That’s right, WE’RE ENGAGED!
Full disclosure, this is not like our usual posts. We just returned from our 8 day adventure in California where Comly popped the question and I am so excited to share the details. But in addition to the blissful moment when Comly got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, there were a lot of unexpected events on this trip that make it difficult to give a complete set of recommendations for others.
In case you aren’t in the loop on current events, most of California (along with the majority of the west coast, and a large portion of the world) is currently on fire. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic is still a major concern.
Of course, we went into the trip with a high level of flexibility and awareness of the public health concerns and fire danger. We recognized that plans would most certainly change, but I think we were both still surprised at the impact.
We shifted around our itinerary and were still impacted by smoke. Our planned adventures were cancelled on multiple occasions and we were evacuated from two different campsites due to fire danger, had one blackout due to winds, an orange sky day, a few grey sky days, and a lot of smoke. Two of our planned hikes were not possible. Also, Comly had surprised me for my birthday and planned a hot air balloon ride, which was cancelled due to smoke, and then rescheduled… and then cancelled again due to more smoke.
All that said, we explored beautiful places, reconnected with old friends, and created a moment that we will remember for the rest of our lives! (Awwww)
Let’s start the day before the proposal…
On Monday, Sept 7th, 2020 we woke up around 7:30AM East Coast time, 4:30 local time, at our Airbnb in Incline Village on the north side of Lake Tahoe. We headed out for a sunrise hike and found a spectacular cove called Skunk Harbor. We popped in the water and took in the picturesque morning. The air was cool which made the water temperature more tolerable, at least until you needed to get out. After quickly drying off we decided to warm up by hiking back to the car. I honestly thought to myself “well, if he was going to propose I think he would have done it by now, this place is spectacularly beautiful,” and tried not to be disappointed.
We had time to kill before our bougie brunch reservation at Lone Eagle Grill (a birthday gift from my god parents) so we went to Logan Shoals Vista Point to check out the lake from another perspective.
Upon arrival at Lone Eagle Grill we were excited by both the serious COVID precautions taken by the establishment and the proximity of the table to the lake. The views were lovely, although not as optimal as they would be if no one else was around. 🙂
We stuffed ourselves with a decadent breakfast (steak and eggs for Comly and a salmon eggs Benedict for moi, plus blueberry lemon ricotta pancakes to split) and then headed to the west side of the lake.
We rented some bikes from Camp Richardson and hit the beach while we waited until 2pm to check into our campsite at Meeks Bay. My high school friend, Deena, was headed down from Northern California to camp and hike with us for a few days. My phone buzzed and I realized I had an email from the campground… about evacuating.
We called Deena and gave her a heads up but she was close so we told her to meet us and that we would figure it out. The whole area was being evacuated and we had two nights reserved at the campsite. The skies weren’t too smokey at the time (we were starting to get used to a slight smoke covering) but of course we understood the need to evacuate as a precaution.
Thanks to the tips of some locals we found a dispersed campsite (no reservation needed) about 30 minutes away. We set up camp, including our mummy sleeping bags because the evening temps were in the 40s, and then happily indulged in some Thai food and white wine for dinner.
Fast forward to waking up in our lovely campsite on September 8th. The air is more smokey than the day before but we were still planning to hike Mt Tallac. It was before dark so I popped on my headlamp and walked to the bathroom. Immediately I saw a bright pink “evacuation” notice and realized we needed to pack up camp and find a plan C.
We decided to still drive to trailhead and see whether it was a possibility to take on Mt Tallac – which in hindsight was probably silly. We were met by giant red “CLOSED DUE TO FIRE” signs which became a typical site for the rest of the trip.
We thought, “well, Lake Tahoe is huge… let’s try the other side.” More red signs along the state park entrances on the Nevada side. A helpful ranger (I think) told us that where we were parked along Rt 28 technically couldn’t “close” but that the parking areas in the state parks and national forests would be inaccessible for at least a week and if you broke the rules there was a massive fine. We decided to make the most of the opportunity that presented itself with the side of the road parking spot and walk down toward the lake so Deena could at least spend some time there before we left Tahoe altogether to go to Napa early.
It’s worth mentioning that when I say “down toward the lake” I really mean DOWN. The trails from Rt 28 to the water are STEEP. We were glad to have our hiking boots every time we went down and were often skeptical of the sketchy trailheads, which are all unmarked but lead in the same direction. Once we reached the water the skies started to open up and the aquamarine colors of the lake were spectacular. Not only was it the most beautiful day yet, but there was no one else around.
Little did I know, while I was thinking about how to change our plans for accommodations Comly was thinking about how to change his plans for the proposal (which I later learned were already changed once due to the fires in Big Sur). He realized that the moment was too perfect and suggested we go to the car and hit at least one more beach before we took off (aka he needed to get the ring).
Again, we found ourselves at the breathtaking Skunk Harbor. I was so happy that Deena would be able to see it! We got down there and then things started to get fishy when Comly decided to put on his sweater and wouldn’t take his hand out of his pocket…
We posed for a photo, and he got down on one knee. It was a happy tears, love fest kind of moment. We were surrounded by incredible scenery that we had all to ourselves, and of course we were both wearing hiking boots. Deena was also in on the whole thing and helped capture the beautiful moment.
Of course, I said YES!
After filling in our families and eating our homemade sandwiches we piled into our cars and drove to Napa early. We popped bubbly under sepia smoke filled skies outside our yurt, which luckily could accommodate us a night early, and had a celebratory dinner at Farmstead. The day perfect, despite being filled with audibles – it really captures our ability to make the most of life, no matter what curve balls come our way.
The rest of our trip was eerie and smoke covered but nothing could bring us down. We had a delightful breakfast at Sam’s Social Club and spent the day drinking wine from various vineyards. Now, there are a LOT of Napa experts who know the wineries and the food scene well so if you want recommendations on where to drink you should read their blogs because we are still Napa naive and barely scratched the surface.
For the final leg of the trip we headed to the coast. We meandered through the Muir Woods before a ramen pitstop in SF, and then down to Marina, CA where we glamped in this lovely Airbnb. The fires continued to impact our trip but Big Sur was still impressive. Now we have a reason to return so we can take it all in when there isn’t smoke.
A Note on Wild Fires:
The fires in California and across the globe are no joke. Yes, wildfires are natural and necessary phenomenon, but their size and magnitude is growing as a consequence of climate change and human impact on the environment. The hotter and drier conditions are creating a longer and more intense fire season. Lives are being lost and homes are destroyed. Working to reverse climate change through major policy reform is critical, and taking every precaution we can while enjoying the outdoors (such as following fire guidelines and warnings) is critical.
To donate to support California Fire Relief click the links below:
The American Red Cross which is housing people in motels instead of traditional shelters due to the panemic.
Tips for Lake Tahoe
- Bring hiking boots and keep them in your car. I wear these Merrell Moab Waterproof boots and I LOVE them
- Bring layers!! It’s chilly at night, even when the temperature is high during the day
- Labor Day Weekend is a zoo – start your day as early as possible to take in views without crowds – we started hiking down to the water before sunrise and had hours of peace and quiet with nature before the crowds rolled in
- Park on Rt 28 and hike down to the lake, but be careful about the no parking zones… oh and the fact that you’re parallel parking between a highway and a cliff
- Pack your lunches – Tahoe is pricey but there are plenty of supermarkets
- Keep plenty of water on you – even when it’s cold the air is dry and you never know when you’ll end up hiking up or down a steep hill to the water. You may have noticed I switched to this Miracol Hydration Backpack which was great! Not only does it keep your water cool, and your lunch too if you stick it in the main pocket, there is room for other stuff and your phone and mask can remain accessible in the front pockets!
- Download the All Trails app to get ideas of where to explore
- Download the Google Map of the area before arriving so you can still navigate if you lose cell phone service
Traveling In California During the Fires
Honestly, just don’t do it. Many of the fires remain uncontained as I’m writing this post. If you can reschedule your trip or change destinations to a place that is not currently impacted by the fires that would be recommendation.
That said, there’s no such thing as a bad trip when you’re traveling with your best friend. Everything can go sideways and you still make the most of it.