Taking the Road Less Travelled

Tales of the unexpected

It’s funny how the most unexpected stops can turn out to be your favourites. This had happened in Cheyenne, and again when I crossed my final border into Colorado, and the small city of Fort Collins – the Napa (or Yakima) of craft beer. Brewing started in 1995 with one man in his basement, which became the phenomenally successful New Belgium Brewing Company. On a tour, between tastings, I learned that 70% of a beer’s aroma is captured in its foam, and that flavours are added only at the end of a mixing/mashing process. More fascinating, though, was learning about the company’s set-up. Employees are given two six-packs a week; after a year of service, they’re offered shares and a custom cruiser bike, so most cycle to work. New Belgium also has its own private solar-panel farm – for every six bottles you buy, it guarantees that two were produced using renewable energy.

A slightly later than planned start saw me eager to let my Mustang loose on one final patch of wilderness – Rocky Mountain National Park. Before long I was on a trail, gawping at the aptly-named Emerald Lake while fish bobbed curiously near the surface and chipmunks and ground squirrels begged for food at my feet. Back in the car, Trail Ridge Road took me into the heart of the park, where yellow aspen trees splashed a shot of colour across the earthy autumn scene. I’d been advised to drive to the visitor centre and then turn back – left – to Denver, where my road trip would end. But I didn’t listen. At that fork, I made a right, and headed to the west of the park instead.

Emerald Lake

At first I wondered if I’d regret these extra miles. But then I saw a line of cars near Timber Creek, so pulled over to investigate. There stood a moose, his antlers rising regally above the grass. To his left was a female, knee-deep in the watercourse, grazing on plants beneath the surface; when she raised her head, droplets fell from her chestnut beard.

I’d made the right decision. I didn’t know what else my detour would bring, but then that was the whole point. So with a wide grin, I continued, the road bending around the corner ahead, perhaps leading to many more forks, to endless possibilities.

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