1 (12-ounce) package white chocolate chips (2 cups)
36 pretzel sticks and rods of various sizes
72 mini-marshmallows (about 1 cup)
1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
2. Place the chips in a double boiler over just-simmering water and melt, stirring frequently. As soon as the chips are just melted (there may even be a few solid ones left), remove the pan from the heat and remove the top section of the double boiler so the chocolate’s temperature doesn’t keep rising.
3. Stick marshmallows onto both ends of the pretzels, with the marshmallows’ flat sides parallel to the pretzel.
4. Dip each pretzel in the chocolate and lift out with a fork, letting the excess drip back in the bowl. Lay the bones on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes to harden the chocolate. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or at a cool room temperature.
You can find more Halloween treats in the Ghoulish Goodies cookbook:
Every Fall we always try to take at least one day trip to find Aspen gold. This year we found an offroad trail with a little challenge and a little scenery — Georgia Pass. This pass connects the towns of Jefferson and Breckenridge and was once a late 1800’s stagecoach trail that carried passengers from the Jefferson railroad terminal into Breckenridge and surrounding communities.
Trail Name: Georgia Pass
Trail Length: 11.6 miles
Highest Elevation: 11,585 feet
We decided to enter the trail from Tiger Road just outside of Breckenridge, since this section of the pass was the most difficult. This part of Summit County used to be an active mining area and home to many small mining communities that have long since disappeared.
Our ascent up Georgia Pass was steep, narrow, and rocky. There are numerous spurs off the main trail, which can make the trail somewhat confusing to follow. The road is marked with forest service road markers, but they can easily blend in with the dense trees and brush. If you go, just be sure to follow 355 signs.
After emerging from the narrow trail, we drove past tree line and were greeted with a magnificent view. We were slightly disappointed that we had yet to see any Aspens, but once we reached the top of the pass, we were able to see the gold foliage awaiting us on the other side.
Georgia Pass – elevation 11,585 feet. Mount Guyot sits in the background.
Descending the pass towards Jefferson, the road is well maintained and easily traveled by all vehicles….And is surrounded on either side by glowing Aspens.
Contrast of the golden Aspen leaves against the Colorado blue sky.
The golden leaves continued around every corner.
Lucky folks to live amongst the Aspens.
Stopped to say “Hello.”
Once we finished Georgia Pass, it was still early in the day, so we continued down the highway and explored a portion of Weston Pass. We found a few more amazing displays of fall color.
If you are curious about the history of Breckenridge and Summit County, here are two interesting websites:
We are in the process of changing cable tv providers, so we have been watching a lot of YouTube lately. If you didn’t already know, there are some awesome videos out there. One in particular that caught our attention was the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which has been on our short list for quite some time:
This video set the “wheels” in motion for our southwest road trip. With our love for trains and western history, the main event on our 330+ mile drive to southwest Colorado was to board the infamous Durango/Silverton train.
⇒Be sure to watch our video at the end of this post and change the gear icon on the bottom right to 1080p for best picture ⇐
So let’s continue our road-trip story… As you recall, we spent a very long day on the road, completed a marathon tour of Mesa Verde, arrived at camp well after dark and managed to get a few good hours of sleep in our tent. Our camp for the night was in a roadside campground just outside the Mesa Verde park entrance. It was a cool evening with temps in the upper 40’s, which was the perfect temperature for late summer camping in the 2 person tent. We planned to get up early the next morning to make it to Durango and board the train for our 8:00am departure. We fell asleep under a beautiful starry sky with the faint sounds of coyotes howling in the distance.
The alarm went off at 5:30am, which gave us time to change and pack up the tent. We arrived in Durango a little early, so we drove by the depot to see if we could get a glimpse of the train. It was still dark outside but the tracks were buzzing with workers getting the cars hooked up and getting the locomotive ready to go. We drove down the street a couple blocks and grabbed a quick breakfast and headed back to the train depot. The depot remains almost exactly as it was in 1882 with its huge pot belly stove in the center and the waiting benches that look original. When you walk in the depot and take your place in line at the ornate ticket booth, it is like you have stepped back in time.
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR) is located in one of the most beautiful and rugged areas of Colorado, the San Juan Mountains. Its 45 miles of tracks connects Durango to the old mining town of Silverton and it has been in continuous operation since 1881. It was built to carry supplies and passengers to Silverton and gold and silver from the mines of the San Juan mountains. Today it is a tourist and heritage line, but they still use coal/fire steam locomotives from the period and perform all the maintenance on them in their roundhouse at the Durango Train Depot. Some of the steam engines and passenger cars are over 125 years old and are kept in excellent condition.
Once we got our tickets, we explored the depot and gift shop, and then went outside where the train crew was busy getting everything ready to go. We made our way down the tracks looking for our car and realized the engine was not hooked up yet. I looked back towards the round house and saw a plume of smoke rising above the cars on the other side. They were pulling the engine forward to connect to our car, which was the first one behind the engine. We quickly grabbed our cameras and set up to where we could get some good shots of the connection. What a spectacle! The street ahead of the tracks was closed down and the train crew were positioned along the tracks making sure nothing was in the way. Old number 481 made its way around the cars that were already hooked up and across the street where it changed tracks. With smoke coming from the smokestack, steam pouring from the sides and the “clang, clang, clang” of the bell it slowly backed towards the passenger cars. Watching all the moving parts and the raw power of the side rods moving the driving wheels was awesome to see up close. At 286,600 pounds, number 481 shook the ground where we were standing as it passed.
After taking some pictures and video, we headed towards our coach and found our seats. Steaming through town, I was amazed at the people waiting by the tracks to take pictures and we were lucky enough to actually be on board. We followed the Animas River north towards Silverton and quickly began gaining elevation. Even though we have covered similar terrain in the area via 4×4 trails, the scenery from the train was amazing. Kristy bought the official guidebook which enabled us to follow the mile markers and read about the notable events that took place and specific terrain features along the way. The book covered huge avalanches, floods, train derailments and history of the area. About an hour into the trip, we decided to make our way to the open sided car, which was three cars behind ours. It was still a little cool, but this car provided an unobstructed view out of both sides and we got some great pictures and video.
Three and a half hours later we arrived in Silverton. Silverton was founded in 1874 as a mining town and it sits at an elevation of 9,308 feet making it one of the highest towns in the country. Today it is a small, quirky western town with shops, restaurants, a mining museum, an extreme ski mountain and to this day, it only has one paved street. The train pulls in on the southeast side and unloads its passengers in the middle of town. Kristy and I got off the train and headed for some lunch. We have driven through Silverton before, but this time we had a little more time to walk around. We settled on some BBQ at Thee Pitts Again, which was featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives. Their original location is in Glendale, AZ and they recently opened up in Silverton. We were glad to try “the only authentic award winning BBQ in town.” It was definitely some of the better BBQ we have had in Colorado. After lunch, we walked over to the original train depot, which sits just outside of town and doubles as a small train museum. It houses some really cool artifacts and information on the Silverton mining days. Some of the photos in the museum are amazing showing the train plowing through 20+ feet of snow. I can’t imagine the hardships people struggled with living up there in the late 1800’s.
We heard the bell ringing on the train, so that was our cue to get on board. Steaming away from Silverton, we began the 3.5 hour descent into Durango. Ten thousand gallons of water are used to produce the steam to power the locomotive from Durango to Silverton and back! The sun was at a perfect angle on the way down, which provided for more great pictures. Luckily the weather cooperated and we spent most of the return trip in the open car. As we arrived back in Durango, people were again waiting all over to get photos of the historic train as it passed by. We got off and made our way over to the roundhouse which held an incredible museum. The D&SNGRR museum has complete train cars and locomotives along with train models, pictures, and artifacts donated from railroad enthusiasts who have ridden on and love the D&SNGRR. It was an incredible display of our American railroad history and engineering prowess of the 19th century.
We ended the day at Steamworks Brewery and had some great food and even better beer. Kristy had their fish & chips and I had the meatloaf, for something different. We were impressed and Steamworks lived up to “food worthy of our legendary beer.” The next morning we left Durango and pointed the Outback towards Denver for our long drive home.
Life is about choices, and on labor day weekend we chose to have fun. We have house projects to do, money to save, and blogs to write…but somehow exploring always wins out unanimously. With a three day weekend awaiting us, we decided to drive to Southwest Colorado and explore Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is about an hour and a half west of Durango, CO so we set our sights on the park gates between Durango and Cortez, CO.
Everything was packed the night before and Bandit was dropped off to visit his friends at the local boarding facility. Of course, we live for early and the Saturday 4am alarm was just that. We showered and grabbed a quick cup of coffee and we were out the door and on the road. Fall is definitely in the air and we enjoyed an awesome sunrise as we headed south on highway 285 with the dash temperature reading 35 degrees. A couple hours later, we made a quick pit stop for breakfast in Buena Vista and continued on our course southwest.
We arrived at the Mesa Verde park headquarters around 1pm and quickly made our way inside to purchase tickets. There are areas of the park, which can be explored on self guided trips, but the better preserved cliff dwellings are led by Park Ranger guided tour only. Unfortunately tickets cannot be purchased in advance, but we arrived just in time to get the last tickets for the Cliff Palace and Balcony House tours later that afternoon. We had a couple hours to kill before the first tour started, so we drove the 45 minutes to the other side of the park and checked out the archeological museum. The museum had some unbelievable artifacts collected from the area and gave us a great introduction to what we were about to experience. The park is 82 square miles and houses the best preserved cliff dwellings in the world. They were built 800 years ago by the Pueblo/Anasazi Native Americans. The Pueblo lived in this area until the late 1200’s when they fled south because of a 24 year long drought.
We explored the museum with its Native American artwork , clothing, pottery, tools, and even a jar which still had corn in it. This jar and corn weighed 31 pounds and it dates between 1200-1276!! After our American history refresher in the museum, we hiked down a 3/4 mile trail to the self guided area of Spruce Tree House which was located just below the museum. This is where we got our first glimpse of a cliff dwelling. It is completely mind boggling that something made of mud, straw and dirt is still standing after 800 years. Because of the dry climate and the natural shelter from the cliff overhangs, we are still able to visit this area and see how these great people once lived. There are over 600 cliff dwellings in the area which are still being explored and excavated. They are essentially small villages built into the rock and you can still make out the different rooms that were used for storage, living space and even ceremonial areas. Some of the original colored plaster is still visible on the walls and there is a reconstructed kiva that you can climb a ladder down into.
After fully exploring our first cliff dwelling, we were excited to see what the actual guided tour had in store for us. Heading back up the trail to the parking lot we passed the out of state tourists who were huffing and puffing because of the 8,000 foot altitude. We drove down the road a few miles to the Cliff Palace tour and listened to the ranger give a great historical background of the area before we headed down into the canyon. The Cliff Palace tour was the easiest of the two we signed up to do. This one required a moderate hike down into a canyon to actually get to the dwellings and then we had to climb a few ladders and a rock stairway to get out. The Cliff Palace is probably the most photographed and largest of all the cliff dwellings and you do not realize how big it is until you are standing at its base looking up. It is estimated that 100 people lived here and it may have served as a social and administrative site. When they were built, the Pueblo started at the back of the cliff wall and worked their way out. This allowed space for about 150 separate rooms, some of which still had soot on the ceilings from their cooking fires. We were not allowed to go inside any of these rooms, but we were able to walk around them and look in the windows and doors. One structure, amazingly still had original artwork painted on the walls.
Once we climbed out of the canyon from the Cliff Palace we headed over to our last tour at the Balcony house. The long tunnel that you have to crawl through, tall ladders and steep rock steps make this “the most adventurous tour in the park.” It is not difficult, but unfortunately there are some people who cannot go on this tour. That being said, I told Kristy to look behind her at the view of the canyon when she was on the 30 foot ladder and she refused and quickly climbed to the top. The Balcony House is much smaller than the Cliff Palace, but because it sits further behind the lip of the cliff overhang, it is one of the best preserved in the park. All the cliff dwellings have had reconstructive work done, but none of the work takes away from the original construction. I think most of the work was done to preserve it from further deterioration and they did a remarkable job matching the existing materials. Since we had already seen three dwellings, the best part of this one was the ladders, tunnel and chain we had to climb to get out. In true JKBAdventure fashion, we managed to squeeze into what was suggested for 2 day trip in the park into 3/4 of a day.
After the Balcony House tour, it was getting late, so we drove the 45 minutes to the park entrance to our campsite for the evening. It was time for dinner, so we quickly set up the tent and drove back into Cortez to find some chow. Thanks to Yelp we found the Shiloh Steakhouse and decided to give it a try. Kristy had the beef tips and a salad and I had the chicken fried elk paired with a Durango Amber Ale; both meals were excellent. We cruised into camp well after dark and hit the rack; we had big plans early the next morning.
Labor Day is fast approaching, which means the unofficial end of summer. Many folks spend their last summer weekend enjoying the great outdoors by going camping, hiking, or just spending some extra time outside. So I thought it would be a great time to share one of our favorite campsite snacks….S’moradillas. They are a fun alternative to the traditional S’more.
This great camping recipe is from the book Campfire Cuisine by Robin Donovan. I first found it at my local library while searching for recipes for a camping trip we a took earlier this year to Pawnee National Grasslands. It was a such a great book, that I had to buy my own copy. Anyways, here’s the simple and tasty recipe for S’moradillas.
4 small flour tortillas
1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
Cinnamon to taste
Place 2 tortillas on a grill over high heat. Top each with half the chocolate chips, marshmallows and cinnamon. Place the remaining 2 tortillas on top. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom tortilla is lightly browned and crisp. Carefully flip the tortillas. Cook for 3-4 minutes more, until the second side is lightly browned and crisp. Cut each into quarters and serve.
Make them at camp or make them at home…we’ve done both!
Grab your copy of Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors here…
4:00 am…on a Saturday…and my alarm clock is ringing in my ear. We crawled out of bed, showered, loaded our packs in the car, and headed down the highway at 5:15 am. Call me crazy, but sometimes early morning wake ups make for the best days.
Heading West to our destination, we timed it right and missed the weekend mountain traffic arriving to a mostly empty parking area. The air was a brisk 42 degrees and windy at 11,000 feet which made Bandit all the more frisky as he jumped from the Outback. It has been too long since we have taken a family hike together, so we were happy to breathe in the clean mountain air. We picked a shorter trail with good scenery that was friendly for dogs (with a titanium leg). The hike ended at an alpine lake, so Josh brought along his fly rod to try his luck.
The chosen trail (undisclosed) turned out to be a perfect choice. It was 4.2 miles out and back and surprisingly, many wildflowers still remained this late in the season. As we hiked up the trail, we encountered a few small stream crossings, waded through patches of willow thickets, and spotted six mule deer on a northwest hillside. Reaching the top of the ridge, the wind was fierce and almost unbearable. We pushed through to reach the next part of the trail where the mountains provided a barrier from the brutal gusts. Red paintbrush, mountain gentian and tall fringed bluebells enveloped both sides of the path, which became marshy in spots as we reached our glacial lake destination.
The alpine lake was peaceful, calm, and surrounded by mountains and wildflowers. After enjoying a well earned trail snack of cheese and jerky, Josh fished for a while, while Bandit and I enjoyed the views. We took our time exploring the area and made a loop around the lake. With clouds steadily rolling in, we decided it was time to depart and we began our decent. Bandit met a few doggie friends on the way down, and then started losing his energetic enthusiasm as we crept closer to our four mile completion.
Hiking and mountain air always leaves us famished, so we decided to stop in Georgetown for a quick lunch. Yelp assisted us in our choice of Lucha Cantina. Lucha is located on 6th Street in Georgetown’s National Historic Landmark District. The menu is quite varied and they use all fresh ingredients; I ordered enchiladas, while Josh picked out one of the mac & cheese combos. The food and atmosphere was a great ending to our morning adventure and reenergized us for the drive back home.