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Filmmaking That Changes the World

dweber posted this May 23rd, 2016

This is Mountainfilm. It’s thought provoking, gut wrenching, jaw dropping and inspires us to protect the world that we love. Telluride Mountainfilm Festival has been making people feel this way for nearly 40 years. Starting in 1979 in Telluride, CO (where we happen to have roots, too), Mountainfilm has grown from a weekend film festival to a 4-day cultural and environmental symposium that breaks down global issues and offers up solutions. This is storytelling at its finest.

A great story creates compassion and understanding, and that’s where change is born. We’ve been moved by the stories we hear at the Mountainfilm Festival. That’s why we’ve been partnering with Mountainfilm for over 20 years. From feature films about land conservation to short films about quirky thinkers, we’re moved to see the world differently. Even if it’s a 10 minute film, the message can stick with you forever. Now that’s poweful.

Each year Mountainfilm picks a symposium theme and this year’s is National Parks, to coincide with the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. Speakers and films will focus on the substantial challenges facing the parks, ranging from access restrictions to development threats, funding questions, crumbling infrastructure, engagement with younger generations and climate change. And of course, there will be a considerable amount of eye candy too. We’re looking forward to seeing what this year’s festival has in store and which films will make it onto the Mountainfilm world tour.

Mountainfilm Festival will take place 5/25 – 5/30 in Telluride, CO. Beginning in August, Mountainfilmn hits the road with the best of the best on a world tour, committed to inspiring audiences around the globe. Check here to see when Mountainfilm will be coming to your town. Here’s what we’re looking forward to seeing this weekend…

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Ace and the Desert Dog
Ace Kvale, a veteran photographer, and Ghengis, a blue heeler “dogger” (that’s canine for “blogger”), live together in the Utah desert. Their backyard: 2 million acres of canyons, redrock cliffs, dry washes, empty landscapes and desert wilderness. For his 60th birthday, Kvale decided to go on a 60-day backpacking trip. Kvale and Genghis are living proof, plodding along to spectacular places only reachable by foot, following the cycles of the season and learning lasting lessons from one another. Namely: Slow down, spend as much time with your best friends as possible and don’t forget to play.

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62 Years
Mark Twain said, “Whiskey is for drinking — water is for fighting.” More than half a century after David Brower, environmentalist and the Sierra Club’s first executive director, traveled down northwest Colorado’s Yampa River with his sons, Twain’s observation still rings true. The same year of the river trip, 1952, Brower led the successful fight against two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument by raising awareness and creating a constituency of conservationists. 62 Years follows Brower’s son, Ken, as he recreates the river trip from his childhood and reflects on his father’s legacy, as well as the future of the drought-plagued American West.

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Mile 19
Since the inception of the Los Angeles marathon in 1986, 178 runners have completed every race. They’re called “Legacy Runners.” Johnnie Jameson is a member of this special group, but he’s not an elite runner: He’s a working man, a postal employee. But what he lacks in speed, he makes up in creativity. He ran his first marathon backward, finishing in last place. He dribbled a basketball the next year. Each race, wearing his signature Payless shoes, he stops and talks and takes his sweet time. And over the years, the marathon has become a form of therapy for Jameson, who was scarred deeply from serving as an infantryman in Vietnam. This poignant film from Vincent DeLuca conveys a lifetime of lessons in 10 short minutes, spinning a powerful story of resilience, humor and healing.

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Elk River
For many of the elk herds that summer in Yellowstone National Park, home is outside the protected park boundaries the rest of the year, as far as 70 miles away. Scientist Arthur Middleton joins photographer Joe Riis, artist James Prosek and filmmaker Jenny Nichols in this documentary that captures the migration of elk in the Yellowstone area. Mirroring a similar expedition undertaken in 1871 that fused science and the arts, this modern band of explorers trek from Wyoming’s rangeland through snowy mountain passes and treacherous river crossings to the rugged beauty of Yellowstone’s high-alpine meadows. Along the way, they meet backcountry guides and cattle ranchers whose lives are intricately tied with the fate of the elk and other migratory species that call the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem home.

Canoemobile Update: Santa Barbara

dweber posted this May 20th, 2016

Steve

On a misty Tuesday morning, Team Toad made our way down to the Santa Barbara Harbor to hit the high seas with the Canoemobile! As part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation earlier this spring to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks in 2016. The Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, has been touring the country to get folks into 24ft Voyageur canoes to paddle through our national waterways. We were lucky enough to have the Canoemobile come through our hometown and take us and our friends from Alpha Resource Center out onto the water for two unforgettable days. Alpha is a local organization committed to empowering individuals, supporting families and building a community that values the contribution of all people, regardless of ability.

Morning and afternoon fleets of Voyageur canoes lit out for the open ocean over the course of two days as Toads, W.I. crew and about 50 Alpha clients mingled with harbor seals, paddled with sea lions and waved at tourists along the Pacific coast. For many Alpha clients (and even a few Toads), it was their first time in a canoe. Nerves gave way to giggles as our canoes left the dock and sea salt from wayward paddles hit our faces.

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Paddling across the ocean together, we pointed at birds and laughed at the waves, smiled as the sun peeked through the clouds, and sat mesmerized while pelicans dove head first into the water. Strangers just a few hours earlier, here we were, people from different backgrounds, upbringings and abilities, who had all come together for the exact same thing: joy.

It was an afternoon that will stick with us forever. Some Alpha clients found a new love of paddling (a few even came back for multiple paddle outs!) while others were simply proud of themselves for conquering their fears. In addition to making some quality new friends, we Toads were reminded that the work we do every day is so much more than making clothes, and that feels pretty darn good.

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Thank you SO much to the folks at Wilderness Inquiry and the Canoemobile crew who are changing lives everyday, and thanks to the folks at Alpha Resource Center who came out to paddle with us (check out their video of the event below!). If you’d like to volunteer with the Canoemobile (and trust us, you definitely want to!), check when the Canoemobile will be in your area and click on the link to get involved. Bon voyage!

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The Dynamo of Dixie

dweber posted this May 16th, 2016

“Whiskey to the People.” That’s what the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. likes to remind you. In a town who’s whiskey taps ran dry for so long, Chattanooga Whiskey re-wrote century old laws to keep a local tradition alive. Located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, across from the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo, the Tennessee Stillhouse micro-distillery opened in 2015 to whip up the first legal whiskey distilled in Chattanooga since prohibition. And boy, is it tasty. Genteel or not, you can share in a great Southern tradition – just add a squeeze of citrus and some good company.

dynamodixieThe Dynamo of Dixie

2 oz. Chattanooga Whiskey Co. 1816 Reserve

2 oz. Tonic

1 oz. Fresh lemonade

Mint

Fill a glass with ice. Pour in lemonade, then whiskey, then tonic. Stir gently. Add mint sprig. Enjoy tall drinks with tall tales.

 

For more information on where to go and what to see in Chattanooga, check out our guide to the Scenic City.

Canoemobile Update: Detroit, MI

dweber posted this May 5th, 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. Rose Conry, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, offers up the latest update:

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After a great week in Dallas, TX, the Canoemobile Team rolled into Detroit, MI to get on the water at River Raisin National Battlefield. Special Olympics Michigan athletes and their families embraced the peacefulness of an overcast Sunday morning, paddling quietly along the marshy mouth of the the Huron. For many, it was their first canoe experience, and several athletes were nervous initially. The boats, 24-foot cedar-stripped voyageur canoes made the ride more unusual.

During our quiet river paddle, the Special Olympians spotted fish jumping out of the water, ospreys, cormorants, and terns diving for breakfast. Herons waded in for their next meal while swans and geese guarded their young. A ranger from the River Raisin National Battlefield shared historical and natural knowledge about the area. He explained how the U.S. came to lose Detroit in the War of 1812 and what invasive species threaten native plants and animals in the area.

As the program wrapped up, the ranger explained River Raisin’s summer kayaking program. Many participants expressed eagerness to join the park service for another paddling adventure. I want to come back for it, too.

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: 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
Conservation Colorado_PhotoCredit_John Fielder

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

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?

Wear from the trail to the tavern…

 

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Women’s Swifty Cafe Sleeve Tee $59, Bristlecone Pant $79

Men’s Maneuver Short Sleeve Shirt $69, Transverse Shirt Jac $119, Drover Denim $89

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

trails to tavern pairings in San Francisco Dipsea Trail

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 | Final Final

trails to tavern pairings in San Francisco Presidio

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 | ØL Café and Bottle Shop

trail to tavern pairings in San Francisco

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 | 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 Outdoor Joy Tank $35, Viatrix Short $65, Fly-By-Night Jacket $129

Men’s Wonderer LS Shirt $79, Rover Short $75, Motile SS Polo $52,  Transverse Shirt Jac $119

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.

Wear from the trail to the tavern…

 

WsSwiftyCafe

Women’s Swifty Cafe Sleeve Tee $59, Bristlecone Pant $79

Men’s Maneuver Short Sleeve Shirt $69, Transverse Shirt Jac $119, Drover Denim $89

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.