Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mile High oh Me oh My!

       Camping across the great states brings back so many memories of my childhood.  From a young age I was involved with the Boy Scouts,  learning so many things about nature like the way it works, and the way it seems to not work at all.  The harmony and careful carelessness brings inspiration to me just like it did back in those days, learning that sometimes simplicity is carefully calculated.  Erin, the dogs, and ol' Joe departed almost a month ago from Skagway, after a beautiful tear down of our summer job.  It's odd when you work seasonally and pack up everything each Fall.  For us, it was what propelled our dreams when the going got tough at work, and when we shared moments at Salmon Creek daydreaming and taking photos. 
       Skagway was the first stop where I had a very informal interview with Tom Hall, owner and operator of the Klondike Gold Fields.  It is a large scale touring outfit that has panning, sight-seeing-sled dog demos, a restaurant, and you guessed it...A brewery!  Gold Rush Brewing is a young business dedicated to providing cruise ship tourists with a brew tour tucked in the heart of their restaurant, where they make four or so different beers.  After being awarded Tour Guide of the Season, Tom called me and asked if I would be interested in joining their 2012 summer crew and be the brewer there.  Tom showed us around and we spent a couple days in one of the prettiest cities in Alaska, seeing old friends and making new ones.  This path sounds fantastic, and with this as a possible career change, considering what I have accomplished in the way of "research," has definitely improved the format of my brewery visits.  I am know learning much more in depth information about chemistry, cooking, and history of beer-making.  A very exciting to start to our journey, but thinking back on a month, a lot has been done already...and I am going to tell you all about it!
       Skagway to Vancouver B.C. in a week, camping out along the Al Can underneath powerful stars, and crisp cold winds.  The smell of Fall was fading, but slowly as we drove south, it reversed quickly, and Fall was just beginning in Vancouver.  We sampled beer, attended Farmers markets, and hike along the park on the North-West side of the Island.  We then travelled to Renton, WA to see Jaime, a great friend and amazing host who put us up for a couple of days before heading to Portland, OR. to fly to Hawaii.  Our friend Kyle and his incredible family took care of Erin's truck while we were gone, and even housed us for a night when we returned tired and...cold, haha.  Sarah and the girls over in Silverton watched Tut and Ketza for the week, which was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for us.  We are so appreciative for their help, it was the first time in about three years that I haven't cared for a dog, and knowing that they were in good hands put our minds at ease as we flew across the Pacific to Oahu.
       Hawaii was the first state on the Fall 2011 roster, and what better state to kick off our journey than Hawaii.  We stayed with our friend Liz who lived just a mile or so north of Waikiki, out of the tourist traps and surrounded by great dining and the nations best bus system.  On the plane we met a couple who just moved to Oahu a couple months before, and they shared so much great info for the greenhorns, it was luck that we met them, and even though we didn't get a chance to hang out with them that week, made a lasting impression on our minds as great folks(we didn't get our slippers stolen!) .  Liz and her boyfriend Dan worked most of the time we were there, but we have posted pictures on our FaceBook pages if you want to see all of the fun things we did while we were there. 
       Now when you are in Boy Scouts, and if you're lucky enough to get your Eagle Scout, you are in a network of eternal friendships like most close-knit organizations.  Frat-like, but to me a much deeper connection, Scout contacts and friends have always proven to be top notch.  After about five years, my friend Andrew Sanford, a new resident and full time Ranger at Volcanoes National Park, visited Oahu while we were there.  He was at The Hilton(baller status), and arranged for us to spend the night there with him the night before we left.  What better time to go to Kona Brewing Companies Oahu location, with a long lost friend and Erin under the same roof!  We partied all night, sharing stories from the past, talking about the future, and just like when we were 15, occasionally farting and burping to break up the silence:-)  Thanks Andy, you truly are a hero in my book, it feels good to see your friends becoming successful through happiness, hard work, and passion.
       Back to Portland, away from the heat, back into the clouds, and back to the book.  Erin and I picked up the pooches, and headed into brew city, USA.  Portland has so many breweries, but the Lucky Lab had our name written all over it.  Dog friendly, in an old mill, we sat outside and played Phase ten and drank some great NW IPA's before meeting up wit Aaron and Curtis in Tacoma.  We met at Harmon Brew Co. and ate dinner before going back to Aaron's families house that night.  They took us and our dogs in, and when you are traveling with dogs, dog friendly families make you feel right at home.  After talking all night and the next morning over what I like to call the "Spam Scramble," we all went to the dog park.  Thank you Cauldwell family for the stay, it was very relaxing and fun to be around six dogs and two cats:-)
       Meeting up with Curtis, who has Ketza's mom Harmony, was a much needed session.  The four of us worked together in 2009 on the Mendenhall glacier and haven't all been together since then, pretty awesome stuff.  So we slowly pushed north to Seattle, and stayed with Matt and Jaime(same Jaime as before plus Matt and Alan).  Unfortunately Jaime and Alan left for the weekend to attend their Grandfather's funeral, but we did get to see them for a little bit.  Matt and I played call of Duty....a lot.  Erin starting hating it after a day, which is about three times longer than most, but she still got about 18 zombie kills in on day three, which makes me love her just a little bit more, haha.  We drank bud light, ate a lot of pizza, and had a mini mancation on the couch, watching the League and a new favorite, Raising Hope.  We may have mentioned potential jobs for Matt in between rounds of COD, but we didn't want to lose focus on the task at hand.  Thank you for letting us crash, and before I forget, thank you Aaron for giving me a copy of Mushing Magazine that I recently was published in.  I have posted the article for everyone to view at the end of my entry, enjoy and write if you want to see more of my articles published in that magazine!
       Know I have said many thank yous, but keep in mind this is my first post in a month, and I do promise to know keep a regularly updated log of our travels every week just like last season.  And I also have that special "donate" link at the bottom of the blog.  They help us out so much, last winter I logged 12,000 miles and it cost roughly $3,000 in gas, $3,000 more in food and beer, and only $200 in hotel stays when I got sick in New England.  We are funding this trip solely on our summer earnings, and though I am playing music live as much as I can and crocheting hats, your help is much appreciated.
       So from Seattle we ventured to Spokane, WA. and then to Post Falls, ID where we visited Bi-Plane Brewing CO., a new nano-brewery that offers incredible beer at a great price.  Nadine shared great history on brewing with us, and was very helpful and kind.  We also met John, who was quite the character to meet at 11:30am in northern Idaho.  He is a tech-geek who we could have talked to for hours if we didn't have somewhere to be.  Thanks to both of you, and good luck in all your endeavors.
Missoula, MT.  was where we went that day and met up with Alyssa, who helped me handle in 2009, when I met Erin.  She took us to Tamarack brewing where we played shuffle board till midnight with her roommate Blake.  We also ran into our friend Sam and his buddy Jon, who are both as unique as the town of Missoula.  Dog park and the Kettle House with them, then it was off to Tamarack with Alyssa and Blake. No better way to end a night in a college town than with Pita Pit, yumm!! 
       This brings us finally to the present.  We drove just north of Helena to Dan and Chris's ranch, located directly in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by thirty different gulches, named after the first thing seen there.  We are welcome to stay here for a while, and we think that we just might.  The mountains by the Missouri river here are open and welcoming, just like the couple we are lucky enough to spend time with.  They own mules, horses, three dogs, including the crowd favorite Connor, a three year old Irish Wolfhound.  Tut and Ketza are finally in a perfect spot where they can chase Elk, razz the Mules, and make friends with three very nice dogs.  We are just about to go hiking in the mountains before dinner in town, and when you are surrounded by thousands of acres of National forest and have five dogs, well, that's what you do!  So at 6,000ft., I bid you farewell until next week, where we will be heading into Yellowstone, and slowly moving towards North Carolina for the holidays.  We are both very excited to get home and see our families, and celebrate our first year together with Erin's amazing parents, as well as my amazing parents and brother's family.  So, as posted earlier, enjoy my article in Mushing, and enjoy the pictures posted above!  Happy Trails from the Great Montana!