Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Day of Beer, Bikes & Bacon – Flight of the Pigs 2011

Some spend the day after Thanksgiving waiting at malls and big box stores and driving around.  I spend it riding, riding some more, having a can of beer on the trail, riding still more, eating bacon, yep still more riding, then at last arriving at Jim and Kim’s house for a tasty keg of Four Peaks beer and some more pork.  What a day.  What exactly am I talking about?  The Flight of the Pigs (FOTP) is a really unique group ride in the Phoenix valley that has been running for 16 years.  Every year for the last five years, this makes number six, I have participated in this ride.

AM rider check in-yep still dark

All riders check in to get the pig tail (pink ribbon) to attach to the back of their bike.  You also weight in with the heaviest rider and bike receiving a rubber pig snout.  At 228 lbs fully ready with bike I was basically dead average.

Flight of the Pigs in South Mountain Park

the riders entering South Mountain Park as the sun rises

The Flight Plan: This is a large part of what makes the ride so great, just riding National or Trail 100 is a bit of an epic, but making a huge loop including even more singletrack at Papago Park and some long stretches on canal paths and roads is a super epic.  For scale, South Mountain Park alone is the largest municipal park in the world at 23,000 acres.  Starting with National Trail in South Mountain Park is perfect, because it’s long, steep and incredibly challenging.

National Trail

We ride as a group to Pima Canyon trailhead, then take the dirt road to National Trail. Ride National Trail all the way to its end at San Juan (using Mormon Trail is allowed). Regroup and ride northwest to the Western Canal. Follow the canal to 7th Ave near Baseline Rd. Go north on 7th Ave. Stop for lunch at Sacks on Thomas and 3rd Ave.

After lunch, continue north on 7th Ave to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve entrance. Ride Trail 100 to its end at Tatum Blvd. People are really tired at this point. The end of trail 100 is known as the grassy knoll. There are at least 75 riders sprawled out on the lawn.

Grassy Knoll

This is where random people, either riders who couldn’t make the whole ride this year or significant others of riders, have provided things like bacon and cans of beer.

Regroup, then go south on Tatum to McDonald Dr, west on McDonald to 44th St, then south on 44th St past Camelback Rd to the Arizona Canal.  Go east along the canal to the Old Crosscut Canal at 48th St.  Follow the canal south to McDowell Rd.  Go east on McDowell to 52nd St, then south on 52nd until you reach the Papago Park entrance.  Ride this road until you can jump onto the trail that goes to the ramada.  Then head east across Galvin Pkwy.  Pass Hole in the Rock on its north side, then ride down to the Phoenix Zoo.  Ride up to and around Hunt’s Tomb (the pyramid).  Regroup, then ride down to the
east and take trails to Curry Rd just east of Mill Ave.  Go to Mill and head south across the bridge.  Go right on University, left on Hardy, right on Guadalupe, left on 48thSt, left on Olney, right and right again onto Pearce back the start.  Here they give out awards and celebrate.

The Vibe:  This is so much fun for all that participate.  Everyone is trying hard to finish and helping each other along the way. There is a lot that can and does go wrong early on along National Trail, this year Chris Gardner suffered a broken frame. He was able to cobble it together and make it home to switch out bikes to finish out the whole ride. The finishers party at Jim’s was especially lively this year as it turned out to be a fast group and it was still light out by the time I started my second beer.  It was Four Peaks Brewery’s Kilt Lifter again if I am not mistaken. Many times I have returned to Jim’s well after dark.

Thanks to Sharon who picks me up and drops me off.

43rd Week in Review: Holiday Season

This week we celebrated Thanksgiving with Jay’s family in Phoenix.  It was a traditional turkey feast.  We enjoyed the chance to gather with family and friends.  Being in Phoenix for Thanksgiving also means plenty of time outside.  Jay enjoyed his epic day after ride and I have been hiking almost every day in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  It is a beautiful time to be in the desert.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

Tomorrow I start a seasonal job with UPS here in Phoenix.  We plan to stay put until the end of the year and earn a little cash before we get back on the road in January.  We hope to keep up the volunteer work, biking, and photography and will keep sharing our stories.

Hours volunteered:  22 hours combined working on the Pima Wash trail and Beverly Canyon trail in South Mountain Park with Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona.

States: 1 – Arizona: Phoenix, Surprise

Budget: Under

People Visited: Kevin Lockart and Mary Halfmann

Nights under the stars: 0

Best meal:  Thanksgiving dinner

Best beer:  Deschutes Mirror Pond Fresh Pale Ale

Photo Review: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Saturday was the Fall Foliage Festival at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, Arizona.  I went with Jay’s parents and enjoyed seeing a little bit of fall colors and a lot of amazing cacti and succulents.

Colorado Breweries 2 of 2: Western Slope and Salida

On Tuesday we covered the breweries on the Front Range.  Today we turn our attention to the Western Slope of Colorado and the breweries they have to offer.  There’s isn’t as high of a concentration of people or breweries on the Western Slope, but we still managed to find plenty of great beer.

Amicas Pizza and Microbrewery, Salida

Sampler at Amicas

Sampler at Amicas

I really enjoyed our visit here. It would be very hard to go wrong with pizza and beer and this place gets it right.  Delicious pizza and a nice range of beers.  I was a little sad that they could not fill a growler due to some ongoing trouble with equipment.  I wish I could remember all that we sampled as many of them were not the beers listed on their website.  I do remember having a very good stout, a porter, as well as a good IPA.  If you are going through Salida at lunch time, make time for Amicas.

Horsefly, Montrose

A fairly new brewery, Horsefly is already very popular with the locals.  We joined a couple of guys for drinks after our volunteer work on the pump track and were pleasantly surprised by the flavor of these brews.  Sharon’s favorite was the Agave Brown Ale, in fact, she would rate it in the Top 5 Fall seasonals that we have tried.

Jay preferred the Highland Cycles Scottish Ale and the Extra Stout Ale, both strong flavorful beers that were well balanced and just plain delicious.  Horsefly is a great happy hour spot to grab a drink and catch up with friends.

Palisade, Palisade

Palisade Brewing

Palisade Brewing

Palisade Colorado is known for wine and peaches, but their brewery is notable for having the most well-crafted beers in that part of the state.  While we were there they had a High Desert Imperial Red on tap.  We sat next to the brewmaster and he explained that with that red he was hoping to push the boundaries of what would be considered a red ale.  This beer did exactly that with a great outcome, a very drinkable, strong flavorful ale.

For a beer that everyone can love, I would recommend the Paw Print Porter.  It is a solid porter, well balanced and great for those cooler days.  The brewmaster noted that Dirty Hippie is one of his signature beers.  I though it was unique and appreciated the twist on a lager, but it was not my favorite.  Palisade is primarily a tap room, but they do sell sandwiches which were quite good so it makes for a decent lunch stop.

Sampler at Palisade Brewing

Sampler at Palisade Brewing

Kannah Creek, Grand Junction

Hop plants at Kannah Creek Brewery

Hop plants at Kannah Creek Brewery

Kannah Creek is right by the Mesa State college campus and therefore caters to the college crowd with a large patio and big tvs inside to watch the game.  Those students are lucky to have such a great selection of hand crafted beers to choose from.

They have a few seasonals that they rotate.  We really enjoyed the Strong Ale, which was one of the seasonals on tap at the time.  It was red in color, strong, but not boozy, with a geat balance of malt and hops.

Kannah Creek definitely seems to shine more when it comes to showcasing hops.  They are actually starting to grow their own hops on the patio, which is exciting since their Fresh Hopped ESB was very well done.   The Standing Wave Pale Ale is one of their award-winning beers and it deserves the praise.  If you live locally I would recommend their growlers.  They have the german styles that we have, but they have fancier fluted handles.

Ouray, Ouray

sampler at Ouray Brewery

sampler at Ouray Brewery

swings in Ouray Brewery tap room

swings in Ouray Brewery tap room

I wanted to like the Ouray brewery.  They have these amazing swinging bar stools that are meant to look like a chair lift.  Sitting at one in the bar is super fun.  Unfortunately, Ouray is ready for the tourist crowd with overpriced samplers and a very small selection of their own brew.  When we visited they had only four of their own on tap.  However, we did hear that they are expanding production at a facility on the edge of town, so maybe a couple of years from now they would be worth a return visit.

For now, just stick with a pint of the IPA.  It is really well done if you want hop flavor without a bitter aftertaste.

Durango, Durango

Sampler at Durango Brewery

Sampler at Durango Brewery

Durango was one of the best breweries in terms of a welcoming hangout for beer lovers.  To start with, they are right near the urban trail and have plenty of bike parking.  Jay and I felt comfortable riding here and locking our bikes up outside.  It was great to come via bike because I could really enjoy their large selection of brews.  I started with the sampler which comes on a hand carved tray.

It was here I found one of my favorite beers for those cold Durango days, Durango’s Winter Ale.  It reminds me of the Great Divide Hibernation Ale, but with a lower alcohol content.  It has that same dark red color, malty flavor, and warming effect.

Carver, Durango

Carver is the oldest brewery in Durango, open since 1988.  It seems more focused on the restaurant side of their operation and is a popular pub right in the  fun downtown part of Durango.  If you are looking for dinner with a good selection of craft beer to pair with it, I would strongly recommend Carver.

My favorites were the Nut Brown Ale and the Amber Ale.  They had a seasonal beer with coffee in it when we were there.  Usually that is one of my favorites, but this one was not well balanced.

Ska, Durango

Ska was on our short list of breweries to visit on this trip.  They distribute Ska in Virginia so we were already fans of the Steeltoe Stout, Cutthroat Porter, and Milk Stout.  I was excited to see what else we would be able to taste at the taproom.

We were excited to get to taste and take home two beers from their local series, the Hoperation Ivy and the Sethvleteren 8.  Hoperation Ivy is an IPA with fresh local hops.  It is bursting with flavor and is not too bitter.  The Sethvleteren 8 is a Belgian Dubbel that is the opposite of the Hoperation, with much greater emphasis on the malt and the yeast flavors.  It is almost sweet and easy drinking.   Our usual favorites were still great, however the Milk Stout on nitro was too milky.  It literally tasted like someone had poured cream into a normal stout.  A new beer to meet was the Buster Nut Brown, which I liked even more than the porter.

Ska is definitely worth a visit, but there are a few things to know before you go.  First, it is a little hard to find, use a GPS or get really good directions from the brewery.  Also, in the summer they have a taco cart outside, but the rest of the year you need to either bring your own food (which they allow) or eat ahead of time.  The closest food was a tasty Texas barbeque joint where we had lunch afterwards and really enjoyed.  You could pick up a BBQ sandwich to bring with you!  If you are not looking for a meal, they do provide free popcorn to snack on while you sample what’s on tap.  Ska is a fun brewery with great style.  They sponsor the local roller derby team.  You can dress like a roller derby girl with Ska merchandise.

Steamworks, Durango

Our experience at Steamworks wasn’t great.  It was packed to the gills when we arrived and we couldn’t get a server to take our order, much less a bar stool to sit on.  I had been told that all of their servers are Cicerone certified, but we couldn’t even get one to talk to us so I have no first hand knowledge of their qualifications.  When Jay was finally able to order a flight, he came back with the beers with a handwritten list on a napkin of what they were by name.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a menu, so the name didn’t do us much good.  We were drinking blind.  This is how I ended up having the worst beer sampler of my life.  I took one sip and I felt like I had been attacked.  My tongue was in acute pain and I had no idea what had happened.  Well, it turned out this was the Prescribed Burn, a chili beer featuring Habenero, Poblano, and Hatch green chilis.  Oww!  East coast palates be warned!!  Jay of course kind of likes this chili beer which is the hottest he has tried.

After that debacle I went straight to Backside Stout for some relief.  It was nice and smooth but honestly I couldn’t taste much of anything after that chili beer.  Jay liked the Conducter, and Imperial IPA.  The other beer that I remember is the Slam Dunkel.  This was one of the first dunkels we have tried since the McKinney Brewery in Texas.  The McKinney Dunkel was AMAZING, so the fact that Steamwork’s Slam Dunkel didn’t measure up doesn’t say much.  It had too much banana taste.

 

Photo Review: South Mountain Park, Phoenix

This morning I dropped Jay off near South Mountain Park for his annual post-Thanksgiving tradition, the Flight of the Pigs.  More on that from Jay on Tuesday.  For now I want to share a few photos I took hiking around South Mountain near where Jay started the ride.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we will be spending Thanksgiving with family in Phoenix, Arizona.  We are very thankful for the opportunity to be with immediate family over the holidays.  Tomorrow, Jay will keep his annual tradition of an all day endurance group ride called Flight of the Pigs.  We look forward to sharing photos.

Jay at Flight of the Pigs, 2009

Jay at Flight of the Pigs, 2009

In thinking about Thanksgiving I was reminded of the Thanksgiving stories about pilgrims gathering together with natives to celebrate the harvest with feast and community.  Twice this year we have had the privilege to volunteer in native  communities through the Muskoka Foundation.  This organization connects travelers to the indigenous communities that they travel through.

Starting your Christmas shopping?  You can support the Muskoka programs by buying a 2012 calendar  for only $12.00 featuring photographs that students around the world took during this year’s photography workshops.  We hosted two of those workshops, so there may be photos that we helped the students with.

Wacey, one of the Chinle photography participants

Wacey, one of the Chinle photography participants

42nd Week in Review: Returning Home

We started the week in the Grand Canyon, which feels like a second home.  After hiking out on Friday we headed straight to Grandma Millie’s house in Prescott.  Now as I write this we are preparing for Thanksgiving in Phoenix at Jay’s parent’s house.  I refer to Jay’s parents house as our western headquarters and we have not been back here since April, so it feels good to be home.  We got to open up our boxes and discover the clothes and such that we forgot we owned.  We received mail that my parents had shipped.  We also have a secure place to make modifications to the car, the bikes, and the blog, so hopefully we’ll be ready to finish out our year on the road in good shape.

Jay and Sharon at the South Rim having completed our hike up the South Kaibab Trail

Jay and Sharon at the South Rim having completed our hike up the South Kaibab Trail

Hours volunteered:  16 hours (combined) removing tamarisk in the Grand Canyon

States: 1 – Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park, Prescott Valley, Phoenix

Budget: over – I finally broke down and bought new running shoes

People Visited: Millie Randel and Ken Brack, LinMarie DiCianni, Morgan and Cindi Holt, Nate Holt, Steve Hendrickson

Nights under the stars: 1 – Grand Canyon National Park

Best meal: lunch at our favorite local Mexican restaurant, Valle Luna

Best beer:  Ska’s Sethvleteren 8 – an organic belgium dubbel

Colorado Breweries 1 of 2: The Front Range & Glenwood Canyon

Colorado is the premier destination for a microbrewery enthusiast.  It is truly overwhelming just how many breweries they have, with almost every small town having at least one brewery.  We spent a month in Colorado and had the opportunity to visit a lot of different breweries.  Today we bring you the Front Range breweries and on Thursday we will review the breweries on the Western Slope.  This is by no means a comprehensive review of all of the breweries in this region.  This post was co-written by Jay and Sharon.

Great Divide, Denver

Tour at Great Divide Brewing

Tour at Great Divide Brewing

Great Divide is not very old but is suprisingly large.  We tasted nearly all of the beers here, starting with the Hibernation English style ale. This one was rich and malty with an 8% abv. It is Sharon’s new favorite winter beer.  I started out by tasting the Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout.  This one is a full flavor beer with subtle oak and is not over powered by the oak.  Most of their beers are high gravity (high alcohol content) and a sampler goes a long way towards getting you buzzed.  Great Divide is notable for their ability to make beers that are over 8% ABV but are completely drinkable and not boozy.  Really the only beer of theirs that we did not like was the Raspberry Ale, but we almost never enjoy fruit in beer.

We got to go on their tour.  This brewery is hopping, lots of employees busily filling kegs and getting the beer out. They have plans for expanding their brewing capacity to double production over the next year or so.  I look forward to seeing bottles of Great Divide available wherever we go.

Great Divide sampler

Great Divide sampler

Left Hand, Longmont

Left Hand Brewery

Left Hand Brewery

Perhaps best known for their elaborate label designs, Left Hand Brewing should also be known for being able to master several different styles of beer and having taproom that serves as a friendly local hangout.  If you are ever in or near Longmont, Colorado (north of Boulder, south of Fort Collins), you should definitely drop by.  They had more than 10 beers on tap, so we each did a different flight of four samples.  One of the beers that stood out for me was the Polestar Pilsner.  I never order a Pilsner, but crisp lighter beer, the Polestar is the one I would want.  My favorite beer in the bottle, Fade to Black, is more complex fresh from the tap.  The peppery side shows up more, which is interesting, but not my preference.  The Black Jack Porter was better on tap and was a favorite of both Jay’s and mine.

Sampler at Left Hand Brewery

Sampler at Left Hand Brewery

It’s worth visiting the tap room to try their beers on cask or nitro.  Jay ordered the Sawtooth Ale on cask and it was incredible.  I tasted the Milk Stout on nitro, which is a really great way to present that brew.  From what we could tell they often host events and feature specials at the taproom.  Something to look for, they are now growing their own hops outside the taproom and may have some fresh hopped ales available in the future.

Oskar Blues , Longmont

Tasting card at Oskar Blues

Tasting card at Oskar Blues

I have always liked how this brewery puts all their beers into cans.  I am a big fan of the can with its superior freshness consistency and convenience.  Canning seems to always avoid all the problems bottling.  This brewery is another relativly large one with a pretty big distribution.  Unusual for a brewery that cans is that practically everything they make is high gravity, with over 8% abv. Since I had already tried most of their beers I just went for their limited release offering and the cask conditioned.  The cask conditioned was good but it suffered from a common high gravity pit fall, it tasted a little boozy.  The limited release was a thick stout that was strong in nearly every way.  I felt like I should be sipping it out of a huge brandy snifter.  It was good.  It’s also worth noting that the tap room is called the Tasty Weasel and since we were there they have added a food truck called the Bone Wagon.

Taster at Oskar Blues

Taster at Oskar Blues

Chai Milk Stout and IPA at Yak and Yeti

Chai Milk Stout and IPA at Yak and Yeti

Yak and Yeti, Arvada

This brewery is truly unique, as it’s also an Indian restaurant.  Apparently the brewery came first and when it went under the Indian family that bought it to start their restaurant decide to continue brewing beer.  The food is what really stood out, as it was fantastic. The brews were also quite good. Naturally, they had a good India Pale Ale.  Sharon had a Chai Milk Stout that was unique and surprisingly good.

The restaurant and brewery is housed in an old Victorian house which lends even more charm.  It’s a great option for a date night.

Trinity Brewing, Colorado Springs

sampler at Trinity Brewing

sampler at Trinity Brewing

Trinity is an “eatery” and not just a tap room.  They specialize in slow food and they even provide you with cheese to cleanse your palate in between tasting samples.  We snacked on some lamb sliders that were quite good.  The Nitro IPA stood out as did the Stout on nitro.  This brewery also has many interesting Belgian Farmhouse Ale style creations which would be a fun reason to come back and taste new versions.

In addition to their own brews, Trinity has a large number of other microbrews on tap.  Important note: you can only fill a growler with the Trinity beer.

Phantom Canyon, Colorado Springs

Phantom Canyon is in downtown Colorado Springs and has an old classic brewpub feel.  One of the things we noticed right away was how professional the bartender was.  She really new their beer and provided excellent service.  The beer that stood out for me was the Ring of Fire Chili Ale.  I (Sharon) can not handle hot, so usually I steer clear of a chili infused beer, but this one was Fire Roasted Mira Sol chilis that gave it a really interesting earthy flavor without the sting.

Phantom Creek Brewery

Phantom Creek Brewery

Another notable offering was the 1943 Burton Ale, which follows a recipe from World War Two when, “Due to wartime rationing, the alcohol content was reduced from a pre-war level of around 5.5% to a moderate 4.8%. There is a high proportion of oats in the grist as the government made them do so.”  It is interesting that they would remake a beer that was a product of rationing, but it is actually quite good.

Our two favorites were probably the Railyard Ale and the Zebulon’s Peated Porter.  Both were great examples of their styles.

New Belgium, Fort Collins

Tour at New Belgium Brewing

Tour at New Belgium Brewing

New Belgium is one of the biggest and most successful microbreweries around.  Everyone has heard of the flagship Fat Tire beer now that it’s distributed far and wide.  Most of the beers at the brewery are available off site in bottles with the exception of the Home Plate Stout. This stout was a classic style and seemed to be well balanced with nice roasted malts giving a chocolate flavor.  It was actually the winner in a local home brewer competition and the prize is that New Belgium will then brew the beer and serve it at their tap room.

Inside New Belgium Brewery

Inside New Belgium Brewery

Our longtime favorites are 1554, Mothership Wit, and 2 Below.  Unfortunately we found out that they will not be brewing 2 Below for a couple of years because they just released a new winter seasonal, Snow Day that will be taking its place.  We tried Snow Day in bottles after it was released and unfortunately we prefer 2 Below.  So hopefully they’ll get back to making 2 Below eventually.

Heat Exchanger at New Belgium Brewery

Heat Exchanger at New Belgium Brewery

The brewery is very impressive with lots of oddities with little stories behind them as well as neat technical innovations. This is simply the best tour out there because there is just so much to see.  Note: the tour is 90 minutes long and requires reservations.  We ended up having to change our route a little because the next available tour wasn’t for five days.  So book early!  And dress for the weather because you walk all around the campus, going in and out of different buildings to see all stages of the brewing and bottling.

New Belgium bottling line

New Belgium bottling line

Barrels used for sour beer

Barrels used for sour beer

One of the most interesting things on the tour was learning about sour beer, which is a Belgium style that is just starting to be brewed in the United States.  New Belgium is leading this trend with the Lips of Faith series of sours.  A sour beer sits in barrels to ferment and will change taste as it ages.  New Belgium is actually blending two sours together to make their sour offerings.  I tried the Clutch in the tap room and enjoyed it but then tried it again on the tour and hated it.  I tried it a third time on tap at the Hot Tomato in Fruita and liked it again, so it definitely requires a little more understanding to appreciate a sour.

Odell, Fort Collins

Centrifuge at Odell Brewing

Centrifuge at Odell Brewing

Walking distance from New Belgium is Odell.  This brewery just offers a tap room with no restaurant.  They have a huge line up of tasty beers on tap.  Some of the highlights were Town Pump Pale Ale, Bourbon Barrel Stout, Nitro Cutthroat Porter,  and Myrcenary Double IPA.  Every brewery has a small brewing system used for tests, typically this just aluminum half barrel kegs with a propane stove burner or some other primitive system.  Odell had a top notch “pilot” system as they refer to it.  It’s all stainless and looks like a scale model of a typical production brew line.  This is why they have so many experimental and ever changing beers in their tap room.

Sharon and I were lucky enough to get a short private tour. Thanks Kelly! I was glad we got to see their pilot system. We also learned that centrifuges are for beer not bombs.  Rather than using a filter, the beer runs through a centrifuge to separate out the solids.

Fort Collins, Fort Collins

Another brewery that can really get points for both food and beer!  In fact, the night we were there, they were hosting a beer pairing dinner there which employees from Odell Brewing were headed over for.  Bacon wrapped pretzels.  Just try them.

a unique growler filling machine at Fort Collins Brewery

a unique growler filling machine at Fort Collins Brewery

One beer in particular stands out, the Common Ground, because it is the first time I have tasted a coffee infused beer that wasn’t dark.  It is a well balanced amber ale infused with “Jackie’s Java”.    Other great choices on tap, the double smoked Doppel Bock and the Chocolate Stout.

Upslope, Boulder

Upslope is new but they are off to a good start.  They are located in the northern suburbs of Boulder and cater to a local crowd.  They are starting canning and plan to only distribute through cans.  Since cans are preprinted (unlike bottles which are labeled), this somewhat limits their diversity of distribution.  So it’s worth coming into the tap room to see what their latest creation is.

Upslope had the only pumpkin beer of the season that I actually liked.  They use fresh local pumpkins which is probably what makes the difference.  One unique beer that did not win me over was the Cabernet aged IPA.  They take a regular IPA and age it in wine barrels which completely removes the hoppy bitterness and replaces it with a fruity but oakey taste that does not fully resemble beer.  I would just stick with their Brown Ale, it’s solid.

Wild Mountain Brewery and Smokehouse, Nederland

Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery

Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery

sticker for Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery

sticker for Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery

If you are traveling the beautiful and famous Peak to Peak Highway south from Rocky Mountain National Park, make sure to plan a lunch stop in Nederland and  check out the Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery.  Delicious pulled pork and hand crafted beer, how can you go wrong?

They do not have a large selection, so I would recommend trying whatever their special is that week.  I enjoyed a smooth oatmeal stout that was a great pairing for the smoked meat that drew us in.

Glenwood Springs, Glenwood Springs

We tried the sampler here which includes up to eight beers on tap.  Since two of them were light and sweet, the Hanging Lake Honey Wheat and the Grizzly Creek Raspberry Wheat, it was a bit weak.  Actually, I really liked the honey wheat as a smooth easy drinking choice.  Their No Name Nut Brown Ale had a strong nut flavor, perhaps chestnuts.  I know that the nuttiness comes only from the malt they use, but I could have sworn they dumped a package of nuts in their for good measure.  The St. James Irish Red, Vapor Cave IPA, and Old Depot Porter were all decent and represented their styles well, but none of them stand out.  It’s a good place for happy hour if your visiting this lovely tourist town, but not worth a special visit.

Removing Tamarisk From Bright Angel Creek – A Volunteer Trip into the Grand Canyon

Michael (volunteer) hidden behind a large tamarisk tree

Michael (volunteer) hidden behind a large tamarisk tree

I don’t know what I thought removing tamarisk (an invasive non-native tree) would be like, but it wasn’t what I expected.  When you hear tamarisk, think riparian plant, a plant that loves to grow next to water.  Which means in order to remove it you need to be next to water and sometimes in the water.  Did I mention that the water is 40 degrees?  Oh, and this is a desert riparian zone, which means that most of the native plants surrounding the tamarisk are covered in thorns.  And the water is the Bright Angel Creek, which cuts through a deep narrow gorge in the middle of Grand Canyon.  Which is strikingly beautiful.  It is also difficult to navigate with the stream bed frequently disappearing into steep cliff faces, which lead to some delicate rock scrambles, climbing up while also trying to avoid prickly plants.  Basically, if my mom had known what is required in removing tamarisk she would have been worried all week.

Luckily we hiked in and out and worked for three days without any injuries beyond minor scrapes and sore muscles.

Mary Beth crossing Bright Angel Creek

Mary Beth crossing Bright Angel Creek

Did I mention that this trip was in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Yea, that part was awesome.  It was a challenging but rewarding hike down into the canyon.  Six straight hours of walking down and down and down through different layers of rock until you reach the darkest steepest walls of granite schist in the inner gorge.  Unlike any other hike of that magnitude and remoteness, you are surprised to end up in a small village.  There are flush toilets, showers, telephones, cold beer, and restaurant reservations.  We were lucky enough to stay in the Trail Crew bunkhouse for the first three nights, which meant that we had a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and bathrooms.  The first night we almost jumped when the phone rang.  It was our crew leader’s husband calling with the scores from the football game.  Visiting the Grand Canyon as a volunteer is a special experience since you get to see behind the scenes and spend a week in the canyon for free.

Bright Angel Creek where we were removing tamarisk

Bright Angel Creek where we were removing tamarisk, you can see hikers on the trail river left and our group next to the creek river right.

After dinner we would go outside the bunkhouse and the cacti would be lit by the light from thousands of stars.  With narrow canyon walls we could only see a sliver of the night sky.  The canyon walls rose up like sky scrapers around us and I found myself feeling oddly claustrophobic in the middle of the great outdoors.  We fell asleep to the gurgling sounds of the creek and woke to the steady clomp of the mule train bringing in the day’s supplies to the canteen.

Della climbing back up to the North Kaibab Trail

Della climbing back up to the North Kaibab Trail

Our group of two National Park Service (NPS) employees, four volunteers, and two Student Conservation Association interns hiked down the South Kaibab Trail on Monday.  We spent Monday evening stretching our sore calf muscles and reviewing what we would be doing for the rest of the week, removing tamarisk along Bright Angel Creek.  Starting our day at 7:30 am, we worked in small teams, with the volunteers spotting the tamarisk and either pulling them out if they were just seedlings, or cutting them off at the base.  The NPS employees then painted the base of the tree with herbicide so that it would not re-sprout.  Tamarisk is an obstinate weed and several times we were cutting off new growth from previously treated trees.  After three full days of work our team removed over 400 tamarisk trees from the creek corridor.   It was far more than the NPS vegetation program staff were expecting to find and it felt satisfying to do such a thorough job.

Jay and Sharon at the South Rim having completed our hike up the South Kaibab Trail

Jay and Sharon at the South Rim having completed our hike up the South Kaibab Trail

Friday we hiked out the way we came in, up and up for almost eight hours.  Each step bringing us closer to civilization and all of the business that life on the rim entails.  I look forward to the next time we can go back below the rim, into that canyon, the immensity of which helps you recognize that you are just one small part of this great puzzle.

For more information on the Grand Canyon Vegetation Program click HERE.

To find volunteer opportunities at the Grand Canyon click HERE.

 

 

Photo Review 2 of 2: Grand Canyon, Phantom Ranch and North Kaibab Trail / Bright Angel Creek

A continuation of yesterday’s post which showed photos from the South Kaibab trail and the South Rim, today’s photos are from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  We entered the canyon via the South Kaibab Trail on Monday and stayed at Phantom Ranch through Friday.  During the week we were working on tamarisk removal along Bright Angel Creek which parallels the North Kaibab Trail.

If you want to see past photo reviews, click HERE.

View from above of Phantom Ranch

View from above of Phantom Ranch where the Bright Angel Creek meets the Colorado River

Foot bridge over Colorado River

Foot bridge over Colorado River

Bright Angel Creek

Bright Angel Creek

View from North Kaibab Trail

View from North Kaibab Trail

view from North Kaibab Trail

view from North Kaibab Trail

View from North Kaibab Trail

View from North Kaibab Trail

Bright Angel Creek

Bright Angel Creek, with people (Jay in green shirt) for scale

Schist, the walls of the inner gorge

Schist, the walls of the inner gorge

View along North Kaibab Trail

View along North Kaibab Trail

Bright Angel Creek

Bright Angel Creek

The only red leafed tree we saw, probably a sumac

The only red leafed tree we saw, probably a sumac