Great Basin: Hiking Around Wheeler Peak

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Great Basin National Park can sorta be thought of in two pieces: the area surrounding Lehman Cave, and the area around Wheeler Peak.

To get to the Wheeler Peak portion you have to follow the whole scenic drive from the park entrance until it ends at the Bristlecone parking area. It takes awhile to get up there, but it is worth the effort because this is where all the best hikes in Great Basin are located.

Besides Wheeler Peak itself, here are my top picks for hikes in the Wheeler Peak and Bristlecone parking lot area:


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Sky Islands Forest Trail, 0.4 miles round trip

“This gentle, wheelchair accessible, trail winds through a high alpine conifer forest. Interpretive signs explain how this forest exists, cut off from other forests by distance, elevation, and time. Begin at the Bristlecone Parking lot at the end of the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.” (NPS website)

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Nice and easy trail, perfect for kids and handicapped folks

No matter which national park I go to, I always do all of the short little nature trails. Because why not? They are short and easy, plus they always lead to interesting sights. Doing this trail will only add a few minutes to your day, which is totally worth it once you see all the beautiful trees and little alpine streams.

This is a great hike for those who are unable to do the full Alpine Lakes Trail.

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Alpine Lakes Loop Trail, 2.7 miles round trip

“The trail passes two beautiful alpine lakes, Stella and Teresa Lakes, with great views of Wheeler Peak. Begin at the Bristlecone Parking Area, near the Wheeler Peak Campground.” (NPS website)

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This is a very pretty hike. It crosses over beautiful alpine meadows, with the imposing Wheeler Peak looming in the background.

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STELLA!!!!!!!!!!

It is also relatively flat, making it a good hike to do to help you acclimate to the higher altitudes in the park. And it leads past two stunning lakes. Total win.

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Trying to find the trail underneath the snow drifts…much butt scooting required.

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Stick your hand or feet in the water…it is impressively cold. I mean, it is basically just melted snow still surrounded by frozen snow, keeping it chilled.

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Teresa Lake, aka literally the coldest water I have ever felt

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More snow butt scooting.


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Bristlecone and Glacier Trail, 4.6 miles round trip

“Interpretive signs in the bristlecone pine grove explain the lives and significance of these ancient trees. The Glacier Trail is the continuation of the Bristlecone Trail. It continues beyond the bristlecone pine grove to the only glacier in Nevada, nestled beneath Wheeler Peak.” (NPS website)

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This hike was super cool and a lot of fun. The trail starts at the same trailhead as the other two hikes, and then splits off towards the glacier and bristlecone pine grove. It isn’t a difficult hike, and is absolutely a must-do when in Great Basin, especially for the bristlecone pines. They are the oldest living things on the planet, and don’t grow in many places.

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To get to the bristlecone pines, follow the trail towards the glacier. After a while you will see the Bristlecone Pine Grove Interpretive Trail to your left. It is just a quick little loop, but will put you up close and personal with these ancient trees (and by ancient, we’re talking over 5000 years old). Pretty awesome.

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The Bristlecone Pine spur trail

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The hike to the glacier was a bit more of challenge. After the bristlecone grove, much of the trail was covered in snow drifts (we were there in late June, for reference). However, you could see the trail pick back up after each snow drift, so we knew we wouldn’t get lost if we wandered across the snow. Plus other people had already crossed the snow before us, so we knew it was safe as long as we followed their footsteps. Literally, haha.

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Lots and lots of snow was still covering the trail to the glacier when we were there in the end of June. Be careful if you decide to cross snow drifts!

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Seriously though, really do be careful when crossing snow drifts…you never know what is underneath them, or how deep the snow goes.

Was it worth it? Yes. Did it make for some really cool photos? Definitely yes.

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The glacier!! and backside of Wheeler Peak

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All three of these hikes start from the same trailhead, and could easily be done in one day. Normally I try to give you my pick of the best hike in the park, but it is hard to choose between these. If time permits, seriously try to do all of three of these hikes. They will give you a really good sampling of all the coolest stuff to see in Great Basin. But if you can really only do one hike, pick the Bristlecone and Glacier Trail. That trail will take you to the only glacier in Nevada, nestled at the base of (arguably) the tallest mountain in Nevada, and past the oldest living things in the world. That’s a pretty epic round-up for just 4.6 miles!

And be sure to check out those scenic overlooks as you drive back to camp or wherever your next destination may be!

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Scenic overlook

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Click here for a list of all of the hikes in Great Basin National Park.


 

 

Beer S’mores: Stout Chocolate Bars and Belgian Ale Marshmallows

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I want to start out by saying my photos suck for this recipe. The food got mangy by the time it was ready to be photographed (explanation to come), and it was REALLY dark in our campground. And since food photographs best with natural light, well, you can see how that would present a problem. I got this recipe from The Beeroness, so you should really check out her website to see how this treat is SUPPOSED to look (link to original recipe is at the end of this post).

I’ve always wanted to be an amazing cook who prepares incredible meals for Robbie and me, but in all honesty, I’m just not there yet. Everything I make comes out a little wonky. Though he sweetly tells me everything I make is good. Liar- I know it sucks. But that’s why I need to keep practicing! So I’m gonna keep trying out new recipes and posting my favorites on here, complete with tips on how to do it better than I did haha.

And then one day, I’ll finally gain the skills to create my own recipes.

So these s’mores… I found this recipe on Pinterest from The Beeroness and thought it would be something fun to try for our camping trip to Great Basin. Huge shout out to my friends for always letting me use them as guinea pigs!

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Beer S’Mores: Stout Chocolate Bar and Belgian Ale Marshmallows

AUTHOR: Jackie Dodd | COOK TIME: Roughly 30 min active, 2 hrs inactive

INGREDIENTS

For the Marshmallows:
  • Powdered sugar
  • 3 ½ envelopes unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)
  • 1 cup beer (flat and cold – I used New Belgium Fat Tire)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Bars:
  • 10 (wt oz) dark chocolate (62% cacao)
  • 1/3 cup stout beer (I used Garage Brewing Co Marshmallow Milk Stout)
For the S’mores:
  • 18 graham crackers

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the marshmallows:
  1. Grease a 9×13 baking pan, sprinkle with powdered sugar until well coated, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer add ½ cup cold flat beer. Sprinkle with gelatin. Allow to stand while the sugar is being prepared.
  3. In a large saucepan (mixture will bubble up considerably) over medium heat, add the remaining ½ cup beer, sugar and corn syrup. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Raise heat to high and allow to boil until the mixture reads 240°F on a candy thermometer (about 6-8 minutes).
  5. Once the temperature has been reached, turn off heat.
  6. Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour the hot sugar mixture into the gelatin. Once all the sugar has been added turn the mixer on high until light and fluffy and tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
  7. While the mixer is running, prepare the egg whites. Add the egg whites to a bowl with the salt. Beat on high with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently fold the egg whites and vanilla extract into the stand mixer ingredients until just combined.
  9. Pour the marshmallows into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Allow to set at room temperature until set, about 2 hours. Remove from pan, cut into squares.
Make the chocolate bars:
  1. In the top of a double boiler add the chocolate and beer. Stir until the chocolate has melted and combined with the beer. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Pour the chocolate into the prepared pan in an even layer. Chill until set, about 20 minutes. Cut into 9 squares. Can be made four days ahead of time.
Make the s’mores:
  1. Brulé the marshmallows (or roast over a campfire!) and sandwich one square of chocolate and one bruléed marshmallow between two graham crackers.

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The flavors of these s’mores came out awesome! I was particularly stoked on the marshmallows. I’ve never made homemade marshmallows before, so I was excited to see them actually work! That being said, they don’t seem to hold up as well as their store-bought, preservative-laden counterparts. They melted while sitting in a hot car during the drive from home in LA to Great Basin in Nevada, and turned into a bit of a disaster. We tossed them in the ice chest and they kinda firmed up again (at least enough to throw on a skewer to roast over a campfire!), but they were sticky and not as pretty as when they started. So don’t judge the photos too much…transporting food for camping during road trips is hard!

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Recipe by The Beeroness. Check out her website for more great recipes! And also prettier pictures of these s’mores lol.

Recipe by The Beeroness; all thoughts and photos are my own.

 

 

Afternoon Tea at Jordan Pond House

If all your exploring in Acadia has left you hungry, stop in for some popovers at Jordan Pond House!

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Nestled right next to the lake, Jordan Pond House is an idyllic spot to warm up (or cool down) after adventuring around the park, or perhaps grab a romantic dinner.

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It has been serving its famous popovers to guests since the 1890s, making it a historic site of interest within the park.

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But foodies shall rejoice as well, because the food here is INCREDIBLE. The menu is full of mouth-watering locally sourced and seasonal food options, such as fresh Maine seafood and Maine blueberries. Yum!! Click here to view their whole menu.

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The famous popovers

The delicious popovers are served with Maine strawberry jam and butter. They may look huge, but these things are light, airy, and mostly hollow inside. And insanely addicting.

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This place gets very busy and the wait times can be horrendous, so you should definitely try to make a reservation. Click here to book online, or call (207)276-3316.

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If you are unable to get a reservation or decided to go spontaneously, the shortest waits for tables are before 11:30am or after 4pm.

Jordan Pond House is only open seasonally though, so be sure to check the website for current operating hours before you go.

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The Lobster & Crab Cakes, made with blistered corn and an oven-dried tomato and white bean salad, served with a lemon chive sauce. Totally amaze-balls.

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Pastries the size of my head… yes please!

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Lobster Stew made with fresh Beal’s lobster, butter, sherry, and cream. Just OMG. I could eat this everyday.

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An amazing meal served in a perfectly beautiful atmosphere… life doesn’t get much better than this!

P.S. the blueberry iced tea was delicious and refreshing. Trying foods and drinks made with blueberries is a must when in Maine!

LOBSTER + BLUEBERRIES = The taste of Maine.

For more information and to check operating hours, click here!


 

 

Hiking Acadia’s Precipice Trail

For all my fellow adventurous souls out there, this one is for you. If you’re like me and seek out the most brag-worthy trails in all of the national parks, look no further. In Acadia National Park, it’s the Precipice Trail.

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In fact, this hike is actually classified as a non-technical climb. Why? Because you are scaling the side of a rocky cliff via a series of ladders and iron railings.

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Precipice Trail to Orange & Black Trail, 2.5 miles round trip

“Iron rungs and ladders on exposed cliffs, very steep. Do not descend on Precipice Trail. Starts/ends at: Precipice Parking Area.” (NPS website)

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That description doesn’t even begin to describe the epicness that is the Precipice Trail. Easily the coolest hike I have ever done, this trail is definitely not for the faint of heart or physically unfit.

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If you are even kinda afraid of heights, skip this hike.

If you can’t climb a straight ladder (meaning straight up and down, no leaning), skip this hike.

There aren’t many hikes out there that require upper body strength, and this is one of them.

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Here are some things to consider for safety:

  • Make sure the weather reports are clear before starting. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS HIKE IN BAD WEATHER!!!
  • If it has been raining recently, the trail will be extremely slippery, including all of the rungs. Be sure to wear good shoes! And if in doubt, bring some gloves to help you grip the rungs.
  • Obey posted signs and follow the trail. Don’t attempt to hike back down the way you came up- continue following the Orange and Black Trail to get back to the parking area.

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Honestly, the scariest part of the trail was how slick it was from recent rain. One wrong step and you could fall off the cliff and die. And no, I’m not exaggerating. People have actually died on this trail. So hike smart, and stay safe. Grabbing that awesome Instagram photo won’t be worth it if you aren’t able to go home to post it.

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There are several points on this trail where you are literally scaling the wall of a cliff. No technical climbing skills required though- there are rungs and railings to help you along. It looks scarier than it is.

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The trailhead is located at the Precipice parking area, roughly halfway in between the Sieur de Monts park entrance and the Sand Beach Entrance Station. It’s easy to spot; you can’t miss it.

Once you are on the trail, just follow the blue paint! There are blue paint marks and arrows throughout the hike to keep you on the right path.

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This is hands down the coolest hike in Acadia! If weather permits and you are in good enough shape, you definitely don’t want to miss this one. The views are incredible, and the photo ops are endless.

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For a complete list of hiking options in Acadia, click here!


 

 

Where to Camp in Kings Canyon National Park (Sort of)

I don’t know how it works in national parks (or state parks for that matter) in other states, but here in California, good luck getting a campsite on a holiday weekend. You have to be waiting on your computer the very first day reservations become available for your desired dates, and then attempt to reserve your site the very moment the link goes live. Sorta like trying to register for classes back in college. And even then you still might not be successful.

On the one hand it’s awesome so many people want to visit and support our parks, but on the other, it sure makes life difficult.

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By the time we decided to make this Kings Canyon trip happen, that narrow window to book a site within the park had long since come and gone. Everything within the park was already booked, and all the sites in Sequoia were gone too. However, the park is surrounded by Sequoia National Forest, and it has tons of campgrounds of its own. We were lucky and found a spot at Big Meadow Campground, which is only a 20 minute drive from Grant Grove.

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The campground ended up being pretty cool. Lots and lots of space, plus less rules and regulations than the campgrounds inside the park. They actually allowed firewood gathering!

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It came with a picnic table and fire ring, plus a bear locker to store your scented stuff (this park is probably one of the most bear infested parks in the whole country). Tons of room for tents, easy access to bathrooms (pit toilets), and firewood sold onsite by the campground host.

There is no running water though, which isn’t a big deal to me, but is something to keep in mind.

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Gathering firewood, just because we can.

Despite its more primitive nature, this campground was really pleasant and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. I would definitely recommend this spot to others.

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To check out all of the available camping options in and around Kings Canyon, visit the park website.

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To check for available sites in any of the campgrounds and to make a reservation, click here.

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Two of the best scents in the world: coffee and bacon!

All the spots in Kings Canyon full? Click here to looks for availability in the national forest, near Hume Lake (which is what we did).

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And if you want to check out Big Meadow campground specifically cause it’s awesome, click here to make reservations.

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There is no shortage of campgrounds and lodging options near Kings Canyon, and even plenty of first come, first served sites available in case you couldn’t get a reservation. And the national forest area even allows people to set up camp outside of designated campgrounds (we saw tons of tents practically right next to the highway). So no matter what, you will be able to find a place to stay. But the longer you wait to get a spot, the worse your options become.

I mean, who wants to camp next to a highway? That just feels like tempting fate. Definitely not as fab as our spacious and secluded campground. So plan ahead and make those reservations folks!


 

 

Kings Canyon: Hiking in Cedar Grove

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In case this is my first Kings Canyon post you’re reading, I should start by saying that Kings Canyon is divided into two halves, Cedar Grove and Grant Grove, with a long scenic drive through Sequoia National Forest connecting them.

Cedar Grove is the much bigger half, but it’s also less developed and less accessible. But you have to go in order to have the complete Kings Canyon experience. Each half contains very different features of the park, and it is the combination of both that makes Kings Canyon such a unique park. Grant Grove is full of the enormous sequoias, and Cedar Grove has waterfalls, granite canyons, and rushing rivers.

Here are my top picks for hikes in Cedar Grove:

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Roaring River Falls, <0.25 miles

“A very short, shady walk to a powerful waterfall rushing through a granite chute. 3 miles (4.8 km) east of the Village road. Paved, relatively accessible.” (NPS website)

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You can’t visit Cedar Grove without stopping at Roaring River Falls. The parking area for this “hike” is right next to the main road, and the trail is very short and easy. It’s so short, there isn’t even mileage listed for it on the park website. You can do it all in less than 10 minutes if you’re pressed for time, but you may find yourself mesmerized by the waterfall and lingering longer than that.

The waterfall itself is just ok. I mean it’s obviously cool, but nothing spectacular. The thing I found most interesting about this waterfall is how turbulent the water at the base is. It was actually a little scary. Definitely no swimming at this one!

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Zumwalt Meadow, 1.5 mile loop

“This 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail passes high granite walls, lush meadows, and the Kings River. Trailhead parking is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) east of Cedar Grove Village road. Purchase a trail guide at the visitor center. Allow 1 hour. ” (NPS website)

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This hike was a lot of fun! It’s mostly flat, and the views change drastically throughout the short 1.5 miles. Zumwalt Meadow provides a good sampling of all the things that make the Cedar Grove half of the park cool, so if you only have half a day to spend there, this is the hike you should do. And if you have more time, then you should still do this hike. It is a very peaceful stroll through breathtaking meadows, forests, and canyons. Super cool.

At one point the trail forks and you have to choose which direction to do the loop. There is no wrong choice; they both circle back to the same place. But I think the progression of sights you see is more impressive when you start on the left fork, heading across the meadow on boardwalks first.

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Mist Falls, 9 miles round trip

“This sandy trail follows the glaciated South Fork Canyon through forest and chaparral, past an impressive show of rapids and cascades, to one of the largest waterfalls in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The first part of this 8-mile round trip is relatively flat; during the last mile to the falls, the trail gains 600′. The average time for this trip is 4 to 5 hours.” (NPS website)

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This looked like a perfect spot to swim. The water was so calm and clear!

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Ok, the website says it’s 8-miles round trip, but every other map and sign in the park calls it 9. So I’m going with 9 too, cause I say it’s always better to prepare for a longer hike and be surprised if it’s shorter, than to plan for a shorter hike and be stuck out on the trail for longer than planned, for safety reasons.

Despite its length, it’s actually a pretty easy hike and it goes quickly. We finished it faster than the website estimates, and we never felt rushed and took several breaks. I wish we had started it earlier in the day though, cause there were a couple spots that would’ve been PERFECT for swimming, but we didn’t have time. So my recommendation? However long you think you’ll need to do the hike, add an extra hour and bring your swim stuff!

Also, there were more little gnats on this trail than I have ever seen in my whole life. Be prepared, and take whatever you need to repel insects- bug repellent, face shrouds… trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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All of these trails can be done easily in one day. Get an early start though! I would suggest starting with Mist Falls, do some swimming on your way back from the falls, break for lunch, do Zumwalt Meadow, do Roaring River Falls, and of course, stop at all of the scenic viewpoints along the drive! That would be my perfect day in Cedar Grove.

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For a complete list of all the hiking trails in Cedar Grove, visit the official park website.


 

 

IPA Chicken Strips and Flaky Pepper Biscuits

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I am a sucker for comfort foods. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, any sort of bread or pasta… you know, all the stuff that is just awful for your waistline, but incredibly delicious. We try to be healthy as often as we can at home, but sometimes you just have to give in to the cravings. I am all for eating a balanced diet, but in my opinion, part of that balance includes eating the things you love.

My mom has been making these chicken strips for my sisters and me since we were little kids. She would make up a big batch and pack them in the ice chest whenever we went to the beach (so in our household this chicken recipe became known as “beach chicken”). Well now that I have a home (well, apartment) of my own, I decided to carry on the tradition and keep making this chicken, except I gave it a little twist- beer!

And since any good entree requires equally tasty side dishes, I found this perfect biscuit recipe from my favorite food website, The Beeroness. The result? Pure awesomeness.

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IPA Chicken Strips and Flaky Pepper Biscuits

AUTHOR: Jackie Dodd (biscuits), Natalie Bates (chicken strips) | PREP TIME: 5 min biscuits, 10 min chicken | COOK TIME: 10 min biscuits, 10-15 min chicken

INGREDIENTS

For the biscuits:
  • 3-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 8 tbs unsalted cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup wheat beer (I used Lagunitas Doppel Weizen)
  • 2 tbs melted butter
  • ¼ tsp course sea salt
For the chicken strips:
  • 1 cup pale ale (I used Strand Brewing Co Atticus IPA)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 lbs boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbs seasoning salt (add more or less to taste)
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the biscuits:
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the cold butter, mix with beaters until well combined.
  4. Add the buttermilk and beer. Mix with a fork until just combined.
  5. Add to a well-floured flat surface, pat into a rectangle. Using a cold rolling pin (preferably marble) gently roll into a large rectangle, about 1″ in thickness, using as few strokes as possible.
  6. Fold the dough into thirds as you would a letter about to go into an envelope. Roll lightly, once in each direction to about 1″ thickness, fold in thirds again. Gently roll into about 1-1/2″ thickness (this will give you flaky layers).
  7. Using a biscuit cutter cut out 6 to 8 biscuits. Place in a baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  8. Brush biscuits with melted butter, sprinkle salt.
  9. Bake at 425° for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
Make the chicken:
  1. Mix eggs and beer in a medium bowl until well combined.
  2. Add flour and seasoning salt to a large ziplock bag and shake until combined.
  3. Add an inch or so of vegetable oil to a large skillet and heat until it’s hot enough for frying (To test: Dip the handle-end of the spoon into the oil. Oil that’s ready for frying will bubble around the handle).
  4. One at a time, coat thawed chicken strips in the egg mixture, place in the ziplock bag filled with flour, and shake until chicken is thoroughly coated in flour mixture. Carefully place in oil. Be sure not to overfill your pan so each strip has room to be surrounded by oil.
  5. Cook until breading is golden brown and strips are cooked all the way through (flip and rotate chicken as needed to cook evenly).
  6. Place finished strips on a plate covered in paper towels to absorb excess oil before serving.

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This is one dinner that is sure to please the even the pickiest of eaters. It is comfort food at it’s finest, sort of an at-home version of KFC. Except this version includes beer, which automatically makes it better. This chicken tastes great cold too, making it a good choice to throw in the ice chest for camping trips, beach days, or picnics.

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Biscuit recipe obtained from The Beeroness. Check out her website for more great recipes!

Photos, thoughts, and chicken strip recipe are my own; biscuit recipe by The Beeroness.

 

 

Kings Canyon: Hiking in Grant Grove

So as I mentioned in my Scenic Drive Through Kings Canyon post, the park is split into two sections, with a big stretch of national forest dividing them. Grant Grove is the considerably smaller of the two, and also the more easily accessible and more frequented. But don’t let its smaller size fool you; some of the coolest sights in the parks can be found here, like forests full of majestic sequoias, the largest trees in the world.

Here is a list of what I consider to be the best things to see and do in Grant Grove:

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General Grant Tree Trail, 1 mile loop

“One of the world’s largest living trees. President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation’s Christmas tree in 1926. Visit the historic Gamlin Cabin and the Fallen Monarch along this 1/3 mile (.5 km) paved trail. North and west of the Kings Canyon Visitor Center.” (NPS website)

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If you are looking for the most iconic or most popular sight in the park, this is it. This trail is unbelievably crowded, complete with giant tour buses and all, but the General Grant Tree itself does not disappoint. It is GIGANTIC, and beyond impressive to see. And incredibly difficult to photograph. There is no good way to capture the enormousness of these trees on camera… you just have to see it. It’s an easy loop, with lots of spur trail options to add on to your hike if you feel like doing more exploring. Despite the crowds, it’s definitely worth a stop.

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North Grove Loop, 1.5 mile loop

“This lightly traveled, 1 1/2 mile trail provides an opportunity for a close look at the big trees. Enjoy a quiet walk past meadows and creeks, through mixed conifer and sequoia forest. The trailhead is at the Grant Tree parking area.” (NPS website)

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The North Grove Loop starts in the same parking lot as the General Grant Tree Loop, so if you have an extra hour or so and want to see more trees, this is a good choice. It is much more secluded than the General Grant Loop and is a great place for a quiet walk through the forest. The views aren’t that spectacular though, so I wouldn’t go out of your way to do this one. This hike is perfect though if you have spare time and want to seek some peace and quiet. Maybe some woodland meditation or yoga?

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Buena Vista Peak, 2 miles round trip

“The 2 mile round-trip hike up this granite peak begins just south of the Kings Canyon Overlook on the Generals Highway, 6 miles southeast of Grant Grove. From the top of Buena Vista Peak, a 360-degree view looks out over the majestic sequoias in Redwood Canyon, Buck Rock Fire Tower, and beyond to a splendid panorama of the high Sierra.” (NPS website)

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Ok, this was easily the best hike in the Grant Grove area. I love hikes that pack a lot of bang for your buck, and this was definitely one of those hikes. Only 2-miles round trip, but look at those views!!! Pro tip: skip the King Canyon Overlook and just do this hike instead. The views are 100 million times better.

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And all of these hikes can be done in half a day, leaving plenty of time for other adventuring!

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For a full list of hikes in the Grant Grove area, visit the Kings Canyon official website!


 

 

Touring Lehman Cave!

If you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of Lehman Cave. Nor did you know there were any caves in Great Basin National Park. Or have even the slightest idea what is in Great Basin at all. It has somehow stayed under the radar, which is surprising after discovering how seriously cool this park is. It has so many distinct features that are unexpected to be found all in the same park, let alone in the middle of nowhere in Nevada.

Lehman Cave is one of these features. The only way to see the cave is by booking a tour, so here is what you need to know:

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Behind the visitor center, where the cave tour begins

Cave tour options (from the NPS website):

Lodge Room Tour

Lodge Room Tours are approximately 60 minutes long. The Lodge Room Tour travels 0.4 miles, and is ideal for families with young children. The Lodge Room Tour highlights the Gothic Palace, Music Room, and Lodge Room sections of Lehman Caves. Tours to the Lodge Room are limited to 20 visitors. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory.

Grand Palace Tour

Grand Palace Tours are approximately 90 minutes long. The Grand Palace Tour travels 0.6 miles, and children must be at least 5 years old to join the Grand Palace Tour (except on tours November through February). This tour visits the Gothic Palace, the Music Room, the Lodge Room, Inscription Room, and the Grand Palace sections of Lehman Caves, including a chance to view the famous “Parachute Shield” formation. Tour is limited to 20 visitors. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory.

 

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The natural entrance to the cave

All of the following photos were taken on the Grand Palace Tour. Cause in my opinion, if you’re gonna tour the cave, you may as well go all in and see as much of the cave as possible! It’s only a couple bucks more than the Lodge Room tour, and covers almost twice as much of the cave. Worth it.

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General Cave Tour Tips:

  • There are some stairs and narrow passageways, so visitors should be in somewhat decent shape.
  • It can get pretty cold (in the neighborhood of 50°) inside caves, so dress in layers!
  • The ground can also get wet and slippery, so wear shoes with tread.
  • They won’t allow you on the tour if you’re wearing clothes that you have worn inside any caves or mines at any point in time, so if you do frequent caves, wear something different this time to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome.
  • Leave all bags, food, and drinks in the car, but be sure to bring your camera!

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Cave Tour Schedule*:

Fall Tour Schedule: September 5 to October 31, 2017
Grand Palace Tour (90 minutes, ages 5 & up)
9:00am & 1:00pm
Lodge Room Tour (60 minutes, all ages)
11:00am & 3:00pm
Winter Tour Schedule: November 1, 2017 through March 8, 2018
Grand Palace Tour (Open to all ages during winter schedule only)
1:00pm Monday – Friday
9:00am & 1:00pm Saturdays and Sundays
There are no tours available on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years Day.Spring Tour Schedule: March 9, 2018 – May 24, 2018
Grand Palace Tour (90 minutes, ages 5 & up)
9:00am & 1:00pm
Lodge Room Tour (60 minutes, all ages)
11:00am & 3:00pmSummer Tour Schedule: May 25, 2018 – September 3, 2018
Grand Palace Tour (90 minutes, ages 5 & up)
9:00am | 11:00am | 1:00pm | 2:00pm | 3:00pm
Lodge Room Tour (60 minutes, all ages)
8:30am | 10:30am | 12:30pm | 2:30pm | 4:00pm

 

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According to the park website, tickets can either be purchased in person at the visitor center on the day of your tour, or in advance online. But here on The Whiskey Wanderer, I’m going to say the only way to get tickets is to make a reservation online. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I saw get turned away at the visitor center, being told that the tours were not only sold out for that day, but also for the following two weeks.

The tours WILL SELL OUT (each tour is limited to only 20 people), so if you want to be sure you get to go on a tour, plan ahead and make a reservation.

Click here to book a tour.

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Ticket Prices:

Lodge Room Tour
(60 Minutes)
Grand Palace Tour
(90 Minutes)
Adults
(16 & older)
$8.00 $10.00
Youth
(5-15 years old)
$4.00 $5.00
Infants & Toddlers Free N/A
Golden Age/Senior Pass
(cardholder only)
$4.00 $5.00
Golden Access Pass
(cardholder only)
50% off 50% off

 

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Early visitors to the cave would write their names on the ceiling in soot

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Seriously though, this is one of the must-see sights in Great Basin National Park, and for good reason. This cave is super cool, and no visit to the park is complete without seeing it. Great Basin has four features that make it a ridiculously cool park, and this is one of them (the others are coming in other posts… stay tuned!). It’s definitely worth the time and money.

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For more information on Lehman Cave and Great Basin National Park, visit the official website.


 

A Scenic Drive Through Kings Canyon

I’m ashamed to admit that this was my first visit to Kings Canyon. I’ve lived in southern CA for 30 years (aka my whole life), just a few short hours from this extremely underrated national park. I mean, it doesn’t even get it’s own website or merch, being lumped together with Sequoia National Park.

Ok, in fairness, the two parks are literally right next to each other. If you think of the protected land as a giant “U”, Kings Canyon is the tip of each side of the “U” and Sequoia is the rounded bottom half, with the space in the middle being filled with national forest lands. It’s sorta a weird setup, so you can see why they all often get treated as one.

Anyways, to get from one half of Kings Canyon to the other you have to pass through Sequoia National Forest via a long, winding mountain road that takes an hour or so. Bummer for those prone to carsickness (like me, bleh), but awesome for the views along the way! There are several overlooks worth stopping at, and even an amazing waterfall right next to the road!

So here are my photos from the drive between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove, the two halves of Kings Canyon. These stops aren’t listed on the park maps or website, since they aren’t technically in the park, so just keep your eyes peeled as you drive!

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Leaving Grant Grove

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Grizzly Falls, basically right next to the road

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Sunset back at Grant Grove again

The national forest is full of awesome things to see and do and is easy to overlook when jumping around between the national parks. We didn’t even think to spend a day or so just in the national forest part, and I really regret that. But at least we were able to check out some of its awesome scenic viewpoints! And now I have a reason to go back someday.