With Alex’s birthday fast approaching, we thought it was time he had a playhouse to enjoy. Our initial plan was to purchase a playhouse from Costco or Amazon (something like this, not this – read the reviews), but discovered the smallest ones needed a flat area approximately 154 square feet for the structure and 598 square feet for a safe play area. Our sloped mountain lot does not have this type of level area, at least not without a major earth moving project.
Plan B? Build a playhouse from scratch! Since we can’t find something that suits our lot, we are going to build. And our next house project is with the various engineers, we need something to keep us busy.
As always with our construction posts, when associated with actual building, ‘we’ is Dave.
Preparation:Select build site, with consideration for set backs. Know your local regulations on how large of a structure you can build without a permit.
Critical Tools: Makita 20 lb Demolition Hammer – This tool was rented from Home Depot and was selected because it also has drill functionality. Just in case rocks are encountered in the Rocky Mountains.
Trigonometry and guide string – To ensure square corners just remember a^2 + b^2 = c^2. Yes, that seemingly useless class will come back to haunt you.
Dig first hole and set concrete form
Mix and pour concrete, set support brackets
Confirm location of next hole
Skill Level: Advanced/Expert. There is trigonometry involved.
Tip(s): Just rent the demolition hammer. A post hole digger and breaker bar will only get you so far.
Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 2.0 miles (one way)/+971/Most difficult
Time Elapsed: 120 minutes.
Comments: This is our first visit to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We came in off of Gap Road, and it would have been better to come in at the visitors center for our inaugural visit. We found our way to Mountain Base road and stopped in Bootleg bottom (named for the bootleggers that used to operate out of the area). We decided to try the Coyote Trail since we conveniently parked at the trail head.
The trail starts out deceptively simple. A smooth trail along side some mountain meadows lined with Aspen. Soon the trail heads into the woods and the difficulty increases to moderate – it is rockier but nothing to strenuous. Then the difficulty increases again, with a scramble up some rocks where care must be taken. Unfortunately, weather started to blow in and we were not prepared for hiking in freezing rain/snow. Or going back down a wet rock scramble while packing Alex. We opted to turn back for safety reasons and did not make it to Frazer meadow.
Would we return? Definitely. We really enjoyed our abbreviated hike. We look forward to coming back with an earlier start.
Fermentation log details when we added apples, cinnamon, and dry hopped our oatmeal apple pie cream ale (brew day post).
What is with the funky fermentation profile? To conserve wort, a refractometer was used for the first few days of fermentation. We forgot brewing 101 where the refractometer is only good for wort. The alcohol that is present once fermentation starts throws off the values. Day 5 we used different equipment.
The cinnamon aroma is strong, but it does not come through in the flavor profile. The Pink Lady apples are delicious for eating, but when we brew this again – Honey Crisp is the way to go. This was our original plan, but the apples were neglected on the stove and the sugars went past caramelization to ash. Of the apple varietals the local grocery had, Pink Lady was the choice we made.
The flavor of the beer is close to what we wanted, but not quite there. Because we were low on mash temperature, it is a drier beer than desired. A higher mash temperature would have resulted in a residual sweetness that would better evoke apple pie.
Sent this to cold crash – looking forward to transferring it to a keg, carbonating, and drinking in a couple weeks.
Ah, winter is coming. So it is time to brew before the weather is too cold and the wind is too sharp to monitor our brew kettle outside. The amber we brewed back in July kicked a couple of weeks ago and Jess had to bring a 1/6 home from work to fill the void (The Post Brewing Company, Big Rosie Porter).
This time around we are trying an oatmeal cream-style ale. Adjuncts will be apples and cinnamon added at secondary to provide some traditional apple pie flavors. A slightly higher mash temperature, closer to what one would expect of porters, will provide a sweetness on the palate due to unfermentable sugars.
Check out the brew record linked above for the nitty gritty brew day details.
The mash tun has found a new home – a shop cart. The mash tun is very heavy and we struggled to lift it to the top of the brew tree in July. Better to leave it lower and use the pumps.
We lost more heat than we expected during mash-in. The mash temperature, which was 4 degrees lower than the desired target, will result in more fermentable sugars and a drier beer. Not the end of the world, but there will be some sweetness lost that would help emulate apple pie flavors.
Whirfloc was not added. It listed on the brew sheet, but was completely overlooked.
We also lost more volume to the bottom of the brew kettle – approximately 1 gallon. This is something to keep in mind for our future recipe calculations.
Malt can be used as prop on model train tables.
72.9%, lower than the 75% for the Amber. These are significant drop-offs from what we experienced in Loveland. So what gives? An educated guess points to the water profile, with solid money betting on low calcium (check out this post on why water matters). A water testing kit may be on the to purchase list.
What the future (does not) holds
The brew shed has been postponed. We brewed in the mouth of the garage and kept the door open. The wind issues we experienced when we brewed the amber were eliminated and we were not overcome with propane exhaust fumes (woohoo!). So for the time being, money shall be saved and the brew shed will not be built.
Water analysis. Because if there is a way to be nerdier about home brewing, this is it.
Purchase more valves. Still needs to be done. The requisition department is slow.
Ah, the deck. The original two week estimate to completion quickly morphed into five. Why the 250% increase? The major reason was that sections of the deck were poorly done and required more repair work than originally estimated (see this post (demo 2/3) and this post (assembly 2/3) and this post (demo 3/3)). Part was also finding the proper demolition technique (see this post). And wrangling Alex (summer camps, meeting cereal demands) takes time away from deck repair.
What is left to be done:
Screening around the hot tub area.
Benches/table in the hot tub area.
Post caps. Sooner or later we will make a decision on what to buy.
What we like most: The hot tub. It is amazing how time flies while one is soaking.
The gates. We hired a local metal artist to create two custom gates for us. Marion did a wonderful job and we look forward to commissioning more functional art from him in the future.
Having a stable and safe deck. No more sloping due to improperly installed cantilevers. No more over cut stair horses. Just a nice solid feeling deck.
The railing. We now have vertical railing balusters that Alex can’t climb, although, not for a lack of trying. Not only have we removed Alex’s ladder, but we have helped modernize the look of the deck. Gone are the heavy rustic log balusters, in are the sleek black powder-coated iron balusters. Add in the cocktail rail, and life is good. The aesthetic transformation is impressive.
The color of the deck. After some debate, the Clamshell (medium grey) camp won out arguing that contrast was better than trying to match the color of the house and failing. Combined with the black railing, it looks sharp.
Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 4.3 miles (total)/~180 feet/Easy
Time Elapsed: 180 minutes.
Comments: This was a beautiful hike that was even more enjoyable since we were hiking with friends. Based on their advice, we arrived at 9 am in the Brainard Lake parking lot. The Long Lake lot was already full and the ranger said a 6 – 6:30 am arrival was needed to ensure a spot in the Long Lake lot! This is not happening with Alex. Starting at the Brainard Lake lot added 1.5 miles round trip to our 2.8 mile hike, so be prepared to for a longer walk. The Long Lake Loop is also known as the Jean Lunning Loop.
Alex did great and hiked approximately 3.5 miles (out to the trail, the trail, and was carried from the trail head to the parking lot). In general, the trail is smooth and wide. There are some wooden bridges above swampy sections, but they are very sturdy. Leashed dogs are welcome and all pups we encountered were very well behaved. Alex dipped his toes in the lake and confirmed it was cold. Despite the chilly, he had a great time wading in the lake.
Would we return? Definitely. The road up to the recreation area is good and there is a campground. We hope to bring Abby up soon for a long weekend so we can get an early start and go on longer day hikes. Another option we look forward to is taking a picnic to Brainard Lake – no hiking, just Alex splashing in the water.
Destination: Rainbow Lakes, Roosevelt National Forest
Time of Day: 9:45 am start
Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 2.6 miles (total)/~396 feet/Easy
Time Elapsed: 180 minutes.
Comments: This is the second time we hiked (or tried to hike this trail). Our first hike was almost two months ago, the first weekend that the trails and campground was open. It was a madhouse. This weekend was much quieter: we were able to get a parking spot in the trail head lot, campground was not full, and there were fewer people dispersed camping along the road to the trail head.
We were actually hiking at 9:45. Out of the house by 9:15 and the road was much improved compared to two months ago. It seems like gravel was brought in and a road grader touch the surface to help reduce the bone rattling drive. We would actually think about bringing Abby up the road (if poor Abby was in running condition).
As with our first trip, the trail is still poorly marked and the multitude of social trails just add to the challenge. Following the trail was easier this time with the snow fields melted away and down trees cleared. We clearly saw where we lost the trail on our first hike and where the trail went. It is no wonder we lost it, two months ago it was covered with snow. With the snow gone it was little more than a goat path through some rocks.
As the trail heads down to the second lake, there is an option to take the second switch back and go to the lake shore, or continue on straight towards the third and fourth lakes. The distance between lake 1 and 2 is very close, it is a longer hike from lake 2 to 3, and lakes 3 and 4 are adjacent. There is a fifth lake close to lake 4, but we did not pick out the trail to head that way.
While we were dipping our toes in the frigid water of lake 2, fellow hikers shared the report of a moose sighting in lake 4. Alex, who desperately wants to see a moose, led the way. Unfortunately, we arrived at the lake after Mr. Moose had gone home to take a nap. According to Alex, Mr. Moose is a fan of Thomas the Train and was going to watch Thomas after his nap.
Alex was in a hiking mood and hiked the entire trail out and back. A great little trooper. This took us 3 hours to do the full loop (and we foolishly though we walked close to 2.6 miles the first time. Ha!). Considering the size of rocks Alex had to clamber over and that we stopped to dip our toes in a frigid lake, 3 hours was a good pace.
Ah, college kids: About 1/10 of a mile shy of the trail head, we saw a group of college kids heading up to the lakes to fish. One kid carrying a half dozen poles, another kid with a bucket, a couple kids carrying food/camp chairs, and the two poor souls at the end lugging up a cooler. Filled with ice (and beers?)? These poor souls thought the lake (and only one lake) was much closer to the parking lot than the 3/4 of a mile they had in front of them.
Other observations: Mushroom hunters! We saw several people carrying buckets and looking for mushrooms. When asked, one person said that it wasn’t the most successful forage she has ever done.
Would we return? Definitely. It was so much easier the second time around without the snow on the ground. It would be nice to find the fifth lake and perhaps see the moose. One should note, that these are small ‘lakes’ (ponds really). So if expectations are along the size of the Great Lakes, disappointment will abound.