Experiencing local flavor is always a goal of ours while on the road. One of our favorite places to find it is craft breweries, because these days it seems almost every town has its own. While having lunch at Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland on the first day, I decided to note each beer we drank or tasted on the trip. The total went way above what I anticipated, with a final tally of 75 beers from 30 different breweries.
We visited 12 in person (ok, one was a cidery) and the rest we experienced at local bars and restaurants. We didn’t take a sip made in a state or province we didn’t visit, and that wasn’t on purpose, there are just so many ways to drink local we never had to imbibe out of region. If we had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Boxing Rock in Shelburne, Nova Scotia because of its combination of well-crafted beer and cool environment (plus they have a killer logo/branding, so that never hurts in my opinion).
Above is a map of the breweries and below is a list in chronological order, followed by the varieties we had.
- Great Lakes : Rally Drum Red Ale
- Adirondack : Tangerine Summer Dream, Dirty Blonde
- Vermont Pub & Brewery : Dogbite Bitter, Billy Buck Bock
- Foam Brewers : Lupi Fresh, Purple One
- Fiddlehead : IPA
- Stone Corral : Wild Red, Chocolate Maple Porter
- Baxter Brewing : Stowaway IPA, Tarantino Lager, Per Diem Porter, Pamola Session Ale
- Sunday River : Alt, Long Haul Lager, Redstone, Rapid River Wheat, Mountain Mama IPA, Jamaican Stout, Black Bear Porter, Raspberry Wheat
- Sebago : Runabout Red, Simmer Down
- Long Trail : Green Blaze IPA
- Rising Tide : Daymark APA
- Shipyard : Summer Ale
- Moosehead : Pale Ale
- Rudder’s : Red, Lighthouse Lager, Town Brown, Raspberry Blonde
- Boxing Rock : Turn of Fraise, Over the Top, Tropic Thunder, Dark as Keji, Temptation Red
- Annapolis Cider : Classic, Crisp & Dry, Strawberry Rhubarb, Geneva Crab Rose, Northern Spy, Hopped Pear
- Salty Dog : Pale Ale, Blueberry Wheat
- Breton Brewing : Red Shoe Ale, Black Angus, Red Coat, Sons of Hector Brown
- Big Spruce : Cereal Killer, Kitchen Party
- Alexander Keith’s : Red Amber Ale
- Tatamagouche : North Shore Lagered Ale
- Garrison : Hoppy Buoy, New Scottish Ale, Tall Ship, Raspberry Wheat, Nut Brown, Irish Red
- Two Crows : Pollyanna Wild IPA
- Picaroons : Melonhead, Dooryard
- Saint Bock : Pénitente, La Réincarnation
- Muskoka : Detour Session IPA
- Big Rig : Alpha Bomb Unfiltered IPA
- Nita Beer Company : Perfectum Stout
- Bellwoods : Omertá, Psidiumism, Jutsu, Jelly King
- Batch Brewing : Ms. Sally, That’s the Way She Gose eh?, Second to the Last Word, Unrequited, Blood In Orange Out
Images from our longest road trip yet, July 12 – August 5, 2017.
Click to enlarge, read captions and view slideshow.
We’ve been back from our Northeastern road trip just over a week now. The final mileage total was 4,839, driven over the course of 25 days. This makes it our longest trip yet, jumping ahead of our summer 2015 western national parks loop by 266.7 miles. We’re still sorting through all the photos and memories, so the gallery and travelogues will be coming soon.
Our final map varies slightly from the planned route. On day one we got a phone call that our ferry from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia had been cancelled due to mechanical problems. After a brief panic, we researched and booked an alternative, traveling instead via ferry from St. John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia. It created a much longer drive for that day, but was a minor inconvenience overall. We’ve planned enough trips at this point that it would take a pretty big disaster to faze us. One chipped windshield from a rogue rock was the only property damage incurred.
Other than steady rain during our night in the Adirondacks, the four nights of camping also went well. We thwarted two squirrel attacks but were rudely awakened at 4:00am by loons hooting like monkeys, so for those keeping score it was 2-1 in “us versus animals”. Our backcountry campsite at Kejimkujik National park was truly stunning, even if afterwards we’ve decided we generally prefer the company of other campers within earshot.
Spending so much time in Canada during their 150th anniversary year was a special experience. Every city and town rolled our the red carpet with special events and proudly flew their Canada 150 banners. As an added bonus, all Parks Canada sites are free during 2017. As we start to exhaust our new US National Park options, it’s nice to know there are 42 beautiful and well-maintained parks north of the border, everyone needs travel goals.
From the early inspiration to visit Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia (thanks CBiftrumpwins) to the full 4,839 miles of discovery, it was an incredible journey.
Today we’re departing on what will be a record-breaking journey for us, the longest road trip yet by both mileage and time away from home. Over the next 24 days we’ll travel more than 4,500 miles through nine U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. Tonight’s stopping point is Niagara Falls, followed by a night in the Adirondacks and a night in Burlington, Vermont. By Saturday we’ll be settling into a rental vacation home for a week with family in Bethel, Maine. From there we’ll be able to make day trips to locations in Maine and Northern New Hampshire like Mount Washington. After Maine, we’ll be entering Canada on a car ferry from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Our path then winds across the country’s second-smallest province over the course of a week before turning back toward Chicago via New Brunswick, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.
We’ll visit three Canadian National Parks on this trip: the nearly unpronounceable Kejimkujik and Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia and Fundy in New Brunswick. Since we got our feet wet camping last summer at Isle Royale, we’re bringing the tent along to rough it on four nights, one in each of the national parks and one in the Adirondack Mountains. The night at Keji National Park will be the most remote, with a short hike into the backcountry required to reach our reserved tent site.
We have some new and unique lodging planned for this trip as well. We’ve been thinking of using Airbnb for years, but never had quite the right oppoutunity. This time, we found perfectly located and priced accommodations through the service in both Burlington and Toronto, so we’ll see what all the rage is about. At Wolfville, Nova Scotia we’ll spend the night in a vineyard near the Grand-Pré UNESCO World Heritage Site. Probably the most unique lodging of the trip will be at the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, where we’ve booked a night in the Lartigue House within the reconstructed fortress grounds.
In the rugged Mojave desert 120 miles west of Las Vegas lies the famed Death Valley. At 5,270 square miles, it is the largest national park outside of Alaska and ranks fifth overall. Long on our radar, we decided to work it into this itinerary because it fits better seasonally and geographically with Arizona than the big cluster of California parks. Its size can be a challenge for planning. For example, it takes more than two hours to drive from Ubehebe Crater in the park’s northern reaches to the Ashford Mill Ruins at the southern end. There are also several sites, like the famous moving rocks of The Racetrack, that are inaccessible without a high-clearance four wheel drive vehicle. With awareness of these factors, plus some good research, it’s pretty easy to come up with a plan to hit a lot of choice spots. Most people are surprised to find more variety of landforms than expected. In addition to containing the lowest place in North America, it is home to multiple mountain ranges, pushing as high as 11,000 feet. There is cultural history here as well. The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe’s ancestral lands are within the park boundaries and they are still an active part of the community. Their ancestors followed a seasonal migration pattern based on elevation to live in balance with the seasons, summers in the high mountains and winters on the valley bottom.
We arrived on a Thursday afternoon after a 6.5 hour drive from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Entering from the east on California Highway 190, we headed directly to the Furnace Creek visitor center to orient ourselves and catch the last daily showing of the park movie. A large thermometer outside the entrance read 89 degrees, but highs here in the summer commonly reach 120 degrees and above. A weather station at Furnace Creek still holds the record for highest observed temperature on Earth of 134 degrees, set in 1913. Autumn through spring is obviously the main visitation season as a result, with some lodging and amenities closing up shop for the fiery summer months. In addition to heat, a dust storm greeted us as we entered the valley, with brown clouds rolling across the valley floor carried by intense and constant winds. From the visitor center, we backtracked a few miles to Zabriskie Point, where a short path leads to a viewpoint overlooking dramatically weathered badlands. The wind here was so strong that standing upright became an isometric exercise. We held onto hats and skirts and took in the view. Another place to experience this landscape is the nearby 20 Mule Team Road, a twisting gravel drive that threads between the mounds. The name 20 Mule Team references the teams of mules and horses that were used to carry borax from mines to processing plants in the 1880s. Remnants of this industry can be seen in the Harmony Borax Works, our next detour. It has a short trail that loops around the ruins of an old borax processing facility and informational signs on how the process was carried out. One of the old mule team wagons is on display here as well. Industrial use of such a harsh environment seems surprising to us now, but there was a time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Death Valley was of major interest for its natural resources, and industrial ruins and ghost town sites dot the park as a result.
Continuing 25 miles north, we arrived at our lodging at Stovepipe Wells Village. With its on-site restaurant, general store and swimming pool, we found it an ideal combination of location and amenities for a reasonable price. The hotel dates to 1925, when the region began its transition from mining to a tourism economy. Perpetual dust and an hourglass shower timer reminded us we weren’t in the average neighborhood. The Toll Road Restaurant satisfied for breakfast and dinner, importantly staying open until 9:00pm, so we weren’t rushed with our dining schedule like we sometimes are in remote areas. One disappointment was the non-functioning bar tap system that weekend, denying us the pleasure of a well-curated beer list.
Our longest hike of the whole trip was planned for Friday, April 14th. Surveying the day hike options via Death Valley’s NPS website and in our National Geographic book, we settled on Wildrose Peak as the ideal trek. With a summit at just over 9,000 feet, it stands 2,000 feet lower than the park’s highest mountain, nearby Telescope Peak, while still offering commanding views. The trail’s round-trip distance of 8.4 miles and climb of 2,300 feet allows a more leisurely pace than the 14-mile route up and down Telescope. From Stovepipe Wells, a nearly 1.5 hour drive up squiggly Emigrant Canyon Road leads to the trailhead adjacent to 10 historic charcoal kilns. Another remnant of the industrial days, these 25-foot-tall beehive-shaped stone constructions were used to create charcoal from local wood to be used as fuel in smelters at nearby mines. Wildrose Peak Trail begins here by entering green forests of pinyon pine and juniper. The temperatures at this elevation (6,800 at the trailhead) made for pleasant hiking. Just less than two miles in, we reached a saddle in the mountains and were rewarded with our first view into Death Valley below. After a brief level portion, the trail steadily increases in angle before becoming a series of switchbacks on a steep slope toward the top. Just before the true summit is a false peak, and the last quarter mile is a mostly level walk to the tip top. Wildrose Peak provides nearly 360 degree views of a vast surrounding area. Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the Lower 48, is visible in the Sierras on the western horizon, and Badwater Basin lies below sea level just 15 miles to the east. The Panamint Range stretches to the immediate south, with snow-dusted Telescope Peak poking up from behind Rogers Peak. We ate our picnic lunches downwind of the summit to shelter ourselves from the chilly breezes, a major change from the hot valleys below. A few other hikers arrived, but for the most part, the trail was nearly private. After about an hour, we turned and made our way back down the way we had come up. In total, the hike was just under six hours, a perfect day hike length.
Back at Stovepipe Wells, we sourced six packs from the general store across the street and relaxed on the shaded patio. Just before sunset, a trip to the nearby Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes gave us the perfect vantage point for the beginning of twilight. In this area, dunes up to 100 feet high stretch in every direction. There are no official trails, but visitors can wander up and down the sand as they please. Back at the hotel, we downed mass amounts of food and then returned to the patio with a bottle of wine to enjoy the firepit and clear, starry skies of this International Dark Sky designated park.
The final full day of our road trip consisted of lots of stops on our way from Stovepipe Wells to the park exit in the general direction of Las Vegas. First on the route was the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, a boardwalk meandering along a marshy, spring-fed creek. This hot, salty water is home to the endangered Salt Creek Pupfish that eke out a life in tiny, isolated streams and pools whose conditions would kill most other aquatic animals. They get their name from the playful way they interact with each other, which also makes them surprisingly entertaining to watch for little 1.5-inch-long fish. Next up, we passed by Furnace Creek and went to Golden Canyon, where a network of trails passes through yellow hills and narrow gorges. Options range from easy strolls up to an 8-mile fairly strenuous loop. The routes even connect to Zabriskie Point on the eastern side. We chose a middle ground by hiking up Golden Canyon as far as the Red Cathedral. With a round-trip length of three miles and an elevation gain of nearly 600 feet, it was more strenuous than expected, with the 85 degree heat amplified by the rock walls all around. At Red Cathedral the trail dead ends into a vertical rock alcove, where climbing a small rise affords views out over the valley and to the Panamint Range beyond.
Fifteen miles south, we arrived at the quintessential Death Valley location, Badwater Basin. At 282 feet below sea level it is the lowest spot in North America. A sign marks sea level on a cliff high above. Just off the parking lot, a boardwalk gives way to a well-trodden path out into the salt flat. The surreal, white landscape all around is formed when water collected in the basin evaporates and leaves a layer of salty minerals behind, building into a thick crust over time. We walked out far enough to get a good vantage point of the valley around. The heat felt intense, even sub 90 degrees, making us cringe at the thought of being here in the summer. Off to the west, we spotted Wildrose Peak, where 24 hours earlier we’d stood looking down at Badwater Basin. From the hot valley floor we could see three patches of lingering snow on Wildrose, highlighting the wild range of conditions within the park. Approaching a late lunch time time we turned northward toward the Furnace Creek village, making a brief stop at the jagged formations of Devil’s Golf Course and detouring on Artist’s Drive through multi-colored canyon walls. After lunch, we ended the visit with a side trip to Dante’s View, located off Highway 190 where we had entered the park two days earlier. The 28-mile round-trip drive seems far, but we were glad we took the extra time because Dante’s View might be the most stunning vista in the park. At 5,475 feet in elevation, people on the Badwater Basin trail look like ants more than a vertical mile below. We stood in awe viewing nearly the entirety of the north/south stretch of Death Valley. What a way to say goodbye to an amazing national park. We covered a lot of ground, but there is plenty more to be discovered on a future visit. We’re putting this one in the must-return column.
Our flights were out of Las Vegas the following day, so we booked a room at the Main Street Station Casino Hotel downtown. We thought maybe downtown would be less trashy than the strip… it wasn’t. We’re not fans of Las Vegas in general, but it’s even more depressing after having spent a week in some of the country’s best scenery. That being said, we did find one redeeming experience with dinner at Carson Kitchen. We toasted another successful trip over tasty small plates and brainstormed future travels.
Approaching the midpoint of the trip, we planned two nights in Flagstaff, Arizona. During the three hour drive from Canyon de Chelly, we stopped for lunch in Holbrook and inadvertently stumbled upon a monument to the song “Take it Easy” by the Eagles. There’s a line that goes “Well I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see…” We found some fine sandwiches and shakes at the Sipp Shop across the street, and watched a constant stream of people take photos in the appropriately named “Standin’ on the Corner Park.” Another few minutes down Interstate 40 we pulled off to visit Meteor Crater, a mile-wide, 500ft-deep impact structure dating to around 50,000 years ago. Initially we thought it would be a brief peek at the crater from an overview, but there’s actually a pretty fascinating and extensive museum devoted to this crater and the history of meteor impacts around the world. For years, nobody knew for sure how this one was formed, but after confirmation, people spent decades determined to find a giant lump of valuable ore at the center. All the exploratory mining never amounted to anything because most of the meteor vaporized on impact, but the crater did prove valuable as a training location for astronauts. Being the best-preserved impact crater on the planet has made it valuable to many areas of study. In the distance, the towering San Francisco Peaks beckoned us toward the City of Seven Wonders.
Flagstaff is a small city in north central Arizona known for Northern Arizona University and its close proximity to at least seven wonderful natural sites. As a result, it’s one of those towns full of good restaurants and craft breweries where it’s socially acceptable to wear outdoor athletic wear in public. We stayed in the center of downtown at the historic and allegedly haunted Hotel Monte Vista. Many celebrities have spent the night there, frequently while filming old western movies, and each room is named after one of them. We were in the John Wayne suite on the top floor. Each room contains a binder explaining all the hotel’s ghosts and in which rooms they are most often seen. The John Wayne room was quiet and comfortable, and we were glad not to be in the second floor room haunted by the prostitutes who were thrown out the window in the 1940s.
Back in civilization after a few nights off the beaten path, we enjoyed having abundant dining and drinking options. We sampled beer at three of the six breweries calling downtown Flagstaff home. There really is an impressive craft beer scene for a city of 70,000, and conveniently they’re all within walking distance of each other. We started with flights at the cozy Lumberyard Brewing taproom and then made our way to Mother Road, which in addition to having great beer is connected to Pizzicletta, maker of delicious wood-fired pizza (also a bike store, hehe). The next day we thoroughly enjoyed Historic Brewing’s Barrel + Bottle House in the same neighborhood. Our favorite cocktail find was the Annex Cocktail Lounge connected to Tinderbox Kitchen. The Desert Spoon hit the spot with its combination of classic and local ingredients. Our bartender also built an impressive mini bonfire to create the woody smoke that topped off the Founding Father cocktail. Overall, some high quality boozing.
In addition to the aforementioned Pizzicletta, we enjoyed a full day of meals in town, starting with breakfast at MIX. They offer a wide selection of fresh breakfast options and have sandwiches and specials for lunch and dinner. After a day of national monument exploration, we returned to the same block to refuel at Diablo Burger, where they specialize in sourcing ingredients from within 250 miles, impressive for a burger joint. Coincidentally, Diablo is from the same owners as Good Oak Bar in Tucson, (where we loved the beer press drink) and there’s a location there too. For dinner there are plenty of upscale options in town, making our decision difficult. After some deliberation we ended up at Criollo Latin Kitchen, which has been considered amongst the best restaurants in Arizona.
Flagstaff is situated within easy access to several National Park Service units. We chose two to visit during our full day in town, Sunset Crater Volcano and Walnut Canyon. Sunset Crater is the youngest cinder cone in this area of abundant volcanic history. It emerged about the year 1085 and stands just over 1,100 feet above the surrounding landscape. We made the half hour drive from downtown Flagstaff to the small visitor center and then to the Lenox Crater Trail. This mile-long trail climbs the 300-foot volcano adjacent to Sunset Crater and affords great views of the San Francisco Peaks to the west. The crater at the peak has been reduced to a gentle depression over the years, but it still gives a good impression of the force that created these mountains. The trail up Sunset
Crater volcano itself was closed in the 1970s due to massive erosion created by visitors, 40 years later the scar of the trail is still visible on the mountainside. Nearby, the Lava Flow Trail gives a close-up view of the rough, volcanic landscape formed by the eruption. Another half hour up the road lies Wupatki National Monument, but we were taking it easy, so we instead drove back toward Flagstaff to visit Walnut Canyon National Monument. This monument preserves approximately 85 cliff dwellings built by the Sinagua people sometime between 1125 and 1250. The dwellings occupy ledges and shallow caves protected by an overhanging rock layer about halfway down the canyon. The Island Trail leads down from the visitor center to the section of the monument with the highest concentration of archaeological sites. In a mile-long loop, visitors come across the remains of several dwellings in various states of repair. Late 19th and early 20th century artifact looting reduced some walls to rubble, but others remain in relatively pristine condition. Despite the harsh climate in the area, the Sinagua were able to cultivate crops on the canyon rim and live a good life, but after about 150 years in the canyon, they moved on for reasons unknown. We were soon moving on to another canyon ourselves.
While planning this trip, we realized we couldn’t come this close to the Grand Canyon without stopping by. It was five years since our last visit, so we planned a quick one-nighter at the iconic park. An easy 1.5-hour drive north from Flagstaff leads to the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village. In 2012, we hiked the popular Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point, so we set our sights on the less-visited Hermit Trail area this time. The bustle of the Grand Canyon is a stark contrast to the tranquil parks we were accustomed to from the past week. We parked the car near Maswik Lodge, got geared up, and walked to the shuttle bus to Hermit’s Rest. From March 1 through November 30, this portion of the rim drive is off-limits to private vehicles to ease congestion. A half-hour ride with several stops ends at the rustic Mary Colter-designed Hermit’s Rest, where a snack bar, gift shop and the largest fireplace we’ve ever seen await. We bought picnic lunches, filled our water reserves and approached the Hermit Trailhead.
The Hermit Trail is a historic course that stretches all the way to the Colorado River nine miles and 4,200 vertical feet below. It is a more rugged and less-traveled route than Bright Angel or South Kaibab trails. Going all the way to the river and back in this area requires more than one day and some backcountry camping, but there are many day hiking options as well. We selected Dripping Springs as our destination, 3.5 miles one-way. In the first 1.5 miles, the trail rapidly dips 1,500 feet in a series of switchbacks. The Hermit trail then continues a downward course along the west-facing ledges of Hermit Canyon, but at mile 1.75 we veered left onto Dripping Springs Trail. This portion of the hike is more level, but also where it gets the most interesting. The next 1.5 miles traverse the crumbly, red rock Hermit Shale layer and skirt the edge of a drop-off of several hundred feet. Huge sandstone and limestone cliffs towered above our heads and stunning views opened up into the interior of the main canyon. Beyond the sheer dropoffs, the trail veers into a smaller side canyon and rises gently to Dripping Springs. Overhanging rock at the canyon’s head provides a shaded rest area, and we used it as our picnic spot, with splattering water providing the soundtrack.
We went back up to Hermit’s Rest the same way we got there, slowly but surely. The funny thing about hiking in the Grand Canyon is that it’s backward compared to most mountain hikes. The first part is the (debatably) easier downhill portion, and the toughest climb is during the return trip. Because Dripping Springs is higher than the low point of the trail, there is actually about 1,900 feet of total climb along this route. Overall, it’s a rewarding day-hike that offers an alternative to the more commonly visited trails. There are some rough and rocky sections, and heights may be an issue for some, but we wouldn’t consider this hike too difficult for anyone with a little day hiking experience.
The evening was spent dining on enormous steaks at the famous El Tovar Lodge dining room and stargazing in the inky sky. The next morning we were prepared to head to the final national park of the trip, Death Valley.