Fall Hiking

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Stella and I attempted to hike down to the Colorado River on Saturday with Aspen via the  Colorado River Trail. About a mile into to the hike trail was closed due to fall logging operations. Somewhat discouraged we doubled back via the short loop near the parking lot. A side trail that Stella has yet to experience. After the short hike we head back to Base Camp where we ended up playing a few card games as the rain began to fall with a few snowflakes mixed in with the crisp fall air. With hunger starting to set in we headed to a new restaurant in Grand Lake, Burger Works. Stella describes our experience below.

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An important thing that Larry and I (Stella) have failed to mention in previous posts is that we are HUGE “foodies.” We not only love really good food, but we also enjoy foods that are prepared authentically. For example, an authentic taco would never have shredded cheddar cheese and lettuce on it! That is an Americanized version of the ole’ taco.

On the other hand, sometimes home and professional chefs are able to appropriately incorporate a unique spin on an authentic, traditional dish that works. The best example of this could be experienced at Monsoon, an Indian restaurant located in Aurora. This is my all-time favorite restaurant in the entire world! The chef at Monsoon puts a small amount of heavy cream in some of their sauces. To my understanding, that is not a traditional ingredient that is used in those sauces; however, the result is absolute delish!

Anyway, back to the topic of good food. To some, good food simply means food that tastes good, whether it’s a corn dog or a can of spaghetti-O’s. Our opinion of good food goes so much deeper. By good food, I am referring to foods prepared in unique ways, dishes possessing eclectic ingredients and then appropriately combining them, foods that are fresh, foods that are responsibly sourced, foods that are seasoned to perfection, etc.

Additionally, we both like to critique our food, although I am much more discerning and critical than Larry. Up to this point, neither of us has provided much detail about what we have either prepared ourselves or what we have eaten at restaurants. But now, the time for a detailed critique has come.

We spend a great deal of time in Grand Lake, & would like to make it our year-round residence some day. However, Larry and I are disappointed with Grand Lake’s restaurant options. So when a new burger place called Burger Works recently opened on the main strip in Grand Lake, Larry and I ventured out to give it a try. I am always leery of burger places because they often do not offer really good vegetarian options (I do not eat anything that walks on four legs). Burger Works, however, offers a Tofu burger and a house-made vegetarian patty. I went with veggie patty, while Larry ordered the Elk burger.

When I cook at home and create new meals, I am always extremely conscientious about how ingredients pair with one another. Burger Works did not take any of that into consideration when deciding what goes onto their burgers listed on the menu. If they had, they would have realized that tomato relish, avocado and mango do not marry well together, at all. My house-made patty was a combination of chickpeas, seeds and nuts, somehow smashed together into a loosely formed burger. The concept was great; however, the one thing that the cook must have forgotten was to season the patty.

Atop of the patty was a slice of cheddar cheese so thin that I could see through it. Atop of the slice of cheese was an 1/8th teaspoon of Aioli so sparse that I could barely see it, let alone taste it. What’s the purpose of putting such a thin slice of cheese and a pea-sized amount of Aioli on something if the consumer can’t even taste it? Just to say it’s on there?

Underneath the patty was a glob of mashed avocado mixed with tomato relish and chunks of mango, which made the bun a soggy mess. As with any dish containing tomato, the tomato relish overpowered everything. It was all I could taste. But again, how does the combo of mango, tomato relish and avocado appeal to the palate? It doesn’t.

Larry’s elk burger was alright (his word), but was also overpowered by the tomato relish. His predicament with the Aioli and cheese was in the same boat as mine. Larry saw the owner working in the kitchen, & I had hoped that he would pop his head out to come see how we liked (or not) the food. But he never came out and the waitress never checked on us after she brought out our meals. Needless to say, we are never going back.

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Sunday we head back down to Monarch Lake to hike the loop with Aspen. We had snow overnight above 9000 feet adding to the luster of fall, Stella’s favorite season. The lake levels are down about three feet and the streams all but a trickle of their former glory. The wind was brisk at the northern end of the lake as begin out trek. Aspen is very familiar with this hike and upon arriving at Buchanan Creek she was looking for a quick swim but not today. One great thing about this time of the year is we basically have the hike to ourselves though we did run into a couple on their way to fish in Arapaho Creek below the dam and a few other working what I would believe to be an ideal fishing hole. Crossing the bridge over Buchanan Creek we begin our trek back along the southern end of the lake. Here we ran into a few more people at the bridge over Arapaho Creek admiring the fall colors inside Indian Peaks Wilderness. Back on the north shore we look into the Indian Peaks Range admiring the bright white snowcapped mountains offset by the golden yellow of the Aspen intertwined groves. Another awesome day outside in the mountains.

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