All posts by Kevin Holsapple

The author of Prime Passages is Kevin Holsapple. Currently living in northern New Mexico, Kevin has traveled extensively over the years and aspires to do alot more of that in the coming years. Now semi-retired, Kevin's working life included management of a destination tourism activity, community development work, advising and training small businesses, operating recreational tours, and even operating a beer hall.

Hikes and Brews in Boise

Fourth of July weekend and I’m pulling into Boise for a few days to explore for hikes and to see what Boise beer culture I could find.  Boise is a small big city of about 220,000 people and occupies a fairly flat valley along the Boise River.  Foothills rise up to the northeast of town where there is a big nature preserve called Hulls Gulch.  It got me thinking about, “just what in the heck is a gulch?”  A big greenbelt winds its way through town along the river and this impressed me as a cool feature — my Air BnB was in a comfortable apartment right along the greenbelt and I felt like I was well connected by this space to the entire downtown area.

Boise Around Town

Boise is the State capital and has the necessary trappings for that.  A variety of street art held my interest and the small scattering of breweries were welcome in the summer heat.  A unique area is the Basque Block, a small neighborhood featuring a Basque museum, more interesting street art, and a small Basque tavern called Bar Gernika that serves up authentic Basque food and drink as well as an assortment of local craft brews.  Try the Solomo sandwich and a Kalimotxo for some local flavor.  Boise is said to have one of the largest (ten to fifteen thousand people) and most concentrated Basque communities outside of Spain owing to the arrival of shepherds in the 1800’s and family members who followed ever since.

Beers in Boise

Boise has a small but nice selection of breweries, many within walking distance from each other.  By the eye test, Payette brewery is the big boy on the block.  Housed in a large, modern facility near the Boise River, it features a large modern taproom.  Boise Brewing Company and Woodland Empire Brewing are two other walkable locals.  10 Barrel Brewing and RAM Brewing are part of chains but do brewing on-site in Boise.  Cloud 9 was a short drive and turned out to be a nano-brewery in a small shopping plaza.  I can’t remember anything particularly exceptional about the beers in Boise although they were all good thirst quenchers after a hike in the heat.

Hulls Gulch Loop Hike

Hulls Gulch route map
click for interactive route map

Hulls Gulch cuts into the foothills east of town and is part of a city nature preserve.  It is generally wide open, high desert country.  I was told that there are about 180 miles of trails laced throughout this area.

Crooked River Hike

Crooked River hike route
click on image for interactive route map

The trailhead for the Crooked River day hike is about an hour east of Boise.  As you climb into the Boise National Forest you pass several big reservoirs along the way.  It felt good to get into the forest and Crooked River is a pretty stream that winds its way through a narrow canyon.  Active gold mining claims are marked along the river, particularly in the stretch closest to the trail head.  As always when hiking Federal lands, it’s a good idea to check the National Forest website for current trail status.

by the way — best thing I found whenn looking up “gulch” was Almira Gulch:

 

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Hikes and Brews Around the Bend

Bend, Oregon seems to be a trendy spot these days — several people I know have retired up that way and the “beer media” talks about it all the time, so why not a visit for some hikes and brews around (the) Bend?  Bend is a city of about 90,000 people and a metro area of more than 160,000 so it really feels quite urban.  It was good to get out of the car/traffic as much as I could.  I found the downtown to be walkable, but to visit the breweries, a bike or e-bike is handy — the walks between the ones I visited weren’t particularly attractive.

Bend is at an historic fording spot along the Deschutes River on the eastern flank of the Cascades Mountain range.  It is at a spot where Ponderosa Pine forest coming down from the mountains meet high desert landscape to the east.

Around Bend

Beers in Bend

The breweries are spread out through the area.  I have yet to see or hear a clear-cut count, but I’ve seen a number as high as 24 breweries throughout the region.  All of these aren’t in Bend-proper I don’t think.  Deschutes Brewery would seem to be the mothership … definitely the flagship.  It is a big brewery in a modern facility.  As I understand it, they are employee-owned and the employee I spoke to was a pretty happy worker.   Deschutes also has a taproom in an old place downtown that I guessed may be their original location.

At the other end of the spectrum of architectural snazziness is Boneyard Brewing Company in an old garage in a mostly residential area — I did enjoy the beer.  Several of the breweries fall into a category I call “seems to be a brewery because it is good marketing for a restaurant”.  10 Barrel Brewing started in Bend as I understand it but is now owned by Anheuser-Busch and has branches in Boise, Denver, and maybe other places.  I would have to say that my favorite place and beer had to be at the Crux Fermentation Project.  Crux is an oasis within  a fairly ugly industrial area — the taproom and brewery is industrial chic and a large outdoor lawn is a venue for beer, music, and comfortable picnicking.

Smith Rock Loop Hike

Smith Rock Loop Hike
click on image to open interactive route map

No one I asked locally came up with particularly interesting ideas for hikes originating in town,but Smith Rock consistently came up as a recommended hiking place.  Smith Rock State Park is a half hour drive north of Bend through suburbs and agricultural land.  Once you get there, the view turns to the spectacular and I found the loop hike to be greatly enjoyable.  Smith Rock turns out to be an important destination in the rock climbing world and it’s amusing to see people hanging off of major rock faces.

From the parking area the trail descends down to the Crooked River where the loop splits.  I chose the uphill first following the Misery Ridge trail on a steep ascent.  It was sunny and hot going up, but as soon as I crested it was back into the cool shade.  The Crooked River curls around Smith Rock, so after a steep descent you follow the river all the way back to your starting point.

Sisters Mirror Lake Hike

Mirror Lake Hike
click image to open interactive route map

The hike to Sisters Mirror Lake is a very different kind of route.  The trailhead is a short drive up into the mountains west of town past the Mt. Bachelor Ski Area.  Their is a big driving loop up that way heading around to the south and a cut-off to Crater Lake — that was an added bonus following the hike.

The route to Sisters Mirror Lake passes through conifer forest laced with small streams and dotted with ponds.  There was still snow scattered about in July.  You eventually cross and follow the Pacific Coast Trail on this hike as it passes through the Three Sisters Wilderness area.  Be aware that there is voracious wildlife along the way and come prepared with protections.  I encountered mosquitoes in swarms — one time as I brought my camera to my face I glanced at the back of my hand and it was covered with mosquitoes.

The hike rewards you with beautiful views of the lake and the surroundings.

photo credits: Jenni C., J. Rosenberg

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Hikes and Brews in Walla Walla

location of Walla Walla, Washington
location of Walla Walla, Washington

Driving west from Missoula you eventually get to the corner of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon and the town of Walla Walla, Washington.  The name alone qualifies it for a stop and I was able to find more .. Hikes and Brews in Walla Walla.

This is major agricultural country with expansive wheat fields rising on the swelling hillsides that roll away in every direction.   The highway in travels through small valleys and passes through small farming towns.  Walla Walla proper is a town of about 40,000 that USA Today recognized as “the friendliest town in America” a few years ago.

Around Walla Walla

The downtown is a beautiful, classic main street that is well restored and maintained.  The biggest thing I noticed was the proliferation of wine tasting rooms — there are said to be about 100 wineries in the Walla Walla area.  They also have a baseball team called the Sweets – referring to the sweet onions that are grown in the area.  I happened into a ticket and spent a couple hours at the ball park one evening.

As I mentioned, WW is more a wine town than a beer town but I was still able to find several interesting stops in the area.

Panjab Trail Hike

click on image for interactive route map

As far as I figured out, there are no hikes of note that originate in the town although it is a pleasant enough place to stroll around.  To find a hike I was directed east of town to the Blue Mountains near Dayton where the Panjab Trail originates.  It is a scenic 55 mile drive from WW into the Umatilla National Forest.  The hike is a pleasant one through mixed forest and is sufficient for developing a thirst.

photo credits: J. Chavez, Dean Myerson, Curt Schmidt

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Hikes and Brews in Missoula

This particular roadtrip brought me to Missoula, MT for hikes and brews and generally checking out the area.  Missoula is way west in Montana in the Clark Fork River Valley at the convergence of five mountain ranges.  This natural circumstance makes Missoula a hub of sorts as roads lead up the various valleys between the mountain ranges.  To the west is Lolo Pass on the route that Lewis & Clark traveled to to west coast of the U.S.  Missoula is Montana’s second largest city with about 75,000 people and is a college town — home to the University of Montana.  At about 3,200 feet altitude (978 m), it is not an unpleasant climate but still pretty damn hot in the sun in the summer.

My visit mixed up some town walking with some short drives out in the forest to find some hikes.  I didn’t come to think of it as a place where you would hike out into the forest from where you were staying in town.  It has the sprawley feel of many a town in the U.S.  Walking in the older part of town was quite enjoyable though.

Around Missoula

The old part of Missoula is blessed with some great old bones and most of its breweries are reasonably walkable in the center.  It was market day one of the days during my visit and that made for a lively scene and some fun photo opportunities.  A nice walking and biking route called the Milwaukee Road (named after a former railway) led from where I was staying into the downtown.  The tree lined streets really helped with the heat.  Several bridges over the Clark Fork allow for watching kayakers playing on the river.  A highlight for me was my nightly visit to The Big Dipper, a classic ice cream stand that draws a crowd.  The first time I visited I could tell it would be good by the line that stretched for a full block.  People were patiently waiting and socializing and I was assured by the people in front of me that it would be worth the wait — I wasn’t disappointed.

Mount Sentinel – Pattee Canyon Hike

Mount Sentinel - Pattee Canyon Hike
click for interactive map of hike

Just east of the town is Mount Sentinel – it dominates the view from town and has a giant “M” on it’s grassy side.  The back side however is forested and I located a hike up that side from a starting point called Pattee Canyon.  You get to the start point by winding up a canyon road for twenty minutes or so into the Lolo National Forest.  The hike was through pretty forest before emerging on the bald peak with big views.

Rattlesnake Gulch Hike

Rattlesnake Gulch Hike
click to open interactive map of hike route

Rattlesnake Gulch Hike thankfully did not live up to its name on the day I was there — no rattlesnakes and I’m not sure what a gulch is anyway.  I think there is some kind of imaginary east-west boundary line in the western U.S. that you cross where an arroyo becomes a gulch, but I’m not totally sure about that.  The walk follows a grassy route on either side of a stream that occasionally opens up to give big views.

Sampling brews and breweries in Missoula

Missoula proved to be a fine place for brewery touristing.  I would have to say my favorite stop was Bayern Brewing — my kind of beers in a laid back tap room in what is the oldest active brewery in Montana.  As the name suggests, they brew some old world styles and I understand that they run a brewer exchange with breweries in Bavaria.

Big Sky Brewing is the biggest brewer in Montana and is located in an industrial park away from town – unfortunately their taproom wasn’t open when I went out there.  Their flagship brew is the unappetizing sounding Moose Drool Brown Ale — I’m not sure if that sounds worse than Kettle House Brewing’s Bongwater Ale.  Kettle House’s Myrtle Street taphouse is a comfortable, grunge style place that was a comfortable place for a cool one.  Following are some images from the brewery touring in Missoula.  Click on any image to enlarge it and open a scrollable slideshow of all of the images.

 

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A Visit to Glacier Country

Hikes, scenery, and a beer of course

location of Glacier National Park in the USA
location of Glacier National Park in the USA

A visit to Glacier Country takes you way up north to the remote reaches of northwest Montana, where the deer and the antelope, and the moose and the mountain sheep, and the bear play.  Glacier National Park, named for the rapidly disappearing glaciers that once filled vertical mountain valleys is a gorgeous slice of outdoors.  There were 150 glaciers in the area of the park in 1850 but that has dwindled to about 25 now — all of which are getting much smaller as time passes and the climate changes.  Some speculate that all may be gone by 2030.

Glacier Country
Places mentioned in this story — click for interactive Google map

Beautiful hikes, scenic drives, the great outdoors, and a good beer or two are all easy finds.  We based out of a spot in the road called Polebridge west of the park on the north fork of the Flathead River that offered an off-the-grid hangout at a fraction of the going rate for staying in the park and is a short, scenic drive from the west entry point.  We used the Going-to-the-Sun Road as our connecting route from one side of the park to the other — it had just opened for the season for our June visit (deep snow keeps it closed most of the year).  There are a multitude of hiking routes but we picked out four that were a match for our crew’s dayhiking desires.

Click on any image in any of the following galleries to enlarge the image and open a slideshow that you can scroll through to get an idea of the beauty of the park, what you may see along the drive and along the trail, and where you might find a nice craft beer.

Around the Park

When it is open, the  Going-to-the-Sun Road offers a spectacular drive climbing up to Logan Pass at nearly 6700 feet (2042 m).  This is the highest point you can drive to in the park.  The mountains above reach up to  10,479 feet (3,194 m) and there are 150 peaks over 8,000 feet (2,400 m).  It isn’t uncommon for the pass area to get100 feet (30 m) of snowfall in a given year so the road is typically only open from mid-to-late June until mid October.

Avalanche Lake Hike

Avalanche Lake hike
click for interactive map of the hike route

The hike to Avalanche Lake is a steady climb along beautiful Avalanche Creek.  This turned out to be the only trail where I encountered a bear — he came crashing across the trail in front of me and disappeared before I could get my camera to my face.  The route shown is about 6.2 miles (10 km) in and out to the upper end of the lake.

Fish Lake Hike

Fish Lake hike
click for interactive map of the hike route

Fish Lake is another pretty lake — smaller with lots of lilly pad action.  The trail follows Snyder Creek up to Snyder Ridge.  The route shown is about 5.2 miles (8.4 km) in and out. 

Redrock Falls

Redrock Falls hike
click for interactive map of the hike route

Redrock Falls is a colorful spot of redrock that contrast with most of the geology I noticed at Glacier.  The route parallels Swiftcurrent Creek and passes two small lakes.  The route shown is about 7.5 miles (12 km) in and out.

Two Medicine Hike

Two Medicine hike
click for interactive map of the hike route

 

This is the most difficult (not technical) of the hikes due to the elevation gain.  We were caught in wind and rain so we didn’t get the full effect of the view from the top of the hike.  The route shown is about 7.3 miles (11.7 km) in and out and the route in climbs about 2400 feet (735 m).

…. and a beer or two

What good are all those hikes without a good beer or two.  We only hit one of the nearby breweries shown on the map above although we invested in our share of carry out from a number of area breweries while at Polebridge.  The Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish, Montana is right in the center of the town.

Dude ... Take a Hike

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Crazy Lands

Hiking across the landscape of the San Juan Basin Badlands is a hike on crazy lands.  More and more unreal rock features and earth sculptures are found over every rise and around every bend in the seemingly endless washes that make up the terrain.

Map of New Mexico, USA with general location of the San Juan Basin Badlands

This particular ramble was in an area of the San Juan Basin Badlands called the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area.  It is located just to the north of Chaco Canyon National Park.

The land management pattern for this country is as wild as the terrain itself — it consists of a patchwork of private, tribal, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Forest jurisdictions.  There are quite a few roads owing to mineral and natural gas extraction in the area, but fortunately they don’t tend to disturb the badland areas much.  There are a number of resources out there on the area but I used a website called americansouthwest.net as my guide for picking a place to hike and getting there.  I found it to be a helpful source for navigation waypoints — the trails, if they exist at all, are very sketchy.  I put navigation skills to use that I hadn’t employed much since I was a scout in the army many moons ago.  The website is also a good resource for learning about all of the areas throughout these badlands.

A goal I had in mind was to find a formation I had seen pictures of called King of Wings — a hoodoo with a long, wing-like extension that appears to defy gravity.  I didn’t find a pathway going to it — I used compass coordinates to find it — although I found a reasonably follow-able route coming back out.  I prayed that would come out somewhere near where I had parked the car.

Following is a photo gallery from the hike in these crazy lands.  Clicking on any photo will enlarge it and open a scroll-able slideshow of larger images.

San Juan Basin Badlands