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Month: January 2017

With 22, A Return To Winter

With 22, A Return To Winter

OLE’S, MAD RIVER GLEN, & THE END OF J-TERM

Last week entailed hiking, trail running, and only one day of skiing – not exactly an ideal array of winter outdoor activities. We did have a significant ice storm, which resulted in my first ever Middlebury College snow-day (not school-wide, just my professor’s executive decision), but otherwise, the week was beginning to drive a stake through the heart of what I originally thought was going to be an above-average winter. December was great, but January just hasn’t been cutting it.

That is, until now. I celebrated my 22nd birthday on Friday, and the best gift that I received was a drop in the temperature. With it, the mountains and the Mad River Valley have received much needed snow-dumps. We’re still waiting on Middlebury to catch up, but we’re back to strapping on skis when we head into the hills.

Two venues that were in the most dire need of snow were Ole’s and Mad River Glen. Both are in the Mad River Valley – an area with which I quickly fell in love, especially because Maddie went to high school there and knew all of the best spots to take me. Ole’s is a small cross-country skiing center in Warren, and unlike many of the other venues where I ski, Ole’s predominantly features open fields instead of wooded trails. Both are nice, but the change of pace is always appreciated. Maddie and I skied there on Sunday, and it was special for two reasons: first, it was our first visit of the winter, and second, it was my first time attempting classic skiing. I’m grateful for Maddie’s patience and wax knowledge, and I found it to be a unique and exhilarating challenge. I hope for more “extra blue” days and chances to improve as fast as I can!

My ski buddy, with Sugarbush in the background

Today (Monday), I bolted from class at 12:30 and was strapping up my boots an hour later for an afternoon of alpine skiing at Mad River Glen. This infamous skiers-only destination has no frills – only an old school ski lodge and the most interesting, gnarly terrain in the East. Because they don’t make snow, good days at MRG are often few and far between, but when they’re good, they’re impossible to beat. Today was one of those days. The weekend snow they received provided a solid base, and the six inches of powder from the night before rendered ideal conditions. I can’t remember the last time I skied until the lifts closed, but there was no reason to quit today.

Secret stashes off of Mad River Glen’s Single Chair lift

With two trail runs, a day of nordic skiing, and a pow day at MRG, my first days of my 22nd year leave me feeling optimistic. The snow and cold bode well for February. J-Term has flown by; we’re in our final week, and soon I will be on vacation. I am hopeful that this cold stretch stays for as long as possible, because with all of the independent work that I’ll be doing this spring semester, I’ll have the flexibility to ski on a pow day at a moment’s notice. Still, it will not be J-Term, and I will miss it. J-Term is hands down the best opportunity to get off campus, take on new adventures, spend time with a wide variety of friends, attend events, and take a step back from the rigor and stress of normal semesters to appreciate all that Middlebury has to offer. Oh, and I’ve always had a birthday to celebrate during the month. Looking back on my four J-Terms, I can say without a doubt that this year I’ve taken advantage of it all more than any of the previous. Each served a unique purpose for me – sometimes for academic, sometimes for athletic, and sometimes for personal reasons. I would like to think that this final J-Term has been the optimal combination of all three.

I want to carry these vibes with me into my final semester. I’ll compare it to my summers at Camp Dudley; when I’ve returned from the Dudley bubble to the realities of life beyond summer camp, I’ve always tried to keep the Dudley spirit alive in me for as long as possible. Now, I hope to do the same with J-Term – a month where I’ve found it easiest to say “yes” to as much as possible. All of these “yeses” have made my recent experiences fun and fulfilling, and more importantly, they’ve been on my own terms.

For now, I will close out the final few days of class, do some serious thinking about my goals for my 22nd year, and pack my gear for my upcoming trip with Maddie – to Oslo, Norway! Much more on that to come soon – I couldn’t be more stoked for the adventure.

I Dream of a Cabin

I Dream of a Cabin

I dream of a cabin in the woods.

Preferably in the Adirondacks, ideally in Keene Valley.

A long driveway that gets muddy in the spring and requires four-wheel-drive in the winter.

Land with enough timber to build the cabin and to do so sustainably.

A front deck with ample room to stack wood below.

An open space that is is rustic, practical, and adaptable.

Large windows for summer and a central wood stove for winder.

Bunk beds, a loft, space for all around the table.

A kitchen and a charcoal grill outside. No microwave.

Handcrafted wood furniture built in a small wood shop erected on the property.

Gravity-fed plumbing, solar energy.

No television, wifi, or cellular service.

Creative bookshelves and good books.

A trail network through the trees, good for running and mountain biking.

A four-season escape.

Dogs that love adventure.

A mountain view all year round.

Adirondack chairs, sunsets, family, friends.

 

Winter Essentials in the ADKs

Winter Essentials in the ADKs

I spent time in the Adirondacks recently, and the hours were filled with spontaneous adventures, homey comforts, and good company. Having my grandparents’ farmhouse just a forty-five minute drive from Middlebury has been one of the greatest blessings of my college experience – one that I feel incredibly lucky to have. Westport is the gateway to the Adirondacks for me, and looking west from Middlebury at snow-covered ridges or glowing sunsets stirs in me the desire simply to go. Go to Westport for an overnight, clean laundry, and a home-cooked meal; go to Camp Dudley for a visit with my cousins or a good conversation with whomever is around; or go to the mountains for old stomping grounds or new discoveries.

For me, the Adirondacks in the summer are synonymous with my quest to become a 46er – to climb all forty-six peaks above 4000 feet. I’m two-thirds through, although most of the remaining mountains are more remote than those I’ve already summited.

But in the winter, the Adirondacks present a different challenge: finding fun and warmth in the sparseness and cold. It is the quiet of the Adirondacks in winter that will always remain with me – a quiet that I often seek out, but one that can also feel so foreign. When I go, I am both reveling in the silence and constantly seeking to fill it.

By now, I have my essentials figured out – my preferences, tricks, and tips. These essentials help me evoke feelings of summer, when the Storey Farm is often a busy, multi-generational community in constant flux. More importantly, they allow me to reflect with the hindsight the cold provides and to anticipate with the promise of the seasons. Compiling this list makes me mindful of what is meaningful to me – distinguishing between what I want and what I need.

ADIRONDACK WINTER ESSENTIALS

  • Eggs fresh from the Storey Farm chickens – I am happy to brave the icy morning air to collect warm eggs from the chicken coop. The “girls” are also happy to eat any and all of our vegetable scraps, which makes the eggs taste even better.
  • Good coffee – Sipping a warm cup of coffee is the perfect way to start a winter weekend day, whether I’m fueling up for an adventure or preparing for a cozy day of reading. I like making my own coffee, but I also highly recommend SubAlpine Coffee in Keene Valley and Dogwood Bakery in Wadhams!
  • Skinny skis and fat skis – Despite occasionally uncooperative snow conditions over the past two winters, nordic and alpine skiing have become two of my favorite activities. I have a good coach in Maddie, which makes these sports even more fun for me. When in the ADKs, visit Mt. Van Hoevenberg for nordic and Whiteface for alpine; both venues played host to the 1980 Winter Olympics!
  • A good pair of trail shoes – There’s always the possibility that Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and skiing becomes impossible or too unpleasant. When this happens, I turn to the trails. Hiking and trail running can be a fantastic winter activity, as the bare trees open expansive views of high peaks. Good shoes or boots, wool socks (DarnTough all the way!), micro-spikes, and trekking poles are all useful tools to have.
  • Evenings by the fireplace – After a cold or wet day of adventuring, or if I’m just in the mood to sit and relax, a fire in the fireplace welcomes warmth into the farmhouse.
  • Cozy slippers – Besides a fire, the coziest thing about winter is slipping into a pair of slippers. I received Haflinger wool slippers for Christmas, and they are everything good slippers should be and so much more.
  • Good company – Sharing with others a place I love makes me happy, and unequivocally, the best way to stay cheery and warm is to be surrounded by friends.
Vermont Craft Beer Manifesto

Vermont Craft Beer Manifesto

INTRODUCTION

I think I subconsciously became hooked on Vermont craft beer years before I sipped my first Vermont IPA, when my dad reported enthusiastically about a new beer he’d found in the Burlington area. It had a strange name and came in tall silver cans.

Heady Topper.

I liked the originality. I liked the hyper-locality. I liked the idea of discovering something new.

Fast-forward to my gap year, when I was living in Germany. I was exposed to a drinking culture vastly different than what college social life is portrayed to be in the U.S. I could explore and discover good beer when I was hanging out with my teammates, when I was traveling throughout the country, or simply when I was passing by the local Getrankmarkt a few hundred yards from my homestay residence. My time in Germany gave me a glimpse of what a reasonable drinking culture looks like – one that I appreciated both for its general good-naturedness and its attention to quality.

Thus I began my four years in Vermont. I feel lucky that my budding interest in craft beer aligned with a location that is leading the craft beer movement in the U.S. It’s been a fantastic way to learn about the state and its people, and especially since turning twenty-one, I have thoroughly enjoyed detouring to breweries and tap rooms when traveling. I’ve driven the extra miles, waited in line a few times for longer than I’d care to admit, and planned my days around deliveries, but it’s all been worth it. Having some of the best beer in the world easily accessible is one thing, but being able to share these beers with family and friends and give gifts that truly make someone’s day is what it’s all about.

Before I offer my recommendations on craft beer – which should be useful for any Middlebury student, Vermonter, or visitor – I do want to share a few personal opinions on alcohol that might not be easily inferred from this post.

First, I have never and will never condone drinking and driving. Second, when it comes to alcohol and athletics, the immediate allure of drinking with your teammates after a victory should be tempered with the knowledge that any amount of alcohol, especially binge drinking for one “big night,” is incredibly detrimental to the technique, strength, and endurance that an athlete works to improve in practice week to week. The single healthiest choice an athlete can make is to eliminate alcohol, or at the very least avoid binge drinking at all costs. Third, alcohol consumption doesn’t only decrease athletic performance, it also hinders mental acuity. If operating at a high level and/or reducing stress and anxiety are your goals, drinking will prohibit your ability to achieve them. I aspire to be someone who works hard during the day, sleeps well at night, and doesn’t need alcohol to have fun. Lastly, and along those lines, it’s not only acceptable but truly awesome to be the sober one among friends. Having gone dry for both work and soccer-related reasons for long stretches over the past few years, I can attest that the stigma of not drinking is overwhelmingly surpassed by the feeling of supporting a friend in need. Plus, there are so many ways to reach life’s “highs” – friendship, laughter, and dancing to name a few – that alcohol should never be considered a necessity.

With that, I introduce my Vermont Craft Beer Manifesto – recommendations for how to make the most of the state’s epic craft beer scene. And remember, quality over quantity.

Image courtesy of the Winooski Beverage Warehouse, the best beer store in the state.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Listed alphabetically, not ranked unless otherwise noted; ** = top pick per category

Top 10 Vermont Craft Beers That I’ve Consumed

  1. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Sunshine (Double IPA)
  2. Hill Farmstead Juicy (Barrel Aged Saison)
  3. Hill Farmstead Damon – Double Barrel Aged (Russian Imperial Stout)
  4. Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 (Double IPA)
  5. Fiddlehead Overstable (Double IPA)
  6. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine (Double IPA)
  7. The Alchemist Heady Topper (Double IPA)
  8. Foam Imperial Teen (Imperial Stout)
  9. The Alchemist Focal Banger (Double IPA)
  10. Hill Farmstead Abner (Double IPA)

I like my Double IPAs. I love this list, but it doesn’t reflect the wide varieties available.

Top 9 Gateway Beers – Baby Steps into Vermont Craft Beer

  • Drop-In Sunshine and Hoppiness (Belgian Pale Ale)
  • Harpoon IPA
  • Magic Hat #9 (Fruit Beer / Pale Ale)
  • Otter Creek Over Easy (Pale Ale)
  • Rock Art Bohemian Pilsener
  • Switchback Ale (Amber / Red Ale)
  • The Shed Mountain Ale (Brown Ale)
  • Von Trapp Golden Helles Lager **
  • Zero Gravity Green State Lager (Pilsener)

Cost-effective and easy to find. Making your foray into Vermont craft beer easy!

Top 8 Regulars – Ubiquitous, Awesome Beers

  • 14th Star Tribute (Double IPA)
  • Burlington Beer Company Chasing Rabbits (Pale Wheat Ale)
  • Fiddlehead IPA
  • Long Trail Limbo IPA
  • Lost Nation Gose
  • Otter Creek Free Flow IPA
  • Stone Corral Trailblazer (Vienna Lager)
  • Zero Gravity Conehead Wheat IPA **

Best to keep some of these in the fridge at all times.

Top 7 Pale Ales / IPAs / Double IPAs – Epitome of Hoppiness

  • Foam Build to Spill (Double IPA, brewery only)
  • Foley Brothers Pieces of Eight (Double IPA)
  • Fiddlehead Second Fiddle (Double IPA)
  • Hill Farmstead Edward (Pale Ale, draft only)
  • Idletyme IPA
  • Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine (Double IPA) **
  • The Alchemist Focal Banger (IPA)

Vermont is best known for its hazy, citrusy IPAs, and these are all worth seeking out.

Top 6 Porters / Stouts / Imperial Stouts – For the Cold Days of Winter

  • Burlington Beer Company Barista (Porter)
  • Fiddlehead Hodad Porter **
  • Foley Brothers Hawaiian King (Imperial Stout)
  • Hill Farmstead Everett (Porter)
  • Lawson’s Finest Liquids Fayston Maple Imperial Stout (all variants)
  • Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout

Vermont’s stouts don’t quite rival its IPAs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great!

Top 5 Restaurant & Brewery Combos – Emphasis on Great Restaurants

  • American Flatbread / Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, Burlington
  • Bar Antidote / Hired Hand Brewing Co., Vergennes
  • Bobcat Cafe & Brewery, Bristol
  • Felino’s Wood Fired Pizza / Fiddlehead Brewing Company, Shelburne **
  • Prohibition Pig Smoked Meats & Libations, Waterbury

** My favorite pizza and one of best breweries in Vermont, and they share a building.

Top 4 Taprooms – Restaurants / Bars with Excellent Tap Lists

  • Doc Ponds, Stowe
  • Farmhouse Tap and Grill, Burlington **
  • The Blackback Pub, Waterbury
  • Three Penny Taproom, Montpellier

Bonus recommendation: In Middlebury, it’s hard to beat Two Brothers!

Top 3 Brewery Destinations

  • Foam, Burlington
    • New to the Vermont craft beer scene, Foam made a splash in 2016 when it opened at the Waterfront Park in Burlington. Foam is ideal in so many ways: easy access, a funky taproom, hazy beers that are bursting with flavor, and frequent events. Plus, their beer is exclusive – you can only get it at the brewery. Bring a growler or hope they have bottles on hand (but those sell out fast!) – there’s something at Foam for everyone. (Bonus: visit Zero Gravity or Fiddlehead on your way to or from Foam!)
  • Hill Farmstead, Greensboro Bend **
    • It’s not considered the World’s best brewery for nothing! Hill Farmstead is the ultimate destination, and a visit epitomizes Vermont in so many ways. It’s remote – dirt roads and no cell service remote. If you think you’ve driven far enough, you’re probably still thirty minutes away. Perched on a gentle hillside with expansive views of the Green Mountains, the brewery is a Mecca for beer lovers. They fill growlers and release bottles weekly, and visiting the brewery is the only way to get HF in either form. Make a day of it by planning a hike or ski, and bring friends (and your wallet). It’s a special trip to take, but it’s always worth it. (Bonus: for an even more remote destination, visit Kingdom Brewery in Newport – you’ll practically be in Canada!)
  • The Alchemist, Stowe
    • Gone are the days when obtaining Heady Topper required long lines at beer stores or planning trips around delivery days. The new Alchemist brewery and visitor center in Stowe is massive, and it enables increased production and availability of not only Heady but Focal Banger, The Crusher, and other special releases. And they always sell their beer at $12.50 a four-pack, some of the best value out there. While Heady may be less elusive, the tradeoff that occurred makes the Stowe visitor center a must-see destination. (Bonus: Idletyme Brewery is under a mile from The Alchemist, and the new Von Trapp Beerhall is only a few miles away – both are excellent food and beer stops!)

These are the pinnacle, but bottom line, visiting any brewery is always an excellent idea.

Top 2 Beer Gifts to Impress Your Dad

  1. The Alchemist Heady Topper (Double IPA)
  2. Hill Farmstead: any bottle available

He’ll probably share it with you, too.

Top State for Craft Beer

  • Vermont!

 

Thoughtfulness, With a Kick

Thoughtfulness, With a Kick

WHAT MY NEW PASSION FOR THE THIRD WAVE COFFEE MOVEMENT SAYS ABOUT ME

I’m on a coffee kick right now. Not in your typical “I’m in college so I need to drink ten cups a day to function” kind of way, but rather as a budding interest in discovering high quality coffee and learning better brewing techniques. Full credit goes to my teammate and barista-extraordinaire James Scott for inspiring me. I’d had plenty of coffee before he gave me a pour of his Kenyan-bean brew this fall, but one sip of that made me realize that drinking coffee could be an experience that transcends the mere need for caffeine.

Now I’m fairly hooked, brewing a cup or two a day using an AeroPress or a Chemex pour-over. I’m embracing the “third wave  coffee movement” – an effort to produce high quality coffee and consider it as artisanal foodstuff rather than a commodity. As a geography buff and spatial thinker, I like learning about the range of locations that coffee is grown and harvested. I’ve tried to invest in higher quality beans and learn about different flavor profiles. I’ve also experimented with brewing techniques, so much so that I asked for a temperature controlled hot water boiler for Christmas. My skills are incredibly rudimentary, but I’m getting better.

Mostly, I’m glad I can appreciate higher quality coffee. It’s like stepping up from Busch heavies to IPAs. (This comparison is exclusively for me, because I’m also a huge craft beer nerd. I’m sure I’ll post about craft beer in Vermont sometime soon.) It gives me something to seek out when I travel anywhere new. One of the most exciting parts about my upcoming trip to Oslo is that the city is known for it’s coffee scene.

Lastly, it’s something that Maddie and I can appreciate together. Her gluten intolerance eliminates any chance of her enjoying craft beers the way I do, but coffee has become a shared passion of ours.

It’s a better fit for our personalities, too. Yes, I know that coffee has health benefits. Yes, I’ve studied that it can improve athletic performance. Yes, I believe in sustainably and humanely sourcing food. Yes, I prefer quality over quantity. Yes, I like discovering new cafes. Yes, I sometimes just need a caffeine boost.

But most of all, the process of slowing down to craft a cup of coffee is a good metaphor for how I’m trying to operate. I want to have a routine, to be able to slow down, to aspire to quality, to experiment, and to approach all that I do with mental alertness so that I can observe and produce. I’m working towards using my morning coffee routine to fulfill meditative needs so that I can attack each with a clear mind and a positive spirit. Not everything should be automatic, and I value the minutes it takes to make coffee. The result is usually something worth savoring. And oh, the caffeine doesn’t hurt, either.

Current Favorite Coffee Roaster

Brio Coffeeworks – Burlington, VT

Current Favorite Cafe(s)

Onyx Tonics Specialty Coffee – Burlington, VT
SubAlpine Coffee – Keene Valley, NY

Two Views: New York in November and December

Two Views: New York in November and December

I’ve found myself thinking and talking about New York more frequently. Besides the obvious explanation – whenever any senior in college comes home for the holidays he or she will get asked “so, any plans for next year?” a few dozen times (especially in a small town like Williamstown) – I think that I’m coming to terms with the reality of what awaits me.

But I will take a step back. I visited New York twice recently – first in November for my interview, and second for the Camp Dudley Leaders’ Luncheon a month later. In between, I was offered the position and took it. A lot changed, or at least was clarified, for me between those two visits. In November, the foreignness of a big city was augmented by the nervous anticipation I felt about my interview. I’d interviewed for various opportunities before, and I’ve always felt relatively comfortable conversing with others and thinking on my feet, but I’d never walked a mile in a suit on a cold New York morning or spent six straight hours with fielding questions. And even though I walked out of the office feeling excellent about the day (the most technical aspect was a writing sample, of all things!), I kept wanting to convince myself that I was an unworthy candidate. That a position in a New York office would take months and months of seeking a needle in a haystack.

A month later, I arrived in New York, still as inexperienced to city life as ever, but with a clear vision about my future. I bought a MetroCard and loaded it with $40. I sipped a coffee and thought about the small shop not as a tourist stop but as a cafe that could be an everyday destination on my way to work. I went for a run and realized the biggest hills that will be available to me are ramps leading up to bridges and overpasses. Amidst all these thoughts of change, I felt confident–optimistic about the transition my life will undergo in six months’ time and appreciative of my rural upbringing and college experience.

In November, I was just trying to fit a mold of what I thought a young New York employee should be. Fortunately for me, I think enough of my true self shown through. When I returned in December, I realized I won’t have to hide in any shadow–that I can adapt to New York without having to change a thing about my motivations and aspirations.

It will be a big adventure. I hope to always have the big picture in mind, so that when things get craziest, I can take a step back and laugh about it. But mostly, I want to embrace it all as a learning opportunity. If I learn every day, I know that will love it.

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