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Canoemobile Update: Berkeley, CA

dweber posted this April 29th, 2016

As part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks this year.  The Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, is currently touring the country to connect folks to their local national parks by getting them into canoes and paddling through the great American waterways. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, offers up the latest update:

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Canoemobile had a beautiful afternoon of paddling at an adaptive canoe day in Berkeley. We were thrilled to be working with the enthusiastic Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP) crew to help introduce the Berkeley disability community to Voyageur canoeing along the shores of Berkeley Aquatic Park.

Over 50 people of the Berkeley community came out to paddle in canoes, many of whom were first time paddlers. Throughout the day, we could hear many laughs from shore, clear evidence that many paddlers were having a good time on the water.

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A very special thank you to BORP staff for recruitment of participants and use of their variety of adaptive gear, lifts, and ADA accessible docks. Canoemobile has proven to be accessible to even more people and be able to support Wilderness Inquiry’s mission.

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Canoemobile Update: Dallas, TX

dweber posted this April 29th, 2016

As part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks this year.  The Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, is currently touring the country to connect folks to their local national parks by getting them into canoes and paddling through the great American waterways. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, offers up the latest update:

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Young, old and even a few canines paddled the lake on a sunny, 70 degree day in Dallas, TX. About 40 adults with disabilities from MetroCare and Project Search learned about water safety in small groups, practicing communication and problem-solving skills. After learning the ropes (and oars), we loaded up the canoes and hit the open waterways! 

I always love that part. Even though I’ve been on the canoe hundreds of times, seeing it through the eyes of first-timers makes me feel like it’s my first time too. Smiles abound, splashes happen and glimpsing a fish or a diving bird is always a treat. After getting back to port, a sixty-year-old man, who paddled again for the first time in decades, said it was the most fun he had in years. He was beaming from ear to ear. 

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Supporting the Wild Places We Love

dweber posted this April 27th, 2016
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Conservation Colorado, Photo by John Fielder

This year marks our 20th year as an outdoor brand and our 11th year as members of The Conservation Alliance. The Conservation Alliance is a group of outdoor businesses who come together to support grassroots organizations working to protect threatened wild places throughout North America. Since the outdoors inspire us to live and work and play everyday, we recognize our responsibility to help protect the lands and waterways that we rely on. Working with The Conservation Alliance is one of the most direct ways that we can make a difference.

Every year, Alliance members (meaning each employee at Toad&Co and other member companies!) vote for nominee organizations to receive Alliance grants. The grants come from a fund that member companies collectively contribute to each year. When you shop Toad&Co, we give a portion to the Conservation Alliance. So you’re a big part of the conservation effort, too.

This year, 20 important conservation projects have been awarded grants to continue their efforts to protect wild lands and waterways. As avid nature lovers and members of the Conservation Alliance, we Toads are proud to do our part to protect wild places for future generations. Thanks for supporting our causes, we couldn’t do it without you.

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For more information on the 20 organizations and their conservation projects, visit theconservationalliance.com 

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in New York City

RootsRated posted this April 25th, 2016
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Brooklyn beer for the modern traveler

Finding world-class taverns and bars in New York City is easy. It’s finding the trails, which can sometimes be the challenging part. But if you know where to look—and in some cases, if you’re willing to venture outside the city limits just a little ways—there are some surprisingly great places to hit the trail. And when you do, there’s arguably nothing better than sipping on a nice, cold one after your time out in the wild. Here are five tried-and-tested, trail-to-tavern pairings that will be sure to make for a memorable (and refreshing) experience.

1. Bear Mountain | Defiant Brewing Company

Bear Mountain Bridge—views like these are worth running some hills! Ken

 

Hiking in Bear Mountain is one of the most fun trail experiences you can have without going far from the city. Combined with nearby Harriman State Park, there are roughly 50,000 acres of mostly forested landscape and 235 miles of trails between them. With chunks of the Appalachian Trail in the park, plus plenty of other gorgeous single-track trails that are—especially on weekdays—rarely overcrowded, it’s a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively) if you’re used to pounding pavement in the city.

Once you’re done hiking, you can make your trip outside the city even more fun if you swing by the Defiant Brewing Company in Pearl River on your way back into the city after your hike. Pro tip: if you’re not the designated driver home from this adventure, live large and try the O’Defiant Stout—the creamy, dark Guinness-esque beer will not disappoint, and will fill you up even if you did a 20 miler!

2. Prospect Park | Brooklyn Brewery


Beer has dispelled the illness which was in me Daniel Lobo

 

Brooklyn doesn’t really call to mind nature and nice trails, but they do exist…you just have to know where to look. Head to Prospect Park for some on-dirt adventure in the nearly 3 miles of trails found in the park. It’s a place with a similar vibe to Central Park (they were both designed by the same landscape architect), just way more scaled down and with far fewer people. It’s also the best spot around for a need-to-get-on-trail urge when you don’t have time to go out of the city.

Afterwards, Brooklyn Brewery is a staple for any serious beer drinkers in the tri-state area (and you can get it worldwide now!). The brewery itself, with a bar inside, is a sweet place to land post-hike, and since it’s located in Williamsburg, there’s no end to the possibilities for an ultra-hip brunch spot if your hike was earlier in the morning. With a wide range of seasonal brews alternating in and out of the taps throughout the year, there’s no shortage of brew options. But it’s the flagship Brooklyn Lager, which is perhaps the must-drink beer at Brooklyn Brewery.

3. Cunningham Park | Fillmore’s Tavern

Trail running in the city just got a lot more fun with Cunningham Park around. Molly Hurford

 

Cunningham Park, up in Queens, isn’t just for mountain bikers: it’s a great spot for trail runners and hikers as well. And the meticulously groomed and well-signed trails make its 358-acre expanse one of the best kept secrets in Queens. If you’re trail running or casually strolling, be aware that it is a somewhat popular spot for mountain bikers, so listen for bikes behind you. Bonus mileage: if you need to add more miles, you’re just a few blocks from Alley Pond Park, another great park with a combo of paved, doubletrack and singletrack trails weaving through wetlands, forests, and meadows.

And you might need that mileage if you’re going to go two miles down the road to Fillmore’s Tavern—a 102-year-old establishment with a ton of character—to indulge in a a beer or two during their fantastic happy hour, or if you’re planning on having the Tequila Poppers (we won’t blame you if you don’t share them with your hiking buddy).

4. Inwood Hills Park | Hogshead Tavern


Hard to believe Inwood Hill Park is located right in New York City Barry Solow

 

Inwood Hills Park has some of the best trails in the city. Winding singletrack allows great views of the Hudson River and skyscrapers, so it’s a bit of a fairyland vibe where you feel completely alone in the middle of nowhere, but you’re actually totally surrounded by the hustle of the city. The route from the tip of the park down to Hogshead—one of NYC’s top taverns—is (dare we say) epic. You’ll start winding through Inwood Hills, exploring and enjoying some of the serious stairs, before heading through neighboring trails in Fort Tryon as you head south four miles to Hogshead Tavern in Harlem. The selection of craft beer, whiskey, and uber-hip snacks (and brunch, naturally) make this the perfect post-hike destination, especially if you finish thirsty and hungry, and want some incredibly Instagram-able eats and drinks.

5. Sprain Ridge Park | Pete’s Park Place Tavern

Twenty-five cent wings post-hike? Sounds like the best day ever, which is why you should venture north of Manhattan on Mondays to make a visit to the technical trails of Sprain Ridge Park (the terror of mountain bikers, and the training ground for those hoping to compete in more serious trail running events). After you’ve exhausted all of those trails and your legs, you can head to Pete’s Park Place Tavern for beers and wings. It’s the most traditional sports-bar environment out of the taverns we’ve checked out, but the ultra-casual atmosphere is welcoming even if you’re a little bit sweaty, so it’s worth the stop. And again—where in Manhattan will you find tasty wings for 25 cents?

Want more adventures? Check out the Runner’s Guide to New York City Breweries.

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co

Featured image provided by Thomas Angermann

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in the San Francisco, Bay Area

RootsRated posted this April 21st, 2016

It’s a formula that many outdoorsy types swear by: Great hike + great beer afterward = really great day. Fortunately for adventurers in the Bay Area, there are about as many choices for excellent trails in San Francisco and beyond as there are watering holes where you can hoist a pint or two afterward. And what better way to pair quintessentially Northern California trail experiences—routes winding through serene redwood forests, along mountainside paths through grassy meadows, and above the mighty Pacific on beachside bluffs—than with a tasty, California-made craft brew? Here are five sure-to-please trail to tavern pairings in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

1. Tomales Point Trail | Lagunitas Brewing Company

Tomales Point Reyes National Seashore hiking
Hikers on the Tomales Point Trail. Miguel Viera

 

Point Reyes National Seashore, the slender finger of land bordered on the west by the Pacific and the east by Tomales Bay, is a hiker’s paradise. It’s only about an hour north of the city, but the rugged coastline, grasslands, and coastal trees, often shrouded in a mysterious layer of fog, evoke the feeling of being worlds away from the urban hustle. Choose from more than 150 miles of hiking trails, but the 10-mile out-and-back to Tomales Point is a solid option both for its scenery and relative ease. Make it up there on a weekday, and the only company you may have are cows and tule elk, 700-pound beasts that roam freely about the enclosed reserve through which the trail winds (their late-summer rut is an unforgettable experience).

However far you go, you’ll still have earned your pints afterward; head to Petaluma and the Lagunitas Brewing Company, a pioneer in Northern California’s craft brewing scene. Perennial favorites include Little Sumpin’ Sumpin Ale and the aptly named Hop Stoopid, as well as a rotating selection of seasonals. Bonus for hikers: The taproom stays open until 8pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and on weekdays, there’s live music, which promptly starts at 4:20pm each day.

2. Dipsea Trail | Sand Dollar

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The Dipsea Trail is one of the most iconic in the Bay Area. RootsRated

 

The Dipsea Trail might sound cutesy and quirky, but we guarantee it’s a hardcore hike, with nearly 2,000 feet in total elevation gain and nearly 700 steps to navigate—the latter in just the first mile. Nevertheless, the approximately seven-mile Dipsea is a must-do for any local or visitor, with flowy sections below majestic redwoods, serpentine stretches though mossy green groves, and sweeping views of the Pacific. The good news is that the first half of the hike is roughly all uphill, while the last half is downhill (save for one last grind appropriately named Insult). And when the climbing and descending starts to take its toll, just think of the hundreds of brave souls who run the trail in the Dipsea Race, the oldest trail run in the country.

After emerging from the forest into the hippy enclave of Stinson Beach, head straight for the Sand Dollar, a cozy restaurant that has been serving patrons since 1921. Order up one of the usual suspects (Lagunitas, Scrimshaw) on draft, snag a table on the patio, and toast to doing the Dipsea.

3. Presidio I Final Final

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The Presidio boasts 24 miles of trails. Picasaweb/JP

 

As far as urban escapes go, it’s hard to beat the Presidio, a former Army post that boasts 1,500 acres of stunning wilderness, with redwood groves, wild ocean bluffs, and 24 miles of trails that wind through it all. There are options for all kinds of hikers, but a crowd-pleaser is the relatively flat, 2.5-mile Presidio section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Highlights include a piece of artwork called Spire, a 90-foot sculpture made of 38 cypress trunks, old-growth forests, and views of the bay from the serene National Cemetery Overlook. Another popular route is the Crissy Field Promenade, less of a hike and more of a walk (it’s perfect for families) along the waterfront, with unbeatable views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

For your post-hike pint, forgo the attitude of most Marina bars and their patrons and make a beeline to the Final Final, an old-school SF hideout that’s blissfully void of most Instagram-snapping crowds known to swarm in these parts. Instead, there’s plenty of cold draft beer, pool tables, television screens showing games, free popcorn, and solid bar grub to keep you and your hiking buddies happy.

4. Mt. Diablo State Park I ØL Café and Bottle Shop

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Reach the top of Mount Diablo, and you’ll savor unparalleled views. John Morgan

 

Eager peak baggers in the Bay Area should head right to 3,848-foot Mount Diablo, the highest peak in the East Bay. Though it’s not particularly high, the summit offers gobsmacking views of the Bay Area and beyond, as far as 200 miles away. On a clear day, you may be able to see the Farallon Islands to the west and even as far north as Mount Saint Helena in the Coast Range. A number of routes reach the summit, including a challenging 6.8-mile one-way trip, or the less strenuous one-mile hike on the Juniper Trail from the Diablo Valley Overlook, at the entrance to Juniper Campground.

However you go up, make sure you hit ØL Beercafe & Bottle Shop in Walnut Creek after making it back down. Beer geeks will go bonkers for the head-spinning menu of rare and unique brews available—currently on the draft list are obscure selections including Woodfour Nurple, the Gnome Gruit, and Kleine Stouterd. Hundreds of carefully curated bottles are available as well.

5. Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin State Park I Half Moon Bay Brewing

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A sampler at Half Moon Bay Brewing lets you sample a variety of beers. Emilee Rader

 

An easy drive to Big Basin State Park, California’s oldest state park, is more than worth it for the world-class hiking here among the majestic redwood ecosystem. The park features 80 miles of trails, and the approximately 9-mile out-and-back to Berry Creek Falls is a stunner, winding through redwood groves, along a steep canyon, and culminating in the beautiful Berry Creek Falls. One caveat: Heavy rains in early 2016 caused damage to several other waterfall trails in the park, meaning that there might be more traffic than usual on the Berry Creek Trail.

You’ll have to drive a ways to hit any watering hole for your post-hike pint, so go ahead and head north for one of the Bay Area’s most beloved breweries: Half Moon Bay Brewing, located just a stone’s throw from the world-famous Mavericks surf break. Snag a table on the enclosed patio and order up classic favorites like the amber ale or IPA—there are 10 draft selections available year-round, piped right in from the brewery next door.

Wear from the trail to the tavern…

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Women’s Fly-By-Night Jacket, Outdoor Joy Tank, Viatrix Short

Men’s Transverse Shirt Jac, Wonderer LS Shirt, Rover Short, Motile SS Polo 

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Scott Mattoon

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in Chicago

RootsRated posted this April 21st, 2016

Part of the joy of hiking comes from exploring new places. And certainly part of the growing appeal of microbrews is the enjoyment that comes from trying something unique. So it’s no surprise that the combination of hiking and craft beers is appealing to outdoor enthusiasts who have been known to tip back a pint or two. Here, we’ve created five trail-to-tavern trips in the Chicago area that include a great hiking destination followed by a place to stop for unique, locally brewed beer. So get out of your neighborhood and explore some of the best trails (and beer) the Chicago area has to offer.

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A sampling of brews at Hunter’s Brewing, the perfect place to enjoy a trail-to-tavern pint. Image provided by Amy Gentry.

1. Tekakwitha Woods Forest Preserve | Stockholm’s Brew Pub

Following the Path of the Fox River, the paved Fox River Trail is one of the great resources for cyclists and runners in the far western suburbs. But if you want to get off the beaten path, take a detour at the Tekakwitha Woods Forest Preserve, which is just off the trail in St. Charles. While the preserve is a relatively small 65 acres, it offers plenty to explore, including an oak tree dating back to 1864. You’ll find mostly oak and maple forests on higher ground, a floodplain forest closer to the Fox River, and a restored prairie in former farm fields.

You’ll also find a network of trails through the fields and forested ravines, but nothing too strenuous. It’s a great place to enjoy wildflowers in the spring, and plenty of wildlife—particularly birds—any time of the year.

After the hike, head just south of St. Charles to downtown Geneva for an excellent beer choice. Stockholm’s Brew Pub offers several house-made beers made in the “Old World Tradition, cask-conditioned and un-filtered, for full balance flavor.” You’ll find about a dozen beers on the menu, usually including the Viking Red Ale, the Downtown Honey Brown, and the Older But Weisser, a Belgian White that’s certainly refreshing after some time on the trail. In addition to the beer selection, Stockholm’s offers an excellent menu for a full meal.

2. Palos Trail System | Granite City Brewery

Sunset singletrack in the Palos Trail System Mark Montri

 

The Palos Trail System in the Cook County Forest Preserves surrounding Palos Heights offers quite simply the best hiking experience in the Chicago area. And it’s not even close. Near the intersection of I-55 and I-294, Palos features nine significant trails—more than 20 miles worth—with hills, stones, downed trees, slippery surfaces, roots, and creeks. A few minutes away from the parking lot and you’ll forget you’re in the Chicago area.

The Granite City Brewery in Orland Park is just south of the trail system on LaGrange Road and opposite the Orland Grove Forest Preserve. It isn’t locally owned—the restaurant group got its start in St. Cloud, Minn., in 1999—but it does brew its own beer on the premises. And they certainly do a good job, with the four hand-crafted beers on the menu, including The Bennie, a German-style bock that will hit the spot after any hike.

3. Indiana Dunes State Park | Hunter’s Brewing

Exploring the sandy trails at Indiana Dunes State Park Steve Johnson

 

As the name implies, the Indiana Dunes State Park is best known for its big sandy hills that line the Lake Michigan lakeshore. And yes, you have more than three miles of very nice beach among the 2,182 acres of the park, with a long-distance view of the Chicago skyline on a clear day. But the dunes next to the beach offer some of the most challenging hiking around.

The state park features seven different trails—rated from easy to rugged—which tour the dunes and the adjacent nature preserve. That means that while you can certainly attempt to tackle the towering dunes, you also can explore trails that are more suitable for hiking. Find a trail map on the second page of this pamphlet.

You’d be hard pressed to find an area with more diverse terrain. You have sandy beaches and dunes, hard-packed trails and even boardwalks over marshes in the trail system. The 5.5-mile trail No. 10 is the largest at the dunes, and it offers a big loop that goes out via the nature preserve and back along the dunes and the beach. Trail No. 9 is a 3.75-mile loop inside the preserve, with plenty of climbing.

Located just outside the park in Chesterton, Ind., Hunter’s Brewing is a nanobrewery that features hand-brewed beer from its one-barrel system. You’ll find a variety of small-batch boutique beers in its tasting room, which also offers sandwiches and snacks. With 18 taps, you have plenty to choose from, and guest beer and wines (that is, not made on the premises) are also available.

4. Kettle Moraine State Forest | 841 Brewhouse

Taking to the trails in Kettle Moraine Forest Amy Bayer

 

Of course, if you’re talking about beer, Wisconsin should come to mind. If you’re up for a short road trip, the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest also offers some of the best hiking options within two hours of Chicago. The state forest contains more than 22,000 acres in southern Wisconsin, about 37 miles southeast of Milwaukee. For hikers, that means more than 130 miles of trails to explore—with lots of variety. You’ll find hardwood forests, pine plantations, and prairie.

The term “kettle moraine” is actually a geological description that comes from how the area was created. A moraine is an accumulation of rock and soil that comes from a glacier, while a kettle is a shallow body of water formed by a retreating glacier. You don’t need a degree in geology to figure out that this means the area is filled with rolling hills, valleys, and ridges. So you’ll discover some great views, but also have to do some serious climbing. Keep in mind when planning your mileage that these trails can be tough.

Reward yourself afterward with a trip to the 841 Brewhouse in nearby Whitewater, Wis. You’ll find four in-house beers on tap, usually a wheat, amber, IPA, and a stout, plus plenty of other options from Wisconsin craft breweries. Their large menu is solid and filled with pub favorites.

5. Deer Grove Forest Preserve | RAM Restaurant and Brewery

Offering the best hiking trails in Chicago’s northern suburbs, the Deer Grove Forest Preserve features nearly 10 miles of off-road trails in addition to several miles of paved routes that have made this a popular escape. Some have even referred to this as “Palos North,” in reference to the bigger trail system in the southwest suburbs. You don’t have the volume of trails here, but for north suburban residents this is certainly the gem of the forest preserve system.

Located just north of Dundee Road in Palatine, Ill., the Deer Grove Forest Preserve is bisected by Quentin Road, creating east and west sections of the park. The west side is slightly bigger, and has the longest trail, the yellow, which offers a 5.4-mile, uninterrupted loop. You can connect to black and orange trails on the west side and get in a good 10-mile hike without too much repetition. On the east side, which is connected to the west via a paved trail, there’s a 2.6-mile brown loop as well as the 2.6 mile paved trail.

Head east to nearby Wheeling, Ill., and you’ll hit the RAM Restaurant and Brewery, which offers a number of seasonal beers on tap. You can even create your own personal flights served in 10-ounce glasses from its wide selection. The impressive menu has everything from pub staples like burgers and fish and chips to beef short ribs and wild Alaska salmon. Be sure to work up an appetite.

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairing in Dallas-Fort Worth

RootsRated posted this April 21st, 2016
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Sipping on a Smashy IPA at Fort Worth’s The Collective Brewing Project. Jake Wheeler

 

The Dallas-Fort Worth area may be a sprawling metropolis, but there’s no shortage of natural beauty both in the city and among its (vast) outskirts. This is Texas, after all, and Texas is big. And spread out. And quite wild. Folks here also appreciate a good craft brew or a good number of other poisons with our long-loved Tito’s Vodka being made in state and, now, even bourbon and (Texas) moonshine. Our days are also long and, in the summer, often grueling. So we’ve gotten real good at pairing two of the things we love most ‘round here: trails and ales. Whether downtown lovin’ is your cup of tea (er, booze) or you prefer a watering hole outside of town, here are five pairings for your day off.

1. Dogwood Canyon | Bishop Cider Company

For those who appreciate rare flora, observing endangered birds, and fresh cider, this pairing goes quite nicely with a spring day. Begin your day just outside of Cedar Hill State Park, southwest of Dallas in Cedar Hill, Texas. Here you’ll find Dogwood Canyon, founded by the good people of Wild Birds Unlimited. In the spring, Dogwood Canyon is rich with color as the flowering dogwoods blossom, and also rich with birdsong, as hummingbirds are regulars around these parts. It’s also thought that the endangered golden-cheeked warblers live among the reserve. The trails within Dogwood Canyon are short, but they’re also hilly and picturesque with scenic overlooks providing views of nearby Cedar Hill State Park and Joe Pool Lake.

Once you’ve had your day’s flora and fauna fix, head just due north to Bishop Cider Company in Southwest Dallas’ Oak Cliff. With ciders named things like Crackberry and Suicider, Bishop’s cider may be unconventional in the text of the old school, offering up cider with jalapenos, peaches, pecans, and hops, but that’s precisely what makes it so Texas. Even better, you are assured a high-quality concoction at the Cider Company because the owners’ philosophy is simply: “Is this a cider that we want to drink all day every day?” And that’s a philosophy we can support.

2. Lake Grapevine’s North Shore Trail | Grapevine Craft Brewery

Sunset at Grapevine Lake Austin Marshall

 

North Shore Trail runs along Lake Grapevine in Grapevine, Texas (northwest of Dallas) and offers an incredibly scenic out-and-back hike and bike trail up to 12 miles each way. There are three entry points to the trail, though you should take note of the two free entry points (because we’re saving our money for a post-hike brew, right?): Murrell Park and Twin Coves Park. Twin Coves Park technically has a fee, but the official Lake Grapevine site says if you park outside of the gate and enter the trail, there is no fee. Because the trail follows alongside Lake Grapevine, it’s an incredible place for those who enjoy chasing a stellar sunrise or sunset (though if drinking is on the agenda, perhaps sunset is a better choice).

After the sun sets (or rises—we aren’t judging), head over to Grapevine Craft Brewery. The local brew joint says “craft is their middle name.” There’s always a selection of rotating seasonal and limited release beers and the year-round staples like the crisp Monarch Pilsner (which is a great choice after a hot day aside the lake) and Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout (which makes for a good cool weather beer). Grapevine Craft Brewery is an award-winning kind of place, with awards won from events like the Great American Beer Festival and the Denver International Beer Competition. They often feature great local food trucks too, so you can sample the finest of Grapevine in just one sitting.

3. Big Cedar Wilderness Trails | Deep Ellum Brewery

Southwest of downtown, Big Cedar Wilderness Trails offer more than twenty miles of pristine, well-kept trails that are great for hiking and biking. There are both short and long loops that cross over the highest elevation in the city, which provides a great sunset viewing point and beautiful views of a nearby lake and downtown. Some of the trails are moderate, so those seeking a solid workout before imbibing have the opportunity to experience a good bit of elevation change, while still being close to downtown Dallas.

Once you’ve finished your Big Cedar elevation, it’s only appropriate to go to what is, perhaps, Dallas’ longest celebrated brewpub—Deep Ellum Brewery in the heart of downtown Dallas, where they say “love runs deep.” We can argue that post-hike cheer and a solid ABV can certainly lead to love running deep. The Deep Ellum IPA is a go-to classic at the brewery, while other local favorites include its Double Blonde and the Double Brown Stout. If you’re the kind who prefers to take a sixer for the road, the Easy Peasy IPA is described as a “perfect summer beer” and travels well.

4. Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge | The Collective Brewing Project


Brewmaster Mike Goldfuss filling up a cold one. Jake Wheeler

 

Fort Worth is a little less big city and a whole lot more old-school Texas. And that means the area immediately surrounding the city is a lot less developed than nearby Dallas. The Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge is a sprawling refuge that provides nearly 4,000 acres of beautiful land along the West Fork of the Trinity River. Paddlers and hikers love the park for its pristine landscapes and outside-the-city vibes. There are more than twenty miles of hiking trails ranging from a quarter of a mile to 3.3 miles, and several entry points to the river, so land and water folks alike will enjoy the well-preserved ecosystems within the refuge.

Whether you’ve spent the day paddling along the Trinity or hiking the refuge’s trails, Fort Worth’s The Collective Brewing Project is a perfect next stop to wind down and hydrate. They call themselves Fort Worth’s “first franken-monster of a brewery” and use the hashtag #funkytownbeer, both of which are a warm invite to their tucked away taproom in an unassuming corner of the city’s Southside. Staple beers include their Mustache Rye’d and Tropic Thunder. And, if you’re anything like the masterminds behind Collective Brewing, you may be tempted to take a growler to go. Maybe even all the way to Big Bend.

5. Oak Point Park & Nature Preserve | Nine Band Brewing

Just twenty miles northeast of Dallas in Plano, Texas is an 800-acre nature preserve called Oak Point Park. The park was recently named a Certified Audubon Sanctuary because of the number of bird species that flourish within the preserve, making it an ideal day trip for birdwatchers and photographers too. Offering 3.5 miles of paved trails and more than seven miles of soft-surface trails that follow along Rowlett Creek, the park provides access to an environment that’s largely undisturbed as well as a pavilion and amphitheater. While the trails at Oak Point Park are not technical, they are far from the bustle of city life and immerse you into an important, peaceful, and beautiful ecosystem.

When you’ve finished exploring Oak Point’s trails, head just six miles north of Plano to Nine Band Brewing in Allen, considered the Plano-area’s first microbrewery. The 8,000-foot facility and taproom is filled with vats brewing up three signature beers and a range of seasonal blends, and communal, handmade wooden tables that make bringing a big crew or rallying a new one an easy task. Whether their 6% Nine Band Pale Ale or their 10.6% Toad Choker Barleywine is more your speed, Big Band’s taps are eager to pour you a post-adventure brew that’ll keep you on your toes, or bring you to your knees. Bottoms up!

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co

The Best Trail to Tavern Pairings in Denver

RootsRated posted this April 21st, 2016

Ask any longtime Denverite: Colorado’s capital is no mountain town. Newcomers are often surprised at the far-off Front Range, but for the adventurously inclined, this doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of things to do. The Centennial State enjoys trails even in its urban jungle, and—no surprise, from a region with the third-highest number of microbreweries per capita in the country—our favorite recovery beverage is beer. Here are the best trail to tavern pairings in the Denver Metro area.

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Take in classic Front Range views at Morrison’s Roof Top Tavern.

1. Confluence Park | My Brother’s Bar

Denver’s Highlands neighborhood is truly a confluence, both in the hydrological sense—Confluence Park marks the merging of Cherry Creek and the South Platte—and culturally: you’ll find a wide variety of top-notch restaurants, all within walking distance of one another. The good news is there’s a way to work off those calories first. Ride, run, or walk the gently graded South Platte River Trail, which begins at 88th and Colorado in Thornton and stretches nearly 18 miles to Aurora.

Ready for more? Take a kayak to play in the whitewater park at the confluence, conveniently located just a block from both the Denver REI flagship store and locally beloved Wilderness Exchange. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to My Brother’s Bar—literature buffs will recognize it from Kerouac’s On the Road—for a super-cheap, delicious post-fun burger and great beer. There’s no sign out front, which adds to its mystique as the oldest continually operating bar in Denver.

2. Clear Creek | Golden City Brewery

Paddle (or innertube) Clear Creek Whitewater Park for an adventure experience in the heart of downtown Golden. Emma Walker

 

Signs of spring on the Colorado Front Range: geese return, flowers bloom, and local breweries open their patio doors. Just fifteen miles west of Denver, the city of Golden was established during the gold rush in the late nineteenth century, and today sticks to its motto—“Where the West Lives!”—with easy access to countless recreational opportunities, including Clear Creek, which runs through the heart of downtown. When the weather’s warm, take your kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or innertube (you can rent one just blocks from the creek at Golden River Sports) to the Clear Creek Whitewater Park. If the water’s too cold, head up Clear Creek Canyon, where you’ll have your pick of thousands of sport climbing routes. Your reward is waiting at Golden City Brewery, whose charming patio offers a hearty taste of mountain living. For extra credit, match your beer to the day’s activities with a Lookout Stout or Clear Creek Gold.

3. Apex Park | Mountain Toad


Golden is chock-full of mountain bike trails and microbreweries, and you can see most of them from North Table Loop. Emma Walker

 

There’s a reason Golden is home to a half-dozen bike shops: it’s a mountain biker’s paradise. It’s a short drive to some of the Front Range’s best singletrack, including Centennial Cone, Mayhem Gulch, White Ranch Open Space, and Apex Park. Apex offers outstanding technical riding, challenging climbs, and fun, flowy descents. Plan ahead—the park enforces directional restrictions, so certain sections of the trails are only up- or downhill depending on the day (check the map on the land manager’s website for details). When you’re ready for a cool down, head to the Mountain Toad—quickly becoming one of Golden’s most popular microbreweries, and featuring local art—to enjoy an Apex Amber on the dog-friendly patio.

4. Red Rocks Park | Roof Top Tavern

Morrison’s myriad boulder problems are a climber’s paradise. Pat Brehm takes a burn on Tendonitis Traverse (V5). Bix Firer

 

Historic Morrison is nestled in the foothills just south of Golden and boasts some classic Front Range bouldering problems. Quick approaches to an abundance of boulders means the area has an outdoor gym feel—you can get a ton of laps in before you head into town for a beer. Taking a rest day? Check out Red Rocks Park, where you can hike to incredible panoramic views of Denver and the plains, or catch a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Once you’ve climbed the rocks—or the 380-odd amphitheater steps—head to the Roof Top Tavern, which serves local craft brews and spirits on a patio complete with in-table firepits. Like the rest of Morrison, the views here won’t disappoint.

5. Trail Ridge Road | Great Divide Brewing

Kelso Ridge (Class 3) is an airy scramble to the Continental Divide and the summit of Torreys Peak. For a full day, tag its neighbor, Grays Peak, and enjoy a Great Divide brew at the top. Emma Walker

 

There are plenty of continental divides in North America, but the Great Divide, which runs from Alaska’s Seward Peninsula to the tip of South America, is by far the most prominent. Denverites don’t have to go far to see the point where watersheds go their separate ways: Trail Ridge Road, a National Scenic Byway with killer Continental Divide views, runs through Rocky Mountain National Park—just an hour and a half from downtown. The Front Range also boasts the highest point on the Divide in North America: Grays Peak, which measures up at 14,278 feet. For a true Continental Divide experience, summit this approachable Fourteener, and enjoy a Great Divide Brewing creation—try a refreshing Denver Pale Ale—at the top. Hopefully it’s the only Yeti you’ll see all day.

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co

Featured image provided by Emma Walker

Ambassador Profile: Adreon and the Canoemobile

dweber posted this April 19th, 2016

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There’s nothing like your first time hitting the water, and we think everyone should have that experience. So as part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks this year. In celebration of the National Park Service centennial, the Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, will connect folks to the national parks by getting them into canoes and out onto America’s great rivers and lakes. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, will be taking over the Toad blog to relay tales from the trail…err, waterway! Take it away Adreon…

Adreon

Introducing people to the joy of the great outdoors is my work and my passion. I believe people of all backgrounds and abilities should have access to the natural world. With Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile, I have been able to introduce people with disabilities and underserved students to their local waterways in over 20 cities coast-to-coast.

Canoemobile visits some of the busiest cities and industrial waterways in the United States. Most of the people riding in these canoes have never explored the great National Parks and state parks within their communities. Paddling in a 24-foot Voyageur canoe helps many overcome fears of water, experience the importance of teamwork, and reclaim these beautiful urban waterways.

This spring tour will be my fourth Canoemobile tour. Each boat ride has been special. We load up into canoes, learn to paddle together, create epic boat names to unite us as a team, and then explore local ecosystems from a new perspective.

My favorite part is watching the participants step out of their comfort zones and become empowered. I love watching nerves disappear with each paddle stroke. Soon after we launch from the dock, crying transforms into laughter and team chanting. It’s a beautiful transformation to watch. I am honored to be apart of this life-changing experience for so many people. Time to hit the road!

– Adreon

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Wildflowers and Watering Holes: A Road Tripper’s Guide to Texas Hill Country

dweber posted this April 18th, 2016

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As Robert Earl Keen said, “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.” Every time I sing that line I can’t help but think that Texas must have been on his mind when he penned that song. After all, backroads and bars—both housing equal degrees of character—are quite abundant in the Lonestar State.

That lyric rings particularly true when the mild Texas winter shifts to springtime. With more than 5,000 species of flowering plants, only California rivals Texas in its abundance of blossoms within the contiguous United States. Fields of blue quickly become blue and yellow when the yellow groundsel is a’bloom. Blue fields become purple when the red Indian paintbrushes follow suit, painting whole meadows with their bright red petals. Pink evening primrose and their delicate ballet colored petals take up entire hillsides. Finally, a red tide of poppies will sweep the countryside, and you’ll forget they used to be green.

When these magnificent springtime displays are at their peaks—usually early March through early May—there is no better time to hit the road and explore Texas Hill Country. Whether old farms, historic markers, or dive bars are your fancy, off-the-beaten-path meanderings through the Lonestar State are fruitful. Heres one of my go-to, roundabout, country-cruisin’, water hole ‘n wildflower journeys that’ll have you whistlin’ dixie down a dusty road. Do the drive in a day or may a weekend trip and grab a BnB and sweet tea along the way.

East of Lockhart, one of Texas’ most well-known BBQ towns, and south of Bastrop, a small town famous for its pines, is a sleepy little place called McMahan, Texas. From Austin, take U.S. Route 183 South to Lockhart (even though it’s a “main” highway, the wildflower displays are unrivaled.) From Lockhart, you’ll head east to McMahan. Long-abandoned, the town was first called Wildcat and later Whizzerville, before officially becoming McMahan when the Post Office decided there were just too many letters in its former name.

Sitting at the intersection of FM roads 713 and 3158, the restored ghost town is a little-known place perfect for those who appreciate a slow day along country roads, a little history and old Texas charm. Whether coming from the east or west, McMahan rests in a pocket of rural Caldwell County that guarantees wild colors along the roads on the way into town. Whizzerville Hall is a perfect stopover for pizza, afternoon brews, and occasionally live honky tonk and a little boot-scootin’.

Next, head south to infamous Shiner, Texas, via Texas Route 304 and U.S. Route 90. It’s a long-time tradition to sip a Shiner at Antiques, Art, and Beer, so you can earn your “I drank a Shiner in Shiner” certificate at the antique store and bar. Shiner is home to Spoetzl Brewery, where Shiner Beer is brewed. Tours of the brewery are available on weekdays. There’s a cozy cabin called Shiner Guesthouse not too far away, if you desire a stopping point. It’s a historic cabin in the middle of ranch land, surrounded by wildflowers in the spring. With a front porch overlooking it all, it’s a perfect spot for morning coffee before continuing your excursion.

Once you’re back on the road, head north to Moulton via Texas Route 95. Moulton is a quiet town with a local watering hole that’s quite unique—Ole Moulton Bank. Once a bank, the establishment is now a dive bar with walls lined with vintage guitars. The bank is a great place to hole up for an afternoon brew and chat up the locals. You might just meet a man who calls himself “Blackbird” and offers to take you hog spottin’. And if you don’t, don’t fret—you can always buy a vintage guitar to take with you on the road.

From Moulton, you’ll head north. If you appreciate old churches, Flatonia is home to one of Texas’ twenty famous painted churches: St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption. The cathedral is vibrant and majestic, and certainly worth the field trip, particularly if you’ve found any watering hole mischief along the way.

Your next stop is Cistern, Texas—one of my favorite tucked away places in the entire state. Many drive right on through without as much as a second look, but if you take the time to stop at the Cistern Schoolhouse, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The former schoolhouse has been converted into a small bar. With its original facade, is easy to pass by if you don’t know it’s there—particularly since there’s no website or mentions in other travel pieces (you’re welcome). While there’s a chalkboard full of Texas brews, there are also “homemade spritzers”—brilliantly crafted with Franzia and Sprite. They’re so bad they’re good and they’re a local staple, so indulge. When you’re ready for a burger, head just a half mile up the road to the Cistern Country Store. And remember, everything is bigger in Texas.

The last town along this route is Smithville, due north of Cistern. It’s a sleepy town with a beautiful main street, famous for it’s cameos in the 1998 film Hope Floats. Huebels Bier Garden is the local spot for jukebox breaks and cold beers. It’s a perfect cap to a weekend-long adventure.

This entire route, which completes a big ‘ole loop southeast of Austin, will take you through several historic, heritage-rich Texas towns. Every road along this journey is lined with the waves of Texas wildflowers that make spring here famous. While you can expect the occasional “Yee-haw!” and a good bit of hootin’ and hollerin’, this route is also beautifully quiet. And there’s still the thistles to come in June and the single-stemmed rain lilies that bloom after the first autumn rain in September. As John Steinbeck said, “Texas is a state of mind.” He was right. The road sure does go on forever, and so will your wanderlust for just one more poppy-filled hillside…

Originally written for RootsRated.com by Ashley Halligan. Photos by Ashley Halligan.