Trail Guide – Barton Creek Greenbelt, Part 4

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Part 4: Gaines Creek/Twin Falls Trailhead to Sculpture Falls, Miles 4.25-6

This section of the Guide to the Greenbelt is a little different in that instead of picking up where we left off, we’ll start from a new trailhead. Specifically, the Gaines Creek/Twin Falls trailhead at 3918 S Mopac Expressway, Austin 78746. To reach this one, you’ll want to head southbound on Mopac and take the 360 West exit. Instead of turning onto 360, however, keep going straight. This will take you to a tiny loop of access road that will undoubtedly be lined with cars. This trailhead is very popular due to the proximity to Twin Falls, so it’s recommended to get there early or go on a weekday.

When you first step onto the trail, the reasons for its popularity become clear: it’s almost entirely shaded, a luxury in the Texas heat. The first portion of the trail will be somewhat rocky, but then lead into a steep downhill drop. At the bottom of the downhill, continue right to keep on the path to Sculpture Falls. If you go left, you’ll follow the Greenbelt until you hit a huge wooden bridge underneath the highway. You can keep on this path to get back to the split-off for the Violet Crown Trail if you know where you’re going, but it can be kind of tricky to find your way, and it’s extremely dry and rocky during the summer months.

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Twin Falls on a quiet winter day

Twin Falls is unmistakable and perpetually crowded. You’ll have to do some careful maneuvering around large fallen tree trunks, piles of rocks, and families. Keep following the path to the west and you’ll pass Twin Falls, after which the crowds usually start to thin out around Mile 5. The trail then abuts Barton Creek for about a quarter mile. If there’s been a lot of rain, this area of the trail tends to get pretty flooded, so watch your footing.

Beyond this stretch, the trail meanders back into the woods. There’s plenty of shade and soft dirt – it’s a pretty gentle ride for the next mile or so. Keep a lookout for the abandoned mailbox on the right side of the trail. One thing to note is that the path will seem to fork at several points. It doesn’t necessarily matter which path you take, since all the forks will lead to Sculpture Falls. However, on the final fork, around Mile Marker 5.75, the path will go up a little bit and, if you’re not paying attention, you could pass right by the falls. If you do take the upper right path, be sure to keep watching to your left.

You should hit Sculpture Falls at around Mile Marker 6, but if memory serves, you’ve gone just a tad too far if you actually hit the marker. This is a pretty famous spot and can get crowded if the weather is nice, but it’s spread out enough that you shouldn’t have any issues finding somewhere to post up if this is your stopping point. When the water is high, the limestone pools fill up and the falls gush. It makes for some pretty good swimming or even a quick stop to cool off. The upper portion of the creek usually isn’t too deep, so it can be a nice spot to sit for a while and relax, assuming you aren’t freaked out by all the fish (ahem).

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A pretty typical sight at Sculpture Falls when you pop off the trail (source)

If you hit Sculpture Falls from the Gaines Creek trailhead, it makes for a nice little 5k out and back. I did this route several times when I was training for my first 25k, and it always provokes a little nostalgia, since I hiked it with my husband when we got engaged. If you park at the Spec’s that serves as a trailhead for the Violet Crown Trail, you could make a nice, shady 5 miler out of the hike, assuming you can pick your way across the creek to the large wooden bridge.

Next time, we’ll finally finish up the Greenbelt with the famous Hill of Life! To learn more about the Greenbelt, check out Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Pilot Hill 25k Race Report

Well, it happened. Six and a half months after starting to run again, I made it through my first long distance event.

When setting my race schedule for the year, I had two major principles to keep in mind: 1) not to overdo it and 2) not to care about my times. This year would be the year of “just finish.” I will admit that mentally, that has been hard for me. It’s tough to see times 5-10 minutes slower than I’m used to. But it’s also important to remember that I basically started from square one again back in November. This post from Amelia Boone has also been very helpful. It’s definitely required reading for anyone coming back from long-term injury.

So, the race itself was the Pilot Hill 25k Classic. This is the longest standing footrace in the state of Wyoming, which is reason enough to run it – it’s fun to say you participated in a little piece of history. It’s also, without a doubt, the toughest race I’ve ever run. You climb to the top of Pilot Hill then descend back into Laramie, which figures out to a net 3200 or so elevation change. However, a lot of my training focused on uphill-downhill out and backs, so I hoped I would be relatively okay. Plus, call me a masochist, but I absolutely love climbing.

The race could not have been held on a more perfect day. Sunny with starting temps in the mid 50s. As soon as the gun went off, it was clear to me that I was settling into the back of the pack, and I was totally fine with it. I’m not going to try and chase down professional and semi-professional athletes from Colorado. I was just there to have a good time. For the first hour or so, however, I did not feel like I was having a good time. The course had a ton of sandy dirt on it, my least favorite surface to run on, and it felt like I was trying to push through mud. I was mentally cursing myself – I must not have tapered enough, I must not have trained enough, etc. Then I remembered that I was essentially running straight uphill, no matter how gradual it might seem. And I was still going! For the first hour or so, it was just running.

However, running in direct sunlight with no wind is bound to take a toll, even if it isn’t terribly hot. By the time I started the last three miles of the climb, i.e. the Real Climb, my stomach was beginning to have issues. This isn’t unusual for me – I’ve had stomach trouble totally wreck races before – but I troubleshot better than I ever had before. I mentally gave myself permission to let go a little bit, to slow down my climbing until I felt like I had things under control and there was no risk of vomiting. And it worked! Plus, I can’t be too sad when there’s that much climbing involved.

I allowed myself one time goal for the day – to make it up the hill in under two hours. And I smashed that by twelve minutes. I was absolutely thrilled. I said hello to the costumed folks up top, grabbed a handful of pretzels, and began making my way back down the hill.

The flip side to my love of ascending is my hatred of descending. Before my knee injury, I was a fantastic descender. I still didn’t enjoy it, but I could scream down hills like it was a cakewalk. However, when you have to rehab an atrophied quad, it turns out that your ability to descend becomes pretty much shot. So even though I was going much faster overall, by the time I hit the last aid station with 3k to go, my legs were done. I had two major stumbles on the way down (one of which resulted in me losing my glasses for a bit), and between that, the stomach jostling, and the hamstring exhaustion, I was reduced to hiking a lot more than I would have hoped. But still, hiking the course is being out on the course. If I do this race again, I’ll be doing some downhill specific training for sure.

Even though I’ve committed myself to not focusing on my times, I can’t help but be thrilled with my finish, which was only 12 minutes off my 25k PR. And on a harder course to boot! The time only matters in that it shows how far my fitness has come. A year ago, even going down stairs was impossible. To go from nothing to 25k in a little over six months is truly awesome. I’m excited to see where things go from here.

I’ve got two more goal races coming up this year – the Ultra Santa Fe Half and the Blue Sky Trail Marathon. Ultra Santa Fe is run at 10,000+ feet, so it’s time to get out in the Snowies and start working! Happy running, friends.

Self-Care

It’s been a while. This hiatus was unplanned, but as it does, life got in the way. Following a trip out of town, work kicked into high gear, training started to ramp up, I got sick, etc. But really, a lot of what led to taking time off was a need for introspection and heavy consideration.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this: I’m facing long-term issues that will require medical treatment for the rest of my life. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (well, it is an expensive thing), but when I returned from Albuquerque, I was faced with a need to do a lot of thinking about my long-term needs and locations. I’m not really one for concrete five-year plans. I have goals and aspirations that I’m working towards, sure, but I also believe that there are certain elements you just can’t plan for. For instance, I had a goal to get a job in a certain field when I graduated school. I successfully did so, but never did I imagine that job would take me to Wyoming. All of a sudden, it feels like I’m dealing with a need to make certain decisions by certain dates, and I don’t like that. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to confront some scary realities.

This leads me into self-care. This is a concept I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and how societal perceptions of it can lead to toxicity. Like everyone else, I try to take it easy on my bad days. I take bubble baths, I eat extra chocolate, etc. But now that I require a greater need for self-care, I realize how infantile the concept has become. Buying yourself a new piece of clothing because you had a bad day? Self-care! Burning your leave time because you just *can’t* go in today? Self-care! Having an extra drink tonight because you *need* it? Self-care! It seems like the idea of caring for oneself has been twisted in a way that gives us permission to avoid our adult responsibilities and actually take care of ourselves.

I’m not begrudging anyone for indulging every once in a while. But this isn’t the only way self-care can manifest. Self-care also looks like taking a shower when you desperately need one. It looks like paying your bills on time so you don’t get hit with extra fees or evicted. It’s eating nutritious foods and taking some time to get outside so you don’t feel like garbage. Self-care is not just about treating yourself, it’s exactly what it sounds like: taking care of yourself. And that means owning up to your adult responsibilities. I’m sure you can guess how I feel about the term “adulting” based on the above.

The long and short of it is I’m doing okay. I’m going easy on myself when need be, but I’m also acting like a grownup since that’s what I am.

In other news, winter is slowly releasing its grip on us. We may have had snow this morning, but it was all gone and skies were sunny by the afternoon. The trails are clearing and the days are longer, and I’m indulging in every bit of it. My mileage is about to start ramping up for my 25k next month and I’m ready to get out there and play. Even when the days are tough, getting out for a run and a hike keeps me sane. In a way, I guess that plays to both concepts of self-care: an opportunity to escape from the real world for a bit while doing something good for my body. I’ll take it.

Friday Things

Between work, travel, and travel for work, I’ve been slacking on Friday Things. That ends now!

A really cool piece on Originalism in the time of Trump, Scalia, and Gorusch.

There is literally no good reason that birth control shouldn’t be accessible to all. Kind of like, y’know, all healthcare.

This made me choke on my tea.

Today’s friendly reminder that all pipelines leak.

I grew up in a city with a ton of shopping malls, most of which are still thriving, so I find this sort of thing fascinating.

I had no idea about the crisis going on in Big Sur until I read this. A friend of mine is camping in the area now, so hopefully things are improving.

I think this story about conservative Texans standing up for their trans kids made me cry a little bit. All it takes is getting to know a trans person to start changing hearts and minds.

So long, EPA. Guess totally removing the agency’s page a few months ago wasn’t a joke. Basically, we’re all doomed.

The lessons we can learn from Berlusconi and how we can apply them to Trump.

Taking things down a lot, I really enjoyed this piece on Rachael Ray, 30-Minute Meals, and learning to cook. I’m sure that the impact Rachael Ray had on families goes beyond this one author’s experience.

Speaking of cooking, now I’m hungry.

A conversation on disability rights and education.

This essay on Mallory’s famous “because it’s there” quote (in relation to Mt. Everest) really explains why I enjoy getting outside.

Five Tips for Windy Winter Running

We’re hitting the tail end of winter up in Cheyenne; yes, I know the first day of spring was last week, don’t remind me. Like any other person with a problem, when the first snowfall of the season hit, I frantically Googled “tips for winter running” and the like. I got a lot of the usual advice – Yaktrax for the ice, wear layers – but most of the articles on winter running don’t take one really important factor into account: the wind.

Cheyenne, WY is the fourth-windiest city in the U.S., and I once heard a joke that they must have hit on that number during the summer. In the time I’ve lived in Cheyenne, the wind has been so bad that I’ve been pushed across the street and temporarily unable to breathe, sometimes at the same time. I’m dead serious about that.

Now that I’ve made it to April, I’ve learned a thing or two about running in extreme wind conditions. Thus, for those of you who are faced with the same lack of information I was, I present…

Five Tips for Windy Winter Running

1. If you can’t breathe, don’t run outside.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? You don’t go running when you’re stopped up (or, uh, you shouldn’t). But this past winter I experienced days where I would go outside and immediately start coughing just because it was so cold. For those of you who haven’t had the joy of experiencing this, it usually starts happening when you get into single digit temps, but on particularly windy days, it could happen at 15 degrees fahrenheit.  I hate the treadmill too, but some days you gotta suck it up and go inside.

2. Dress for the actual temperature outside.

Every single article I read on winter running advised to dress for temperatures about 10-15 degrees warmer than those you’ll actually run in. Yeah, that’s great if you live somewhere still, but if you don’t factor in the wind chill, you’ll be absolutely miserable, especially if you do your runs in the evening like a lot of us desk jockeys. Invest in both a good jacket and a lightweight windshell. And speaking of clothing…

3. Protect your extremities.

Wear gloves, wear a hat, wear a Buff. In fact, if you find a pair of mittens you can run in, even better. In Cheyenne, we get windchill and frostbite warnings, and that shit is no joke. I underestimated it when I first got here, and though I haven’t lost any fingertips yet, there were a couple of runs where I felt like I came close.

4. Determine which direction the wind is going beforehand.

I became a fiend about checking the weather in January simply so I could determine this. Figure it out and plan your route about it, especially if you have to run in the city. It’s a little easier to deal with on the trails, since you usually have tree cover, but you should factor it in nonetheless. On a related note, after a couple of months of living in a city-turned-windstorm, you’ll get a pretty good handle on what times of the day the wind is worse. There’s a reason I don’t run at lunch unless I absolutely have to, and it’s not because I don’t want to deal with showering before I go back to work (okay, maybe that’s part of it too).

5. Let someone know when you go and when you get back.

I know, this seems extreme. But remember that frostbite thing? If you’re running in inclement weather, it’s better to be prepared, and severe wind is inclement weather. Besides, you really should be doing this anyway if you run on trails or in other remote places. Feel free to tell me I’m being paranoid – it’s probably true.

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list – please go check out all of the great winter running articles online to supplement my tips. But hopefully this will help some of you that live in areas like the Front Range where the wind can be truly brutal. And I hope I didn’t scare you off coming up here to run. The trails are gorgeous and the wind is worse in the city, I swear! Happy running!

One Year Later

These past two weekends, I’ve run six miles. I didn’t run them particularly fast, and it’s not a particularly impressive distance. However, it’s an important milestone to me.

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These two six-milers signify the longest distance I’ve run since my knee injury. Believe it or not, I actually used to be okay at this running thing. I’ve been running since 2011, where my New Year’s resolution was simply to learn to run. I switched over to trails in early 2015 and really fell in love. 2015 was an amazing year. I ran two half marathons, four 10ks, and finished my first 25k. Almost all of those were on trails.

And then 2016 happened. 2016 was a shitty year for me as far as my health went. I had planned to run my first marathon in February, but I managed to tweak my left psoas at the beginning of the year and missed my two longest runs. I dropped to the half, but it was painful. Between the psoas injury and something mysterious going on with my right knee, I mostly remember the last mile of that race being an incredible sufferfest, trying to will my body to get across the finish line in one piece. I figured if I got through the race, I’d be on the other side and take some time off, let all these little niggles heel. I thought that was the worst of it.

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Inaccurate representation of how much pain I was in and how exhausted I was. But hey, beer makes everything better.

I was wrong. None of these pains would be what undid 2016 for me. What really wrecked my year was a fall, hard, on my right knee. It stung at the time, but the pain quickly faded. And then, after taking two weeks off following the half-marathon, I went out for my first run. Within five minutes, it was clear that something was terribly wrong. A dull, aching pain like I’d never felt before settled into my knee and didn’t go away. Within a month, I noticed I had trouble going down stairs and that I couldn’t straighten my knee without pain.

This time last year, I had just received my prescription for physical therapy. A month from now, when nothing had improved, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first MRI. It took two more months and three different doctors reviewing the scan until I finally had an answer: “nobody told you about the bone bruise?”

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Taken on my birthday last year, about a month before the diagnosis. Not relevant, but it sure is gorgeous.

If you don’t know what a bone bruise is, you’re not alone; I hadn’t either until my fall. It’s basically a precursor to a fracture, the last step before your bone actually breaks. They’re normally no longer visible on an MRI at 4-6 weeks post-injury. Mine, though faint, showed up over two months after my fall. That’s how bad this was. However, bone bruises, unlike stress fractures, aren’t usually treated with a boot or a brace. You can get those things, but you have to pay out of pocket. I was basically given the order to strengthen my right quad, which had atrophied, and wait until at least September before trying to run again.

Like a lot of people who run, I had a lot of my self-worth tied up in being a runner. I won’t say it was everything to me, but it was a big part of my life. This major injury had made me absolutely miserable. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t bike. I couldn’t use the elliptical. I couldn’t even kick in the pool. All I could do without pain was walk. To go from running a half-marathon one weekend to losing the ability to be active within two weeks was mind-numbing to me. However, there was one major lesson, one good thing that I took from this injury.

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I stopped seeing myself as a runner. And I started seeing myself as an athlete.

I committed to taking care of my body in a way I never had before. I consistently stuck with my PT. I iced my knee whenever I felt like I needed it. I hiked and walked when I was able, but didn’t push myself. I worked to challenge my body to get stronger as it healed. I focused hard on making sleep a priority. And finally, I learned to let go of the mental anguish. Instead of anxiously waiting for a hard date to start running again, I trusted that my body would be able to do so when it was ready. I stopped caring so much about things I couldn’t control.

Last November, I finally started running again. I’m not 100% recovered – I’m pretty sure that my right knee will always crack in a weird way and occasionally get cranky – but I’m no longer in pain. I’m doing actual workouts (HILLS!) and running long on Saturdays again, and getting lost on new trails. I’m finally hitting paces I saw once upon a time. And these past two weekends, I ran six miles. Back when I was a new runner, six miles was the golden distance, some arbitrary threshold that crossed you over from hobby jogger to a real distance-loving, long run-obsessed runner.

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From last weekend’s six miles.

I’ve made it there again. But I’m not really a runner anymore. I’m an athlete, and running is my sport. I won’t ever be a pro or take home any gold medals, but it’s still a part of me. I may have big dreams and goals, but right now, the most important thing to me is to continue to build my strength and stamina so I can stay on those trails. So I can power up the hills and make it to the top, so I can roll along the single track, so I can get covered in dirt and grime and dig deep into my happy place.

Brewsday Tuesday – Weldwerks S’mores Achromatic

Brewsday Tuesday is a feature where I talk about a craft beer I’ve had lately. This week’s featured beer is S’mores Achromatic by Weldwerks.

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Last week was Weldwerks‘ 2nd anniversary, so we drove down to Greeley to take part in the fun. Out of all the breweries I’ve been to, Weldwerks is the place that has given me the most “Austin” vibe. Large porch, amazing food truck onsite, and actually stayed open past 6 pm. I’m looking at you, Fort Collins. Weldwerks is largely known for their New England-style IPAs, and especially Juicy Bits. While I can’t deny that those beers are good (and I certainly enjoyed Juicy Bits), that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. We’re talking about S’mores Achromatic.

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Yes, that is an all-IPA flight on the left. Juicy, cloudy IPA fans rejoice.

This beer is an entry in Weldwerks’ Achromatic series. These beers are imperial stouts brewed with a ton of chocolate malts – we’re talking over 100 pounds here – and they are absolutely amazing. While at the taproom, we got to try S’mores, Nutella, and Mocha, and all of them were delicious. However, S’mores was an absolute showstopper, and we ended up taking a crowler of it home with us for future enjoyment. Also a crowler of Juicy Bits, because I’m not a monster.

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Proof. Can’t wait to crack into this one.

Like an imperial stout should be, this beer is thick and dark. The nose is sweet and rich, but it isn’t until you taste it that the s’mores flavor really comes out. The vanilla and marshmallow notes are amazing alongside the roasted malt, and the s’mores flavor is really driven home without ever being too sweet. S’mores Achromatic is definitely a beer for sipping and savoring, since it’s essentially dessert, but it definitely does not taste like 10.5% ABV.

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Small but mighty.

Since this beer is a big, boozy treat, I wouldn’t necessarily pair it with food, but I think it would be great alongside some pretzels for a palate cleanser if the flavor gets to be too much. The classic salty-sweet combo if you will. I also think this would be a really difficult beer to pair with cheese. A fromage blanc would have the ideal flavor compliment, but would be too rich. A nutty hard cheese would have the wrong texture, and a blue would not compliment the sweetness at all. The only possible suggestion I can come up with is one of my favorite cheeses, Cremont. This double cream cheese from Vermont has a mildly sweet flavor and is basically a puddle at room temperature.

I absolutely cannot wait to get back to Weldwerks. If you happen to be in the Front Range, it is absolutely worth the detour to Greeley to check out. Happy Brewsday Tuesday, and cheers!

Friday Things

Happy Friday Things, Saturday Edition. Best laid plans and all that.

I had the privilege of meeting Representative Farrar while I was in law school. She’s smart, tough, and savvy, and when I saw that she was the Texas lawmaker who introduced this bill that would penalize men for masturbating, I was not surprised. She’s a real advocate for reproductive justice and getting more women in government.

I’m really excited to watch The Handmaid’s Tale once it premiers. This made me even more excited, and also made me feel like I should read the book.

I still don’t like Kellyane Conway, but this piece was a good reminder of how important it is to frame critiques while keeping feminist principles in mind.

Gorgeous nature photos! That yawning owl is my new desktop background.

This piece about the differences between The North Face and Patagonia was interesting to me. I’d never really thought of them as competitors before reading this. Foolish, I know.

Because everyone needs a laugh: fart facts.

Preventing use of performance-enhancing drugs needs to start early. This made some good points I hadn’t considered before.

RIP Ed Whitlock.

ALL DOGS ARE GOOD DOGS

I know that protest fatigue can really wear us down, but our public lands are still very much in danger.

The cost of summer and the struggles of low-income families. I was that weird kid who hated summer vacation. Really puts things in perspective.

I have conflicted feelings about this piece on food accessibility. It’s really difficult to balance reduced waste while ensuring that people with disabilities, especially those who have impaired mobility or hypersensitivity, have access to fresh food. At least most of the packaging implicated is recyclable.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your weekend!

Trail Guide – Barton Creek Greenbelt, Part 3

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Again, not mine.

Part 3: 360 Trailhead to Violet Crown Trailhead, Miles 3.5-5.25

I guess this is cheating a little bit, but since the first part of the Greenbelt is also considered part of the Violet Crown trail, hopefully everyone will let it slide. It also means that the map above isn’t going to reflect this segment. Picture a line running straight down from Marker 8 to U.S. 290; that’s the section of the trail we’re talking about today.

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Actually, just use this instead. Not mine, obviously.

This is probably my favorite section of the trail to run. It’s almost totally shaded, so runs are tolerable even in the summer. You also get to do a lot of fun scrambling on the rocks here. You can park at either end of the trailhead, and there’s usually plenty of parking in both lots. The 360 Trailhead (3755 S Capital of Texas Hwy B, Austin, TX 78704) is one of the easiest spots to get to: take the exit from Mopac onto 360 going east and turn left at the traffic light. You’ll want to immediately hug to the far left of the parking lot to hit the trailhead. For access at the Violet Crown trailhead, just park at the Spec’s (4970 W US Hwy 290, Austin, TX 78735) and head to your left to reach the trail.

Assuming you’re heading west from the 360 trailhead, you’ll pass under 360 itself and get to check out whatever graffiti is decorating the overpass; there’s usually some pretty cool stuff. It’ll immediately get rocky, so watch your step. After going a little ways, you’ll hit a fork in the trail. Going up and to your left will keep you on the multi-use trail, while going through the wooden gate to the right will put you on a pedestrian-only trail for a little bit. The pedestrian trail is better shaded but less technical. Either way, both trails will spit you out to a wooden bridge at around Mile 4.

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Gives you an idea of the shade. And the rocks!

This is where things really get fun. You’ll scramble up and down narrow rock formations right alongside the creek. One point is so narrow that there’s actually a chain attached to the rock wall to help you get across. Be warned that this portion of the trail is really slick when wet, so I wouldn’t advise coming out here if it’s raining or has recently rained.

Just past Mile 4.25, you’ll hit another fork. Well, sort of. It’ll look like the creek continues to your right and the trail goes away from the creek to your left. If you go to the right through the creek (assuming there’s water in it), you’ll actually continue under Mopac onto the Greenbelt proper and head for Twin Falls. That’s for another day, though. Stay on the path to continue on the Violet Crown trail.

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This is what the fork looks like. Thanks to The Austinot.

The trail rolls gently, and you’ll pass several downed trees and cross dry creekbeds. This section of the trail seems to be less-trafficked at this point, so it’s also a good place to see deer if you’re out early in the morning. There are very few branching paths since this section of the trail is so new, so it’s pretty straightforward.

Just past Mile 5, you’ll hit a switchbacking uphill climb section. This is how you’ll know you’re getting close to the end. Once you make it up the switchbacks, you’ll run past the Wildflower Center and a couple of tennis courts, and you’ve made it to the end! At least for now. Phase Two of the Violet Crown trail is currently under construction, and it’s supposed to be 30 miles long once complete. Keep up with progress on that here.

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Next time, we’ll head to the right and check out Twin Falls! If you’re curious about the rest of the Greenbelt, see Part 1 and Part 2.

Brewsday Tuesday – Bomber Mountain

Brewsday Tuesday is a feature where I talk about a craft beer I’ve had lately. This week’s featured beer is Bomber Mountain from Black Tooth Brewing Company.

This isn’t so much a beer I’ve had lately as a beer I was reminded of this evening. In addition to being Brewsday, Tuesday is also trivia night. I was drinking Black Tooth’s Sheridan Pilsner, a delicious beer in its own right, and realized I’d yet to pay homage to what may be the best amber ale I’ve ever had.

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Black Tooth Brewing Company is based out of Sheridan, Wyoming, which is in the northeastern part of the state. They make four year-round beers (recently released in the first ever Wyoming craft 12-pack): an IPA, a wheat, a brown ale, and Bomber Mountain, a red ale. The other beers are good, but Bomber Mountain blows them all away. I don’t think making a good amber is difficult, but making a great amber is hard to do, and Black Tooth absolutely nails it. This was the first Wyoming beer I bought after moving here, and I reach for it time and time again.

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Bomber Mountain pours a beautiful amber color (as you would expect) with minimal head. It’s malty and biscuity and leaves a nice caramel aftertaste. It does this without being too rich or overwhelming – it’s fairly dry, but not too dry. A really fantastic example of a basic style. Plus, at 4.6%, you can drink this beer all day. I particularly recommend doing so on a crisp fall afternoon as it turns to evening.

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Straight outta’ my fridge. Missing a pour picture this week, so this’ll have to do.

Because this amber is so well-done, it pairs well with most foods. Ideally, I’d love it with a grilled cheese, but I could also see having it alongside a hearty salad, grilled vegetables, or even a bowl of potato chips. The maltiness of this beer makes it perfect for salty foods – get that salty-sweet thing going on. A mixed berry crisp would pair nicely against the caramel notes if you’re looking for something sweet. Cheese-wise, again, this is a versatile beer for pairings. I probably wouldn’t go for a rich, soft cheese here, but otherwise the sky’s the limit. Either a sharp or mild cheddar would be a good pick, so long as the cheddar isn’t too mild. I particularly like the idea of having it alongside a nutty, aged hard cheese like Comté.

That’s all for this week’s Brewsday Tuesday. Enjoy responsibly, and drink local. Cheers!