Four Corners, Part 5 (Breweries)

On August 17, 2017 · 0 Comments

Every longtime reader in the Twelve Mile Circle audience already knew that this article was going to happen. Here comes the one about my latest brewery adventure. As always, I’ll try to put a bit of a geo-geek spin on it. I won’t talk about any actual beers because that wouldn’t meet the stated purpose of 12MC. Nonetheless, I’ll be understanding and sympathetic if you decide to skip this note and come back in a few days. That’s part of the deal I make when I write these travelogues. I always slip-in a brewery article and the audience has no obligation to pay attention to it.

Can You Say Nano?


Comanche Creek Brewing

What an adorable little brewery I found in Eagle Nest, New Mexico. Just look at it, a single small cabin with a porch. I can recall only one smaller brewery I’ve ever visited, and I’ve been to more than four hundred now. This one didn’t seem to have enough size to even qualify a microbrewery; clearly it ranked as a nanobrewery. Welcome to Comanche Creek Brewing.

My relatives in nearby Angel Fire recommended it, assuming I could find its secret location. The brewery sat at the end of a long gravel road (map) terminating at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Handmade signs pointed the way. Actually the hardest part might have been finding the exit from Highway 38 heading north out of Eagle Nest. The signs made it pretty self-explanatory afterwards. I did have a "where the heck are we" moment though, as we pushed farther away from civilization.

The brewery took pride in staying open during its stated hours. Its website did counsel patrons to "call if it is a blizzard, we are probably still out here but check in just to make sure." It rained heavily the day we visited so we assumed they’d be open regardless and that was the case. Everyone huddled under the small front porch to keep warm and dry. Standing room only in the middle of nowhere. The brewer/publican/owner/etc. stood in the cabin doorway handing out beers as needed. My relatives said this was the first time they’d ever seen other visitors. I figured they must have been mountain bikers disappointing that rain canceled their runs at the nearby ski resort. I devised a formula. Mountain Bikers + Rain = Drinking. They filled every place in town.


Unplanned Geo-Oddity


Bathtub Row Brewing

New Mexico and Colorado both had smallest counties that differed dramatically from any other counties in their respective states. Los Alamos County, NM measured 109 square miles (282 square kilometres). Broomfield County, CO covered even less, only about 35 mi2 (87 km2). As I noted in an earlier article during this series, Los Alamos existed solely because of the laboratory located there that developed the atomic bomb. I also talked about Broomfield awhile ago. This county used to be a town split between four separate counties. Broomfield got tired of dealing with all those different rules so it formed its own tiny county in 2001.

I’d planned in advance to stop at a brewery in Los Alamos, the Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op (map). It fell along our direct path so it seemed logical. However, Broomfield, towards the end of the trip, came as a complete surprise. We stayed with friends outside of Denver who asked if we wanted to go to a brewery for dinner. Of course we did. Only after I returned, as I updated my brewery visit list, did I discover that Nighthawk Brewery (map) fell within the diminutive borders of Broomfield County. Surely completing an economic transaction within a county "counted" more than simply crossing its border.

I don’t know if I’ll keep a running tally of brewery visits to tiny counties. I will note for the record that I regularly frequent a brewpub in the smallest county equivalent in the United States (within the independent city of Falls Church, VA). Add Los Alamos and Broomfield to the list for what that’s worth.


Beer Crawl in Durango



I’ll mention the close proximity of several breweries and brewpubs in Durango, Colorado because I don’t want my map to go to waste. This simple interactive guide kept me on track as we navigated through town. I felt pretty proud of my quick handiwork so I decided to inflict it upon the 12MC audience as well.

No, we didn’t hit all of the breweries in one epic crawl. My visits are about responsible drinking, involving samplers or flights, not pints. Of the five visited, we went to one for dinner our first evening, then out to the remote one (Ska) around lunchtime the next day, then another three right in town during the afternoon and evening. We didn’t make it the final one or to the distillery. Blame it on palette fatigue.


The Full List

Some readers may be curious so I decided to provide the full list of breweries and brewpubs we experienced during our journey, in order. Twelve visits in ten days seemed pretty respectable.

  • Creek Brewing Company; Eagle Nest, NM
  • Enchanted Circle Brewing; Angel Fire, NM
  • Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op; Los Alamos, NM
  • Second Street Brewery; Santa Fe, NM
  • Three Rivers Brewery; Farmington, NM
  • Steamworks Brewing Company; Durango, CO
  • Ska Brewery; Durango, CO
  • Animas Brewing Company; Durango, CO
  • Carver Brewing Company; Durango, CO
  • BREW Pub and Kitchen; Durango, CO
  • Nighthawk Brewery; Broomfield, CO
  • Platt Park Brewing Company; Denver, CO

The lifetime total stood at 422 visits as the trip concluded. I’m moving right along.

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Tendril of Fairmont

On July 30, 2017 · 1 Comments

Last October I took a trip through various parts of northern West Virginia to count some counties. This included a stopover in Morgantown, home of the state’s flagship West Virginia University. I had to bypassed this area a number of times previously so I enjoyed being able to stop for once.


Fairmont
Fairmont, West Virginia
via Google Maps

Research at the time brought my attention to the nearby town of Fairmont. I noticed that Fairmont included a long tendril with a bulb on its southern end. It almost looked like an umbilical cord, literally just the width of a road for a couple of miles. What could possibly be so important that the town had to reach out like that and make sure this acreage fell within its borders? I should have been tipped-off by my numerous drives up and down I-79 over the years. I’d noticed an office park with huge satellite dishes by the side of the highway.


I-79 Technology Park


DSC_4119
Dedicating New, Innovative North Central Advanced Technology Center.
Photo by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on Flickr (cc)

Sure enough, those dishes appeared within the confines of the I-79 Technology Park. This served as West Virginia’s answer to North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. WVU, a major research university, sat just twenty minutes up the road and offered a solid anchor. The facility contained 750,000 square feet (70,000 square metres) of building space. These housed data centers and offices for 30 businesses, where 1,500 people worked (map). Many of those jobs were solid, high-paying scientific an engineering positions too. No wonder Fairmont claimed it.

The government also maintained a visible presence there. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration operated its Independent Verification and Validation program on the campus. There it tested all of its mission critical software, a program created as a result of the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ran a supercomputer center there too.

These facilities should help dispel the myth that everyone in West Virginia works in a coal mine. Mystery solved, I could go ahead and end this article, right?


Captain James Booth



Captain James Booth Memorial

Well, maybe not so quickly. The tendril — Industrial Park Road — bisected a large grassy area just as it entered I-79 Technology Park. My curiosity got the best of me so I drilled down to check it out. There I noticed the Captain James Booth Memorial. I’d never heard of Captain James Booth and I didn’t know why he warranted a memorial. The memorial itself fell just outside of Fairmont’s borders although I considered it close enough for my purposes.

Obviously this high-tech corridor with its data centers and satellite dishes didn’t always exist in this manner. The area was on the wild edge of the American colonial frontier two hundred and fifty years ago. James Booth, an officer who served under George Washington before the United States declared independence, settled in the Monogahela Valley in 1772. He was the first person of European ancestry to live there permanently. Nobody knew much about his earlier life, though. Historians couldn’t even agree on his parents or his place of birth. However he earned a minor historical footnote for the Boothsville settlement he founded in the valley, a few miles south of current Fairmont.

Five years later, Native Americans believed to be from the Shawnee tribe ambushed Booth and his party. He took an arrow to the chest and died. His memorial marked the spot of his death as well as his grave.


Some More Parks


Wheaties/Mary Lou Retton 2.15.12
Wheaties/Mary Lou Retton. Image provided by General Mills on Flickr (cc)

I noticed a small, less dramatic tendril on the eastern side of Fairmont too. The connecting feature went by a more interesting name, Pinch Gut Hollow Road. This road tethered Morris Park into the town boundaries. It seemed like a nice gesture for them to include a park although nothing made it particularly special. The 112 acre property featured nature trails, picnic pavilions, courts for basketball and tennis, and such. Again, nothing remarkable.

However, Fairmont bisected another park just where the tendril to I-79 Technology Park began. It recognized someone I’d certainly heard of before; Mary Lou Retton (map). She was one of the most memorable names from the U.S. Olympic team in 1984. Her gold medal began the United States’ dominance of women’s gymnastics. However, that didn’t really show why a park in Fairmont, West Virginia reflected her name. Well, that was her home town, so that explained it. She lived in Fairmont up until she started getting ready for the Olympics. The town should go ahead and annex the rest of the park while they’re at it.

That tendril to the I-79 Technology Park packed a lot into it. Mary Lou Retton anchored one end of it, Captain James Booth anchored the other, and of course the technology park itself formed a nice bulb for an exclamation point at the end.

The Border Peaks

On July 23, 2017 · 1 Comments

It’s not unusual to see an international border extend across or along a mountain range. Even Mt. Everest sits on the border between Nepal and China. Sometimes a border will need to be adjusted when the underlying physical characteristics of a mountain changes too. That issue confronted Italy and Switzerland several years ago as glaciers began to melt. However, I’d never seen a mountain named in recognition of the border, much less a pair of mountains found on either side of the border. I noticed an occurrence in the United States first and then spotted its partner in Canada.

The Border Peaks


Border Peaks and Larrabee
Border Peaks and Larrabee. Photo by Sean Munson on Flickr (cc)

Less than a mile separated American Border Peak from Canadian Border Peak. They belonged to a single ridge on the Slesse-Tamihi creeks divide. Four peaks capped the rim, from the north to south, Canadian Border Peak, American Border Peak, Mt. Larrabee and the Pleiades. Geologically the ridge belonged to the Chilliwack group, composed primarily of ancient volcanic rock and sediment. Its brittleness created abundant debris, with plenty of scree and talus. I’d never used those words before. In fact, I had to look them up. Scree came from Old Norse and talus came from French although they meant about the same thing. Rock eroding from higher elevations rolled downhill, creating precarious slopes of broken stone. Those were scree and talus.

It dawned on me that someone had to climb up to that col between the two peaks to survey the border. That marked another new word for me: col. It meant something like a saddle or notch along the ridge, a place between peaks. I didn’t know if one of those metal border posts found its way to ridge, though. Perhaps I could check the data set and find out. I didn’t really have the motivation today. Maybe someday. Nonetheless, at the very least, a group of people with a bunch of surveying equipment had to get up there. I doubt the border patrol will ever have to worry much about illegal crossings either. This remote ridge didn’t get a lot of visitors except for an occasional mountaineer. That seemed pretty low risk.

I turned to the usual sources like SummitPost and Peakbagger to examine the American and Canadian peaks.


American Border Peak


American Border Peak
American Border Peak. Photo by Dru! on Flickr (cc)

American Border Peak (map) rose 7,998 feet (2,438 metres) on the United States side of the border. Nobody managed to climb it until 1930.

The summit crested just 0.4 miles away from Canada. That didn’t really matter, borders being artificial creations and all, although that placed it within the state of Washington. Specifically it fell within the confined of the Mount Baker Wilderness of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This height made it the tallest of the four peaks along the ridge. All four broke the 7,000 foot barrier and naturally one had to be the tallest. I declined to make any geopolitical statements based on its altitude relative to the others.

Its isolation and loose terrain made American Border Peak a challenging climb for most people. It didn’t have a defined trails to the summit either. That left climbers on their own to find their way across unstable debris. Many waited until springtime when ice and snow locked shifting rocks into place. One doesn’t ordinarily think of snow providing more traction than stone although this particular peak offered an exception.


Canadian Border Peak


Canadian Border Peak
Canadian Border Peak. Photo by Tim Gage on Flickr (cc)

A similar situation appeared on Canadian Border Peak (map), rising 2,291 metres (7,516 feet) in British Columbia. Noticed that I switched to metric for the elevation. We crossed the border into Canada so it seemed appropriate to use the proper unit of measurement that applied there. I liked to pander to the local population. Bivouac.com described it as "a sharp pointed horn of mediocre rock."

Canadians had it a bit easier on their climb to the summit. Logging roads brought climbers further up the hillside. Nonetheless, the underlying rock retained the same characteristics as the American side. They belonged to the same ridge, after all. Here again, a prime time to climb seemed to be springtime with snow on the ground. The first assent happened in 1932.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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