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Our Great Outdoors: Everything You Need to Know for the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure

Break out of your home and into the wilderness this season. This time of the year promises crisp air, blossoming flowers, and countless adventures. Whatever you fancy—adrenalin-pumping or relaxing—we’ve got you covered. All you need to do is get your gear ready and spring into action!

Photo by Ryan Martinez.


Get Outside Hiking

Albert Einstein was one of many influential thinkers who praised daily walks as food for the mind. In fact, daily walks were sacred to Einstein, and many have hailed walking as a conduit to greater creativity and problem solving.

Allowing your mind to focus on the simple task of moving one foot in front of the other, rhythmically and without falling, allows the mind to forego more cerebral efforts and enter a state of “transient hypofrontality.” This basically means your brain slows down activities in certain areas resulting in better problem-solving skills and greater peace of mind.

Photo by Ryan Martinez.


When you combine this with the intoxicating tonic of nature, you have a soul-fueling reprieve from daily life. Take a moment to marvel at the sounds of pine needles clashing, notice the quirky endeavors of a chipmunk, and the elegance of a freshly blossomed wildflower, or just get your sweat on to the rhythm of your own breath. Going on a hike will be the most fulfilling thing you’ll do all weekend.

Where To Go: Mountains

Auburn Confluence
The Auburn Confluence is a no-brainer if you live west of Highway 49. There are so many trails, beautiful views, and enough elevation to really get your sweat on and connect with the outdoors. Take the Lake Clementine trail beneath the Foresthill Bridge and up to the dam. There’s a $10 day use fee for parking at the Auburn State Recreation Area entrance; open from 7 a.m. till sunset.

South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe is one of the most well-known areas in the western United States, and the trails will reflect this. Expect crowds, but the world-class wilderness is worth sharing and there are many lesser-known trails that will provide you plenty of solitude.

One trail that’s worth the crowds, is Echo Lakes. This is a moderately difficult, out-and-back trail that follows two alpine lakes in the gorgeous Desolation Wilderness. With plenty of opportunities to swim, paddle board, kayak, and more, this area is definitely worth a visit.

Photo by Ryan Martinez.


Donner Memorial State Park
There are many trails here, but one of my favorites is the Donner Peak Trail. The 3.8-mile, out-and-back hike to the summit of Donner Peak offers wildflowers, lakes, and the perfect view of Donner Lake from the summit. The trail also connects to the Pacific Crest Trail if you are craving some extra mileage.

Bear Valley to Lake Alpine, Calaveras County
4 miles, out-and-back with views of forests and alpine lakes.

Calaveras South Grove Trail, Arnold  
4.9 miles, out-and-back through giant sequoia groves and meadows. $10 day use fee.

Calaveras North Grove Trail, Arnold  
1.7 mile, heavily trafficked loop. Like the Calaveras South Grove Trail, this trail offers giant sequoias on an easy trail for all levels. $10 day use fee.

Keep In Mind Nutrition

Eating correctly should be considered a priority during your adventures and also as a training tool to set you up for success either on the trail or in the gym.

You can think of your eating as three different types of fuel. I like to use the campfire analogy (now that we’re in the wilderness) to talk about these fuels, which can be thought of in terms of tinder, logs, and embers.

During exercise, you need to ignite your fire quickly and efficiently to give you the jump-start your body needs to activate. This is the role of carbs. Carbs are fast burning which is often what you need when you’re in the backcountry or on a strenuous hike. This quick fuel will give you near immediate energy but, like tinder, it will burn out quickly and shouldn’t be your only source of fuel for your fire.

During exercise, you need to ignite your fire quickly and efficiently to give you the jump-start your body needs to activate.


Proteins and fats are your best friends when it comes to fuel, as they are longer lasting sources of energy. If we were to compare our digestion to a campfire, proteins and fats are the logs you add to the fire to keep it going strong, as they burn slower and longer. This won’t give you a needed quick burst of energy but it will sustain you for longer and should always be included in your diet.
For recovery, again, go for proteins. Proteins are what help your muscles rebuild after strenuous activity. They provide what’s needed to make your muscles grow and will help accelerate recovery.

Electrolytes are minerals that carry a negative or positive charge and are responsible for transporting the electrical signal from your nervous system to your muscles. When you start cramping, the signal is not arriving properly due to a lack of electrolytes.

When in the backcountry or on your favorite trail, you will likely be sweating, which is one way we lose these minerals from the body, along with excretion.

An electrolyte imbalance can come from two things: dehydration or hyponatremia (essentially, overhydration). If you sweat out all your electrolytes and don’t re-hydrate, you will throw off your electrolyte balance. If you drink too much water, urinate frequently, and don’t add electrolytes, you will also create an imbalance.

Electrolytes come in many forms but it’s ideal to get them in your food via sodium and chloride (forming salt), potassium, magnesium, calcium, and a few others. If you are in the middle of rigorous exercise, you aren’t going to stop for a delicious and hydrating salad, so this is when electrolyte supplements come in.

One of my favorite electrolyte supplements are Nuun, which are tablets that dissolve in water. Emergen-C has always been a favorite as well since you can throw a few packets into your pack and always have them on hand.


The importance of stretching is often overlooked. Stretching can increase circulation, flexibility, prevent injury, and speed up recovery. I recommend developing a regular yoga practice to keep yourself in the best shape possible.

Pack Your Bags Backpacking

We live within a two-hour drive to some of North America’s best backpacking locales. Promising solid adventure and some serious exposure to nature, backpacking is by far one of the greatest things you can do. You will remember your backpacking trips for life, guaranteed.


Where To Go

Tahoe Rim Trail
This is a bucket list item for nearly every backpacker. The 170-mile loop around Lake Tahoe is gorgeous, challenging, and the logistics are fairly easy to manage.

Pacific Crest Trail
At 2,650 miles long, you may want to break this one up into sections. The PCT passes through some of Sierra Nevada’s most gorgeous areas, including Desolation Wilderness and Tahoe National Forests just above Donner Lake.

Photo by Ryan Martinez.


Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha
The trail takes you through Desolation Wilderness along gorgeous alpine lakes on a moderate 12-mile out-and-back trail. This is a great trail to test your gear and stamina for some longer, multi-day trips.

Photo by Ryan Martinez.


Know Your Gear

Believe me, there is nothing worse than being a full day (or more) away from civilization and developing a huge blister on your heel, an aching back, or an injured calf. Choosing your gear correctly, knowing how to use it properly, and breaking it in before a long trip is key to keeping you happy on the trail.

Make sure you go on a few hikes with any new footwear before you take them on a multi-day trip. Hike at least five miles at a minimum.

Make sure your pack fits you correctly (most modern packs allow you to adjust the back length, the shoulders, and the hip straps). Getting these three things set up for your body will make a huge difference in how the pack feels, correctly distributing the weight to your hips, and keeping your shoulders from aching due to too much weight. Remember: The weight should distribute to your hips, not your shoulders.  Your shoulder straps are meant to keep the weight close to your center of gravity, not for load bearing.

Backpacking Camp Gear
My ideal backpacking gear list includes a Jetboil stove, a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite sleeping pad, a good headlamp like the Petzl Tikka, and a solid knife like the Kershaw Blur series. For your camp kitchen, I love the Sea to Summit X-Set 21 collapsible pots, and an AeroPress coffee maker. (Why suffer without a delicious cup of coffee?)

First Aid
  • Get a mid-sized first aid kit for you backpacking needs. Your kit should contain:
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Saline to clean wounds
  • Band-aids to cover minor wounds
  • Anti-bacterial cream (Neosporin)
  • Gauze for cleaning/covering wounds
  • Medical tape for making bandages, preventing blisters, supporting tendons
  • Medicines: pain reliever, antihistamine, aspirin
  • Alcohol for disinfecting
  • Scissors for cutting dressings
  • Steri-Strips or butterfly strips to treat lacerations
  • Elastic bandage (Ace) for treating minor sprains
  • Waterproof matches (optional fuel tablets like Esbit)
  • Sun block
  • Soap
  • Extra batteries
  • Emergency heat blanket

Learn Basic Map Reading/Navigation Skills

Picture this: You’re on a trail but realize it may be the wrong one; you’re miles away from the nearest cell signal; your cell phone is nearly dead; and daylight is waning. The sense of dread it can inspire is very real. There aren’t many feelings that compare to the feeling of being lost in the wilderness.

Know how to orient your map to your surroundings using a compass.


Thankfully, learning some simple map reading techniques is easy and can help alleviate that horrible feeling of wild desperation.

Here's what you need to know:
  1. Know how to orient your map to your surroundings using a compass.
  2. Know how to identify landmarks.
  3. Know how to use an orienteering or lensatic compass to sight azimuths to the landmarks in your surroundings.
  4. Know how to match an azimuth (the direction of a celestial object from the observer) to the terrain on a map to pinpoint your location on a map.

If you know how to do these four things, you will never feel lost as you’ll be able to reliably find your location and find the correct route to your destination—even if you’ve lost the trail.

9 Backpacking Essentials

  1. Shelter
  2. Food and water
  3. Navigation
  4. First aid
  5. Headlamp
  6. Knife
  7. Fire
  8. Clothing
  9. Sun protection

How To Properly Pack Your Backpack

Correctly distributing the weight of your gear on your back is crucial to having a successful backpacking trip and keeping yourself injury-free. 

Head storage: This is a good place to keep emergency items. I always keep my headlamp, first aid kit, and navigation items here in case I need them quickly in an emergency.

Top section: This is a good place to keep it light and store items you may need quick access to. You can put your clothes, tent, and jackets you may need quickly (windbreaker, puffy).

Middle section: This is where your heavy items should go like your water reservoir, food canisters, and camp kitchen gear. Tip: fill the empty spaces with clothes you don’t need immediately.

Side/outside storage: Keep your water bottle and trekking poles here. Some people like to have their windbreaker here as well in case the weather turns quickly.

Hip pockets: This is a great place for your cell phone, GPS unit, knife, and energy bars.

Lower section: Keep it light! This is where you should keep your sleeping pack, night clothes, and even your tent (if you didn't store it on top). 

Pitch A Tent Camping

Want to retreat into nature without having to walk for days? Camping is the perfect balance between relaxation and escape, providing you with the comforts of home amid nature’s backdrop.

Photo by Ryan Martinez.


Where To Go

  • Finnon Lake - $30/night.
  • Sly Park - $35 standard site;
  • $50 waterfront site; $80 family site (two cars, 12 people).
  • Beal Point - $28/night.
  • South Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay - $35/night.
  • Donner Lake - $5-$10 for day use/vehicle; $35/night camping, starting Memorial Day.
  • Spicer Reservoir - $30/night first come first served; boating, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding opportunities.

Essential Camping Gear

There’s a huge range of sizes, types, and functionalities you can choose from when it comes to your camp kitchen. The important things are: stove, table, cookware, kitchen ware, and condiments.

Make sure you have a nice place to sit and eat. Think of including chairs, folding table, tablecloth, and citronella candles.

There are tons of fun games and activities for the whole fam. Some ideas are corn hole, speaker for music, card games like Uno, Spot It!, poker, etc.

Your tent setup is key. Here are some ideas to make it a little cozier.
  • Small lantern to hang from the roof.
  • Air mattress for the extra comfy set up.
  • Blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Sleeping socks (I know it sounds weird but you’ll thank me later).
  • Tent. I’ve always loved the more inexpensive REI Half-Dome series tents for a 2-person setup. For a larger group, consider whether you need the tech specs the outdoor brands offer (more resistant, easier setup, greater temperature range, etc.), or if you can make do with a more affordable Coleman-style tent. I always recommend a tent with a mesh roof for checking out the stars at night.

Cool Off Standup Paddleoarding

We live in the perfect spot to enjoy some solid SUP shenanigans. Even if you’ve never tried it before, you will find that the learning curve is low, it’s tons of fun, and you will get a solid workout in a short amount of time.

Even if you’ve never tried it before, you will find that the learning curve is low, it’s tons of fun.


Where to Go

Negro Bar
The beautiful views of Rainbow Bridge, ease of access to the water, and proximity to awesome dining and shopping in Historic Folsom makes this one of my favorite SUP spots yet.

Salmon Falls
Also close to home with nearly direct water access, this popular spot is a great place to explore on a board.

Donner Lake
After every climbing trip to the North Lake Tahoe area, I always stop for a swim at Donner Lake. The gorgeous scenery, ease of access, and refreshing temperature of the water (by which I mean bitterly cold) makes this top of my list when in the area.

Lake Tahoe
This one is obvious. World-renowned scenery atop a board in the middle of an alpine lake? Yes, please!

Where to rent:

Hit up SUP California in Folsom ( to get everything you need to start your aquatic adventure!

Strap In Whitewater Rafting

White water rafting is an awesome way to explore our area. With most outfitters located in Coloma, you could pair a half day river float with a short hike after a delicious meal. Looking to make a weekend of it? Here are some tips.

White water rafting is an awesome way to explore our area.


Where To Go

Lower American River
Looking to dip your toe into the world of rafting? Rent a raft from American River Raft Rentals in Rancho Cordova ( and launch at the Upper Sunrise Boat Ramp for a self-guided excursion on some mellow waters.

South Fork American River
This is one of the greatest spots in California for rafting, and it’s right in our backyard! The South Fork American River has some gorgeous scenery and enough adventure for the entire family. Stop by Action Whitewater Adventures in Lotus ( to start your trip.

Stay: Bella Vista Bed and Breakfast, Placerville (; Eden Vale Inn, Placerville (; Camp Lotus (; American River Resort, Coloma (

Eat: The Argonaut Farm to Fork Café, Coloma (

What You'll Need

  • Your favorite quick dry clothes.
  • A hat with a chin strap.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Shoes you can get wet (ideally river shoes).
  • An adventurous attitude!

Get Together: Trip Ideas

Four Epic Weekends With The Fam

There’s nothing like introducing your kids to the great outdoors. It’s fun for everyone, requires teamwork, provides ample time for bonding, introduces your kids to healthy hobbies that can keep them out of trouble, and teaches kids valuable lessons on decision making that could help them throughout life.

Photo by Ryan Martinez.


Thankfully, we live right at the edge of world-class outdoor adventures with options for all levels of experience. This is why we’ve compiled an adventure-filled itinerary for the entire family.
Head out for a rafting trip in Coloma.

Set up camp at Camp Lotus, hit the rapids in the afternoon, and head back to camp for a beautiful night under the stars.

Backpack in South Lake Tahoe.
Consider an overnight backpacking trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail or up the Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha.

Learn to rock climb.
Hire a guide at either Lover’s Leap in El Dorado County or head to Yosemite for an adventure the kids will never forget! Want to start light? Take the kids to Granite Arch Climbing Center, Rancho Cordova ( or Quarry Park Adventures, Rocklin ( before camping out at Folsom Lake.

Camp at Donner Lake.
Complete the full circle around Lake Tahoe with a weekend at Donner Lake. With options to swim, kayak, paddleboard, jet ski and, of course, hike.

Romantic Outdoor Getaways For Couples

A small crackling fire, a delicious camp-cooked meal, a glass of red wine, the smell of pine trees, stargazing miles away from civilization, and sharing silence with someone you love is hard to beat.

The outdoors has been a cornerstone of my wife’s and my relationship. Backpacking in the backcountry of Patagonia, multi-day rock climbing trips in Tahoe and the eastern sierras, day hikes and car camping have all helped us develop amazing teamwork and communication skills. Countless times, we’ve literally held the life of the other person in our hands and our sense of trust in one another has sky-rocketed.

Photo by Ryan Martinez.


Even if it’s not a lifestyle, simply spending a weekend in nature with your special someone will most definitely bring you closer together and make for some awesome tales for years to come.
Choose your spot.

If you’re looking to go someplace far from any city and main highways, the Wrights Lake area west of Lake Tahoe might be a nice choice for you.

Wine and dine.
Having the right setup is essential. Get a small table like the collapsible Coleman 27-inch Compact Roll Top. Buy two or three (one for preparing the meal, one for cooking, one for eating). Buy a tablecloth, an electric candle (there are some nice ones that don’t look tacky), wine tumblers, comfortable camp chairs, and citronella candles to keep the mosquitos away.

Light a fire.
Gather firewood upon arrival or bring your own. Check the local area to see if they allow you to bring your own firewood as some places prohibit this to protect the local environment. Tip: two-person camp chairs are awesome for cuddling in front of the fire with a blanket.

Shack up.
Having a sweet sleeping arrangement ties it all together. You can bring an air mattress, hang a lantern up from the roof of the tent, have a separate space for your gear that doesn’t invade your space, and even leave the roof open to see the stars.

Get to know each other.
Yes, it sounds corny but there is always something more to learn about your partner. Bring a set of questions like the ones in “4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone.” This is a fun way to connect, start a conversation, and learn something new about each other.

Other Fun Outings

  • Paddleboard around Zephyr Cove.
  • Backpack to Wrights Lake.
  • Horseback ride and camp at Folsom Lake. 

By Ryan Martinez

Header photo by Ryan Martinez. Hiking photos by Ryan Martinez. Backpacking photos by Ryan Martinez. Camping photo by Ryan Martinez. Rafting photo © Bostjan Standup Paddleboarding photo © Trip Ideas photos by Ryan Martinez.