Breckenridge Summer Beer Festival

This weekend I joined David, Armando, Jim, and Ron in Breckenridge, where we rented a townhouse off of 4 O’Clock Trail Road. After a long week at work, I braved I-70 and drove up on Friday evening. I stopped for provisions at the liquor store and City Market and went straight to the hot tub, where we waited for Jim to arrive before having a home-cooked dinner.

On Saturday, I had the best intentions of utilizing my time in the mountains to get out and be in them, but being lazy while dehydrated was a whole lot more appealing. We had breakfast and hung around the house until the afternoon, when we walked down the road to attend the Breckenridge Summer Beer Festival at the parking lot of the Beaver Run Resort near Base Nine.

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TastingsIt was a temperate, sunny day, the beer was cold, and the crowds weren’t overwhelming. We had a good time checking out the various beer, cider, and liquor offerings; I lost count of how many vendors were in attendance, but I’d estimate 60 stalls. Back-of-the-envelope math says we each had around 90 ounces of beer (about 7.5 12-ounce beer bottles) over the course of a several hours. I’m pretty sure my favorite was Destihl Brewery’s Sour Cherry Stout, though it was also the last thing I tried. After inhaling a bowl of Indian food and other snacks, we wandered back up the hill and relaxed for the rest of the night. We didn’t have the momentum to venture out in the town, as previously discussed.

The next morning I abandoned my plans again for an early hike at Mayflower Gulch, opting to head back home before all the other flatlanders had the same idea. I parted ways with the rest of the group, who stayed in town either for the day or for another night. Good times, good company!

Lake Helene

Chris was in town visiting from San Diego for the weekend. Hoping for better luck at Rocky Mountain National Park this time, we filled our Camelbaks, loaded up the Battle Wagon™ and cruised up to Estes Park to hike to Lake Helene.

We arrived at the park-and-ride lot around 8:15a and ran to the crowded shuttle bus that took us up the hill to Bear Lake. Once properly sunscreened, we took to the trail. It seemed like we had chosen a less-popular route; the crowds quickly diminished as we ascended into the pines.

The trail was a steady grade upwards, but not steep enough to require frequent water stops. I brought my REI trekking poles (thanks, dividend!) to try out and found them to be pretty helpful on the hills. It was a beautiful, clear summer day and we took our time, arriving at the cutoff trail to Lake Helene in short order. After taking a rest, a few bites of meat bar, and snapping some photos, we made the descent back to Bear Lake.

When we got back to one of the earlier splits in the trail, we took inventory and decided we felt good enough to walk the 3 miles back to the parking lot. We don’t need a shuttle! The trail was mostly downhill and passed by Lake Bierstadt, where we stopped to finish our snacks and rest. The clouds were starting to roll in and it was getting warmer, but the breeze was refreshing and the view was spectacular.

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We continued on down the trail, which progressively became steeper. Rains earlier in the season had exposed many small rocks in the trail, which, combined with the current dryness and grade, frequently challenged our footing. After a mile of this, we both agreed we should have taken the shuttle back from Lake Bierstadt. We trudged on and made it back to the car around 12:30p, totaling 9.9 miles of hiking for the day. Not too bad!

IMG_5041On our way back to Denver, we stopped at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder for a delicious lunch at Oak and to visit one of two Mont Bell stores in the U.S. Once closer to town, we stopped again for a tasting flight of sour beers at Crooked Stave and to stock up on odd beers and Boxcar coffee at the other stalls housed in The Source. A pleasant end to a relaxing day in the mountains.

Kayaking Lake Dillon and Visiting Mount Evans

PaddleJohn, Keith, Shon and I hit the road early on Saturday and headed into the mountains. Destination: Frisco! At the Frisco Bay Marina on Lake Dillon, we caught up with recent Frisco transplants from Chicago, Kim and Julie, (who I met through my cousin, Lauren, at the Seattle ski trip earlier in the year) to rent kayaks. We grabbed our paddles, strapped on our life jackets and launched into the reservoir.

It was a beautiful summer day and we enjoyed the clear skies, comfortable temps, and light breeze (though thankfully no microbursts) as we paddled east along the north shore. The boat rentals were for three hours, so after 90 minutes we had to swing back around. We explored the coves and islands, thoroughly enjoying the tranquility of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

Eventually we got back to the docks, changed into dry clothes and met back up across the street at Backcountry Brewery. We shared laughs and stories over brews and lunch before parting ways with Kim and Julie to begin the drive back to Denver. Despite the ominous clouds rolling in while driving on I-70, we exited at Idaho Springs to make a detour up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.

IMG_1163The last few times I had attempted this drive, the road past Echo Lake had been closed, so I was determined to conquer my first 14er. Upon entering the park, we were greeted almost immediately by spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. We quickly surpassed the tree-line as we began to climb into the clouds. How dangerous the road could be in inclement weather was readily apparent – we don’t need no stinking guard rails! I’m really glad I wasn’t driving because I would have been paralyzed with fear around more than a few bends in the crumbling, narrow road. Hat tip to Shon for keeping all four wheels grounded and driving slow for the duration.

Shon befriends a sheep

Shon befriends a sheep

Slowly the sky began to clear as the truck tackled the switchbacks. After an hour of breathtaking views and terrifying road conditions, we reached the summit parking lot at 14,130 feet above sea level. I had forgotten what it was like to be winded from just a few stairs – Mount Evans is almost three times higher than Denver! Shon, John and I took our time climbing up the last few hundred feet to the actual summit. Totally worth the lightheadedness!

A few selfies later, we headed back to the cars and began our decent, running into a few mountain goat and sheep herds. It was still light out, so the four of us took a short hike to Summit Lake to take in the sights. For not having a Xanax handy, I did surprisingly well keeping it together getting down the mountain (my side of the truck was cliff-adjacent).

We returned to I-70 and continued our drive back to Denver, capping off what everyone agreed was a pretty great day.

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