It's good to get out of Benicia if you want a really good vertical hike, and Squaw Valley is my favorite disctractions. Its majestic bowls and rare granite outcroppings awe-inspiring. As much as I enjoy a good hike just about anywhere that poison oak doesn't grow, Squaw has an added spiritual component that always leaves me with a feeling of deep gratitude. Once you get to 7,500 feet, you are treated to cascading waterfalls and fields of wildflowers. On a recent hike up to High Camp I even had a stare-down with a huge marmot. It was so large that I had to look for a long time to make sure it wasn't a rare sighting of the elusive wolverine, which is making a very slow comeback in Tahoe after a 50-year absence. I figured it couldn't have been a wolverine since they are very unfriendly, and can be vicious. From ten feet away, this animal was happy to stare back at me for a good few minutes.

There's a stark contrast in Squaw Valley from this time last year: the waterfalls are a mere trickle, and the wildflowers are not nearly as abundant. There simply wasn't the snowpack to sustain either. The hiker can usually co-exist with nature and the ski resort without a problem, but ski roads were undergoing repair. It was hard to avoid construction trucks in the few patches I had to use the main trail. It was so dry that water trucks ran all day to sprinkle the roads down for the construction crews. For a Saturday, there was also a distinct lack of tourists. Generally speaking there are dozens of folks using the main and Shirley Lake trails. Perhaps they were driven inside by the heat or were visiting other areas. Truckee and Incline Village were bustling. Which was fine with me–with the exception of two other hikers, I had the mountain to myself.

After walking from the Village up to High Camp, then running down again, I was starving. Twenty-two Bistro & Bar in the Village (named for its view of KT-22), is a great place to chill under an umbrella. I had ice tea and a smoked trout salad that was smokin' good for about fourteen bucks. A great way to rejuvinate after strenuous exercise in the heat.