Nick’s “Babymoon” Post

Well, if you haven’t noticed, I haven’t exactly written as many posts as Sarah. There are lots of reasons for this. First off, I like to write about hiking and beer – two things we haven’t been doing as much (or at all) recently. Secondly, I am not as gifted a writer, nor as succinct a writer, as Sarah. It simply takes me longer to produce a lessor product, so it’s no wonder that I’ve been writing less. I’ve been getting a bit of grief from my beautiful bride about my lack of blog proclivity as of late, so when she asked me this past weekend if I would write about our trip, I said sure! And as I read her last post, I saw that she hadn’t forgotten about my agreement. So on this sleety Friday morning, here it goes.

I had heard the term “babymoon” before, and figured it was something Sarah would be all over. To my surprise, we were months into the pregnancy, and Sarah hadn’t made much of a peep about it. I thought I was in the clear! In early December though, the kitchen paint not even dry, she brought it up. She wanted to go on a babymoon! To my delight, her ideas were modest, just a weekend trip – something close and historical. We quickly settled on Charlottesville. It was a place we’d both only been to very briefly and separately. With Monticello close by (I’d never been, Sarah  went when she was around 8), it seemed like a fun city to explore together, with plenty to keep us busy for a weekend!

While never explicitly spoken, it was clear at the onset of the trip we had three shared goals for the weekend. Below, I’ll share those goals and how we accomplished them!

  1. See some history.

Not only did we get to see a lot of U.S. history, but also some history from Sarah’s family as well. Our first historical stop was in Lexington, VA, the home of Washington & Lee University, as well as the Virginia Military Institute, where Sarah’s dad and uncle both attended school. I’d seen pictures, but couldn’t appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the place until seeing it first hand. Also, I was amazed to see Stonewall Jackson’s horse, Little Sorrel, stuffed and on display, looking as though he just trotted off the Civil War battlefield.

Upon arrival to Charlottesville, we checked into our home for two nights, at the South Street Inn, a downtown Bed & Breakfast, first built as a personal residence in 1856. Over the years the house has served several other purposes as well, including a school, a boarding house, and a brothel. Our room came with a large Jacuzzi tub (guessing this wasn’t original), which made up for the narrow staircases and thin walls.

The highlight of the trip was Monticello. Its free to go on the grounds, but the $25 for a tour inside the house was well worth it. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I couldn’t believe how much of the 200 year old house was original – functioning clocks, window glass, furniture, floors, books, various tools & gadgets, silhouettes and even elk antlers acquired from Lewis & Clarks’ famous journey. It was an amazing look into life at the dawn of our nation from a man who was so “ahead of his time” in some ways, while still a prisoner (not to mention an imprison-er) of societal norms of the day. I was amazed at how intact Sarah’s recollection of the place was from her visit 20 years prior, but given Sarah’s affinity for history her whole life, and the wonder of the place itself, it didn’t really come as a surprise.

On our way back home we stopped at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. This is one of those historical sites that requires a lot of imagination, as many of the buildings weren’t original. It was neat in that several miles surrounding the actual site of the surrender has been saved as park land, and thus undeveloped. Driving through the open fields while approaching the actual park helps the imagination go back in time and picture life as the civil war was ending. Our stay was brief, as it was freezing, but we were glad to cross this place off the list!

2. Eat some tasty food (and for me to drink some good beer).

An hour into the trip we stopped for breakfast in Danville, VA at a diner called Heart Line. The “Hillary Lied and Four People Died” and “Keep Working: Millions On Welfare Depend On You” bumper stickers in the parking lot, as well as the sea of camo hats and NRA sweatshirts caused us some slight apprehension at the start, but the delicious food and friendly staff quickly put us at ease. I also think it helped that Sarah dialed up her Southern accent meter to 10.

We also enjoyed some great food around Charlottesville. We enjoyed some delicious won-ton nachos and wings at South Street Brewery during the first half of the Panthers game, and a burger and salad at the highly acclaimed Citizen Burger Bar during the second half. Upon leaving the brewery at the end of the first half, I told our server there wasn’t even much point in watching the rest of the game. WRONG! As tasty as Citizen Burger Bar was, I don’t think we’ll forget our feelings of embarrassment and fear we felt as everyone else in the bar (seemingly) cheered on the ultimately failed, but respectable 2nd half comeback by the Seahawks.

On the way home we stopped at a cafe in South Boston, VA called Southern Plenty. We loved the food, though quite a different atmosphere from our experience a couple days prior at Heart Line. Part grocery store, part cafe, part craft beer store, and filled with collar-shirted retirees, it was clear the target demographic of this place was a bit wealthier than the close-by diner we had stopped at a couple of days prior . Still, being in the rural south, wouldn’t have been surprised to see another anti-Hillary sticker. Maybe something with a little more class, like “Huck Fillary”.

We visited three Charlottesville breweries during our trip – the aforementioned South Street Brewery, as well as Blue Mountain Brewery and Champion Brewery. I must say I wasn’t blown away by any by any of the beer, but it was all decent. (SIDE NOTE: I’ve admittedly been having a hard time finding beer I like ever since having a beer called “Tropicalia” by Creature Comforts while in Atlanta over New Years. It was so good I think it ruined me, and of course I can’t find it for sale anywhere in NC.) Each spot had it charms too. Blue Mountain was a bit out of town with gorgeous scenery and outdoor seating. The place was also a restaurant and was huge, clearly a favorite spot among locals and vacationers alike. Champion Brewery was a quaint little bar spot downtown, and South Street was worth it for the food alone. Probably my favorite new beer I tried during the trip was from a local brewery, Three Notch’d, called “Killer Angel”, a double IPA. My favorite old beer was a 22 ounce Grapefruit Sculpin for only $8.

3. Have some quality time together.

The truth of the matter is that this was a given. We cherish our time together, no matter what we are doing, so it always feels like quality time. Now would be an appropriate time to say “barfola”, as my sister Ellie likes to say, but we don’t care. Our relationship has been through some very trying times over the years, which makes the happiness and contentment we found in ourselves and each other recently (Sarah has alluded to this in prior posts) all the easier to cherish.

In addition to cheering on a Panther victory, seeing some historical sites and eating out together, we also managed to start and finish season 1 of the show “Broad City” and see the movie “The Revenant” at one of those leather-seated swanky theaters. Despite our vacation status, we still got up at 6AM -and breakfast wasn’t until 7:30 – hence all the time to enjoy “Broad City”. Though I was initially skeptical, we both really enjoyed “The Revenant”. I don’t know if I can say the same for the gentlemen sitting next to Sarah, who’s uncomfortable shifting during the movie would seem to suggest he was confusing my hand under Sarah’s pants in order to feel nugget wiggling around, for something a little more raunchy.

The weekend came and went in a blur, but it was nice to do something a little different from our normal weekend routine, and make new memories together. We can’t wait to go back to Monticello someday, nugget in tow, and tell her/him that they actually came to this exact place with mommy and daddy once before.

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The Long-Awaited New Kitchen

Summer of 2011. I had just started a new job in Durham and Sarah was away at her last summer at camp. Neither of us had a place to live come August, and though we tried to find something before she left, nothing worked out. It was all up to me and she was quite worried. Fortunately, I found our house on Huron Street. I loved the yard, the size, the hardwood floors and the big oak trees. I’ll never forget when Sarah returned from camp, and saw her new home for the first time. I had assured her she would love it, but I could see the uncertainty as she approached the house for the first time. She loved it, saying “it’s perfect…except for the kitchen, we’ve got to do something about that”.

Well, it took us four and a half years, but we finally did something about it. Sarah’s pregnancy was definitely the jump start we needed to start moving forward on the project we had been contemplating for so long. We knew we wanted a dishwasher, to switch the fridge and stove locations, as well as new floors (the old ones were not something you’d want an infant crawling around on), but that’s what about all we knew a couple months ago.

I called Roger (who has done some house work for some co-workers) and asked him to come take a look and see about making a plan for the kitchen. Before I knew it, we had drawings with a new cabinet set up all done, and Roger said as soon as we emptied out our current cabinets, he’d be ready to get started. We emptied them out that night and put everything in the dining room. I remember thinking “Wow, this is really happening!”.

We snapped a few pictures that night. Here’s what our old Kitchen looked like.

The next day, Roger got started. Before I even got home that evening I received a text from him that read something to the effect of, “I assume you’ve seen the carnage by now. We’ll need to talk about a plan on moving forward.” Needless to say, I was a little alarmed, and wondered if I had made a huge mistake embarking on this project. The below is what I saw when I got home.

While it was exciting to see all of the cabinet’s down, there was quite the mess in the piping behind them. An old cast iron pipe, which carried the old sink water was basically completely rusted through. Fortunately, that was pretty much the extent of the damage, and all it took to fix was some new piping. It added some costs we hadn’t foreseen, but as this would end up being the only real hiccup in the whole process, I never again wondered if we made the right decision. See our new pipes below.

Once the piping was all fixed, it was time to get the cabinets in place. We left the cabinet layout much the same as our previous cabinets, but also added in a pantry and some additional cabinetry along the side wall. At Roger’s recommendation we decided on Sheffield Honey cabinets we got at the Surplus Warehouse. The biggest factor was the price, but we liked the color and the fact that it was solid wood. Definitely a big improvement from the particle board/laminate cabinets we had before! It only took Roger a week, and the cabinets were all in place. See a picture of (most of ) the cabinets in place below!

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After the cabinets were in place, it was time to take on the floors. While on a trip to the Surplus Warehouse to decide on cabinets, we looked at some floors, and found some gray plank vinyl that seemed as though it’d be fairly easy to install ourselves. We looked into having the floors done professionally, but the price difference made it an easy choice. It took the majority of a weekend, but we were able to handle the floors ourselves, and I think it was easily the most rewarding part of the process. We first removed all of the toe molding. We then starting laying the vinyl, one row at a time, directly on top of our old floor. For the end of rows and around odd shapes, we had to do a decent amount of cutting the floors, but it was relatively simple with a utility knife score and a hard snap. The most difficult part was locking the floors into place, but between the two of us we got the hang of it. Once it was all in place, we put some new toe molding down (thanks to Roger for letting us borrow his nail gun!) and the floors were good to go! There was no glue or adhesive involved. The floors just “float” in place, secured by their weight and the toe molding. See pictures of the floor coming together and finished below.

With the floors done it was time to get our new appliances in place. We were able to get a decent deal from AJ Madison since we were getting 4 appliances. We went with stainless steel and we are really loving our choices! Having the appliances installed was one of the more stressful parts of the whole experience. I still am not sure how the delivery people managed to maneuver the fridge through the entry way (even after taking removing the fridge doors) but they did it. There were a couple dings on the walls, but we knew we still had to paint, and were just happy to have our appliances in place! I must say, getting used to having a dishwasher again has been a bit of an adjustment, but definitely a welcome one! Likely due to the stress of the delivery, we forgot to snap any photos at this point, but you can see them in the finished shots at the end.

After the appliances were in place, and all hooked up, it was onto the counter tops. We definitely splurged a bit here and went with granite. We went with a slab that had lots of reddish brown, grey and black to match other parts of the kitchen. We also decided to create a little breakfast area with an extended bar behind the sink. Speaking of sinks, we also got a 10″ deep (to Sarah’s delight) under-mounted sink. See some pictures of the installation below by the fine folks at marble unlimited.

At this point, we finally had a functioning kitchen and we were thrilled. Rather than relax and enjoy our 3/4 finished kitchen, we decided to keep going and spent the entire next weekend painting and organizing. Sarah painted, I organized. In case you didn’t know I can be a little particular about how things are organized, particularly when it comes to the kitchen, so I was thrilled to find new homes for all of our food, pots, pans, dishes, cleaning supplies, etc. Sarah chose the color “racing red” (by Sherwin Williams), though, we think of it more like a terracotta. I put on some basic cabinet hardware we got at the Surplus Warehouse, as well as some shelving we got at Ikea. We also got some new bar stools and smaller chairs for our dining room table as well as some new lights. We put in some small touches like like stain less outlet covers, paper towel holder, knife magnet, drying rack, salt & pepper grinders and a sponge holder to boot. By the end of another long weekend we were almost done, only back splash stood in our way! See a couple progress pictures below.

The back splash was the final step. We went with some gray ceramic subway tiles purchased from South Cypress Floors (online). The first step for the tile was to apply SimpleMat, an easier bonding alternative to thinset. In the picture below (though hard to see because its clear), the SimpleMat has been applied to the wall.

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Next, we simply removed the plastic covering and applied the subway tiles to the sticky surface, cutting the tile where necessary (thanks again to Roger for letting us borrow his tile cutter!). The tile had built in spacers, so the process was quite strainforward. Once all the tiles were in place, we filled it all in with premixed grout. See the results below!

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So, that was it! We had a completely transformed kitchen in about 6 weeks. Aside the obvious improvements of better appliances and cabinet functionality, we have been thrilled how our work opened up the dining room, and has made everything feel more spacious (as well as more visually appealing) than it did before. It’s going to make it all the more difficult someday when we grow out of the house, but we are excited to get a few good years of use out of hard work and efforts! Pictures of the finished product are below!

 

Pilot Mountain State Park + Small Batch Brewery

Firstly, I’m writing this post a week and a half after the fact. For purposes of documentation and consistency, I’m dating this post on the day I’m writing about, as I have done in the past in will do in the future. Just wanted to be clear on that -now onto Pilot Mountain!

Sarah and I have both driven past Pilot Mountain on dozens of occasions and have known it to be one of the pillars of the North Carolina State Park system. But, amazingly, neither of us had ever been. For that reason, as we start out on our journey of visiting all of North Carolina’s state parks, we wanted Pilot Mountain to be one of the firsts. A beautiful October weekend seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.

Our initial plan was actually to stay a night at the campground. The day before, we made the decision nix that as the forecast was predicting overnight temperatures below freezing. As it turns out, this wouldn’t be the only change of plans that the day would bring us. When we arrived a Pilot Mountain State Park, we weren’t able to park at the campground like we had hoped (due to large crowds and no more parking spaces according to the ranger), and instead had to park along the road outside the park gates. I pulled up the park map from newly download NC State Parks App (this would prove to be a mistake), and saw that there was a trail right by where we parked that should lead us to the campground where we would begin the 2.5 mile hike to the top of the mountain.

We started the hike, and after a mile or so I got a little weary that we didn’t seem to be anywhere near the campground. I pulled out the GPS and could see exactly where we were, but there didn’t appear to be any trail on the map even though the trail was clearly marked in front of us. I gently broke the news to Sarah that I knew exactly where we were, but wasn’t exactly sure where we were going, though I assumed this trail would eventually lead us to the top in a couple of miles.

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As you can see from Sarah in the picture above at this point we charged ahead. The trail was beautiful and we were feeling great. A mile or so later, a couple passed us and we chatted with them. They let us know that we were on the newly redone Mountain Trail – a trail that encircled the entire mountain before ending back at the campground 4.5 miles later. They weren’t sure, but they assumed it ran into Ledge Spring Trail, which would take you to the top, but would also add a couple more miles to the trip. I did the calculation in my head and realized it was probably going to be at least 6 miles to the top, and at least another 2.5 to get back down.

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The picture above was taken not long after this revelation. Sarah was starting to get a little testy, but I told her if we could make it to the top, that we could hitchhike on the way back down.

So we charged on…

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When we passed the same couple again coming back down the mountain, I knew what they were going to say before they spoke. There wasn’t a way to get to the top, the trail just circled around to the campground, around the mountain. At this point, it was actually somewhat welcome news. We had the genius idea of finishing the hike around the entire mountain, and then driving to the top! At the very end of the hike, we stopped in the park office where they did have freshly printed maps of the new trail locations. When it comes to maps, paper is better.

As it turns out, though the hike was longer than we intended, and we didn’t hike to the top, it was actually a very nice hike. The trail was not crowded at all, unlike the main trail to the top which we saw packed with people.
The fall colors were beautiful – both the leaves on the ground and in
the trees. It wIMG_3251as also just a wonderfully cool day to go for a long hike. Once we drove to the top, it was late enough in the afternoon that the crowds had shrank some, and we didn’t even have to wait to park (we were told the wait earlier in the date IMG_3259was over half an hour). The views at the top were phenomenal and we were so happy we had finally reached our ultimate destination. The sky was completely clear. We could make out all kinds of landmarks  – in addition to Fancy Gap, Hanging Rock, Kings Mountain, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro we even were able to see some buildings in the far distance which had to be Durham.

The trail map of what we hiked is below. For anyone passing through, not looking to hike, but with a half hour to spare, I highly recommend driving to the top. You won’t regret it! Or if you have a couple hours, hiking from the campground to the top would be a nice 4-5 mile out. Alternatively, you could actually do the hike we did and take the Grindstone Trail (you pick it up just outside the campground) to the top, so you would really do the entire park, and it would probably be around 9 miles. Sarah and I will definitely be back to this park, not just to witness the views at the top, but there is another section of the park along the Yadkin River that we want to see.

IMG_3270   Hike Info:

  • MapMyFitness Link
  • Starting Point: Entrance to Pilot Mountain State Park Office (1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, PinnacleNC 27043)
  • End Point: Same
  • Length: 6.5 Miles
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

On our way home from Pilot Mountain, exhausted from the hike, we decided to check out a new brewery. I’m thinking this whole hiking and brewery combo might become a bit of a theme… The brewery we selected is called Small Batch, and it is in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem. It’s philosophy, as the name suggests, is making small batch beers, focusing on experimentation, rather than focusing on creating staple beers.

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I got a flight. They also were able to provide (pregnant) Sarah with a ginger beer, IMG_3260which she very much enjoyed. Easily my favorite was the Mr. Lemon Man IPA, and the Cucumber Basil Saison was good too – I think I would have enjoyed it even more were it Spring. A little research led me to discovering that the Mr. Lemon Man IPA used to be called Limonhead, and it is a rare beer that they do make over and over again. We also had some very delicious food. Particularly, the pumpkin bread pudding! Overall, we both really enjoyed the atmosphere of this place and the friendliness of the staff. If you find yourself in Winston-Salem and have already done the foothills thing – this is a great place to catch a game, sample some beer, or grab a bite to eat!

Brewery Info: Small Batch Brewery (241 West 5th Street Winston-Salem, NC 27101)

  • Number of Beers: 8 taps, beers continually rotating
  • Favorites: Mr. Lemonhead IPA
  • Prices: The Flight was $8 which I thought was a little high for only 4 beers. Most pints are $5.
  • Food: Gourmet Bar Food

12 Weeks… And It’s My Turn!

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This was the week the long-awaited doppler arrived (albeit a day late), beginning our A.D. (after doppler) pregnancy journey. Before I get into that though, I did want to share a few thoughts about what the last couple months have been like. I’ll admit, when Sarah’s pregnancy first came to light, I was in a bit of shock. I was curious and excited, sure, but more terrified than anything. So many “how” questions circled through my mind. How will we sleep? How will this effect our relationship? How will I handle watching Sarah in pain while giving birth? (I refused to watch birth videos with her for the first several weeks) How will we find the time to get everything done? And most importantly…. HOW WILL WE AFFORD IT?

The first ultrasound is where it really started to sink in for me that this was happening, though not even that we are having a baby, but the fact that Sarah’s body is going through a transformative process. While the “how” questions still circled through my head, I tried not to obsess over them and just started focusing all of my attention on Sarah. This pregnancy is about her, not me. I am doing my best to remember that and do all I can to make it as positive an experience for her that it can be. When she is joyous (which is most of the time), I share in that joy and embolden those thoughts. On the occasions where she is moody, anxious or fearful, I have tried to be calm, patient and understanding (though, admittedly, I am still working on this part). I have also tried to do little things I know she enjoys – cooking meals she is craving (or even going out to eat when we have plenty of food at home), buying lots of seltzer & juice (not to mention a doppler) and most importantly, rubbing her every night.

In focusing on Sarah, I’ve seen how happy she is, how true to herself she is (which can sometime mean being outwardly anxious and worried, which is ok!), how grateful she is for all the support she has received from friends and family, and how appreciative of me she is. I don’t know when exactly it happened, I think it was probably gradual, but over the last couple of weeks, by concentrating on Sarah and her needs, the “how” worries and fears have slipped into the background. I can’t say they’ve disappeared, but my excitement and gratitude has grown to a such a level that it dulls the worry. I (and we) are so very lucky for so many things, beyond just having each other and this pregnancy, but at this moment its never felt so clear, and I am enjoying letting it soak in.

That brings me to the doppler. To me it seemed both unnecessary and a potential cause of undue stress, so I wasn’t really excited about the purchase. I mostly kept that to myself though – her body, her choice. My fears were almost confirmed when on Sarah’s first try she was unable to locate the heartbeat. I could see the disappointment and worry on her face. While watching some YouTube videos on the matter, we heard it works best on a full stomach. Sarah downed some food and we tried again. This time, about 5 minutes in, I first heard Sarah gasp and her face light up. I then leaned in and heard the unmistakable beat of the little nug’s heart, just as Sarah had. I have to say, getting the doppler was definitely worth it, firstly, just to see Sarah’s expression of joy. Secondly, hearing the heartbeat was magical. It is still is hard for me to really make sense of the fact that there is a human growing in her, and that we will have to care for that human. But in hearing the heart, I couldn’t help but feel an intense connection, not just with Sarah, but with the little nug his or herself, and in that moment the realness sets in.

You can see a video of Sarah using the Doppler here!

HBP Brown Ale

I had two goals with this beer. The first being to make a beer a nice beer for Fall. The second was I wanted to use peppers; specifically, some hot banana peppers I had growing in the garden. I decided to do a brown (though a little on the lighter side given the Pilsner Extract) to give it a fall feel, used plenty of hops per usual, and added in the hot peppers at the same time as the yeast. We’ll see how it goes!

Recipe:

  • Steeping Grains
    • Brown Malt – .75Lbs
    • Caramel 40L – .50Lbs
    • 2 Row Pale – .25Lbs
    • Roasted Barley – .25Lbs
  •  Extract
    • Breiss Pilsner Light Extract – 6.6lbs
  • Hops
    • Cascade (6o min) – 2 ounces
    • Cascade (20 min) – 2 ounces
    • AU Stella (5 min) – 2 ounces
    • AU Stella (1 min) – 1 ounce
  • Other Ingredients
    • Whirfloc Tablet (5 min)
    • 6 Hot Banana Peppers, mostly deseeded (Pitched with Yeast)
    • Safale US-05 Yeast
    • 1/2 Cup Table Sugar (for priming)

9/30/15: Brew Date IMG_3162Thoughts:

I am pretty worried about this beer. Firstly, I really wasn’t sure how many peppers to use. I used 6, because I want it to have the pepper flavor, but I took most of the seeds out, because I don’t want the heat to overwhelm the beer. Hopefully this works, but there is a chance the pepper taste won’t come through at all, or even worse, it’ll just be too hot to drink. I also used over 7 ounces of hops so this thing is going to be really hoppy. I think that is great, but just hoping the hops work well with the brown grains (and the Pilsner Extract), as well as the peppers. Other areas of concern are the hops I used called “AU Stella”, which I’ve never used before. I decide to risk it because they had similar acidity to Simcoe (what I had planned to use), and they were majorly on sale. I also realized while brewing that I don’t have any corn sugar left. After consulting other brewing blogs, I think I am just going to keep the risks going here and try using table sugar for the first time as a primer.

10/14/15: Bottling Day Thoughts:

Based on the FG, looks like this beer is only 4.6% ABV. Seems rather low. Taste wasn’t bad though, so optimistic it might turn out alright.

12/18/15: Final Thoughts:

I’ve drank many of these beers trying to decide what I think of it, and I think I’ve decided its rather good. All of the things that I was worried about ended up not being a real issue. The pepper amount was perfect – noticeable, but not overbearing. The table sugar worked just fine. It’s very drinkable and has a flavor that is unlike any other beer I’ve had. The hops do drown out the malts quite a lot, so there really isn’t much “Brown” character to the beer. Not a complaint, but didn’t really turn out like I had originally envisioned. I think if I could do it over, I would have gone less on hops and heavier on the brown malt. While I do enjoy the beer, I don’t see a compelling reason to make this again. I do really enjoy the peppery aspect of the beer though, and definitely try to do that again in the future. Maybe something a little lighter so the pepper can shine through even more.

Medoc Mountain State Park

Our quest to visit all of North Carolina’s State Parks took us to Medoc Mountain State Park this Labor Day Weekend. Neither one of us had heard of it, and we both kind of saw why once we got there. It is sort of in middle of nowhere, not near any major highways, and didn’t seem to be very popular. The only other person we saw during our time was the park ranger as we began on our hike.

There are a couple of 5 mile loops in the park and we elected to do the one that ascended Medoc “Mountain” via the Summit Loop Trail. If there was an actual summit at some point, we missed it, so certainly don’t come here expecting to see much of a view. The trails were well maintained though, and the lack of other hikers, gave it more of a secluded feel than most of the hikes we do closer to home. Guessing it’s not always like this, but on the particular day we hiked it was unbelievably humid. Also, along the trail were nickel-sized frogs and bowling-ball sized mushrooms.

Overall we enjoyed the hike, but probably not enough to rush back to this park anytime soon. Mostly because the creek was a little stagnant, and not as interesting to look at as we are used to. Our favorite part of the whole trip actually was the drive to the park, and back home, going through several small NC towns – Henderson, Warrenton, and Louisburg.

Hike Info:

  • MapMyFitness Link
  • Starting Point: Medoc Mountain State Park Office (1541 Medoc Mountain Rd Hollister, NC 27844)
  • End Point: Same
  • Length: 4.75 Miles
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 1 Hour, 45 minutes
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Trail Map
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View of the Trail
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Bridge across the Creek

Hillsborough Day – Occoneechee Mountain and Mystery Brewing

Occoneechee Mountain is a very popular hiking destination in the Triangle. While there are only a few miles of trails in this State Park, it has much to offer, including the mighty waters of the Eno and Occoneechee “Mountain” itself – which at 867 feet, boasts the title of the highest point in Orange County.

On this beautiful Saturday in August, we elected to make a full day out of hiking Occoneechee, by ending the hike at Mystery Brewery Company. We also had the fortune of having our dear friends Patrick and Marissa join us for the adventure.

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Riverwalk Overlooking the Eno. Near the Starting Point

We started the hike in downtown Hillsborough, beginning on the Riverwalk, a paved trail along the Eno River. About 500 feet before the Riverwalk trail hits Eno Mountain Road, it turns to a trail, which is currently marked as “closed”. Don’t worry – we had no issues bushwhacking it through. We took Eno Mountain Road across the Eno River, and quickly made a right onto a gravel trail which led us to Occoneechee Mountain State Park. There are several hiking options once at the park. We elected to start along the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail, then take the Brown Elkin Knob Trail to the Cheshnut Oak Trail (with a pit stop atop Occoneechee Mountain), which hits the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail to finish back to where we started. Basically, this enabled us to cover a lot of ground, and still see the top of top of Occconeechee Mountain, which we would have missed had we just done the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail on its own. See the trail map below for specifics.

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Trail Map – Full Map Here

If you haven’t been to Occonneechee yet, you should. The elevation changes make it a truly unique hike in the Triangle, and the view atop Occonneechee isn’t to be missed. If you want to skip the Riverwalk part of the hike, you can make it much shorted, by just starting in the Parking area at the south area of the park.

We exited the park in the same area we started and headed back towards town via Eno Mountain Road, turning on Dimmocks Mill Road, and then Nash Street where Mystery Brewing Company’s “public house” is (you’ll pass the brewery itself on Dimmocks Mill Road, but its not open to the public).

This was probably the 4th time I’d been to Mystery Brewing Company, and each time I’ve been I’ve liked it more than the last. I was unimpressed several years ago when their offerings where limited, and mostly Belgians. They have since grown their offerings, with over a dozen options of continuously changing options available, of all types of beers (though Belgians are still their primary focus). At any given time they have a “Core Four” of four seasonally rotating drafts available, and “Novellas” which continually rotate and are often more experimental in nature. Also a couple of guest taps to boot.

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Mystery Brewing Company’s Draft Offerings

Sarah and I started with a couple of “Cour Four” beers – the Lockwood’s Retreat (IPA), and Evangeline (Summer Saison). Both were quite tasty, but especially the Evangeline – their Saison’s have never let us down. As one of their guest taps they had Wicked Weed’s Pernicious IPA, which we simply couldn’t pass up for our next beer. Patrick was a little more adventurous and tried a Novella – the “Karass”, a Lime Basil Wit. It didn’t hit the mark for any of us, but I do like that they experiment, and I have no doubt someone enjoyed it immensely.

To finish out the hike, we left Mystery Brewing and headed north on Nash until we hit King Street, which we took into town, admiring the historic houses (some dating back to the 18th century) along the way. If you still have time to kill I recommend grabbing some food (and maybe even another beer or two) at The Wooden Nickel, a quaint little beer bar that is my favorite in all of the Triangle. I’ll save a post for that on another day so I have an excuse to go back there!

Hike Info:

  • MapMyFitness Link
  • Starting Point: Parking Deck next to Weaver Street Market (228 S Churton St, Hillsborough, NC 27278)
  • End Point: Same
  • Length: 6.5 Miles
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (excluding beer break)

Brewery Info: Mystery Brewing Company (230 S Nash St, Hillsborough, NC 27278)

  • Number of Beers: 14+ – (4 rotating seasonals, 8+ constantly rotating experimental beers, ,2 guest taps)
  • Favorites: Any Saison
  • Prices: Decent ($5 for a pint, $3.50 for a 10 ounce pour).
  • Food: Meat and cheese plates
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Mystery Patio and Euchre Domination