the van bed, and two down comforters, one for under us and one for over. Luc sleeps in the bed with us, while Alex sleeps in his own nest on the floor (he is snuggled into one big down comforter).

ENTERTAINMENT : We rely on nature to keep the kiddos happy while the sun’s out. When we go into the van for the night, we’ve started playing Go Fish and other card games with Alex (while Luc makes it his goal to disrupt the games in any way possible). We also packed a few good books for everyone, knitting for me, and podcasts for Calder.

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FOOD : Just as with the clothes, we keep it simple. For this quick trip, I’ll tell you exactly what we brought (all packed in one large cooler).

  • drinks : coffee, tea, milk, hot chocolate mix, G&T fixings (obvs!), and water
  • lunch/dinner : soup, hotdogs & buns, smoked oysters
  • breakfast : bacon & eggs
  • misc. : marshmallows, oranges, sugar

The soup was leftovers from the previous week. It was actually a blend of this broccoli & cheddar and this creamy chicken – we had a little of both, and the mixture turned out to be delicious! Does that seem weird? We’re soup-mixers from way back (we’re guilty of making soup cocktails at every soup bar we visit). Soup is great for a winter trip because you’ll want something warm, and having it pre-made makes reheating really easy.

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I love to take the fixings for G&Ts on camping trips. The easiest way I’ve found to do it, particularly for a short overnight trip, is to take just the shot (or two) of gin in a flask, and the appropriate number of 8oz cans of tonic from Trader Joes. Those cans are the perfect size for a single drink. And they’re cute.

The smoked oysters may seem a bit random, but they are a common Schu-family appetizer. They are particularly awesome on a cold-weather camping trip when the extra calories may come in handy and when you need something quick to eat while you’re waiting for the fire to get going and your drinks are already flowing.

Our boys love smoked oysters, but I’m sure many wouldn’t even want to try them. Although as all parents know, kids are more risky eaters on camping trips, so if your kids have never had them, your next camping trip is the perfect time to introduce them to this little piece of oily heaven.

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Most of the photos above were from our first day of our trip. The photos below are from our second day. Hot Chocolate in the van, followed by our hike on the Fern Lake trail. The trail is so well-traveled that on the day we went, snowshoes were unnecessary.

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This was our first winter camping trip with two kids, and it was a major success. As I’m writing this post, Alex is talking to Calder about the trip and wondering when we can go again (soon, little guy, soon!). We had a great time, and I’m so happy that we’re introducing the little guys to year-round camping adventures.

I know that getting out into the snow with kids can be daunting on a typical day, so camping may seem like an absurd idea, but really, if you have the right clothes to keep everyone warm, and you’re ready for a weekend of adventure in the snow, you’ll have an amazing time!

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Like Haiyaha Hike

We like a good hike, and every once in a while we have the chance to hike slow, take pictures, and share the adventure with you. You can check out some of our previous Colorado hikes here.

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These are photos from a hike that we took a few months ago, and I just happened to find them here in an unpublished post. I was so sure that I wrote about this hike, but a few searches finally convinced me that I’m crazy.

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I have this thing where once a season full hits, I have a hard time remembering what other seasons are like. When we’re covered in snow, I can’t remember exactly what a hot summer day feels like. And vice versa. You would think that looking at pics would help, but I’m just confused and trying so hard to remember what this hike felt like. Welcome to my twilight zone.
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This is a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, and this page has a great description of the trail and details about getting to the trail head, so I won’t repeat those details. The one thing I will emphasize is that RMNP is CRAZY PACKED during any nice day, including this particular one. It can be really difficult to find parking. They have a park shuttle that will take you to many of the roadside trail heads. If you are flexible, that may be the way to go. Since we had the boys, two packs, and other gear, we chanced it and luckily we found a parking spot, but it was touch and go.  liveseasoned_haiyaha3liveseasoned_haiyaha4 liveseasoned_haiyaha5 liveseasoned_haiyaha6

This hike was particularly nice because the trails take you past a number of small lakes and there are plenty of scenic overlooks. On the day we were there, the weather was in flux. It started out sunny but windy, then there was a light rain, and at the top of the mountain, snow! It made for some pretty beautiful and dramatic scenes, but it’s also a reminder to be prepared for any weather when hiking in the mountains. We dressed in layers, and were comfortable throughout the hike.
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As you can see, we hiked with both boys in packs, which had become our m.o. last fall. Many of the hikes we were doing were well over a couple of miles and involved patches of rugged or steep terrain, so to keep everyone happy, it made sense to carry the kiddos. Even though our boys are bursting with energy, they both were happy to be carried (who wouldn’t be?!).

I love for the kids to be awake and experience nature as we hike, but with some of these longer hikes, it can be nice to plan the hike so that it overlaps with naptime. That’s what happened here. Calder and I still had a beautiful hike, and the boys were happy to nap for a portion of the hike. liveseasoned_haiyaha10 liveseasoned_haiyaha11 liveseasoned_haiyaha12 liveseasoned_haiyaha13 liveseasoned_haiyaha14

Of course, when you get to the lake, it’s beautiful. There’s nothing quite like an alpine lake. The water is clear, cold, and this particular one was slightly green/blue in color. We sat on the rocky banks and ate a little snack before heading back down the trail. We didn’t pack a full lunch because we were saving our appetites for some mountain dogs.
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Ahhh, seeing this photos, I really can’t wait to get back to the park for a winter visit! It’s going to happen one day soon… liveseasoned_haiyaha17

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Winter Break Snapshots

What a winter break we’ve had! We have one more day left tomorrow, and we’re going to do what we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks – spend it outside. It seems like we’ve really hit our stride this year when it comes to embracing the winter. Of course, it’s all about good clothes, a good spirit, and just doing it, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Today, I’m sharing just a glimpse of what we’ve been up to these past few weeks.

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We started our break in Steamboat Springs, CO (one of our favorite ski towns in the state!). We arrived at the start of a snowstorm that lasted well into the next day and maybe the day after? I can’t remember. But we still had a great time skiing and snowshoeing all over the mountain.

On our third, and final, day in town, we visited Strawberry Park Hot Springs before driving home. We had been here once last winter, and it was just as magical as I remembered.

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We arrived home the same day that Sarah and our family flew into town, and then every pitched in and helped us prepare to host a big party for C’s office. There was definitely a moment of “what are we doing?!” the night before, but in the end, the party was awesome, the food delicious, the company amazing, and the music pumping.
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The party was followed by a day of rest and then it was off to the mountains to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad with Santa! We did this last year and I was really excited to do it again. When you arrive at the station, there’s hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts to munch on. Then you board the train and start riding with the excitement of knowing that Santa’s going to come and sit with you to say hi. It’s such a nice way to visit Santa, because there are no lines – you just wait in your seat on the train until Santa gets to you, meanwhile, the train’s moving through the beautiful Colorado mountains.
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Back in Boulder, we did more hiking. christmas_break2016_12

And snowball throwing. christmas_break2016_13 christmas_break2016_14

And then it was off to the mountains again for more skiing and snowshoeing!
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Home for more hiking…christmas_break2016_24 christmas_break2016_25

And here we are, relaxing, making our list of resolutions, and preparing for one more day on the slopes before we’re back to a regularly scheduled week.

I hope your break was full of warmth, family, food, and all of that holiday magic. xo

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Happy Mountain Day!

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Sup mountaineers! Did you know that yesterday was International Mountain Day? In 2003, the United Nations designated 12/11 as International Mountain Day. A day meant to encourage the international community to organize events at all levels in order to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development. Of course, with all the crazy going on this month, we missed it. We missed national letter writing day too, but I’ll fill you in on that another day. Anyway, this year’s theme is Mountain Cultures: Celebrating diversity and strengthening identity. From hiking the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, to climbing Mt. Agung under the stars, to trekking the Annapurna Circuit, I’ve experienced enough mountain magic to be hook. Mountain spaces are sacred, enchanting and come with an immense feeling of satisfying insignificance like I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

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If you’ve ever wandered high up into the mountains, you will have noticed that remote mountain villages are home to ancient cultures and traditions. These traditional lifestyles are largely determined and linked to sustaining a living in harsh and remote mountain landscapes. Isolation helped to create and maintain immense diversity between villages and allowed these cultures to stay intact. Of course, as decades pass, mountain populations experience change and culture loss through migration and urbanization.

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Whenever I experience remote mountain life, I’m captivated by the use of land, for farming, raising animals and capturing fresh water. Mountain people are so in tune with their unique environment and how to properly respect it while gaining what they need to prosper. Mountain people’s deep respect and attachment to the land quite often has religious ties. Mountains have commonly been revered as the home of deities throughout history because of their fresh water sources and their seemingly close proximity to the sun. It’s no coincidence that you often see crosses, pilgrimage sites and places of worship high on mountain tops.

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Obviously I’m quite conscious of my place while visiting mountains. I’m always a guest, a traveler, an ambassador of society at large and therefore I take my role very seriously. As much as possible, I strive to find community-based tourism that I can support. Tourism that will help maintain the culture, not parade it around and inevitably degrade it. I also distribute my dollars broadly to local people. Spending a little bit here and there, not a bunch in one place. Lastly, I ensure everything I hike in with also comes back out and of course I respect the ecosystem by not wandering off trail. As a visitor to these spaces, I have a big responsibility in ensuring these ancient cultures continue for future generations to experience. Hiking into mountain villages is like stepping back in time. It’s absolutely breathtaking and there’s no way I can aptly describe it, but maybe these images from the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal will help a bit.  10-14-15-web-muktinah-3310-09-15-web-upper-pissang-77 10-09-15-web-upper-pissang-88 10-09-15-web-upper-pissang-10110-11-15-web-manang-57 10-11-15-web-manang-62 10-11-15-web-manang-8010-13-15-web-new-phedi-82

I’m planning a trip to Nepal for October & November of 2017. Want to join me on a trek?

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Mitchell Lake Trail

We like a good hike, and every once in a while we have the chance to hike slow, take pictures, and share the adventure with you. You can check out some of our previous Colorado hikes here.

For the past two weekends, we’ve visited Brainard Lake Recreation Area and set out from the Mitchell Lake Trailhead. On our first trip, we did a short hike to Mitchell Lake, took a rest to have some hot chocolate, and then turned around. Yesterday we set out with the goal to make it all the way to Blue Lake, and we did!

As in the tradition of our previous hike posts, I wanted to share some photos and a brief overview of the trail. These photos are from both trips and in no particular order, but they give you a great sense of what the trail is like during mid October.

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Trail Location

The trail starts within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, but quickly leaves that area and continues on into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area is open to vehicles from June – October, but the exact opening and closing dates vary each year based on the weather. The entrance fee is on a sliding scale from $1 if you’re walking to $10/car, BUT you can access this area for free with a Nation Parks annual pass. When the area is closed during the winter, you can still park at a lot near the entrance and then enter the area by foot/ski/bike.

During the summer months, you can drive into the area and park at a number of lots. There’s a day-use lot near the main lake that often has spaces, and then there are two smaller lots near the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake trailheads, but in our experience, both of these fill up fairly early and remain packed throughout the day.

If possible, park at the Mitchell Lakes Trailhead and you’ll be able to quickly access the trail, if the lot is full, you’ll have to park in one of the other lots and walk over to the trailhead.

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Trail Overview

The hike to Mitchell Lake is just under a mile, and it’s another 1.6 miles to reach Blue Lake. These are both out-and-back destinations, making the round-trip hike to Mitchell approximately 1.8 miles and the hike to Blue Lake five miles. The altitude at the trailhead is approximately 10,500 ft, with a gradual climb of just 200 ft to Mitchell Lake and then reaching a final altitude of 11,300 ft at Blue Lake.

This is a popular, well-worn trail that is easily visible when there isn’t much snow on the ground. I’m not sure what it’s like when covered with snow, and while there were some markers in the trees, I didn’t pay close enough attention to notice how well-marked it was.

Near the base of the trail, hiking is relatively easy with that slow, gradual climb to Mitchell Lake. There is one large stream crossing over a short wooden bridge, and then another crossing over a wider stream with fall logs used as the bridge. In other segments, planks are used to keep hikers out of boggy areas. There are some steep areas where climbing the rocks is similar to climbing a steep set of stairs, with an increase in the portion of steep climbs as you approach Blue Lake.

During our first visit, there was some snow on the trail that had been tramped down and turned to ice, making some areas slick, but the following weekend this ice had melted, making hiking much easier. It was a nice reminder of how quickly weather and trail can change at that altitude.

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Hiking with Kids

Young kids (4 to 8 year olds) should be able to hike to Mitchell Lake with minimal help but would likely need help making the full trek to Blue Lake. Older kids 8+ should have no trouble with the full hike. *** Having only 3.5 and 1.5 year olds, I may have to go back and revise those numbers as we continue to test the trail, but this is based upon the kids we saw out on the trails as we hiked.

We ended up carrying both of our kids during both hikes. The first weekend it was because they were a bit under the weather, and the second weekend it was because we set out with the goal of the longer hike.

And I don’t know about your kiddos, but anytime we pull out a thermos of hot chocolate during a rest, they are happy hikers and totally oblivious to any chill in the air (pro-tip there)!

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Dressing for the Trail

At this time of year (and almost any time!), it was really helpful to dress in light layers. I wore spandex on my bottom and then a tank, wool thermal, and a light down jacket on top. Calder did something similar. The boys wore lined pants, shirts, and hoodies. They could have been dressed a bit warmer, but we also used our down jackets to bundle around them when they were cold in the packs, which worked out well because it was often when we were hot from hiking and carrying them. We all wore wool hats that we put on and off all day.

It was particularly cold and windy at Blue Lake, but since we weren’t staying there long, it didn’t make sense to carry along extra layers just for that rest stop.

And don’t forget sunscreen! While there are some segments with plenty of shade, there is a lot of sun shining on much of the trail.

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mitchell_lake5By now, Calder and I both know that we live in a beautiful state, but even so, we couldn’t stop gushing about these two weekends spent hiking the same trail. We’re so glad we explored and now we’re anxious to hike it when the wildflowers are at their peak next summer. We’re also excited to have this hike at the ready the next time we have adventurous visitors in town.

If you’re in the Boulder area, this hike and the whole Indian Peaks area is definitely worth your time. Just know that everyone else loves the area too, so try to get there early before the lots fill up. Good luck!
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Visit Arches National Park & Moab, Utah

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It’s Wednesday, you’re half way through the week that means you deserve to procrastinate by looking at pretty pictures of Moab, Utah. I’ve only visited Moab once, but I have not stopped thinking about it since. People are shocked by my profound love of Utah, but if you’ve never been, you need to stop yappin’ and start packing. After all, a few of the most scenic national parks are located there.

The following photos were taken at Arches National Park. Standing in the midst of such vibrant colossal rock formations was surely grounding. Upon entering the park, I read the history of Arches then spent the next several days trying to imagine the landscape as it changed throughout the ages. I believe connecting with the landscape and witnessing earth’s transformation is a powerful conservation tool for current and future generations. Getting to know and appreciate the natural beauty in the world will surely encourage you and others to be an active participant in securing these spaces for future generations. If you haven’t visited Arches yet, call a few buddies or load the family into the car and experience history, geology and immense beauty this year.  Continue reading

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Postcards from the Rockies

If you’d like to see more of our outdoor adventures, here’s a post from another car-camping trip with the boys, and here are a few of the hikes we’ve documented.

This past weekend we went on a short one-night camping trip near Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and had such a great time. We didn’t do any major planning or packing, just a couple of hours Saturday morning, and then we started driving during nap time, and by the afternoon we found a campsite (more on that below), then we woke up Sunday and took off for a hiking destination that was in the direction of home, and we made it back to our house by late afternoon. It was a short but sweet trip that left everyone happy and tired.

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One thing that still overwhelms me since moving to Boulder is how crowded hiking and camping areas are in this area. I understand that it’s the confluence of living near a large urban area (with a high percentage of people that like to get outside) and living near some of the most beautiful scenery in the country (I may be biased), but wow – there seem to be crowds at every campground, on every hiking trail, and on every road. I’ll get used to it eventually. The problem is that it makes it hard for non-planners like us to go for an adventure on a whim.

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Camping with Little Kids

Want to see more of our camping posts? Click here to see posts with previous adventures and our gear suggestions. Or maybe you just want to come along with us on a day hike?

One of the things Calder and I are really looking forward to are camping adventures with the boys, but somehow we’ve had a hard time making time/plans for a trip this summer. Side note : since moving to Colorado, we’ve learned that you have to plan these trips in advance if you want to secure a site at a campground. Reservations are scooped up as soon as they come online! If you aren’t able to reserve a spot, there are some campgrounds that hold a few spots open for first-come-first-serve arrivals, but we’ve been too lazy to go through the effort of packing the car and taking the risk.  We know we could just head out into the wilds, but again, we’ve been lazy.

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As luck would have it, friends (hi Neha!) of ours were going on trip with a few other families, some sites opened up, and we were able to take one. Score! Alex is just a few months past his second birthday and Luc is four months old, so this was our first trip with both a toddler and an infant, and I thought it might be useful to share our tips/tricks for a super easy and enjoyable weekend camping trip. As you’ll see, we kept everything so simple for this trip. If you’re hesitant about camping with kids, I want to encourage you to do it and show you how it can be done without a lot of stress, tears, or baby gear. Of course, if gear is your thing, then pack on :-).

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Mt. Judah Hike

We like a good hike, and every once in a while we have the chance to hike slow, take pictures, and share the adventure with you. This is our first hike in California, but you can check out some of our previous Colorado hikes here.

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Trail Location:

We found this particular hike in a book of trails that was in the house, but you can easily find information about it here and here. The trail is in the Northern Sierras, near Truckee, CA, and it’s just 4 miles from the Soda Springs exit on Route 80. It’s proximity to the highway makes it an easy and worthwhile stop if you’re on a road trip. There is ample parking in the lot next to the Sugar Bowl Academy (we visited in summer, I’m not sure if the parking situation changes when school is in session). From there, you have to take a short walk down the side road to get to the trailhead. You could also drive down that road and park at the trailhead, but I’m not sure how crowded that area gets on the weekend.

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Trail Overview :

The total distance for this hike is about 4.5 miles. You begin on the Pacific Coast Trail, hiking towards the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, and on one of the runs is where you’ll bump into the Mount Judah Trail. You could take a left there and head up the trail, but we continued on the PCT and took the second intersection with the Mount Judah trail (there are only two points of intersection). Whichever way you connect to Mount Judah, you’ll end up hiking the one initial PCT section both in and out to the parking area.

This hike is marked as moderate in the trail guides, and I would agree. The most difficult portion is the initial (and final) ascent (decent) on the PCT. The terrain is rocky, the trail relatively narrow, and the incline steep, but after those switchbacks, the rest of the trail is much less rocky with a more gradual climb. The trail covers a total elevation gain of about 1000 ft.

Side note : someone in our group was concerned about going on this hike with a bum knee, then Calder’s sister reminded them that they would be hiking with a septuagenarian, a pregnant lady, and a lady with a baby… if our rag-tag bunch could handle this hike, then most readers probably can too!

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