He's back at it!

People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. In 2017, I hiked the Israel National Trail and the Golan Heights Trail. My next goal is to be the first person ever to hike the Baja Divide Trail.

The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in this endeavor.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Devil's Backbone

People who know me know that I have two passions in life: long distance hiking and great craft beer. Sometimes, all the stars align and these two essential elements joyously collide. 

As I hike southbound on the Appalachian Trail, I'd been hearing about a place in Virginia - this goes all the way back to Pennsylvania - from beer snobs like myself about a brewpub called The Devil's Backbone. 

I thought about checking it out but beer is just not in the budget on this hike. It's gonna be tight until the end - IF I make it. Also, this place was about six miles off-trail. That's a tough hitch or a long road-walk for me. I was gonna skip it but I am extraordinarily proud of Michigan's craft brew scene and I wanted to compare what Virginia had to offer. I decided to go for it. 

The hitch was, indeed, tough. I had to walk a steep mile down hill to even get to a place that was safe for a car to pull over. A lovely woman in a van finally had mercy on me. She knew right where I wanted to go. "All the hikers stop there." she told me. I was trying not to get my hopes up because you never know what to expect but visions of a cold, hoppy IPA were dancing in my head. 

As we pulled in to the place, I realized that it was much more than just a brewpub - it was a huge compound! It had an outdoor stage, several smaller buildings that sold food and beer and big, open areas for RV parking and camping. It appeared to be a well-planned event center. I later found out they had just had a concert there attended by 8,000 people. 

As soon as I walked into the restaurant part of it, I received a warm welcome. They had a place for me to park my pack and they sat me at a table near an outlet so I could plug in my phone. I felt kinda bad when the server handed me a dinner menu and I told her I would only be having one beer. She was fine with that. 

All of this matters not if the beer is no good and I was NOT disappointed. I ordered an Eight Point IPA - their flagship beer. It hit all the targets dead on: color, aroma, temperature, carbonation and, most importantly, taste. A perfect combination of bitter hops and sweet malt. This beer was worth getting off the trail. 

Then things got even better when my server insisted I try (rather large) samples of both the Schwartz Beer and the Trail Angel Weiss. 

Both very well crafted brews. This place competes with just about anything in Michigan. The hostess welcomed me to camp on the property and told me to come back at 9am the next morning for a 'hiker's special' breakfast. 

That morning I had the pleasure of meeting Steve, the owner. He is both a builder and a hiker and this whole place was his idea. We shared some great conversation about the trails we had hiked. Breakfast was served to me by the chef and was one of the best meals I've had on this trail. 

All that good food for only five dollars! Before I left, Steve made sure to hook me up with some bumper stickers and a new ball cap. 

The whole thing was such a truly positive experience that I was glowing for days after. Sometimes, life is just really good. 

Have you a good experience at a brewpub? Leave me a comment about it below!


Marlyss said...

It is all about the total experience..not just good beer. Sounds like that guy REALLY got that. I know that Stones in CA realizes that also because of it's sweet decor...big rocks, koi fish pond, fire pits, hoppy vines all around and over rustic wood tables...etc. This place sounds like somewhere I'd love to visit if I ever get to Virginia. Lucky you. Glad it was worth the long off-trail trek.

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks, Marlyss. Someday, I'll visit Stone in San Diego (actually Escondido, right?). Maybe do the PCT SOBO and finish at Stone.

Anonymous said...

So glad you had such a nice time!

Anonymous said...

It's Xena! :)

trish d said...

Like a dear friend use to tell me....."You never know what's around the next corner!" (Dennis). (Always have hope). Glad you got to indulge and get a bit of TLC.

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks, Trish!!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thanks, Xena! Happy birthday to you!

Jean said...

Hey Chris,
We are so glad you enjoyed your visit at Basecamp and we think it is so totally cool that you and our founder Steve met! Thanks for taking the time off the trail to be with us. Cheers!

Christopher Hillier said...

Thank YOU for being good to hikers and for sending me on my way with a full belly and good memories.