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Beers on the Trail: Wakely Mountain Fire Tower

“Each day mankind and the claims of mankind slipped farther from him. Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back on the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why…”

Jack London, in The Call of the Wild

moose-2It’s not exactly a secret that we’re not city people. So with a whole week of leave ahead of us and no pressing social engagements, we loaded up Tiny (Ben’s Jeep; we’ll get to that) with camping gear, and headed out into the best example of wilderness that New York has to offer: Moose River Plains. Basically, it’s a big area in the Adirondack Park, with back country camping spots—they’re numbered, have outhouses and fire pits, but that’s it—that visitors can claim for up to three nights running. There’s a sign-in/sign out sheet—in case you get lost, or eaten by a moose, or something—but no permits or fees required.

Since Glacier National Park is a long way away, this has become our favorite get-away-from-it-all destination. But of course, getting away is best done with good beer. And owing to the Leave No Trace policy (and our desire to take the beer on a hike) cans offer the most practical way to pack in a selection of tasty libations.

Saturday, September 26

There are rumors that an old, not-particularly-aggressive bull moose frequents Helldiver Pond. We arrived in Moose River Plains too late in the afternoon for a serious hike before dark, so we ambled down the approximately 0.33 mile Accessible trail to the pond. We didn’t see any moose, the water appeared stagnant, and most of the trees around the edge were dead, so that was a bit of a disappointment. On the way back to the Jeep, we saw this little guy.

Gregory the squirrel.
Gregory the squirrel

He was kind enough to pose for a few pictures.

We found a cool camping spot, and Ben got busy with the cooking. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s an awesome camp cook; I’m always spoiled on these trips. By the way, the Lodge Sportsman’s Grill is fantastic for camping. It’s significantly more fuel efficient than building a roaring fire, and it radiates heat in much the same way as a wood stove in your living room would, only smaller. moose-3 - cookin

Sunday, September 27   

Adirondack Park is full of trees, and as such, needs fire watchtowers. Standing at around 3719 feet above sea level (according to the gps and barometric altimeter on Ben’s watch), Wakely Fire Tower is one of the highest in the area. To access the trail, we drove through the Moose River Plains area, and turned just before the Wakely Dam, taking Cedar River Road to the trailhead. The first couple of miles are a relatively easy walk in the woods.moose11 trail The temperature was in the 40s when we started out, but by the time we’d gone a mile or so, we’d warmed up enough to ditch our hoodies. This week was supposed to be peak for fall colors, making for a scenic hike.moose-4 - bridge

And then, with about 1 mile to go (according to the sign, but it seemed more like 1.5), the pleasant forest path turned into a steep scramble to the top of the mountain, gaining 1200-ish feet in elevation over that distance. I’ll see your Insanity/390X/Spartacus/Brazilian Booty Burn and raise you a mountain hike with a pack on your back (fine, Ben carried the pack up. But I had it on the way down). The view from the fire tower was entirely worth all the effort. According to some sources, the tower itself is 92 feet tall. It’s sturdy enough, but sways a bit as you climb; I wasn’t too keen on standing up all the way after reaching the observation deck.

Grinning like an idiot
Me, grinning like an idiot.

But that’s okay; the forest-covered mountains, with lakes nestled in many of the valleys, were visible all the around, and the deciduous trees’ changing foliage contrasted beautifully with their neighbors’ evergreen needles. Here; see for yourself.moose-7 flag

 

According to our GPS, the round trip was between seven and eight miles.

We were pretty tired after that, and racked out as soon as it got dark. There’s nothing like camping to remind you of the body’s natural circadian rhythms.

Monday, September 28   

moose-8 TinyWith temperatures falling and rain threatening (not to mention that we were running out of drinking water), we struck camp and headed out. On the way, we discovered a 4×4 playground, and put Tiny through some of her paces. Did you know that a Jeep Wrangler can crawl itself up a hill in 4-Low? Frickin’ sweet.

Trail Beers

21st Amendment Back in Black

Back in Black never tasted so good.
Back in Black never tasted so good.

Thanks to its pillowy white head and sable color, this brew looks like a stout when poured. It definitely doesn’t taste like one, though. As Ben put it, Back in Black is, “Hoppy, roasty, malty and toasty. It’s a black IPA with more roast than I’m used to, but not unpleasantly so. There’s also a touch less hops than I’d expect, but again, it’s not bad.” At 6.8% ABV, it’s not a session ale, but makes a fantastic companion at the end of a grueling hike, or by the campfire, with roasted marshmallows.

Evil Twin Molotov Lite

Owing to its high ABV (8%), this one may not be great when you’re actually on the trail, but it’s very nice back in camp. Spicy, alcoholic, dry and grainy, with hints of pollen and pine. It was the only pint-sized can we took with us, and (in addition to the other selections) a four-pack was quite enough. I forgot to account for the effects of altitude on people who have been living close to sea level for years.

Sly Fox Oktoberfest Lager

Despite their getting a Bronze for it at GABF in 2013, I was disappointed in this year’s iteration of Sly Fox’s take on the classic style. I’ve had some quite good brews from them; this just isn’t one of my favorites. There’s a strong grainy aroma, without much Noble hops. Even refrigerated, it’s like, Boom! yeast punch in the mouth, followed by some Munich and Pilsener. Noble hops is the little sister tagging along behind, saying, “Hey guys, let me join the beer party.” But yeast and grain are all, “Nooope, this is our thing!”

Sixpoint 4 Beans

moose-9 - 4 BeansThis Imperial Porter is lightly boozy and bready, with hints of coffee, cocoa, and pipe tobacco. It starts out like an Imperial stout, but dries out at the end. Cold, it’s hard to pick up the vanilla, except in the nose. There’s definitely a fruity vanilla presence in the aroma.

I wasn’t expecting the breadiness from a porter, but like any imperial brew, it needs more of that malty backbone to carry the higher alcohol content well. It’s dry in the finish, with a hint of alcohol bite. The roast flavor is strong, but not acrid. Coffee and cocoa are well-balanced, and the vanilla helps to smooth it all out. This might be one of the best coffee porters I’ve tasted. Definitely a fun one for camping, though beware the 10% ABV if you plan to do anything requiring much thought or coordination.

Cigar City Maduro

This isn’t the easiest beer to get hold of, so we were excited to find some in New York. No, I’m not going to tell you where; that sort of thing almost guarantees a run on the store, which seems unfair to anyone who can’t just drop everything and go beer hunting.moose-10 - Maduro

The Maduro is well named; it’s a chocolatey, malty American Brown, with hints of oats and Arapiraca tobacco (a Brazilian leaf sometimes used as a Maduro wrapper). It should be noted that Cigar City Maduro is not as hoppy as a typical American Brown.

There are hints of pepper and lemon in the nose, a green peppercorn note in the flavor, and a dab of spiciness in the dry finish. This beer would make a fine accompaniment to a cigar—which, in turn, goes well with camping.

As the beer warms, that faint lemon hint transforms into an almost rye and vanilla character; the nose is roast, cacao, with some vanilla and a rye-like spiciness. It has a medium body, dry finish, and nearly opaque, dark-roast coffee (or even Coca-cola) color, with dark caramel highlights.

Photos by Benjamin Wilson

Resources:

London, Jack. “Quotes.” Adirondack Park. April 12, 2000. Accessed October 1, 2015.

Oktoberfest Lager.” Sly Fox Beer. Accessed October 1, 2015.

Shorr, Victoria. “The Cigar from Brazil.Cigar Aficionado, September 1, 2005.

Wakely Mountain.” Wakely Mountain. Accessed October 1, 2015.

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monsterid
Beer and travel journalist, with a healthy appreciation for coffee and craft spirits, too. Frequently explores the intersections of beer (or other craft beverages), food, travel and culture. They're all interrelated, and this is part of what makes these subjects so fascinating. You can find me on social media (several of them), or shoot an email to meaganwilson@burntgraphite.net.

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