Explore the Wander of Colorado Today!
Still in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, our next stop was Andy Goldsworthy’s new sculpture called ‘The Spire’ in The Presidio. From Crissy Field, we drove up Baker Street and, after a couple of turns, found ourselves on Lyon Street. Opposite Liverpool Lil’s, an English style pub which has been around for over 30 years, is one of the entrances, to the Presidio on Lombard Street. Just inside on the right is the Letterman Digital Arts Center, the new home for LucasFilm. In 2005 George Lucas moved both his Industrial Light and Magic and the LucasArts studios from San Rafael to under one roof in the Presidio. The Letterman Army Medical Center used to be on the site..
The Presidio covers nearly 1500 acres. It was an army post for over 200 years but became part of the National Park Service in 1994. We meandered through the Presidio, passing recently refurbished residential areas. Our destination was Inspiration Point, which is to the south of the park near the golf course. After driving past the Visitors Center, situated in the Officers Club near the main parade square, we turned onto Arguello Drive, past the golf club and eventually came to Inspiration Point. Just before turning left into the car park, we spotted the sculpture to our left.
It was just a short walk from the car park, across Aguello Drive and up a rough track to the new sculpture, which stands on a ridge looking down onto Inspiration Point and out over the bay towards Alcatraz and Angel Island. The site is still raw and the landscaping has not quite been completed. There are still cones and plastic tape preventing entry to several places.
Andy Goldsworthy is a remarkable British sculptor. He uses materials found in the environment – twigs, leaves, ice,
Looking up The Spire in The Presidio, San Francisco - stone, driftwood, etc. Most of his structures are not built to last. In fact some disappear very fast. Two of his more permanent pieces of work can be found in the Bay Area – Drawn Stone outside the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and Stone River at Stanford University in Palo Alto. The Spire was constructed last October. It is made up of the trunks of cypress trees which had been felled on the site because they were unhealthy. The structure looks like a branchless tree and is about 100′ tall. The sculpture is surrounded by newly planted cypress trees which are only inches tall at the moment. Eventually they will be as tall as The Spire. At the moment, it stands out like a sore thumb but, as the small trees grow, it will disappear and will eventually rot away or will have to be dismantled if it becomes unsafe.
It was amazing to stand at the base and look up to the top. I felt so small and insignificant. It will be interesting to see how the site changes over time.
Within no time at all we were in the main square of the Presidio. In the middle is a large car park, which used to be the parade ground when the Presidio was at its zenith. On one side of the parade ground is a row of handsome brick buildings which used to be the Montgomery Street Barracks. The plan is to convert the parking lot into a green park and to refurbish the barracks into restaurants, galleries and cultural spaces. One of the buildings has been completed and is the Walt Disney Family Museum which opened its doors on October 1 this year. One day we will come and view it, but that will have to wait until the crowds have died down; although at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning all was quiet and peaceful.
We then drove up the hill to The Spire. We last visited in January this year and were keen to check it out again. At the Inspiration Point car park we indicated to turn into it but it was closed off. There was a sign saying it was temporarily closed today. I wonder why? We drove a little further and turned into the Presidio Golf Club car park. Fortunately there were no signs saying we could not park there.
From there is was a short climb up to The Spire. The area is known as Aguello Gate and the path leads to the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Alongside the path were a stack of enormous felled Monterey Cypress trees. A sign nearby said the they had been felled as they were decaying. They will be replaced by young Monterey Cypress trees next year. It is all part of a well planned restoration project. The smell of resin from the felled trees was intoxicating.
Further on there was another stack of felled trees and they formed a convenient bench. I sat in the sun and looked around me. In front of me, towering high into the sky, was The Spire which was the inspiration of Andy Goldsworthy. Around the base of the spire were 100 young Monterey Cypress trees. On our visit in January they had just been planted and the area round the spire was clear apart from the tiny seedlings and the sticks supporting them. Today the view was different. The small trees and sticks were still there, although some of the seedlings had not survived, but weeds have sprouted all around each sapling completely hiding the tiny trees. I guess that was bound to happen. Hopefully on our next visit the trees will be higher than the weeds.
Tom had wandered off to take photos so I sat on my comfortable perch writing up my journal. I must say it was a great place to be. I leaned back and rested against another felled tree. The view was magnificent, not just of The Spire but I could see Alcatraz sparkling like a jewel out in the bay. What with the warmth of the sun and the resin smell, surely this was the place to be on this fine Saturday morning. I could have stayed there for hours just drinking in the sights sounds and smells all around me and watching runners jog past but Tom beckoned so I went to join him.
He had explored further up the path to where it joined the Bay Ridge Trail and he thought there would be a good view ahead of the bay as we were quite high there. The trail skirted the golf course. The reason I knew this was because I spotted a golf cart. The view never materialized and the path we chose came to a dead end at the base of a disused tower – probably a fire look out – next to a covered reservoir. The tower was defended by an impenetrable barrier of barbed and razor wire. The main intention was that nobody should be able to climb the tower.
We turned back and returned to the car and set off to find somewhere for breakfast.
Lionshead, Vail, Colorado serves as a favorite launching pad for visitors who want to get to the top of Vail Mountain easily.
For one, it is home to the only gondola in the mountain: the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Then a few meters from it is another ride to the top: the Born Free Express quad-chair lift a.k.a. the Vail “chair 8”. Actually the Born Free Express terminates much lower than Eagles Nest so if you want to reach the summit, then you better take the Gondola ride. A ride on the Eagle Bahn Gondola starts at Lionshead and ends at Eagles Nest, where much of the activity is. People who go to Vail Mountain converge at this point, the summit of skiing activity in the resort. Here, you can see all of Vail as well as the surrounding areas.
Eagles Nest is a wide facility that nests an outdoor BBQ, a coffee house, cafeteria, and a sit-down restaurant. Up here, you get the feel of having conquered the resort. Skiers usually take the Gondola then ski downward. However, if you are just here to catch the view from the top, then you can also take the downward trip. Since the Gondola has both an upward and downward trip, Lionshead effectively becomes both a launching and a landing pad. Reason enough for businessmen to have seen the potential of such a strategic and prime location.
It’s not surprising to see a lot of business establishments in the area. All around and within Lionshead, you get to see numerous hotels as well as restaurants. Checking into a hotel or condominium here has one major benefit. You get a head start to the Gondola compared to other visitors who have chosen to stay in the neighboring areas like Vail Village, for example. Then when you return from your trip to the summit on board the Gondola, you’d probably want to grab a bite, have some beer, or during summers, get some cold refreshments.
A restaurant that has found a spot nearby obviously becomes the first choice. Consider this particular detail when planning your next trip to Vail. If you want to make the most out of what might be the best vacation you’ve ever made, proper positioning has to be one of your top priorities. If your time in Vail is as limited as your budget, you would like to be where the action is. And here, it all starts in the place called Lionshead.
One of the drawing powers of most hotels and condominiums in Avon is their proximity relative to the Eagle Bahn Gondola or any of the lifts in the base area. While there are many that fit the bill, allow us to single one of them out that has something extra to offer – the Avon Spa Condominiums. Most of the prominent lodging establishments nearby have practically the same assets: on-site restaurants, business centers, free high-speed Internet access, a balcony with a good view, heated indoor and outdoor pools, etc. This one has something else and it’s very evident from the name itself. It specializes in spa services. Well, it’s not exactly the only one that offers this amenity. However, it’s one of the elite few that have a comprehensive selection of such services.
Author: Janice Jones
Hi Everyone! My name is Janice Jones and I have been living in and writing about all the great adventures of Colorado for over 10 years now! I'm based in the Vail Valley. I moved here for a ski season and styed all these years because it's just so much fun. Thanks for checking out these Colorado Travel Tips. I'm sure you will find them to be super helpful. If you have your own Colorado Travel Tips to share with other residents or visitors to this wonderful state, please share them in the comments, and I might write a full featured article about it!
Monday, July 1 was a particularly busy day for the #ColoradoDistilleryRoadTrip. We woke up in Palisade and visited Peach Street Distillers. Then we humped it up and over the Grand Mesa – passing Powderhorn Mountain Resort on the way. Next we checked out the diverse offerings from Colorado Gold Distillers in Cedaredge.
After that, our GPS sent us along a wildly narrow and windy road towards Peak Spirits, makers of CapRock Vodka & Gin. I had heard a decent amount about Lance Hanson’s vineyard/distillery/farming operation from a few friends, and that made the anticipation of visiting the farm almost unbearable.
Thirty minutes after we left Cedaredge we were there. At least we thought we were there.
Were we there?
PEAK SPIRITS is tucked away on the backroads a short drive from the Western Slope farming town of Hotchkiss, Colorado. There’s no enormous sign with their logo, just simple hand-painted sign that says ”open” or “closed”. We missed the turn into the farm at first, and continued down a road, where we encountered a sign with no names - time had worn the critical details off this marker. It reminded us of the “map with no names” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Little did we know we were just a few minutes away from the Holy Grail of farm distilleries.
Backtracking a few hundred yards, we followed the road back to where our GPS thought Peak Spirits was. We turned down a long dirt road with an open gate. It’s so low-key that even when you’re on Lance & Anna Hanson’s property, you’re not sure you’re in the right place.
A half-mile down the road lined with vineyards and rows of crops, we arrived at a two-story house with brown wooden siding. As we pulled around the corner, we spied Lance Hanson cleaning up around a series of fermentors outside his high-ceiling stone basement. We hopped out of the car, and chatted a little with Lance as he finished spraying down some equipment. When he was done, we headed up to the front porch of his house to talk about what he was doing - and why he was doing it.
Lance, Anna and their 2 kids moved to Hotchkiss in 2001 from California’s Bay Area. In his previous career, Lance was an executive at a software company, and when they sold he shipped his family out to live on a farm. They moved to the 72 acre farm very literally in the middle of nowhere, built a house, and started growing things. He started off with a winery, called Jack Rabbit Hill, named after the farm he moved to.
In 2004, Lance & Anna decided to diversify. They began distilling in August 2005, and flew St. George Spirits founder & friend Jorg Rupf in from California for a week to help this fledgling operation out. They took grapes from their vineyards and peaches, pears, cherries and apples from some neighboring farms and started making brandies. A few years later they launched CapRock Gin and Vodka. Lance told us that it’s a little different from how other distilleries get started - but by that time we knew that Lance wasn’t interested in doing things the conventional way.
Today, Lance’s operation is multifaceted – he produces estate wine, racks wine into kegs for bars with wine taps, distills spirits, grows 12 acres of hops, and in August 2013 is slated to open a bar in the new North Denver development The Source. He explained that, ”CapRock Farm Bar is all about bringing to Denver a slice of Jack Rabbit Hill Farm. We want the cocktails, stories and photos we feature there to express our farm roots.”
Although Lance started in the tech sector, he’s no stranger to getting his hands dirty. The day of our visit, Lance had been working hard and was sweating pretty good on this hot summer afternoon. The entire farm only has 4 full-time employees. Considering there’s more than 70 acres to work, only 4 employees seems like too few. But they make it work.
Sipping on some ice water on his porch, Lance started talking about biodynamic farming. Preaching about it, really. We hadn’t heard about it, so Lance gave us a primer. Basically, Biodynamic Agriculture emphasizes treating your farm as one organism, focusing on the ”development and interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system.” While it’s a form of organic farming, it goes much further than that. “It’s a much more rigorous organic standard, a more holistic approach. Healthier soils make for healthier plants,” he explained.
Hard to argue with that.
Lance was also one of the only people on this trip so far to interview us! He asked Matt and me about who we were and what we did in our “real jobs.” We discussed the publishing industry, the goals of the Colorado Distillers Festival, and more. This was no longer an one-directional interview, it was just 3 guys hanging out and learning more about each other.
After 45 minutes, we headed down to a small shed just a few steps from his house to see Peak still and talk more about the distilling process. One of the things that sets Peak Spirits apart is that they use wild fermentation of their wash. Lance said that it was a carryover from his wine-making operation. It’s one of the more unusual ideas we had seen on this trip. The name CapRock comes from their water source, a few thousand feet up above the farm. They get their water from a Cap Rock - ”a layer of hard, impervious rock overlying and often sealing in a deposit of oil, gas, or coal” – or in this case, water. The unique and pure qualities of this water source was a perfect way to brand their distillery, Lance told us.
Peak Spirits’ CapRock Gin & Vodka is widely distributed in many states, and even exported to Europe. “Colorado distilleries are a great thing and good for Colorado. The stuff coming from here is high quality,” Lance told us.
CapRock Gin, like many other Colorado gins we have sampled, is rich in botanicals. Juniper notes are prevalent, but there are also hints of lavender and pepper. It’s highly drinkable, balanced, and mixes into cocktails exceedingly well. It’s quickly picking up steam and is being offered in more and more bars throughout Colorado, and can often be found where quality spirits are poured, like City O’ City in Denver.
“We’re comfortable with who we are. We’re trying to get flavors that are expressive of the ingredients we use,” Lance said. The comfort level we felt after being there just a few hours was evident, and we’re already looking forward to visiting Lance, Anna, and Peak Spirits again.