Canned Beer Series (The Battle of the Beers)
Caution: According to some maps, at least part of this series is located within a hunting area. Do not attempt during hunting season, and blaze orange is recommended at all times. (I planted the Sunday before Memorial Day and saw a few guys down the road in camo with spaniels in the back of the truck. I don’t think they were there for a walk in the park.) The trail is alternately rocky and very muddy, and surprisingly buggy, particularly at the lower elevations. Due to the change in elevation, this series is not recommended for pregnant woman (who don’t plan on going into labor) or those with heart conditions. Please hike responsibly. Friends don’t let friends hike drunk.
This series is located in a park approximately 113 miles from Secane, Pennsylvania, 100 miles from Binghamton, New York, and 168 miles from Norwalk, Connecticut. (Distances by car, not air. Your mileage may vary depending on route choice.) Less than a mile west of the park office is a sign on the left describing an historic path. A short ways beyond the sign on the right is a gravel parking lot. A short trail leads to a spring, but the trail you want begins in the northeast corner of the lot. Unlike beer, the spring water is not recommended for human consumption. Follow this “ungroomed” spur through an area with a thick understory until you get to a T, then turn north to follow an old road that nature has reclaimed.
Those of a certain age will remember how this first beer cornered the vital 4-8-year-old market with its ad campaign featuring animated woodland creatures.
Almost immediately, you will probably need to hop on stones across a creek (or get creative if the creek is high). You will pass through a few very muddy areas, some of which you can simply step around. When you see a fallen giant to your right and (appropriately) a six-pack to the left, the good news is that the mud is behind you for now. The bad news is that the hard part is about to begin. Just ahead is the first steep rise on the trail. After reaching the top of this rise, notice a four-pack on the left. (Must be one of them wine coolers.) Go about 8-10 paces from the four pack at a bearing of 30 degrees to a broken triplet. After poking the SPOR behind it with a stick, reach for The Land of the Sky Blue Water.
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This next beer always makes me remember an old joke my Dad told involving a Spoonerism and baseball.
Continue falling the trail UP, UP, UP the hill. You will pass a large boulder on your right, after which the trees thin out a bit, probably because this area used to be planted with crops. You will notice flat boulders on both sides of the trail, and fallen and leaning trees. After a fair amount of walking uphill, the trail takes a noticeable turn to the right. The summit is visible up the hill, but at this point you are in the hunting area so extra caution is recommended. There are not any scenic vistas because of the tree cover, but by now you will have noticed the acres of ferns. From the right turn, walk approximately 22 paces until you see the triple on the right. Behind under a SPOR is The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous.
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This next beer was the inspiration for this series. Immortalized by Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, it was already an icon in its own right, having once been the number one brand in America. It is now said to be the preferred house beer in such areas as Portland, Oregon , where the local population enjoys the brand’s lack of marketing and anti-Yuppie appeal. A former Marine captain I know once described it as “what you drink after a hard day in the mines.” It’s certainly been on my mind. More and more, lately, I find.
Continue following the trail a short distance before it turns DOWN and to the right. Just before the turn a line of rocks crosses the trail. Standing on these rocks, sight the V tree about 10 paces away at 140 degrees. Behind under a SPOR, enjoy some PBR. You’ve earned it.
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Sadly, the original factory producing the next beer was demolished in 1985, inspiring a local radio station to create a nostalgic tribute song parodying a recent hit by a former Eagle. The company also made a great ice cream. On reflection, its inclusion in this series is ironic given that management held out on using cans, but it’s a sentimental choice.
This is an easy one. Follow the trail DOWN past some fallen trees. When you see the first raised mound of earth to your left, stand in the middle and take a bearing of 315 degrees. About six paces away, at the end of a fallen log and under a SPOR, is The Brewery on Gratiot.
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This next beer is mentioned in the great “road” adventure, Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Follow the trail down a little ways more to a V. One choice initially looks more promising, with some wicked bumps (and the dirt bike tracks I saw show that someone has clearly taken advantage, violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the no-bicycles policy), but ultimately peters out. However, if you follow it a short ways into the woods you will come to a point where you can look out on a creek. Take the other trail instead., which follows a more gradual descent. Notice a couple of birches on your left. Shortly after them, you will see a huge depression on your right left by a tree’s roots. From this spot, follow the trail about 20 paces before turning right onto an old road. Follow this new path about 70 paces to a flat boulder on your right. Behind the boulder under other rocks is It’s In The Water.
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They say the old trail you left 70 paces behind will loop back to the T, but I haven’t confirmed that. If you follow the new trail far enough, though, it will meet up with the old trail you took UP the hill. From here, you can turn left and retrace your steps to the beginning. Hope you had fun and saw some interesting things. Don’t drink and hike.