Sequoia National Park, California

Over spring break, Jon and I headed out to California for a fantastic week of adventures.  We began in LA, spent some time in Sequoia National Park, spent a day in Yosemite and headed to the central coast before driving back to LA to head home.  It was quite the week!  This post is about our time in the Sierras, which was amazing and wild!

The night before we headed to Sequoia National Park, we stayed in Visalia, California and tried out the Bravo Farms Smokehouse and the Sequoia Brewing Company.  We highly recommend both!  The food was amazing, beers were great and the brewery’s atmosphere really gets you into the Sequoia mind-set.  There are old photos of the park and the bar has trees behind it.  Even the beer names are inspired by famous sites in Sequoia and Yosemite!  It got us “in the spirit” and very excited to see the Giant Forest the next morning!





We headed to the park bright and early to arrive just as the visitor’s center and museum were opening.  Our drive it was spectacular; the scenery changed from sweet-smelling farmland to the large foothills of the Sierra’s.  California has so much to see!  Since we drove a fair amount on this trip, we were able to see the variety of landscapes in the state and each was beautiful in its own way.

When we arrived in the park, the rangers at the visitor’s center were excited to tell us about the Giant Forest and mentioned rain having made the roads slick the day before.  We all agreed it was a beautiful day and they sent us on our way, up the mountain.

As we drove up the mountain and climbed in elevation, the temperature dropped from the mid-50’s to the mid-40’s.  It also got cloudy and started raining.  Giant Sequoias only grow between 5,000 and 8,000 feet of elevation, so you have to drive up to see them and they are very special!

When we entered the Giant Forest, the temperature dropped into the 30’s and the rain quickly changed to sleet and then snow.  SNOW!  In April!  We parked at the museum and got out to start our day.  At that point, a ranger drove up and asked if we had snow chains, since they were expecting a HALF-FOOT of snow in the Giant Forest that day…and of course, we did not have chains and our tiny rental car did not have snow tires…so, back down the mountain she sent us…away from the museum we had just arrived at, and out of the Giant Forest!  We both were looking at each other like- you have got to be kidding!  But, Mother Nature won out and we headed down the mountain to avoid being snowed in. :0

On our way down, we stopped quickly to snap a few photos with some trees on the side of the road.  These roadside trees were awe-inspiring but we felt disappointed to miss out on seeing the Giant Forest.  The snow was coming down heavily (there was already about an inch sticking to the road) so we hustled to get down safely.  We were pretty bummed but also realistic; we knew we would come back someday (in the summer, of course) and see the biggest trees.



From Sequoia, we decided to head up to Yosemite.  We had hopes it may not be snowing there…but it was.  It snowed above 5,000 feet off and on, all day long.  It was a beautiful day at the lower altitudes, though, so we did a fun hike just outside of Yosemite and visited the South Gate Brewing Company.  We also bought snow chains for the next day in Yosemite, just in case! 😉



Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Weekend in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Jon and I spent a long weekend in Las Cruces, New Mexico in early November and it was fantastic!  We hiked, did some sight-seeing, beer tasted and ate the most delicious food!

Las Cruces is located about an hour from El Paso, Texas and sits right next to the Organ Mountains (they look like a giant pipe organ).  We woke up early Saturday morning and hit the trails in the foothills of the Organ Mountains.  We drove out of the town area and were able to find lots of trail heads around.  Many people were out running, mountain biking and hiking- the New Mexico lifestyle is to get outside and enjoy the activities the outdoors have to offer!  Las Cruces is a small town, so the natural playground is it’s best attraction!


Jon and I hiked in on a trail and quickly found ourselves “off-trail.”  Since the brush is not super dense, you can really hike wherever you want.  Just be careful to not step on a rattlesnake taking a sun bath!  We got lucky and did not meet anything larger than a butterfly- phew!


We loved adventuring together and exploring a new place.


This trip was perfect timing for a kindergarten teacher- I had just finished the first quarter and loved using my extra-long, election day weekend to get out of my comfort zone and routine!


The variety of mountain views we see in this country is really astounding.  Jon and I are so appreciative of our opportunities to travel and hike in new places.


Here is the butterfly we saw- it was so beautiful!  We also saw some cool flying beetles and lots of cacti!  I was loving the desert flora!





After our hike, we went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and explore Old Mesilla.  This small town features old Southwest architecture and great local shopping.  We bought some local pecans (yum) and spices.  We also rocked our new cowboy boots that we had bought the night before in El Paso…we had to dress the part!



We tried out the Spotted Dog Brewery in Mesilla and really enjoyed it!  It had a very laid-back and local vibe.  It was small and had great beers.


Spending time with this guy was such a blessing.  After a crazy fall at work we seriously enjoyed our adventure together!


Another brewery we went to is the Pecan Grill and Brewery.  This was a cool spot and we tasted the most amazing Pecan Beer there!  It was SO good that we packed a six-pack in our checked luggage.  I’ve never had a better pecan beer (it tastes like pecan pie but isn’t sweet).  I was in heaven!

We ate dinner at all of our favorite restaurants in Las Cruces: Si Senor, Habanero’s, and Andele.  We ate New Mexican food every night and were in heaven!  Jon loves the salsa bars most restaurants offer (#sauceman) and I had chili relleno every night (Habanero’s had my favorite version).

Here is Jon with his favorite food in Las Cruces- Habanero’s “Macho Chimichanga!”  This dish fed both of us and we had left overs…oh my.  It was so delicious!  One thing to know about New Mexico style food is that it is seriously spicy!  Even when you get something with mild salsa, the peppers are hot!  I made sure to order mild everything to save myself from too much heat; on the other hand, Jon was in spicy heaven!


After dinner we headed to watch the sunset.  Unlike a normal sunset, you watch the sunset in reverse in Las Cruces.  Instead of watching the sun dip below the horizon (which you can do…) you watch the sun’s reflection on the Organ Mountains.  It turns the red rock every shade of pink and purple- so beautiful!


While this was the end of our time in Las Cruces, be sure to check out our posts about Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument to read about the other places we visited during our New Mexico weekend!  New Mexico is seriously beautiful and the food is to die for; we’ll definitely be back sometime soon!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Denver Weekend

Back in September of 2016, Jon and I flew to Denver for a long weekend.  We visited family (my younger brother) and dear friends.  It was a fantastic weekend that I am finally getting to document #thankstoteachersummer.

We kicked off our weekend bright and early Friday morning (we flew in late Thursday night) by exploring downtown Denver and visiting the flagship REI store.  This was a perfect way to begin our weekend out West!

If you haven’t visited this store- do it!  The outside space is just as incredible as the inside.  The store is designed to help you to not only see all the gear REI sells, but to try it out!  They have a mountain-biking track set up, a rock wall and they even use the river to test kayaking gear (crazy)!  Talk about try before you buy…it was really cool!  Since it was a quiet morning, we spent a good amount of time browsing and exploring the store (which felt more like an outdoor gear museum).  We ended up buying a new pack and used it on our hike the next day.  It is our new favorite day pack, for sure!IMG_0229

After shopping, we headed to lunch at the Denver Beer Company.  The indoor/outdoor feel was perfect for a fall afternoon.  We enjoyed some beers and food from the food truck.  Can’t beat that!IMG_0231

That night we headed out to a Colorado Rockies game.  We met up with Davis (my brother who lives in the city) and Alison and Todd (our dear friends from Maryland).  The game was a blast and we enjoyed cheering for the home team (Go Rockies)!

The next morning, we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike.  You can find my post about that adventure here.

After hiking all morning, we headed to Avery Brewing Company, in Boulder.  It was the perfect, Denver weather to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.  I LOVE visiting Avery.  It’s a brewery that our friends highly recommended and they did not steer us wrong.  We loved the atmosphere.  I also had my favorite beer (perhaps of all time); their Fall Day IPA.  If you haven’t tried it: it is a nice IPA with just a hint of pine…it was refreshing and so delicious.  I always love a good, creative twist on seasonal beers, and this is a good one!


Clearly I was in my happy place- beautiful weather, outdoor patio and delicious beer!  Not to mention great company. 🙂

Another great spot we visited while in Denver was the Denver Biscuit Company (another recommendation from Alison and Todd, they never steered us wrong).  We went to breakfast there, but trust me, you could eat these biscuits for any meal- they are unreal!  I took a picture of Jon’s insane biscuit sandwich and, yes, that is gravy…it was SO good!  If you are in town, you have to go.  And if there’s a wait, it’s worth it!


Our last experience in Denver was visiting the Leopold Bros. Distillery.  This was another awesome place!  On your tour you get to hear all about the company and how they got to Denver, learn about the distilling process and tour the distillery (which was very interesting) and, of course, taste!  We enjoyed this tour so much and felt like we learned a lot, as well.  It would be a great stop for a happy hour tour.

Here’s Jon testing out the mash…don’t worry, touching was allowed and he wasn’t, “fouling the tank!”


Here’s our tasting- they have such a variety of liquors.  There’s truly something for everyone (even people who don’t love liquor, like me)!


Here’s our group enjoying the afternoon at the distillery.  (Sorry for the terrible photo quality!)


Special thanks to our amazing hosts, Davis, Alison and Todd, for a great weekend out West!  We try to get out to Denver every year and love visiting with them.  We will have to schedule our next trip out soon!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Winter White Ale

Bell’s Brewery is one of my favorites for many reasons.  First, my parents live in Kalamazoo, so Bell’s feels like a home-town brew to us.  We frequent the Bell’s Eccentric Cafe when we’re in town and love seeing the seasonal beers they release (even out here in Virginia)!  I also adore Bell’s Michigan-inspired bottle artwork.  Enjoying a Bell’s tastes like going home, since Michigan has always been a second-home for my family.  Summer just isn’t summer without an Oberon…

The Winter White Ale is no exception.  A light and refreshing Belgian-inspired wheat, this beer warms you on a cold night without being as dark/heavy as a stout.  I love Bell’s light twist on the typical dark, seasonal winter beer!  If you check out this article on the Bell’s website, they suggest various pairings and recipe’s using the Winter White Ale.  How cool, Bell’s!


How about that shot!  I actually took this picture in New York, right as we were leaving Jon’s parents.  A fresh batch of snow had just fallen and I quickly threw this beer into the snow for a picture…and I think it turned out perfectly!  What a perfect koozie for this delicious beer!  This beer makes the dark, cold winter months look and taste refreshing!


K, J and P

Devil’s Backbone- Trail Angel Weiss

Jon and I have a bit of a thing for a good Bavarian-style Hefeweizen and Devil’s Backbone’s Trail Angel Weiss does not disappoint!  Jon and I love visiting Devil’s Backbone Base Camp after hiking in the George Washington National Forest.   This beer is the perfect way to kick back, relax and re-hydrate after a long day on the trail.  It’s fruity, not too heavy, but also fills you up a bit since it’s a wheat beer.

We enjoyed this after hiking a few sweaty miles on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park.  Late summer scenery looks good on you, Trail Angel!




There’s nothing like August in the Blue Ridge!


K, J and P

Dirt Farm Brewing

Jon and I recently visited Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont, Virginia. Getting to Dirt Farm was half of the adventure! Located off of Route 7 and down a few country roads, you arrive at the entrance and unpaved driveway. Once you hit the dirt road, it’s a half mile up hill! The brewery faces East on one of the first Blue Ridge Mountains. The view is incredible!


The brewery was packed since it was a hot, Saturday afternoon. Everyone must have had the same thought we did- cold beer! We were instantly charmed by the setting; wooded, lodgey and casual. There were locals, hikers, families and bachelor/ette parties- a diverse crowd!


We quickly got a flight and found that we loved every beer we tried! We ended up getting another flight to try the rest of the beers available. It was that good!




Notice how hot I was…cold beer and a mountain breeze was definitely necessary!

After our flights, we stepped out to enjoy the incredible view. We could see as far East as Reston since it was a moderately clear day. The outdoor patio is awesome, but I also loved the inside space and think it would be a cozy stop on a chilly afternoon. We will definitely head back soon!


Ps- Dirt Farm welcomes leashed dogs on their patio. We did not bring Penny since it was SO hot out, but think it would be a great place to enjoy with her!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale

We recently visited Star Hill Brewery in Crozet, VA and fell in love with yet another of their beers (we LOVE Starr Hill)! The Last Leaf is Maple Brown Ale with a perfect dose of maple flavor without being sweet. It’s like drinking Thanksgiving dessert without the sugar rush. It’s our new, favorite, Fall beer. It’s a great flavor alternative to pumpkin!



K, J, and P