Rocky Mountain High

Some of my trips are so short and action packed, I feel like I am in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show The Layover.  Trips like these make it especially challenging to fit in a geocache or two in new territory.  Luckily for me, my longtime friend, TM, has become an avid geocacher in her own right and always puts aside time for us to find at least one together when I am in town. So when I paid a visit to Lyons, CO one beautiful weekend in July, we managed to squeeze one in on the way back to the airport.

Upon my arrival late Friday evening, TM and her son little SB welcomed me with bright smiles at the Denver airport and whisked me away to their new home in a picturesque little town some call the “Double Gateway to the Rockies” because it happens to be en route to Rocky Mountain National Park. I had come for a Cuban-style pig roast in honor of her husband’s faux half birthday. 

The first morning, I opted to stop for breakfast on our way to the festivities instead of looking for a geocache.  Dining on the front porch of The Stone Cup Cafe was quite a treat because weekend breakfasts are my favorite meals. The altitude (5,371 feet elev.) must have given me a Rocky Mountain High because I went rogue and ordered biscuits and gravy, something I may have ordered one other time in my life.  I was rewarded for going outside the box because the dish was outstanding!  So if you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, stop by this popular cafe before hitting the park.

After we finished our hearty breakfasts, it was time to head to the main event.  The party was in a backyard large enough to hold over one hundred people spread out on blankets and lawn chairs, a cylinder block raised platform to dress the pig, another one to roast the pig, a badminton court, corn hole toss and so on and so on… and lest I forget, the live band playing Cuban music.  Coming from an urban jungle, I could barely wrap my head around so much sky and abundant open space.  

After 8 hours of slow cooking, the pig was finally done.  As expected, the meat was succulent, but the piece de resistance for me was the fresh crackling!  Man, that was the bomb and definitely worth getting sun burned for!

The next (and last) morning came so quickly, I couldn’t believe it was already time for me to start packing up before we headed to Lyons Fork for brunch.  The restaurant with quirky decor has historic landmark status because the building dates to the late 1800’s when it had housed a saloon. I believe it is a must to try regional foods (unless it involves rabbit) so I ordered trout for breakfast.  When in Rome, right?  The fish was as tasty as it was pretty.

There’s no way I could leave without doing a little shopping, so TM took me to Red Canyon Art on Main Street.  This store offers a wide variety of work by Colorado artists and is a great place to pick up souvenirs and gifts.  I ended up walking away with a bag of goodies that included a pair of earrings,  several gorgeous greeting cards, and hand made soap.

As I was really excited when TM had pointed out the small distillery on our way into Lyons, TM had put Spirit Hound Distillers on the itinerary for my last day. It was serendipitous that there happened to be a geocache standing between me and my whisky (literally and figuratively) so I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. GC177ZX, aptly named Bridge Over Troubled Water, offers a close up glimpse of the infamous river that flooded and destroyed parts of town in 2013.

img_6061Now that was out of the way, I could wet my whistle without regret.  TM and I had sidled in at precisely the right moment to catch a tour of the tiny facility led by none other than the Master Distiller himself, Craig Engelhorn.  Craig told us of the distillery’s humble beginnings and more interestingly, how he had either made or customized much of the distilling equipment himself.  The best part was that TM was able to ask the Master directly what he would recommend for a camping trip to go with grilled meat and cigars (wish I could have crashed that party!) at which point we were introduced to the magic of Barrel 25. 

We were so impressed by the time the tour was over, we decided to sample two flights! One flight was all whiskey, bottled and named by barrel of origin, hence Barrel 25, our ultimate favorite.  That was a very informative exercise because it demonstrated the variances in flavor from barrel to barrel even when the same production method and ingredients are used. We tasted Spirit Hound’s other offerings in the second flight, which included rum and gin. I was incredulous that I fell in love with the anise based Sambuca to the point of actually bringing a bottle back with me.  Needless to say, my suitcase was several pounds heavier for my trip home and the three bottles I ended up with made it safe and sound.  

TM, if you are reading this, thank you for opening your home to me and always making my visits special!  I enjoyed every minute of my 45+ hours with you and your family and can’t wait to come back. 

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