Skunk Harbor

No, I can’t answer why this particularly gorgeous hike to a secluded beach with crystal clear waters is called Skunk Harbor.img_1373All I know is that just two weekends ago, my brothers, my husband, and I hiked this winding trail, located on Highway 28, just two miles north of Highway 50, down to this dazzling, yet serene beach.

Hike about a mile and a half down the trail and you’ll come to a fork in the road. Going left leads you to Prey Meadows and veering right takes you to Skunk Harbor.

Look at these striking views you’ll take in!img_1369img_1368img_1700img_1366img_1392img_1393img_1462Close to the shore we came upon this old stone building built by a wealthy San Francisco family who used it as a secluded picnic pavilion in the roaring twenties! Oh, if these stone walls could speak what stories we might hear!
img_1377img_1382img_1381img_1379Brilliant blues!img_1378Beautiful cove, beach and views!img_1460No skunks!

As I write today I am reminded how quickly the fall season passes. On the recent day of our hike, we enjoyed warm temperatures and didn’t even need the sweatshirts we had packed. Watching the evening news tonight I learned that the high temperature in the Skunk Harbor area today was 38 degrees. It may get a dusting of snow tonight. Back at home it’s pouring rain, and our trees are completely aglow with the costumes of autumn’s finery. Another two weeks and the trees may be bare. I’m making sure to get outside and soak up all of the glory this short season offers. Wishes to you for a lovely autumn season.

Apple Pocket Pies

One of my favorite gems in Autumn’s jewel box is Apple Hill. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump for me to take a meandering drive in the picturesque foothills. Scenic views of rolling hills, apple farms, vineyards and wineries dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.

The apple farms offer a great variety of apples, pumpkins, and produce, but also craft fairs, corn mazes, hay rides, farm animals to pet, and train rides.

I do try to be good, but for those of you with a mad sweet tooth like me, the fritters, apple donuts, cider, pies, and cakes are out of this world! I didn’t indulge (this time) but bought my apples and headed home, eager to try a new recipe.img_1642img_1640img_1657img_1653img_1650img_1646img_1645

Apple Pocket Pies

Ingredients:

Crust

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into half inch dice

6 – 8 Tablespoons ice water

Filling:

1 1/2 lbs. Pink Lady or McIntosh apples, peeled and cored, and cut into half inch dice

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

pocket pie mold (such as this one)

Directions:

Beat together the flour, salt, and 2 Tablespoons sugar on low speed until combined (about 10 seconds). img_1594Add the butter and beat for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium low and beat until mixture resembles course meal, about one and a half minutes more. Add the 6 Tablespoons ice water, reduce speed to low and beat 20 seconds. Dough should hold together but not be sticky. If crumbly, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating for 5 seconds after each addition.img_1595Turn dough out onto a work surface. Divide dough in half. Wrap with plastic wrap and shape each into a disc. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.img_1596In large bowl stir apples, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cornstarch together. img_1604In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add apple mixture. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but not mushy, 16 – 18 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and let cool 30 minutes.img_1605Let the dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. On a floured surface roll out one dough disc into a round, 3/16 inch thick. Brush off excess flour. Using a pocket pie mold, cut out 8 of each shape. Re-roll if necessary and continue.

Place a solid dough shape into the bottom of the mold cutter and gently place the dough in the mold. Fill the center with 2 T apple filling and brush the edges of the dough with egg wash.img_1606Top with a shape with a decorative cut out. Press the top half of the cutter down to seal and crimp the edges of the pie.img_1608Remove the pie from the mold and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Freeze pies for 30 minutes.img_1610Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush tops of pies with egg wash and sprinkle sugar on tops. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is gently bubbling, 22 – 24 minutes. Transfer pies to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.
img_1611img_1613For the record, my husband has let me know (more than a few times) how perfect these little hand held pies are. I get the hint; I’m happy to make more!

Hiking Horsetail Falls

As you’re driving on Highway 50 toward South Lake Tahoe, just before you reach Echo Summit, take a look up to your left (way up!) and notice the breath taking sight of Horsetail Falls.

Starting out early in the day with good friends, we arrived when the parking lot was nearly empty, and set out for a day of laughter, adventure, exercise, and enormous doses of the healing only Mother Nature provides.

The hike is a mix of lovely wooded trails and wide open granite rocks, all along refreshing pools, small waterfalls and streams.
img_1240img_1235img_1239img_1246img_1245img_1254Don’t forget to stop every once in awhile just to soak up the stunning views in all directions.
img_1250img_1270img_1268img_1350img_1274img_1276The majority of the hike is not well marked and we found ourselves in search of the trail a number of times. Also, be prepared to do a bit of rock climbing rather than hiking during some parts of the hike.

Ahh, there’s a cairn. We’re on the right path.img_1267Be sure to notice all the love notes from nature along the way!img_1249img_1248Everywhere!
img_1261img_1258Without fail, spending time in nature is consistently the restorative tonic that fills up my soul! Where do you go when you need to refuel?

Leaf Peeping in Hope Valley

It’s a goal of ours every year to get up to Hope Valley in Alpine county to see the golden leaves of the aspens. It’s difficult to gage exactly when the leaves are at their peak. Sometimes we’re a bit early and other years we arrive and the leaves have already faded from their glory, but none the less it’s always a beautiful, scenic drive. On this day the leaves weren’t at their height of color, but we were greeted with gorgeous sights everywhere we looked.  We won’t have time to drive up again this month, but I’m betting that this coming weekend the trees will be putting on a spectacular show .img_1282img_1287img_1284img_1280img_1288img_1290img_1331We spent a lovely afternoon taking in the sights, strolling around the trails and hills, and then had a delicious early dinner at the cafe at Sorensen’s Resort. Autumn has definitely arrived!

“Just before the death of flowers, and before they are buried in snow, there comes a festival season when nature is all aglow.” ~Author Unknown