Faria Beach, Solvang and the Firestone Walker Brewery

 
_CFO7347_DxO.jpg
The view from beautiful site 7 at Faria Beach County Park.

The view from beautiful site 7 at Faria Beach County Park.

The moon is setting as the sun is rising. A truly magical moment to wake up to (seen from bed and photo taken without even exiting the bus).

The moon is setting as the sun is rising. A truly magical moment to wake up to (seen from bed and photo taken without even exiting the bus).

_CFO7390_DxO.jpg
Faria Beach

Faria Beach

When the locals walk the beach in their puffy coats and surf in their 6 mm wetsuit, Yukon kids be like:

When the locals walk the beach in their puffy coats and surf in their 6 mm wetsuit, Yukon kids be like:

This big guy made it to the beach! What no celebratory burger for me?

This big guy made it to the beach! What no celebratory burger for me?

Cheers!

Cheers!

_CFO7307_DxO.jpg
_CFO7331_DxO.jpg
Watching the sun set over the ocean from home.

Watching the sun set over the ocean from home.

There are many places to camp along the Pacific Coast Highway. Most are overpriced, crowded and noisy. This one is no exception, but if you are lucky enough to reserve site 7, you have a little slice of paradise to yourself (for $36, no services). Be advised that it requires some maneuvering to back into the site (to have your door facing the ocean), especially if the nearby sites are occupied, but it is well worth it. Dogs are allowed to be off leash on the beach.

 
I expected Solvang, the self-proclaimed Danish capital of the USA, to be pretty kitsch, but honestly, old-world Danish architecture and Danish pastries (try the folded crêpe at Mortensen’s) make up for the cheap looking souvenir boutiques and 3 (yes, 3!) windmills.

I expected Solvang, the self-proclaimed Danish capital of the USA, to be pretty kitsch, but honestly, old-world Danish architecture and Danish pastries (try the folded crêpe at Mortensen’s) make up for the cheap looking souvenir boutiques and 3 (yes, 3!) windmills.

 
We were there on a Tuesday and were impressed by their small but good and affordable Farmer's market. It made this cute little town even more likeable. Our favorite store was the old bookshop where they have the Hans Christian Anderson Museum.

We were there on a Tuesday and were impressed by their small but good and affordable Farmer's market. It made this cute little town even more likeable. Our favorite store was the old bookshop where they have the Hans Christian Anderson Museum.

B4ACE967-F02C-4B02-849A-F5E853565D63.jpeg
 
 
After an afternoon touring Solvang, go have dinner and beer in the next town over, Buellton, home to the famous  Firestone Walker Brewery . They specialize in sour beers and have delicious food on offer (the fig and pig pizza with an arugula extra, and their fried chicken sandwich with sriracha aioli and jalapeno slaw + homemade fries were truly amazing).

After an afternoon touring Solvang, go have dinner and beer in the next town over, Buellton, home to the famous Firestone Walker Brewery. They specialize in sour beers and have delicious food on offer (the fig and pig pizza with an arugula extra, and their fried chicken sandwich with sriracha aioli and jalapeno slaw + homemade fries were truly amazing).

 
 
As for beer, I really loved their Capt Franc, a beer-wine hybrid at 9.8% produced with Cabernet Franc grapes from the area and aged for 12 months in French Oak with 12 different atypical yeasts. Plenty of barnyard funk with a gueze-like quality. I also really wanted to try their Krieky Bones, but they were out.

As for beer, I really loved their Capt Franc, a beer-wine hybrid at 9.8% produced with Cabernet Franc grapes from the area and aged for 12 months in French Oak with 12 different atypical yeasts. Plenty of barnyard funk with a gueze-like quality. I also really wanted to try their Krieky Bones, but they were out.

The Mammoth Lakes area

_CFO8364_DxO.jpg
Mulled wine is perfect for cold nights by the fire.

Mulled wine is perfect for cold nights by the fire.

One morning, we woke up to snow!

One morning, we woke up to snow!

Beautiful frost everywhere.

Beautiful frost everywhere.

Rock tub hot springs.

Rock tub hot springs.

Rock Tub hot springs.

Rock Tub hot springs.

_CFO8407_DxO.jpg
_CFO8410_DxO.jpg
Hot Creek is NOT a hot spring for swimming. See below.

Hot Creek is NOT a hot spring for swimming. See below.

We rode many times at Mammoth Mountain even if the bike park was officially closed for the season (no lifts), the trails remained open. It is at 9,000 feet in altitude and it was pretty cold. That's the day it was 3 degrees C (35 F). We ended our day at the Mammoth Brewery. Delicious beer and food. Don't miss it if you are in the area.

We rode many times at Mammoth Mountain even if the bike park was officially closed for the season (no lifts), the trails remained open. It is at 9,000 feet in altitude and it was pretty cold. That's the day it was 3 degrees C (35 F). We ended our day at the Mammoth Brewery. Delicious beer and food. Don't miss it if you are in the area.

mm.jpg
Devil's Postpile National Monument.

Devil's Postpile National Monument.

Devil's Postpile seen from above (left) and another cool basalt columns formation from the area on the right.

Devil's Postpile seen from above (left) and another cool basalt columns formation from the area on the right.

Exploring Obsidian Dome.

Exploring Obsidian Dome.

Full moon rise over our camp.

Full moon rise over our camp.

Rock climbing at Owens River Gorge.

Rock climbing at Owens River Gorge.

The class 3 scramble approach to get to the crag at Owen River Gorge was quite something with big packs and a big dog!

The class 3 scramble approach to get to the crag at Owen River Gorge was quite something with big packs and a big dog!

Our free campsite at Shepard's hot springs.

Our free campsite at Shepard's hot springs.

You can see the bus in the distance.

You can see the bus in the distance.

Perfect way to start the day.

Perfect way to start the day.

Or to end it.

Or to end it.

The Crab Cooker was our favorite of the 3 hot springs we visited. It was also the cleanest (it looked like it had just been emptied and scrubbed). It was only a 5 minute walk from  our camping spot at Shepard's Hot Spring . And yes, all this is on BLM land (and free!).

The Crab Cooker was our favorite of the 3 hot springs we visited. It was also the cleanest (it looked like it had just been emptied and scrubbed). It was only a 5 minute walk from our camping spot at Shepard's Hot Spring. And yes, all this is on BLM land (and free!).

Walking back to camp from the Crab Cooker tub.

Walking back to camp from the Crab Cooker tub.

One of the things your learn after many years on the road is that if you find a gem of a secret spot to camp in, you don't share it on social medias or camping sites/apps. Another thing that you learn is that if there is a long weekend coming, you stay put. Even if you would really like to go climbing at Owens River Gorge and take advantage of that long weekend yourself (because no, we do not make our work schedule and have full days off only on weekends). On long weekends, you stay around camp and explore less popular spots. For your own sanity.

There is a lot to do in the Mammoth Lakes ares. There is an awesome bike resort with lots of amazing trails. Mammoth Mountain closes mid-September, but the trails remain open for riders to enjoy. At 9,000 feet of altitude, it can get cold at this time of year. We went riding in 3 degree C weather (that's 35 F). There is also a great brewery (Mammoth Brewery), perfect for an after-ride brew and delicious meal.

There are also many hot springs in the areas, the most popular being Hilltop (aka Pulkey's) and Wild Willy's. These are often full of people. The thing is, most of the springs are bathtub size and can sit 4 to 5 persons at most (Wild Willy being the exception, there are a few pools there that can accommodate more people), so if you get there and they are full, the courtesy is to leave (not wait there or worst, try to squeeze in). Many of these are clothing optional too.

We really liked Rock Tub since it is right by the little parking area and you don't have to hike to find out if it's full or not. The first time we tried to go to the hot springs, on a very cold night after our bike ride, we found it full, so we turned around, checked out Hilltop and Wild Willy's which were also full... It's the reality of it... It's high season here and there are not secret spots anymore. So we came back the next day in the afternoon and lucked out as the man bathing there was just done. During the hour we were there, 3 or 4 cars drove in, saw that the tub was busy and turned around. The water gets pretty dirty from all the people (even if there is a constant flow in and out. There is a plug at the bottom, so you can empty the tub and let it fill back up. You can also bring a brush to scrub the slippery algea that covers the bottom if you want. Obviously, don't use any soap in the tubs!

We also explored Shepard's Tub and the Crab Cooker, that are *a bit* less busy. We ended up camping there for 2 nights and enjoying Shepard's Tub and the Crab Cooker morning and night. It was heavenly after a day of climbing! If you decide to go camp near a hot spring, remember that this is a public place and do not hug the tub (or park very near it). People will likely come and go every hour or so (and at every hour of the night on weekends!), so be warned.

Hot Creek used to be a hot spring in the 60's and 70's. We met a man at Shepard's who used to be a guide and would bring tourists there. He said there was a huge pool where there was always 50 to 60 people. It has been closed for 15-20 years because too many deaths happen there. He told us that most deaths were caused by people trying to rescue their dogs who had fallen in the blue pools of death (the beautiful Icelandic blue pool in the picture above) which is and has always been scalding hot. It is nonetheless a geological wonder where the cold water from the glacier meet the bubbling water from the underground volcanic activity. The ground is unstable in the area because of fumaroles and occasional geyser action also.

Devils Postpile (a National Monument) is an unusual rock formation of 60 feet high basalt columns. It looks like a tidy lumber pile created by OCD giants. They were formed when lava erupted in the valley nearly 100,000 years ago and filled the area to a depth of 400 feet. Then, glaciers overrode the fractured mass of lava. As you can see on the pictures taken from the top, the glaciers cut the hexagonal basalt towers, leaving behind something that looks like a tile floor. The John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail merge into one trail as they pass through the monument.

Obsidian Dome is not your typical cone-shaped dome, but more like a big pile of shiny black rock. It is indeed volcanic glass that was formed by an explosion (a Phreatic Blast) when magma reached the water table, turned the water to steam, cooled and then turned to rock. There is not much else to do there than to simply scramble up and look at the beautiful obsidian formations (be careful, it is slippery). Obsidian is the sharpest natural material known to man, obsidian rocks have played a significant role in the evolution of homo-sapiens' tool-making ability. During the Stone-Age and beyond, obsidian rocks have played a major part as primary cutting tools in many cultures.

2017 Northern Migration - The USA Part

Trying to find  Deer Butte Hot Springs , OR.

Trying to find Deer Butte Hot Springs, OR.

Found it. Don't go looking for it... it has become a foot bath.

Found it. Don't go looking for it... it has become a foot bath.

The water was unusually high this spring and the rock wall that allows to control how much cold water you let in from the river was nowhere to be seen. It was the weirdest experience since the burning hot water from the hot spring was floating on top of the freezing cold water from the river. So our thighs were burning while our feet were freezing. We had to keep stirring the water non stop to make it bearable... not the most relaxing experience!

The water was unusually high this spring and the rock wall that allows to control how much cold water you let in from the river was nowhere to be seen. It was the weirdest experience since the burning hot water from the hot spring was floating on top of the freezing cold water from the river. So our thighs were burning while our feet were freezing. We had to keep stirring the water non stop to make it bearable... not the most relaxing experience!

The smell from the Juniper trees at  Skull Hollow Campground  (Oregon) was amazing. It was the perfect place to camp to enjoy Smith Rock State Park.

The smell from the Juniper trees at Skull Hollow Campground (Oregon) was amazing. It was the perfect place to camp to enjoy Smith Rock State Park.

upload.jpg
Smith Rock SP totally blew our mind. We were taken aback by how thoughtful and well managed the place is. Twenty years ago, it was pretty much only visited by climbers, in fact the bridge didn’t exist and you had to do a tyrolean across the Crooked River (prior to that you could drive and camp beneath The Monument.) The trail system is great, sustainable and enviro and people friendly. The climbing scene and vibe is great and everyone, climbers and non-climbers, is very friendly. On the left, Mathilde climbing 5 gallon buckets, one of the most popular 5.8s in the park.

Smith Rock SP totally blew our mind. We were taken aback by how thoughtful and well managed the place is. Twenty years ago, it was pretty much only visited by climbers, in fact the bridge didn’t exist and you had to do a tyrolean across the Crooked River (prior to that you could drive and camp beneath The Monument.) The trail system is great, sustainable and enviro and people friendly. The climbing scene and vibe is great and everyone, climbers and non-climbers, is very friendly. On the left, Mathilde climbing 5 gallon buckets, one of the most popular 5.8s in the park.

Our beautiful camping spot at Frenchman Coulee, Vantage, WA. These are climbing towers you see at the back. They are called The Feathers (or the French Fries). I could see people climbing from my bed! In a few hours, we climbed 6 routes in this sector and another one on Agathla Tower.

Our beautiful camping spot at Frenchman Coulee, Vantage, WA. These are climbing towers you see at the back. They are called The Feathers (or the French Fries). I could see people climbing from my bed! In a few hours, we climbed 6 routes in this sector and another one on Agathla Tower.

Aisha belaying JF. These girls are getting strong!

Aisha belaying JF. These girls are getting strong!

Mathilde climbing House of Cards, 5.8, on Agathla Tower.

Mathilde climbing House of Cards, 5.8, on Agathla Tower.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot, or the Okanagan sunflower. It's everywhere in the Spring.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot, or the Okanagan sunflower. It's everywhere in the Spring.

When we left Maple Canyon, we quickly worked our way up towards Bend, Oregon, to spend a few days with our friends. We had such a good time, that I didn't take a single picture! We went mountain biking at Phil's trailhead and ended up hiking a part of it in ankle deep snow (tourists!) and shared great meals and drinks! Bend has the most incredible selection of beers and I tasted one of my favorite IPA (RPM from Boneyard Brewery, on tap only). It took me a few years to really enjoy an IPA. For a while I called it skunk pee beer, but I now truly enjoy many IPAs.

I remember my dad telling me that there are some food that you need to taste 10 times before you start appreciating them, as he proceeded to give me a slice of baguette with a tiny piece of Roquefort. There was also brain, frog legs, sweetbread (ris de veau sounds much tamer in French), mussels... and the yearly lobster feast where everybody exclaimed when they cracked open the lobster and found that green stuff that they ate with great delight.

Let’s be honest here, none of this is a love-at-first-sight food, but they do grow on you – some of them at least - to the point that you’ll pay quite a bit of money for it. Think caviar. I’ll always remember the first time I tried black caviar (brought directly from Russia by a client of my family when I lived in Italy)... or when I had risotto al nero di sepia (Italian rice cooked in squid ink... and yes, it’s black).

So what makes a delicacy a delicacy? Is it simply that you have tasted/eaten it enough time with people you loved and that appreciated it that you end up loving it too? Is my brain reminiscing all the joyful dinners with interesting adult conversations that I was allowed to participate in when I was a young teenager and when I could have a little sip of delicious port with the blue cheese? Does my mind remember the pleasure my grandpa had in sucking the lobsters’s little legs that people had left in a pile in the middle of the table covered in newspaper? Do all these memories collide in that one first bite? What do you think?

Tour of the Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR

We got to taste some different types of malted barley and smell hops (the smell is amazing!).

The Brewery was voted best place to work by Outside Magazine in 2014! I can see why! They even have chef on the premise that prepares you whatever you want at any time of the day... Oh! And free beer too!! 

The Black Butte Porter is their flagship beer and it is pretty darn tasty!

There are MANY breweries in Bend, but the Deschutes Brewery is the old school patriarch. The original brewery and pub that was opened in 1988 by Gary Fish is still located on Bond Street in downtown Bend. The brewing facility on Bend's West side produces close to 200 000 barrels of beer per year, which makes Deschutes Oregon's number one craft brewer. Their beer is distributed in 28 states and 2 Canadian provinces (BC and Alberta). 

The tour was very interesting (and free! Make sure to reserve online) and includes 4 sample of beer. The children are welcomed and are even served homemade ginger ale and root beer! We particularly liked the Chainbreaker White IPA, the River Ale, the Chasin' Freshies Fresh Hop IPA (seasonal), the Hop Pale Ale and the Black Butte Porter. We heard the Obsidian Stout was great, but it was not available that day. I love that they use local hops, wheat and barley, and that they have a whole network of local farmers that come pick up the leftover soaked grains to give to their cows, and that they give some of the cows' meat in exchange to the Deschutes pub for the burgers (they also turn some of that used grain into veggie burgers for the pub as well!). They compost everything else and use crushed old glass to make new bottles. 

A day in Bend, Oregon

We sampled 10 of their beers and really liked the Pray for Snow, the Swill, the Big Daddy Fresh and the Apocalypse IPA.

Read their story. I love it. It is so Bend!! Big powder day? The "Gone Skiing" sign goes up. Too hot to work? Mandatory company float (down the Deschutes River). 

This is truly all you need.

A bookshop café? Yes please!

A dressed-up cyclocross race.

We had been wanting to visit Bend for many years already. We knew it was a cool laid-back Pacific Northwest town with great mountain biking and breweries, but that was about it. 

Bend is only just a few miles away from some of the best mountain biking trails, hiking trails and ski resorts in Oregon. Outdoor enthusiasts flock from far and wide for parks like Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint, skiers and mountain bikers to Mount Bachelor, and rock climbers to Smith Rock State Park.

I have no clue how 10 brewpubs and three breweries (with more set to open soon) stay in business in a city of 80,000 persons. There are even cycle pubs for a very entertaining way of seeing Bend’s breweries. 

For a city of its size, Bend has a remarkable array of good restaurants. And Dog Fancy magazine called Bend the most dog-friendly city in the country. It’s hard to say what the city doesn’t do perfectly.

For many who move there, the point is to step out of the rat race, slow down and enjoy the finer things in life.

So yeah. Bend is the place.