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Posts Tagged ‘colorado’

When I was seven, my parents took me and my older brother on a ski trip to Vail. The thing I remember most vividly isn’t schussing the slopes, but rather, a restaurant named after a convicted cannibal. If you know anything about my childhood, this should come as no surprise.

In search of a place for dinner one evening, we stumbled upon a creekside eatery called Alfie Packer’s- I can recall my parents cracking up at the name. I think I had a mouthful of cheeseburger when they explained the story behind the restaurant’s moniker, thus instilling in me a lifelong obsession with cannibalism and a lust for fucked-up survival stories.

Just to clarify, it’s a happy memory.

Alferd Packer. Photo love: Lake County-Hinsdale County Chamber of Commerce

For the uninitiated, the “Colorado Cannibal,” Alferd (née Alfred) G. Packer, was a prospector convicted of murdering and eating his five companions while trapped at the base of Slumgullion Pass, outside of present-day Lake City, during the winter of 1875. (read the dirty details in my post for 5280 magazine).

Packer was eventually released on parole, and became a Colorado folk hero of sorts. The embodiment of pioneer badassery, gumption and fortitude, he’s been immortalized in everything from film and song to food service (the University of Colorado Boulder cafeteria is named the Alferd Packer Restaurant & Grill; when it opened in 1968, its catchphrase was, “Have a friend for lunch!”). My brother lives in Truckee, and I’m fond of pointing out that California could stand to get a sense of humor about the the whole Donner Party thing (note that both of us live in areas infamous for cannibalism: Coincidence? I think not).

“Downtown” Lake City. Photo love: LCHC-CCC

This Memorial Day weekend, Lake City is bringing its defunct Packer Days festival back from the dead (sorry, had to). It’s less a celebration of cannibalism than survivalism, featuring events like a Run for Your Life Survival 5k, a Mystery Meat Cook-off, and Scavenger Hunt.

Lake City is worth a visit even if you don’t consider cannibalism cool; it’s a bitch to get to, but the region’s alpine lakes, outdoor pursuits and scenery are worth the effort. The town itself is just as alluring, nestled as it is in a pocket of the San Juan Mountains. It’s a legitimate relic of the Old West, boasting well-preserved buildings, a dusty main drag, and a handful of saloons, restaurants and a truly excellent museum; just up the road is the famed Alferd Packer Massacre site and Cannibal Plateau.

Ready for a road trip? Hit up the Lake City Chamber’s site for details, and don’t forget to pack some snacks- you can never be too prepared.

When in Lake City…

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It may come as a surprise to learn that Colorado now ranks second in the nation for the most distilleries (after Washington state). There’s more to us than legal weed (yawn) and skiing.

I had the good fortune to research (ahem), curate and write Edible Aspen’s inaugural Colorado Craft Distillery Guide, which just hit the stands.

Photo love: Wood's High Mountain Distillery

Photo love: Wood’s High Mountain Distillery

From small-batch eaux de vie made with farmstead fruit to one of the nation’s greenest distilleries, we’ve got the intel on where to find the best tasting rooms, tours, grain-to-glass spirits, and bar programs in the state (there’s recipes, too).

These heirloom potatoes become award-winning vodka. Photo love: Woody Creek Distillers

These heirloom potatoes become award-winning vodka.  Photo love: Woody Creek Distillers

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I’m in Boulder, Colorado, right now, having serendipitously landed a job thanks to a fortuitous encounter while doing a book signing. I now take back the many unkind things I said and thought during my 12 months of house arrest writing Cheese for Dummies. And yes, I will be moving back to Colorado in August, a dream a long time in the making.

Photo love: Flickr user scomedy

Meanwhile,  I’m spending this week looking for a place to live. In between imposing upon friends, I’m spending a few nights at the Boulder International Hostel. It’s a janky-ass place in the student ghetto that I’ve unfortunately had to stay at a number of times over the years, due to it being the only remotely affordable accommodation in town.

I did evade the hostel the year I was teaching a weekend-long cooking class at the now-defunct Cooking School of the Rockies, however.  The school refused to pay for my hotel room at the last minute, and since I was broke, I elected to sleep in my car for four nights. This is why I get testy when people ask about my “dream job.”

Every time I stay at the hostel, something incredibly fucked up happens. One year, it was the weepy, morbidly obese, nymphomaniacal crazy cat lady who told me all of her boyfriend problems…at 2am. Then there’s the inevitable drunken idiot frat boys who bro-out late into the night (the hostel is located on Greek Row).

One time, the hostel refused to let me book a room because I had a Colorado driver’s license (something that used to be verboten if you wished to be a guest). I was a California resident, but I’d discovered at the Colorado Springs Airport car rental counter that my license was expired.  I was running late for a meeting that was three hours away, and I had to take a cab to the DMV, then go back and get the rental car. Several days later, in Boulder for work, I again ended up sleeping in my car. Arrgh.

This morning, however, took the prize. If you’re unfamiliar with Boulder, it’s essentially the Berkeley of the Southwest, only less militant, more beautiful, and with a higher collective resting metabolic rate. The first time I moved here, I had literally just pulled into town after a two-day drive, and stopped to pick up some groceries. I was standing in the pasta aisle, dazed, when I noticed a middle-aged woman next to me, dangling a crystal before the array of boxed goods. Apparently some people have trouble making decisions on their own.

Anyway. this morning I was in the bathroom–admittedly shaving my armpits in the sink–when I heard this curious noise, sort of like two people murmuring in the shower (which was running), or a mother and young child in a stall (except kids aren’t allowed). I had just seen a girl with cerebral palsy checking in down at registration, so I thought maybe it was she in the stall.

Be sure to align your Stayfree.
Photo love: Flickr user omnos

But no, that would be TOO normal for the BIH. Instead, out comes this girl of the yuppie hippie/I-just-got-back-from-a-yoga-retreat-on-an-ashram variety. I don’t know what she was doing in there (I didn’t hear any battery-operated devices) but she looked totally blissed out: eyes glazed, beatific smile. Drinking the Kool-Aid, if you will.

She crosses behind me over to the trash can, and I can see in the mirror that she’s holding something in her palms and quietly chanting over it. I then realize–to my utter horror, as I stand there, razor aloft, shaving cream congealing in my pits–that this psychopath is blessing her maxi pad before throwing it away.

I’ve already issued instructions to friends and family that I be euthanized immediately should I become one of them. You know, in case it’s catching.

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