NorCal (Lassen NP & Lake Tahoe)

My boyfriend and I went on an amazing 6 week road trip this past summer. We drove from NC to CA and I want to share our travels with you. We've made it back to my home state, California. We visit my favorite place in the world and are almost done with the trip!

NorCal (Lassen NP & Lake Tahoe)
Collage of Norcal

We made it to our last state of the road trip, California. Throughout our trip, I avoided both extremes of being blindly optimistic and unnecessarily worried something terrible will happen by having this grounded attitude of ‘hoping for the best, but being prepared for the worst.’ 

By us making it to California, I thought that if something really bad were to have happened, at least I have family that’d be only a (max) 5hr drive away from us. Personally, I was super grateful that we had made it this far in our trip safely and I’m pretty sure I let out a sigh of relief 😌 when we crossed the state border.

Day Itinerary
(9/9/23) Day 35

7:30am - Wake up, pack up
8am - Depart
12pm - Mossbrae Falls
2pm - Depart for Subway Lava Tubes
3:30pm - Explore lava tubes
4:45pm - Explore Lassen National Park🌋
7pm - Eat dinner by a lake, brush teeth, drive to Forest Service Road just North of Truckee
11pm - Go to bed

I’d known about Mossbrae Falls for several years but never had the opportunity to check it out because it was so far North (and out of the way) from where I lived. But luckily for us, it was on the way before reaching Lassen National Park, so we made it a stop.

Cam in front of Mossbrae Falls

There was an unexpected (extremely cold) river crossing we had to do to get there, but it was worth it. Mossbrae Falls was pretty much this wall covered in vegetation with water pouring over different sections of it. I’d never seen anything like it and what was even more interesting was that it felt like it kind of came out of nowhere compared to the relatively normal looking surrounding area. Cam and I both got in the water beneath the falls and it was so cold! Other people who were there did the same.

We checked out the lava tubes next. (Lava tubes are formed from underground lava channels that had cooled on the outside while the hot lava on the inside flowed out.) This was one of the most unique geological features we’d seen on the trip and it was a bit spooky 😰 to walk through. But once we had passed a couple people, I wasn’t as scared. The whole tube was about ⅓ of a mile long so we were in there for a while. 

After the lava tubes, we made a quick visit to Lassen National Park. We just drove through it and made a few stops along the way. I’d been here before in 2019, but it’d be nice to take Cam here again for a proper camping trip sometime in the future.

Day Itinerary
(9/10/23) Day 36

7am - Wake up, drive to Lake Tahoe (my favorite place in the whole world)
10am - Relax by the lake (lots of tanning and swimming)💦
3:30pm - Depart and chill at community college for wifi and charging our devices
6:30pm - Explore Heavenly Village, get Basecamp mac and cheese🤤
8pm - Go to Fallen Leaf Lake Campground and look for drinkable water
10:30pm - Go to bed

I’d say prior to 8pm, Day 36 was one of my favorite, easy going, days of the trip. For 5 hours, all we did was tan, swim, and relax. The sun was just warm enough to make us feel toasty 😎 and swimming in the water was the perfect way to cool down. We even swam to a nearby boulder to jump off of. It took me a minute to gather myself. I eventually did it and was okay with never doing it again. I think we both got a touch sunburnt from this day but it was worth it.

Gouda Mac and Cheese from Base Camp Pizza Co.
Gouda Mac and Cheese from Base Camp Pizza Co.

Right before we went to our campsite we got my favorite mac and cheese from Base Camp Pizza Co. at Heavenly Village. I first had it last year on my birthday and have dreamed about it ever since. (The pizza there is also stellar!) I swapped out the ham for bacon and the dish just tastes so rich and creamy with the perfect balance of funkiness from the cheese. I love it! Cam said he prefers the Beecher’s Mac and Cheese more which I don’t understand but hey, to each their own.

After eating the most perfect mac and cheese, this was when things kind of went downhill. We were running low on our supply of water for the last day from traveling and were counting on filling up at Fallen Leaf Lake Campground. But when we got to the campground, there were signs posted everywhere saying the water wasn’t safe to drink or use because E. coli had been detected in it. (E. coli is a bacteria that can cause diarrhea or food poisoning.)

I was also super thirsty and tired which didn’t help. 😑 We got back in the car and drove to another campground down the road and started filling up there, just to find out from a camper that that campground also had E. coli in their water system. This was not how we saw our night going. Cam and I both had pretty short fuses at this point and we reluctantly drove to the nearby 7/11 for an $8 pack of water. (A literal crime.)

I get that some things are out of our control and not everything will go smoothly, but could’ve done a much better job about updating people who had reservations at these campgrounds that there was E. coli in the water. That way, people could at least come prepared! The warning signs we saw around the campground had been posted up for 3-4 days already so the campground/ had plenty of time to make and send out an update.

Day Itinerary
(9/11/23) Day 37

8am - Wake up, breakfast, relax, get ready
11:30am - Go hike Granite Lake and Maggie’s Peaks (4.1mi, 1778ft el gain)
4pm - Go play disc golf🥏
5:15pm - Buy groceries
6:15pm - Cook dinner over campfire
9pm - Go for a night rinse in Fallen Leaf Lake
10pm - Go to bed🐻

Day 37 was also a top tier, easy going day. We had a much needed, slow morning. There's something about just sitting in the sun in the morning and soaking up its' warmth that really recharges you.

Eventually when we mustered up enough energy, we went on a hike. Cam and I both felt very sluggish on this hike because we had mostly been only eating the leftover food/snacks we had in the car for the last couple of days. We just wanted to make sure we weren’t wasting any food before reaching my house. But we had a fantastic dinner to look forward to!

Cam about to rip a disc
Cam about to rip a disc

We found a disc golf course near the community college where we charged our phones the day before and played 9 holes. We both really enjoyed this course because it had a great balance of having holes of varying challenges, being well maintained making it easy to find discs that go off the path, and not being too crowded. 

At the grocery store, we picked up pork chops, potatoes🥔, broccoli🥦, garlic bread, and corn🌽 to create the most delicious campfire dinner ever. It was one of our goals to cook a meal entirely on a campfire during our trip and we wanted to go all out. Everything was charred just right and we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves eating that meal. Our tummies were happy and so were our souls. After dinner we went for a quick night rinse at Fallen Leaf Lake under the stars🌌 and it was the perfect way to end our day (or so we thought).

As we were getting settled into our tent, we heard distant banging of pots and shouting. We knew this meant a bear was around which was a very common occurrence at this campground. I didn’t think much of the commotion until I saw through out tent screen, a silhouette of a figure slowly walking our way. That was when I realized the bear was walking right toward our campsite. 😳 

I knew that bears in this area weren’t known to be aggressive (because they were black bears) but having one walking right at you at night doesn’t make it easy to remember that minor detail. Cam and I became dead silent and we watched the bear’s shadow pass over our tent. The bear was probably walking no further than 5ft from us. We couldn’t believe what just happened and were super glad that that was the extent of our close encounter.

Day Itinerary
(9/12/23) Day 38

7am - Wake up, breakfast, clean up
12pm - Explore Kiva Beach (saw two eagles)🦅
1pm - Play disc golf
4pm - Go back to campsite, swim in Fallen Leaf Lake
5:30pm - Eat dinner (meet some neighbors, see bear walk through campground
9pm - Go to bed

(9/13/23) Day 39

6:45am - Wake up, pack up
8am - Leave campground
9:10am - Apple Hill Ranch 🍎(ate donuts)
10:30am - Depart for Berkeley
2pm - Arrive and meet up with Cam's family and friends
4pm - Arrive at at my house🏠 (shower, dinner, chat, and relax)

We had a great time in Tahoe and I loved sharing my favorite place in the world with Cam. I think Cam likes the place just as much as I do and he hasn’t even experienced it during winter yet! If you ever plan on coming to Tahoe, please remember to not litter and treat the place with respect. It’s a special place to me and to so many people, and we want to preserve it the best we can. 

On our last day, we left bright and early for Apple Hill Ranch to get some apple treats🍎 (like apple donuts and caramel apples). I heard about this place a few years ago and it was nice to finally see it for myself. It’s a great spot for families to go apple picking, eat food, and do fall activities. Beware of the ducks and geese though, they WILL come after you if you have food. 

We headed to Berkeley afterward to see some friends and family before finally making it to my house. We showered, ate food, and caught up with my family. You may think this is the end of our road trip but it isn’t! We’ve still got to go to Yosemite National Park. So see you next week for our last stop of the trip!

Cam and I in Yosemite!
Cam and I in Yosemite!