Hello from Taos, New Mexico! It has been a whirlwind ride since our last update at the end of January, and we’ve been extremely busy as work for Lost Lantern has started to ramp up. After months of talking with distilleries, pitching them on our vision for an independent bottler for craft whiskey, and tasting lots and lots of barrel samples, our final plan for our first set of releases has come together. Now, we’re in the process of actually making that happen–and as a result, we suddenly have a hugely increased amount of work to do, even while we’re on the road.
It’s crazy to think that we’ve been on the road for half a year–and we’ve only covered about half the country! We’ve visited dozens and dozens of great distilleries now, but there are lots of innovative whiskeymakers in the middle of the country and on the East Coast too. However, after six months living out of suitcases, Nora and I are just about ready to be back in one place where we can focus on building Lost Lantern. So we’ve made the tactical decision to return to Vermont early in April and take shorter trips later this spring and summer to the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Appalachia, South, and New England. We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover, but we’ll be able to strike out for a week or so at a time from a single home base.
As for the last month and a half–we’ve had a truly exciting time. We encountered nearly perfect weather in the stunning Zion National Park for Nora’s birthday (and, with the shuttles shut down for the season and the government shutdown ending only the day before we got there, we had the park basically to ourselves), but we only got a tease of Bryce Canyon–at 9,000 feet elevation, the amphitheater was beautiful, but covered in snow. No hiking there. Our national park weather luck finally turned bad at the Grand Canyon, where we were caught in several successive blizzards. Thankfully, on the last day, we were finally able to see the canyon in all its glory! After a few days catching up with friends and visiting distilleries in Phoenix, we flew to Minneapolis for the annual ACSA conference, which was hugely successful. After flying back, we made our way to Tucson, where our good friends at Hamilton Distillers graciously hosted us and showed off their city (special shout-out to all the cactuses at Saguaro National Park–keep living your perfect life!). Then, we made our way to Texas via southern New Mexico (with a stopover at the unbelievable White Sands). Texas has so many great distilleries that we couldn’t hit them all, but we made time for our favorites and met some new friends as well. But we’ll definitely have to come back to hit some of the ones we missed. After Texas, we headed back west to northern New Mexico, and have spent the last few days exploring the whiskey scene in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos.
Today, we head into Colorado, the last Western state we’ll spend a lot of time in, and then in two weeks we’ll start heading back east. It has truly been an adventure, and we are simultaneously so thrilled with everything we’ve seen, and ready to just be home again for a while. Our next update will probably be written from Vermont or Albany, but although the first part of our journey will be at an end, in many ways it will just be the beginning.
Total miles driven so far, as of March 9th: 18,000
States we’ve been in since last update: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, New Mexico again
States we’ve been in, cumulative: 23 (New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Nevada, New Hampshire, Arizona, New Mexico)
States we’ve spent the night in since the last update: 6 (California, Utah, Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas)
Most beautiful drive: Pretty much everything in Utah
Most beautiful single spot: probably Bryce Canyon
Number of National Parks visited since last update: 5 (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Saguaro, Carlsbad Caverns) (Special shout-outs as well to Mojave National Preserve and White Sands National Monument)
Number of National Parks visited, cumulative: 18 (Badlands, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, North Cascades, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Crater Lake, Redwood, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Saguaro, Carlsbad Caverns)
Number of National Parks missed along our route so far: 9 (Lassen, Pinnacles, Channel Islands, and Death Valley in California; Great Basin in Nevada; Canyonlands and Capitol Reef in Utah; Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend in Texas. Sadly lots more to come in Colorado because it’s still winter there)
National Parks we really, really want to go back to: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Saguaro
National Parks we definitely didn’t need to spend four days at: Grand Canyon (it’s pretty, but far from our favorite spot, and all the hikes are extremely easy or impossibly hard – especially in winter)
Most harrowing experience: When we hit a whiteout blizzard entirely without warning in southern New Mexico
Animals we saw: BIGHORN SHEEP! Also, a gray fox, and lots of mule deer, and maybe some goats, which look a lot like sheep
Favorite places this month: Zion, Bryce Canyon, the White Sands, that one barbecue place we went to in Dallas
Place we’re saddest to have missed: The McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains
Number of distilleries visited so far (cumulative): around 45, but we aren’t really keeping close track anymore
State we spent the most time in: Arizona, which is MUCH more geographically diverse than East Coasters like us ever imagined
State we spent the least time in: Nevada
Thing we miss the most: Staying in one place for more than three days at a time; cooking for ourselves more than once a week
Trip highlights since last update: getting incredibly fortunate weather in Zion; the White Sands; the ACSA conference, how easy it was to find Weller in Texas
Things we’re looking forward to on our way back: My first trip to Colorado!, the great distilleries of the Great Plains, states you can drive across in less than a day, Kansas City barbecue, the Blue Ridge Mountains
Miles to Wall Drug: variable