Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another "Tap Room" Favorite

After another hearty day of exploring we again found ourselves in a fine "craft beer" establishment. The Bozeman Brewing Company or "Bozone" did not fail in quenching our thirsts and providing a nice "all things beer" atmosphere. This fine factory of foamy goodness is located very near the downtown area and its many restaurants. I’ll cover the “food proximity” issue a bit later.

I tend to lean towards the heavy and hop laden IPA's, Pale's, and Cream Stouts while the Mrs. makes no doubt that clean, crisp, and "easy on the finish" are her preferred choices. An unfiltered Hefeweizen, Imperial Stout, or Double IPA under her nose will usually generate a prompt and lively critique that would send a well intentioned monk stumbling for cover! Better make that a Lager, Pilsner, or Brown Ale!

Luckily, Bozone has enough standard and seasonals to satisfy any taste. She has her Schwarze Blackmore Lager and I have Hopfest and Plum Street Porter. Bozone Select (Amber), German Blonde, and Java Stout are noteworthy as well.

As with all Montana brewery “tap rooms”, some quirky laws prevail. Each guest can have no more than 3 pints per visit. They fall under highly regulated hours (closing at 8pm each night). Food is not served on site (proximity to restaurants may be a bonus), and “growler refill” hours are strictly enforced. Some additional tid-bits of Montana beer laws are found here http://growlerfills.blogspot.com/2009/12/beer-laws-101-dude-wheres-my-pint.html

Growlers (1/2 gallon glass or river-friendly plastic jugs) are the best take-home value going. In fact, growlers can be refilled at other tap rooms as the brewers mutually support each others customers in a “co-op” type of agreement. This is kind of nice when seasonals change or one craft brewer runs out of your favorite. Fresh beer in a half gallon jug is always a welcome addition to any refrigerator!

Some things are always certain at a Montana tap room. The beer is always fresh,the crowd is always lively, and the talk is always of great beer. Cheers!

I will be posting "Yellowstone 2" soon.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yellowstone Part 1, January 2012

With a "free entry day" and unusual 30-40 degree temps in January, we couldn't resist making the short drive to Yellowstone. The only entrances open to autos are Gardiner (north entrance) and Cooke City (northeast entrance). This closure takes effect each year between mid November through late April because of heavy snowfall and low out-of-season tourism. All park roads south of Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt areas are closed as well. The park does however, remain open to snowmobile, ski, and foot traffic throughout the year.

The drive from Livingston to Gardiner follows the Yellowstone River through the Paradise Valley. The valley is flanked by the Absaroka Range on the East and Gallatin Range on the West. Both ranges provide an incredible backdrop in color, ruggedness, and wildlife as you work your way south to the park. The elk pictured above are grazing the foothills of the Absaroka Range. The Yellowstone River serves as a beautiful companion as it wanders throughout the valley providing fishing and habitat. Below is Emigrant Peak (10915 feet) as viewed from The Yellowstone River north of Chico Hot Springs.

Once through the small town of Gardiner, the North Entrance awaits. "For The Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People, Created By Act Of Congress March 1, 1872".

Our destination...backcountry hiking the Lamar Valley.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The College "M" Trail, January 2012

The “M” is an icon and landmark that can be seen from just about any point in Bozeman, Montana. Today my partners and I ran/hiked up and somewhat down the trail. I remember when I first moved to Bozeman I hiked up the far right trail (goes straight up) and stopped at several, and I mean several spots to the top as I struggled for oxygen in the thin air. The second time I decided to do the regular route and I still huffed and puffed walking up the trail. Now almost 6 months into my life in Bozeman and I am running the entire trail, still huffing and puffing, but loving it.

The famous “M” has been around since 1915 when MSU (Montana State University) students created the 250 ft. behemoth on the southern slopes of Mount Baldy. Located just north of Bozeman in the Bridger Mountains, it is a dominant feature of the entire Gallatin Valley and is easily seen by travelers on I-90. The vertical elevation from trail head to the top of the M is approximately 850 ft. The elevation at the M is approximately 5,800 ft. Elevation at the trail head is approx 4,950 ft. The “M” is still being cared for each year by current MSU students. The picture below was taken next to the left leg of the "M" and is looking south over Bozeman to the Gallatin and Madison Mountain Ranges.

The spectacular views of Bozeman, The Spanish Peaks, The Gallatin Range, and Tobacco Root Mountains are well worth the effort. If you are new to the area I would suggest you start off on the basic route which is the trail to the left from the trail head. From there, simply follow the markers as you proceed. Once at the top you can relax on one of the benches provided and enjoy the view. If doing this hike in the winter, dress in layers, take water, and depending when you go you may need Yak-traks due to the ice and snow on the trail.

This trail also provides the southern “jump off” for the 30 mile (plus) ridge traverse of the Bridger Mountains. The trails are extensive and provide many back country opportunities as well as access to the 9500 ft peaks in the range such as Ross, Hardscrabble, Saddle, Naya Nuki, and Sacajawea. The parking area may be nearly full, but this does not mean the trail or the “M” will be crowded as many are through-hikers and back country peak-baggers.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Long Run and Motivating Views

At 44 degrees and an endless blue bird sky, it is hard to believe it is January in Montana! Aside from the occasional slush pile on the sidewalk, conditions were perfect for a fun run about town. Clad in shorts and a long sleeve shirt, the low humidity even allowed me to leave the hat behind.

Of course it is impossible to get out the door without the ever-present "Jog Dog". She knows the shorts and the shoes and when put together it's 3 barks and a tail wag that has no respect for any small objects in the vicinity. With my arm barely remaining in the socket, out the door we went. We cruised the sidewalks into town for a few miles and met plenty of others enjoying the conditions both on foot and wheels.

Huff, huff, huff, smile. Huff, huff, huff, smile. Over my left shoulder is the Bridger Mountains with Ross and Sacajawea peaks shining a brilliant yellow and white against the blue background. My right shoulder is graced with the Spanish Peaks dressed in their full white peaks and incredible shadows. Hyalite Peak is the beacon to my front and it leads me forward. It is very easy to turn a long run into a very long run with these views. Thankfully, an occasional intersection jolts me back to my senses and reminds me of my time and distance.

I cannot recall the last time I said to myself "I wish I had NOT run today". "Jog Dog" agrees.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A fine ale to finish a great day...

After a great day in the mountains exploring and experiencing, a trip to the Madison River Brewing Company "tap room" is the perfect finale. I can't think of one I do not like, but the two pictured are Hopfest (double IPA) on the left and Salmon Fly Honey Rye (wifey's favorite) on the right.

One of the owners was kind enough to provide the backdrop for the photo. It is a "Salmon Rye" skirt. I imagine we will see quite a few of these on the Madison come summer!

The folks at Madison River Brewing are a class act in hand crafted brew and make the 15 minute drive to Belgrade a no-brainer.