What do you do when a big storm is brewing and there’s already lots of fresh powder on the ground and you have a new golden retriever puppy who hasn’t seen his first snow yet?
Yep, you pile in the 4 wheel drive SUV and head up the mountain to some fresh powder. But alas, the battery in the SUV was dead (someone left a light on, ahem…) so you check the weather and see that the BIG storm isn’t due for about 5 hours. No problem, we can handle this with the Toyota Camry Hybrid as long as we dodge the storm and get home before dark and before chains are required. Let’s go!
Asher is 6 months old, a golden retriever, and our youngest daughter’s new service dog in-training. He is a dream, so smart, and already completely set on his foundation of basic obedience. In fact, he had 8 commands down by the second week we had him. If I sound like a stereotypical bragging dog mom….well, her last service dog, Shadow, passed away of old age at age 14 1/2 and was the dog love of my life. We all wished we could have cloned her, she was so perfect. No dog could ever take her place and what she did for our family, and most of all Elizabeth. She was so brilliant that she was trained as a service dog at age 9 and still went on to serve for 6 more years, making the impossible, possible, for my daughter and for us.
However, Asher is quite incredible and I know he will breeze through his advanced task training in a few months. When I took him in to get his special county service dog license from the Sheriff department just last month, he was so well trained that the Sheriff could not even believe his eyes when he granted him his special service dog license. He is quite the hit of our town.
But what Asher lacked until today was some good old-fashioned snow fun. You know, the frolic in the snow, get lost in a snow bank, make yellow snow, lick pup-sicles, and catch snowballs in mid air kind-of-puppy-fun. That’s just what he got.
We headed up to the old Rainbow Lodge in Soda Springs, California which has always been our family favorite place to stop and play in the snow and get some great food and warm drinks. This little lodge situated on the South Yuba River along the Emigrant Trail is a historic gem. But for the past two years the new owner/investor has closed it to the public. I was so utterly thrilled, to hear today, when I spoke with the new chef, that this historical landmark will be reopened to the public in just a few months.
All of our five children have made memories over the years there, on the way to ski trips, snow tubing excursions, camping, and on our many outdoor adventures. My middle daughter Faith and I have a tradition since she was a toddler, that every year we have to stop and break off a huge icicle to eat.
Rainbow Lodge is just so magical and looks like it’s right out of a movie. I miss covering it and what was always wonderful dining there, on my radio shows, travel columns, and blogs. It’s been a part of our lives for 25 years now so I am so excited to see it coming to life again.
Asher loved his first frolic in the snow. Like all puppies, he wasn’t sure what to make of this powdered white water for the first few seconds and then he could not get enough of it. Since we live most of the year in our lake house, he’s used to boating and water-skiing since the very first day we got him last Fourth of July. It was obvious he was initially stumped on the consistency of this strange, new water.
He actually got the cutest little, hard packed snowballs all stuck to his chest and rear-end. It was precious. Unlike Labrador Retrievers I have had and have trained in the past, with their soft mouths that can catch snowballs ever so gently intact, he smashed them all into smithereens in a brute attempt to catch each one. But as he matures, he will no doubt find more finesse in his technique. His sheer delight and puppy-hood simply took over.
After snow much fun, we decided to head up Interstate 80 a bit farther, to our favorite pizza place in all the world. Literally, the second best pizza I have ever found, even as a food writer for 20 years, was in Buffalo, New York in 2004, but this place takes the cake, as our number one favorite on the planet.
Even at Disneyland last month, my daughter and I, while sitting on the Pinnochio attraction, commented on how it was high time we make our seasonal pilgrimage to get our “Stromboli.” Village Pizzaria, in Truckee, California offers wonderful, homemade gourmet pizza since 1981. Stromboli is always my favorite pizza on the menu, but other varieties are equally noteworthy.
With full tummies refueled, we headed back down the hill towards our home on the lake and we stopped to play in the snow one more time, as Asher had tasted the Mother Lode and wanted more. We could tell he was hooked as he saw the white stuff pass by the car windows beckoning to his little puppy brain for more fun.
A tired dog is a good dog, or at least that’s what I’ve learned with all the dogs and puppies I have trained over the years. And was he ever, a very good boy, all the way home!