Archive: January 2016 - Low Brau

Off-road | Twin Mountain Offroad Adventure & Meadow Knob

Off-road | Twin Mountain Offroad Adventure & Meadow Knob

It is becoming an annual custom now that FORCE (Frontier Off-Road Club East) hosts a MLK Jr weekend event. This year, it was a joint even with VAXC (Virginia Xterra Club – http://www.vaxc.org/). It was to visit a relatively new off-road park in the hills of West Virginia, Twin Mountain Off Road Adventure. This park was created by John Bradshaw, who has been off-roading his entire life and has been competing in many overlanding trophies. He decided to build this park to continue his passion.

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John’s Unimog

The event was set, and we had a decent group signed up go. The days before were to have crazy weather however, and due to that weather, a potential requirement for chains. Many of us did not have chains, and though they are great to have, I wanted to use the money for other modifications to the truck. So the days up to the event were a big question mark for some, and it was up until the few hours before leaving that we weren’t completely sure we were heading out. After some conversations with other members, we were a go no matter what. The park had temperatures drop in the negatives for windchill, and the ground was frozen solid a few days before the event. This meant that the upper layer was essentially slick mud on ice. As we arrived, John wasn’t even recommending hitting the trails with chains, as most hills were off camber and cut into the mountain side. Meaning, if you slid, you slid hard, and potentially over the side of the mountain. The park has a camping site, big fire pit, and facilities. Some of the members camped the night before, and it looks like something to remember for the future, as there is nothing else close by.

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Some of the mud picked up in the skills portion.

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Group photo.

So to make something out of nothing, we decided to play on the skills portion of the park. There are a few water/mud pits, step inclines, off camber areas, log bridge crossing, and plenty of ground to play on. We had a few guys get stuck in various locations and one even centered on the logs. The biggest pride moment was to take it to the steep grade hill, made much more difficult with the mud layer. After cresting, the vehicles just slid down the remainder of the obstacle. Though we only got a few hours of wheeling in, it was great fun, and we all agreed that we needed to come back when conditions were better. With this park only a few hours away from DC, we have much to look forward to in it’s development. Big shout out to John for letting us wheel, and for breaking out the Unimog a few times.

While grabbing something to eat, the group was discussing what to do next. It was decided that a late afternoon to evening run was going to be made in the George Washington National Forest to set up for the following day’s ride. After gassing up, we headed down interstate 81, picked up a few passengers from JMU, and continued to the trail head. We took Union Springs Road up the mountain. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, had some areas of snow and ice, but didn’t have too many obstacles. There were a few rocky and steep incline areas, but the majority of the ride was smooth sailing. We did hit a small play area that had a few frozen over puddles. After breaking the ice up and running through a few times, we pushed forward. We made it to Meadow Knob, which is a clearing on the ridge. From what I understand, a bunch of people camp here. It was pretty dark, but looked like a solid camp site for future rides. Great view of Harrisonburg, and so we decided to take a group photo.

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Playing in the mud. Photo by Ian Barry.

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Rock climbing.

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Group photo at Meadow Knob. Photo by Ian Barry.

We ran into a few more obstacles. One of which was a rock drop off. Those of us who didn’t have the correct armor and ground clearance decided to go around, but there were a few who went over. Cell phone video capabilities just weren’t there, and so what we captured wouldn’t provide enough detail to what actually happened. We had another rocky incline requiring some spotters, and once everyone was up, we took the opportunity to bid farewell. Part of our group was going to continue camping in the forest that night, while the rest of us headed into Harrisonburg. We headed down the mountain on Dunkle Hollow and exited around Switzer Lake. It was a shame to leave the comforting darkness of the woods and enter back into cell phone service, but it was late and time to grab dinner and beers.

During this trip, we did stop at a fair amount of breweries and beer centric restaurants. Feel free to read about it here.

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The next morning before heading home.

Twin Mountain Off Road Adventure
N 39 11’34.73″ W 79 00’36.89″
Williamsport, WV
304.257.3493
john@twinmountainadventures.com
http://www.twinmtn4x4.com/

 

 

Breweries | Escutcheon, Backroom, Lost River, Three Notch’d, & Pale Fire

Breweries | Escutcheon, Backroom, Lost River, Three Notch’d, & Pale Fire

We were heading out to visit an off-road park for the weekend, so of course, we made sure to hit some breweries and beer spots along the way. You can read about the off-road portion here if you like.

We left Friday afternoon and headed out towards Winchester. Luckily the traffic wasn’t that bad, and we made good time. We prolonged grabbing a bite to eat, as some of the breweries we had planned for the night were closing earlier than we initially thought. We arrived in Winchester between 6-7pm. The darkness was sitting in, making our first stop more foreboding than we had hoped, as there were no lights to great us. The farthest north stop on our trip was going to check out Winchester Cider, however they were closed Friday night. A bit of a surprise to us, however we pushed on and took it as a good way to save some time.

So our first stop was Escutcheon Brewing Company. It was raining hard and dark by the time we pulled up, so their sign was a beacon of hope (there was a car accident just down the road as we pulled up, and the sign apparently drew them in afterwards as well, they were fine and in decent spirits). The tasting room is decently sized, with bar tops and bar seating. Plenty of nautical decorations around and cool bottle chandelier. There is a window that looks into the brewery itself, though most of the action would be hard to see as it is behind fermentation tanks and the cold room. There is also a small area with games in one corner. They had Route 11 chips and nuts to snack on, so the hunger pains were starting to creep in.

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Escutcheon – Outside signage.

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Escutcheon – Tasting room.

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Escutcheon – Brewery

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Escutcheon – Flight of beers.

Beers Sampled: Growler Kolsch, John Riggins 4th and 1 Pilsner, Agonic Line Lager, Bowditch APA, Plimsoll IPA, Blackstracke Stout

After our flight, we pushed on. Our next stop had an early closing time, so we skipped checking into the hotel and went straight there. Nearly missing the turn off the lonely back road, we realized we were in the right spot when we saw Steve’s rig, a member of the off-road group. We had been keeping in touch during our trip, so that we could coordinate meeting up, as they are also beer heads. The darkness eliminated many possibilities of me being able to describe what it was I could see, and the rain was not letting up enough to allow me to take an exterior picture. We realized that there was a screened in porch, as we headed into the main building. Backroom is a farm brewery that grows herbs. They use many of these herbs in their beers, making for some unique flavor profiles. The tasting room definitely felt like it’s namesake, and had a loft area that looked to be used for storage. The tables and seating were pretty homey, and there was a fire place in the corner. Flights were served on what looked like a ping pong paddle on steroids. They did serve food, and we were lucky to grab some pretzels and sandwiches before the kitchen closed. The pricing was a bit more than we expected (especially after Escutcheon), but definitely worth finding your way out to this place if you are in the vicinity.

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Backroom – Tasting Room

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Backroom – One paddle of a flight.

Beers Sampled: Backroom Blonde, Golden Strong, Rosemary Orange Amber Ale, Holiday Market Ale, Hop Harvest Party Ale, Black Truffle Pig, Oatmeal Stout, Peter Peter Pumpkin Drinker Porter

We headed to the hotel afterwards, and resorted to a few beers we brought along as we caught up and chatted (Backroom didn’t have any growlers left). This of course resulted in a horrible idea to walk over to McDonald’s for a completely unnecessary late night snack.

The next morning we woke up at a decent time, as we had the rest of our group over at Twin Mountain Off Road Adventure Park. It was going to be a bit of a drive into the mountains. After spending a few hours at the park, we headed back down the mountain and stopped in Lost River, West Virginia. There is a small brewpub taking over the town’s name, Lost River Brewery. Not sure if we caught the brewery at a bad time or not, but they only had two of their beers on draft. Didn’t seem like they had many others on tap either. So we sampled the two they did have and got some food for a late lunch. The space looks to be a small house that had been converted into a pub. It is deeper than it looks, and has low ceilings which contributed to how dark it was inside.

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Lost River – Brewpub

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Lost River – Gotta love kegs in the window.

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Lost River – Wait only two beers?

Beers Sampled: Black Ale, Pale Ale

Leaving Lost River, we hit I-81 and went south. We decided to do a trail ride in the George Washington National Forest before calling it quits. After spending a few hours in the woods and riding a ridge line, it was time to head into town and find a few libations. Town was actually Harrisonburg, Virginia, so after checking in at the hotel we visited Capital Ale House. I had been here before on a previous off-road adventure, and it’s pretty solid. Not only does the impressive beer list draw me in, but they have some of the best ketchup I’ve ever had. The wings are solid as well. Getting close to closing time, we retired back at the hotel for the rest of the night. The next morning, we decided to hit a couple of the Harrisonburg breweries before heading home. They opened later than we were hoping for, and so we stopped in at Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint for lunch. This is a cool little dive bar that really only does burgers, fries, and fried oreos. The beer list is on point, and they have a beer club. For each beer, you get a notch, and once you hit a certain number, they put your name on the wall on a plate made of a beer can. I always love places like this, as you can’t make up the atmosphere. The burger and fries hit the spot, and now some of the breweries were open.

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Capital Ale House – Beers

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Jack’s Brown Beer & Burger Joint – Outside

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Jack’s Brown Beer & Burger Joint – Inside

Not too far from Jack’s Brown in the downtown area is Three Notch’d. It wasn’t quite open when we got their, but they were kind enough to let us in as it was freezing outside. It’s a nice open tasting room, with a variety of seating types. It seems that they have food provided by outside vendors, we didn’t see much else. They do have games and are dog friendly, so that’s always a plus. Though Three Notch’d is from Charlottesville, this is a small extension of the bigger brewery. They carry some of the flagship beers, but also have their own brew system and brew locally inspired beers. They have a cool system for picking your flight, as they have these tabs that you put on your flight paddle. Nice way to help the server and for you to remember what you ordered. Some of the beers are bottled and growlers are available for purchase, so we picked up a Java Espresso Stout to take home.

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Three Notch’d – Outside

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Three Notch’d – Tasting Room

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Three Notch’d – Beer list & Swag

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Three Notch’d – VA Beer Map

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Three Notch’d – Build your own flight

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Three Notch’d – My built flight.

Beers Sampled: Ghost of the 43rd, “Yam Mon” Sweet Potato Jamaican Curry Ale, Shenandoah Alley, Hydraulion Red, No Veto English Brown, Oats McGoat’s Oatmeal Stout, Jack’s Java Espresso Stout

We hung out for a bit and were enjoying hanging out, but knew that we had to get moving. Just a little ways down the street was Pale Fire. Reading through reviews, this one was high on our must list. The brewery is built into a not so typical strip mall. It is an old converted Ice House, complete with big metal insulated doors. I always love the reuse of old spaces. The interior has plenty of garage doors that open to the outdoor seating, and has a family entertainment area. It comes complete with TV, bookcase, and couches. They also had a variety of other seating types, and opposite the garage doors is a storefront allowing a view of the brewery. Honestly, the first thing I noticed upon walking in was the huge pile of bagels near the front entry. Appears these get dropped off and are up for grabs to nosh on while sampling. Other food available were more Route 11 chips. We met some interesting people (a hop farmer for instance) in the brewery, and we recommended that they needed more kid’s toys with the setup they had. Sounds like they are running a decent size system and are even doing collaborations with other breweries, Adroit Theory for example.

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Pale Fire – Ice House

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Pale Fire – Tasting room

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Pale Fire – Brewery

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Pale Fire – Flight & Bagel

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Pale Fire – Beer List

Beers Sampled: Saving Grace, Red Molly Irish Red, Electric Sheep, Deadly Rhythm, Loop & Lil, Salad Days, Village Green Double IPA, Momo Belgian Chocolate Stout

At this point, we had to call it quits. Hanging out had gotten the best of us, and it was starting to get later than we intended on staying. It was recommended that we stopped in to a few of the other breweries, so looks like we will need to come back. Harrisonburg definitely left a lasting beer impression on us though, and we are looking forward to another visit.

Escutcheon Brewing Co
142 W Commercial Street
Winchester, VA 22601
540.773.3042
http://www.escutcheonbrewing.com/

Backroom Brewery
150 Ridgemont Road
Middletown, VA 22645
540.869.8482
http://www.backroombreweryva.com/

Lost River Brewing Co
155 W Main Street
Wardensville, WV 26757
304.874.4455
http://www.lostriverbrewing.com/

Three Notch’d Brewing Co
241 East Market Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
540.217.5939
http://www.threenotchdbrewing.com/

Pale Fire Brewing Co
217 S Liberty Street
Suite 205
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
540.217.5452
http://www.palefirebrewing.com/

Capital Ale House
41 Court Square
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
540.564.2537
http://www.capitalalehouse.com/

Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint
80 S Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
540.433.5225
http://www.jackbrownsjoint.com/

Hike | Cactoctin Mountain Park & Cunningham Falls

Hike | Cactoctin Mountain Park & Cunningham Falls

Jan 1, 2016

Since our little guy was born, I’ve been wanting to do more hiking. We love hiking, and can’t wait to take him along. At his current age though, it’s been a bit tougher than we thought. We did purchase a carrier for him, which I’ll have to share sometime, but doing a serious day hike with 40 or more pounds on my back can be a bit much. So while he was with his grandparents for New Years, we decided to go out for a hike. New Year’s day, we headed up to Catoctin Mountain National Park. We have been here a few times before, but never hiked the Cunningham Falls trail. As seems with most places, the state park adjacent supposedly is better, but we haven’t been able to tell a difference.

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Catoctin Mountain – National Park Visitor Center

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Parking lot and Cunningham Falls Trailhead.

It was chili, and we got a bit of a late start. Arriving at the parking lot, a lot of other people were heading in from the trails and we were losing sun light quick. The visitor center was closed, no surprise being a holiday. On the right side of the visitor center, at the end of the parking lot is access to a couple of trails that take you to Wolf & Chimney Rocks and Thurmont Vista. To the left of the center is another parking lot and the trail head to the Falls. So we started on our way. It’s a decent little hike, the trail guide calls it moderate, it’s under 3 miles with a few ascents and descents, though nothing real steep. Some of the other trails definitely have a steeper ascent. We didn’t run into a lot of other hikers, though I’m sure the weather and timing had more to do with it. The Falls Trail is the most popular trail at the park, which is understandable due to it’s length and difficulty.

DCIM100GOPRO

Posing in front of the falls.

After hiking for a bit, you come upon an intersection which leads to Hog Rock. With sunlight fading fast, and the chill setting in, we decided to skip this today and continue onto the falls. After crossing a street and entering the Maryland State Park, you pass by another parking lot and walk on a raised wooden walkway to a view point of the falls. These falls are the largest cascading falls in Maryland, stretching about 78 feet. After a quick drink, the cold and setting sun kept our time at the falls short, and we decided to return back.

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Heading back – rock outcroppings

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Heading back – rock outcroppings

We were able to catch some nice views of the waning sunlight on the rock outcroppings on our return trip. The trail was now pretty empty. We reached the parking light with some light left and loaded up in the 4Runner with the heat blasting. Was nice to get out into the woods again. I wasn’t able to take a good picture of the map, and with the visitor center closed I couldn’t pick up a new one either. Below is one I snatched from the NPS online.

Catoctin Mountain National Park Map-sm

 

Catoctin Mountain – Cunningham Falls Trail

http://www.nps.gov/cato/planyourvisit/index.htm