Day 6: Bend to Baker City

Another no-beer day, but this one was somewhat needed to average out the Bend Beer Extravaganza, during which we visited 5 microbreweries and one distillery in 10 hours.

We got an early start from Bend, and headed up to Mitchell to visit Julie, a scientist working in the area, and see the Painted Hills unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Mitchell is a cute little town, and is one of those places where everyone knows each other (watch out for the cop, he sits at the bottom of the hill heading into town, since his wife works at the espresso stand.)

We also passed by a man on a double decker bike. Definitely one of the stranger things we saw. Keep in mind that this is on the road halfway to nowhere – and it was HOT out. We didn’t get the best picture, but it’s here anyway, since you have to see it to believe it.

The painted hills were neat to see, but it was upwards of 30 degrees out, so we didn’t stay outside for too long. Julie showed us around to the Painted Hills Overlook and the Painted Cove Trail, both definitely worth seeing. The latter has a handful of interpretive signs about how the hills were formed and where the colours are from. There are some longer trails one can take, but we had a schedule to keep, so we wished Julie the best in her research and headed out to the Malheur National Forest to find another yellow cypress population.


The grove is decently signed. Head south on Forest Service Road 21. After ~9 miles (after passing a horse camp on the right), take a right on Forest Service Road 2150 (the sign will say Cedar Grove xxxx 203A –>). Follow this dirt road for around 6 miles, though the private property, until the trailhead. It’s about a 25 minute hike each way, and decends quite a bit on the north face of the mountain.

The cypress population was heavily hit by a forest fire a few years ago, but it looks like there is a lot of natural regeneration. Details are in a separate post, and more photographs are available here.

We camped the night on Phillips Lake, just west of Baker City at Union Creek Campground. It’s a really nice campsite, with separate areas for tents, RVs, RVs with hookups, etc. Also, proper bathrooms!

Day 5: Sparks Lake and the Bend Beer Extravaganza – Part 2

After checking into the Rainbow Motel (which we definitely recommend), we embarked on the Bend Beer Extravaganza. First stop: Cascade Lakes.

Cascade Lakes Brewing Company is situated out of town, and caters more to the ski crowd than to locals. That being said, the beer was plentiful and the people were friendly. We sat out on the patio and had a large sampler tray – Blonde Bomb Shell, Rooster Tail Ale, Pine Martin Pale Ale, 20″ Brown Ale, IPA, Cyclops IPA… The IPAs weren’t anything to write home about, but the Tail Ale was full-bodied with a nice, light hoppiness. The Brown Ale and Pale Ale were also well balanced and light but tasty.

Something to write home about: 6-7 oz tasters for $7! Perhaps not the best way to start out your day, but good nonetheless.

Another plus- as we were leaving, we headed up to the bar and saw that there were two beers we missed – a nitro and a wheat beer, and the bartender let us sample them on the house. The weiss was really unique, with hints of banana.

Next up was Old Mill Brew Werks. It has a bit of an odd location, but the bartender was great and there was definitely a consistent crowd for 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Regardless of anything else, though, their beer was excellent.

The Irreverence IPA (7.2% and 74 IBU) was very balanced and smooth, and had a beautiful floral bouquet. The Paranoia Pale Ale (5.6% and 37 IBU) was also exceptional (and a lovely hoppiness, considering the low IBUs). The other beers (Alt, Kolsch) certainly didn’t dissapoint either, and the locals there were very friendly in helping us plan out the rest of our day – namely, which breweries were worth seeing, and which to take a pass on.

Given the advice from Old Mill, we took a drive up to the town of Sisters to visit Three Creeks Brewing Company. This is another place that clearly caters to the after ski crowd. Their Stonefly Rye was nice, as was their Prospector Pale Ale. Their Fire Pine Chocolate Porter also had a smooth chocolate flavour that blended well with the beer, which we’ve often found is lacking. Pass on the food- it was pricey and nothing special.

More notable about our drive up to Sisters was Bendistillery. We happened to pass a delivery van of theirs while heading north, so we (of course!) had to stop by on our way back into Bend. They make vodka and gin, and also do a pepper infused vodka and a hazelnut espresso vodka. If you stop in, they also have tastings of various infusions. All the juniper berries for their gin are grown on-site, and they’re working on producing their own grain as well. Their Diamond 100 Vodka was incredibly smooth, and definitely worth trying if you come across some. We each enjoyed a lovely cocktail, specially crafted to highlight their spirits. Definitely a great place to visit!

After dropping the car off at the motel (well overdue, at this point), we walked over to Boneyard Beer. They’re an awesome little brewery that operates out of a warehouse, and started up by purchasing old equipment from other breweries- hence the name “Boneyard”. We kept hearing great things about them, but, alas, they had run out of beer.

It was then onto 10 Barrel Brewing Co. The place was packed for dinner, but we managed to snag seats in the bar area despite the long line for restaurant seating. Their beer wasn’t quite up there with Brew Werks, but what they lacked there was made up for in ambience. It was a great place to hang out at for a while, relax, and enjoy a nice meal. Their IPA was decent, as was the Black Ale, which was a nice alternative to a porter.

We then wandered over, rather roundaboutly, to Bend Brewing Company. Their Hophead IPA was good, but 9% ABV. We recommend no more than three breweries per day, as after that all beer is the same.

Day 5: Sparks Lake and the Bend Beer Extravaganza – Part 1

For those of you that don’t know, Sparks Lake was made famous for its photographic opporunities by Ray Atkeson, back in the mid-1900s. At dawn, the lake provides a serene reflection of Mount Bachelor and Tumalo Mountain. The trail is somewhat difficult to find: people consistently visited our campsite at Soda Creek, trying to find the recreation area.

Turn off Hwy 372 at the Sparks Lake Recreation Area sign. It’s just east of the Green Lake trailhead. Immediately after turning off the highway, veer left (right goes into the campsite – we directed a lot of cars back to the split from our campsite). It’s a bit of a washboarded up dirt road for 2 miles into the parking area (there are camping opportunities for free along the road, but they were all free when we went by). It’s (at most) a 0.23 mile walk to some nice views, but if you’re going there to take photos, I recommend visiting in advance to scout out the best spots. I left the campsite, right by the highway, 40 minutes before sunrise, and was there in plenty of time.

After that, it was back to the campsite for breakfast (“we have to do something with all these eggs before they get squished…”) and on to Bend!

Day 4: Happy Camp to Sparks Lake

Just a bit of travelling… we started off the day bright and early from Happy Camp so we could make it to Sparks Lake at a decent time of day.

All throughout Happy Camp and environs there are signs proclaiming “No Monument” – nearly every property has at least one. We were puzzled until we had a chance to look it up. It turns out that there is a push from KS Wild to turn a large portion of land (of which Happy Camp is surrounded by) into the Siskiyou Crest National Monument. The people of Happy Camp claim that this will ruin their livelihoods, as so many of them rely on the national forest for both subsistence hunting and fishing and recreation. We won’t take sides!

Finally bought a new power adapter, so the camera batteries will be charged up.

We stopped at a cute diner called Patty’s Kitchen in Gold Hill for breakfast (definitely recommended if you’re passing through).

After that, it was onward to the Soda Creek Campground at Sparks Lake. We had a bunch of time to relax before dark, so Heather scouted out the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail to find the best places to take photographs at sunrise (more on that tomorrow), and we relaxed for the evening.

Day 3: Yellow Cypress Hunting

Hiking to Elk Hole

We got up bright and early to head 30 miles up the GO Road toward Elk Hole. Elk Hole plays host to the most southern yellow cypress ( Callitropsis nootkatensis ) population.


Just before mile 29, take a left on a dirt road (well-maintained and easily traversable without 4wd. high clearance helps, though.) Continue for around 2 miles, until the road turns into a 4wd track. There are some rudimentary campsites here (rock fire pits and benches) and a little creek. The trailhead is just slightly down the track. There’s a small, peeling sign for the Boundary Trail and Elk Hole, with an arrow pointing left.

The trail is about 7 miles long, round trip, but is very strenuous. It took us around six hours, which includes a long lunch break and tree inspection stop down in Elk Hole. There’s about a 1000 foot net elevation gain before the steep descent into Elk Hole, but it’s up and down quite a bit. We lost the trail in a few places, but always found it again. Keep an eye out for flagging tape and cairns. There are some spectacular views along the way (see the header for this blog!) and the wildflowers were in full bloom, making up for the desolate blackened ridge we trudged through later on.

We’d been told (perhaps some hearsay, here) that the trail (and other trails in the area) were no longer permitted to be maintained by the USDA Forest Service as they once were because of land rights and agreements with the local Native Americans. While there definitely is a trail, check conditions before hiking it if you don’t know the area, since blow-down or rockslides might obstruct the path.

Large fires swept through the area in 2008, but Elk Hole seems to be untouched and the yellow cypress tress are healthy. There are around five or six clonal clumps with 10-25 stems each. They’re right at the edge of the pond (Elk Hole). They had a light cone crop. Around the trees were alder, spruce, incense cedar and fir. The tallest yellow cypress was probably 35-40 feet in height.


The hike down to Elk Hole was covered in brush (mostly alder), so Andrew had the bright idea of leading us up through a vein of rock. A half-hour of scrambling, one near-decapitation with a falling boulder and a rather large number of expletives later, we ended up at the top of the ridge, albeit rather farther to the right than we’d intended. (Andrew’s in the picture to the left, doing some “trail breaking”)

Overall, the hike out was much faster than the hike in. On the way back, we chatted with a lady camping out at Flatiron Lake – she told us about the history of the GO Road. In the 80s, they were building a highway from Orleans to Gasquet. The Native Americans hold much of the land in the Klamath National Forest as sacred, including areas that the road would have given everyone access to. A group of people feverently protested the highway, and laid down on the road up to where they had built it – which, to this day, is as far as the road goes. The surrounding land ended up better protected, and the GO Road is a strangely wide, paved strip that weaves 30 miles into the Klamath National Forest before coming to an abrupt end.

In 2010, they painted “NO GO” at the end of the road – a good reminder of their success.

We spent the night up in Happy Camp at the Klamath River Resort (to get ourselves cleaned up after the long hike) drinking Bear Republic’s XP Pale Ale and Hop Rod Rye IPA and eating takeout pizza on a porch overlooking the Klamath River. Well-earned!

Day 2: Fort Bragg –> Orleans

First stop of the day was the Jug Handle State Reserve, which has a unique trail that ascends an ecological staircase through four distinct ecosystems – beach dunes, coastal conifer, redwood forest, and pigmy forest.

Although posted as 2.5 miles implying round trip, it was actually 2.5 miles each way (the signs are somewhat ambiguous). It took us about two hours, but we cut back along the road and bridge rather than backtrack along the trail that climbs all the way down to the river and back up again. A good way of killing time before a slightly more appropriate time of day for beer sampling.

The first brewery of the day was North Coast in Fort Bragg. They give large (4oz) samples, so we only tried four of their beers being before noon. The Belgium Farmhouse was interesting, starting off sharp but followed with a nice mellow finish, and slightly sweet. The ACME IPA was a bit light but had a nice hoppy finish. We also had a plate of delicious onion rings – if you ever go there, definitely order some. They’re coated in a beer batter that’s made with their pilsner. Delectable!







Next on our itinerary was to get reacquainted with the most southern western redcedar population. It’s way out past Rio Dell on Priece Creek Road. The scattered trees are mixed in with redwoods, Douglas-fir and Port Orford cedar, and are all vigorous and healthy.

We then backtracked a bit down to Fortuna, where we tasted some more beers at Eel River Brewing Company and bought green beans and tomatoes from a little roadside stand afterwards.


They had a Hazelnut Porter, which was well-balanced and light, unlike some of the other porters we’ve tried, which were somewhat syrupy and thick. We also tried their wheat beer, which is flavoured with Acai Berry. It definitely had the berry flavour and a little sweetness, but it was also light and refreshing. The last beer we tried (of course) was their IPA, which was light considering the high alcohol content. It had a nice hoppiness that was balanced by a little malt.

We then trucked on toward Blue River to the Mad River Brewing Company, but soon discovered that they were closed (it was a Sunday at 4:30pm). We managed to snag some bottles from a grocery store in Willow Creek to soften the disappointment.

From there, we drove up to Orleans for the night, and camped at the Pearch Creek Campground in the National Forest, just a mile or so past Orleans. Pearch Creek was a bit of a contrast from Wildwood Campground – we were the only ones there! We finished up the growler of Pliny and tasted three beers from the Mad River Brewing Company with dinner: a nice spiced black bean salad and the green beans, which we sautéed with tomato, onion, almonds and a handful of stale breadcrumbs.

The Mad River beers were nicely hopped, but not particularly well balanced, and nothing really stood out – we’d give them all a solid B. Their cooling ability, though, was greatly appreciated, since we’d all donned long clothing in a vain attempt to dissuade the mosquitoes from eating us alive. To top off the night, we popped open a nice bottle of red wine from Paso Robles and fiddled away on the mandolin in front of the campfire. Bon Soir!

Day 1: Los Altos -> Fort Bragg

Lagunitas, Russian River, Ridge, Bear Republic

Made it out by 10:30 am with everything crammed in the car, from an electric guitar and microphone stands to the two dozen Google t-shirts we’d manage to acquire. Left the noogler hat for Mouma, though!

The first official stop of the West Coast Drinking Expedition was Lagunitas in Petaluma. We selected 8 beers to try there.

There were four IPAs on tap with our favourite being Maximus which had a nice balance of malts and hops. The Belgian IPA took top marks as well with a typical citrusy bouquet/flavour. The one pale ale on tap was good as well, reminding us of Sierra Nevada. The pilsner was also quite good, and it resembled Czech-style pilsners.

They were having a little competition between the servers to see who could sell the most oysters, so of course we had to try a couple BBQ oysters (collected them straight from a big grill out back). All in all, Lagunitas had great ambiance and really friendly servers… definitely a fun place to kick things off (lots of young families there, too – it’s a good place to take kids.)

The next stop was Russian River in Santa Rosa. The city was pretty quiet, but Russian River was very packed; even at three in the afternoon we had to wait for a table and there were people standing a few layers deep at the bar. We tasted their 4 IPAs/Pale Ales, and then had a whole Belgian sampler.

Pliny the Elder took top marks, of course, but the other California-style beers were not as well received. The Belgian sours were surprisingly good – they were all aged in different wine-flavoured casks; the one aged in pinot noir was our favourite. Unfortunately, we had to move so we didn’t taste the cuisine but we did grab a growler of Pliny for the road. Achievement unlocked!

We made a quick jaunt up to Ridge for a bit of wine tasting to break up the day. Tried some great wines (4 zinfandels, yay!) and then went back down to Healdsburg to Bear Republic.

Bear Republic’s another great place – we took 14 samplers to the outside patio and tried them all under a grain silo. Again, the place was packed. The XP Pale Ale was great – refreshing with a balanced bitterness and maltiness. The HopRod Rye IPA was excellent, and was one of the better rye IPAs we’ve sampled – highly recommended.


The last stop of the day was a campsite – took a bit of time to find, since all the sites in the Jackson State Forest were full (a lot of the sites in Camp One were closed). Just west of the forest there’s a private campground called Wildwood… the residents definitely outnumber the campers (read: hillbilly RV/Tent site – some of the RVs looked like they hadn’t been road worthy in at least a decade), but there were some nice tent sites with fire rings down the back side. (There are a number of private campgrounds in Fort Bragg, just north or south on Hwy 1, for anyone passing through the area.)

As instructed by Russian River Brewing Company, we enjoyed the growler of Pliny with some spicy veggie burgers and salsa. We topped the night off with a pear tarte courtesy of Mouma, which I attempted to heat on the camp stove. Hint: this doesn’t work very well unless one pays attention.

day one complete!

Day 0: Packing and Pliny Hunting

Found Pliny @ the Artisan Wine Depot in Mountain View – they’d only sell us 4 bottles (not that they had many more!), but they also recommended another IPA from a brewery down near San Diego: Mogol. It was very similar, and they told us that it has a much larger production volume. Mogol and Pliny were very similar, though only Mouma preferred it to Pliny, though she’s partial to Pliny’s name (or maybe it just had something to do with the colour of her shirt matching the label?)

Made a tomato basil pizza for dinner, and topped it with a rough approximation of this fennel/arugula/zucchini salad from 101 Cookbooks. Delicious!


Day -1: Berkeley – beer, pizza and baseball

While the West Coast Drinking Expedition doesn’t officially start until Saturday, we hopped over to Berkeley on BART for a bit of reminiscing, beer tasting and baseball (I mean, the Blue Jays were in town – how could we resist?)


Our first brewery stop was Triple Rock Brewery on Shattuck – they have a wide selection of Pale Ales and IPAs – our favourites were the Bug Juice, an American pale ale that was surprisingly full-bodied (ABV 5.4%) and nicely hopped and the Ipax IPA, which Andrew described as bug juice on steroids. On Thursdays (which we just happened to be there on!) you can get a 750 mL bottle of cask-conditioned Monkey Head (drink 10, you get a t-shirt!)

With a little bit of intel from a Catherine, a postdoc at UC Berkeley, we headed over to Bobby G’s for our first taste of Pliny the Elder. Bobby G’s is an unassuming little place down on University that serves excellent beers (on tap!) and pizza. They’d just gotten in two kegs of Pliny after a Bay Area-wide two week drought, and they didn’t expect it to last long. What timing!

Unsurprisingly, our first taste of Pliny lived up to and surpassed our expectations. Other IPAs did not stand up to it… at 8.0% it was very smooth and perfectly hopped. We accompanied it by an arugula and garlic pizza, which had a nice, crisp and chewy thin crust, just enough garlic, and tons of fresh arugula piled on top. We’ll take that over ballpark hotdogs any day.

Next on the itinerary: Blue Jay’s @ Oakland. Saw the Jays play a great game (with a surprising number of fellow Jays’ fans in the stands), and they even had Sierra Nevada and New Belgium’s Ranger IPA on tap.

All in all, a successful day -1.