On Monday, J and I picked up our basic and slowly accelerating rental car and drove northeastward towards Lake Tahoe.
In Fairfield, we stopped at the Jelly Belly Factory for free samples, a factory tour, and to purchase candy for our trip. After waiting in the queue for 25 minutes, our group of 60 was led along a catwalk above all but the chewy core stages of jelly bean production. The process was largely automated, with a variety of robots deftly handling different tasks. All of the robots were isolated from people by cages, a safety precaution for an uprising.
The facility was spotless, and the quantity of jelly beans on display made my pancreas explode. There were a lot of kids on the tour, stimulated more by sugar than the steps of mechanized food production.
Despite Jelly Belly freely revealing every secret of their process, no photography was allowed on the tour.
Exiting through the gift shop, we bought some of their official flavors as well as a few weird ones like tabasco, pencil shavings, sausage, and black pepper.
After more hours of driving, dry ugly suburbia transitioned to woods. We followed US Route 50 along a river while increasing elevation by thousands of feet. More snow was on the ground.
We descended into Tahoe valley and took the 89 south to Hope Valley to find our lodging.
Sorenson’s Resort is a cluster of year round cabins near the junction of routes 88 and 89. The thick covering of snow and aspen woods made the property feel like something from the North Pole. Amenities included a wood fired sauna, free coffee and cocoa, free snow shoes, and a great hill and sleds for some violent sledding.
Our cabin was tiny, but tastefully furnished. The cuteness of our little modern stove was matched by our retro gas stove/heater.
On our first full day, we drove along the north western edge of the lake to Tahoe City to scope out the views and a place to test our snow shoes. We settled on a trail down to Emerald Bay. Snow shoes were unnecessary, though my boots had no traction otherwise.
We explored the shore, Vikingsholm castle, and found a nice spot to eat some hearty deli sandwiches. I almost twisted my ankle when it fell into hidden gap under the snow.
View of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe.
An island. The rocky point on the upper shore is where we ate lunch.
Another view of the bay.
Red barn and dirty old snow.
Heading into the courtyard.
J meeting me at our lunch spot by the water.
Back at Sorenson’s, we tried a variety of sleds. The hill was step, bumpy, and full of obstacles from boulders to trees. My sled of choice I called “Speed Train”, but I also enjoyed the simple disc. I caught air a few times, broke a few sleds, and jolted myself into having a headache.
On Wednesday, we drove to Kirkwood Ski Resort to try cross country skiing. Equipment was $22 each for the day. To use the trails was another $14 each.
The beginner trails were in the meadow below the slopes. I took a bad spill nearly immediately on the first hill, scratching up my leg and arm. But I slowly got my “ski legs” and was able to do the rest of the meadow without incident.
We packed up our gear, ate some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and drove to some more groomed track in the Schneider Trail System. Our loop was the intermediate difficulty Rambler. The hills were steeper and more numerous. I fell plenty more times until I finally got comfortable with how to slow down and turn on my skis.
We did the loop twice. The first time it took an hour. The second time, 40 minutes. We only encountered one other person that day, leaving us plenty of space to take in the quiet, beautiful scenery and perfectly blue sky. I left my camera in the car to avoid damaging it.
That evening, I got in a solid hour hour of sledding. I had the most fun on the disk, until taking a treacherous route that made me catch air, slam into a dip and lose control, smashing my thigh into a tree, and having me spin to a stop at the bottom of the hill. No bruises, luckily. And I was good for one last run.
My body was sore and my eyes felt heavy over dinner and cards.
I was too tired to gaze at the stars, instead I slept like an aspen log.