Labor Day Weekend Musings

Have your priced Premium Beer lately?  Dead Guy Ale is a favorite of people I know, and $7.59 is the price at Safeway Grocery here in the Puget Sound area.  That’s about 38 cents an ounce with WA State Sales Tax.

It may be time to re-kindle your brewing skills, or if you have never made beer or wine, maybe you should consider learning now?

There are some disadvantages however, one of the more notable is you’ll have a lot of trouble drinking the swill many people drink after you sample your own.

Beer making is a natural for the DIYer, and there’s plenty of interesting  chemistry to learn about. I’d say it’s just plain fun, and a few strings entered into your favorite search engine gets you started.

Recently, I’ve been reading about Mead, Cyser, and other Beverages, so I decided to take along a couple of books on wine making to read during the heat of the day on our stay at the Easton Off Grid Cabin.





Here’s  a video of our pump house at Easton.

Further towards the back of the property is our small rustic cabin that offers basic amenities.  Electrical power is supplied from the power house, water from the pump house.

Easton_Off Grid

And here on the corner of the front porch are two chairs, the shed has a small fridge where you can find a cool beverage on a hot day.  A home made oatmeal stout and a good book make a great combination.  The Engine at the pump house can barely be heard from here, and as you likely know, the old Lister sounds like a Grand Father Clock with it’s slow speed tickety tock.  Well water exits the sprinkler in the low 40s F.  Even on a rare  100F day, that cool mist from the sprinklers makes it very pleasant and in the afternoon, the large pines provide good shade.

As I read my book, I find the answer to a question I’ve carried for about 40 years. The book was written by an Englishman, and sold for 3.95 Pounds Sterling.  It’s been on my pile of ‘books to be read’ for years.

Have you ever held a glass of Vintage Champagne and looked deeply into the wine? You’ll notice bead trails of CO2 coming out of the wine.  I first saw that in my early twenties, and asked… why does Champagne release carbon dioxide in such a distinctive way?  Why does Soda Pop CO2 releases look so different? Maybe it helped to have twenty year old eyes to watch these bead trains to form the question in the first place?

So there in Chapter Nine I found it! A discussion on why Champagne seems to go on and on with the effervescence! The Author mentions a compound he calls ‘ethyl pryrocarbonate’ now days, the name might be diethyl pryocarbonate if you care to research it further.

Vintage Champagne is bottled with additional sugar to allow a second fermentation in the bottle, and this can create pressures as high as 90PSI. With these higher pressures, ethyl pyrocarbonate is formed.  According  to the author it is an unstable compound and quickly breaks down into ethanol and carbon dioxide when the pressure inside the bottle is reduced. So there we have it, this compound is manufacturing more carbon dioxide as we watch!

The bead trails are not present in a lot of  less expensive sparkling wines when they use artificial means to add the CO2 or when the fermentation pressures are held much lower.

Another thing I learned in this book was how Vintage Champagnes are purged of yeast sediment. Most interesting, as the bottle is first stored on it’s side, and later placed at a 45 degree angle with the cork down.  Then turned on occasions to cause the sediment to fall onto the cork. At some point the cork is withdrawn and the sediment follows for the person skilled in this job.  Of course; part of this discipline requires a new cork to be placed without excessive loss of wine or carbonation in the process.  Several techniques are mentioned that help accomplish this, and lowering the temperature of the bottle of Champagne to the point where ice crystals start to form is one of them.

My interest in all of this is to pursue the making of a beer in a champagne bottle that will allow a much higher bottle pressure and hopefully much longer life in the bottle due to the higher pressure. Some stouts made in normal beer bottles are good for five years or more. But brews made in a Champagne bottle may last as long as I will.

While in Easton, my wife and I walked as we normally do, and there are a number of trails through older growth forests with dense canopies overhead and streams nearby.  There have been times when we’ve entered these areas with temperatures in the 90s, and felt the coolness hit us as if we had entered a walk-in cooler! Tucker Creek and Big Creek are examples of deep ravines with cool streams that can and do provide such an experience for the Hiker.  A 600 pound bear was spotted on Tucker Creek just the other day, maybe you’ll see him?

On one day we walked down part of the John Wayne trail and noticed black plastic covering a pay station at this trailhead. The State Parks Department asks that you display your annual pass, or pay $10 for a single use to park at the trail head.  as I looked down at the removed pay box, I saw an envelope in the bottom. Looking on the outside of the envelope was a vehicle license number and name, inside was a $10 Bill. This gave us the idea to walk further up the John Wayne trail and through the Easton State Park which we normally avoid now that we have our own showering facilities on our off grid piece of property.

As we headed out in the cooler part of the morning, we noted the total confusion hikers on the John Wayne trail must experience, or is it just us? As we approach town from the south west, the John Wayne trail turns into the Cabin Creek Road, and if you follow it to the back side of lake Easton, you sooner or later hit a notice that the tunnel is closed on the John Wayne Trail. The Tunnel isn’t really closed, and if you inspect the trail floor through the tunnel, you’ll notice that there hasn’t been much falling from the ceiling of the tunnel, and you may decide to walk through as we did. Apply a little caution and walk half way between the wall and the center of the tunnel, which greatly reduces the chance you are struck by anything falling from above.

Once you are beyond the tunnel safe and sound, you’ll walk for a bit and then reach a new bridge that spans across the old footings of the Milwaukee RR line on which the John Wayne trail was built. In order to protect you, the State has decided to gate the end of this expensive new bridge so you can’t enter the tunnel!  Had you traveled from NW to SW, you’d have seen the notice that the tunnel was closed, an you’d have hit this gate at the south end. You would have seen the notice that you needed to take the detour all the way around Lake Easton to avoid this gate!

we’ll rewind from here, and go back where we started. As we hit the Cabin Creek Road, we’ll turn right, and go to Rail Road Avenue, take a left and go towards the State Park. As you go by the Old Easton Saloon, take note that you can get a good salad in this place, and at times the food is good. This is a real Saloon, and families do come in here for a meal. Sometimes you’ll see a half dozen Bikers in here, usually old guys whose day jobs are Dentistry, Legal Works,  or perhaps Real Estate, really bad looking Dudes for sure.

As you pass over the Yakima River, you’ll notice a trail to the left, if you follow it, you’ll enter the park and end up of the ‘River Trail’ don’t expect any helpful notice of the John Wayne Trail detour or how you navigate it, and don’t assume we did an exhaustive search to find it. Heading through the State Park, we worked our way up a huge rock, it was switch backs for a bit, but a short and pleasant climb when on foot.



As we worked our way down the switch backs, we passed a couple on bicycles, The man in the lead, a woman following and fighting to drag her Mountain Bike around a sharp bend and a step up and the end of the switch back.  We ease dropped as the Woman asked, and “just where did you say this trail goes?” My wife and I knowingly exchanged glances as we knew she was likely to be more than just a little unhappy to learn that they could have skirted this huge rock had they known where the other fork in the trail went. Is it possible they were looking for the John Wayne Trail?

We eventually came to a pay station and dropped that $10 payment into the box, and we followed the trail further north, eventually we did find mention of the John Wayne Trail, but we decided to leave the leg from the north east corner of the lake to the new bridge on the back side for another day.

As we headed back through the jam packed State Park,  I heard a horn honk erratically, it was loud, and I was thinking it would likely create frustration, people are paying $22 a night for a camp spot likely expect a more polite neighbor.  As we walked by this older motor home, the Horn went off, and I looked up an saw a Poodle looking out over the steering wheel with Paws on the Horn button! No doubt he knew exactly what he was doing, and I noticed there was a Golden Lab sitting in the passenger seat with a sheepish look on his face. The Motor Home was parked in a well shaded area, the Campers near by fully aware that the Poodle thought it was all great fun to honk the horn!

As we walked further south, a young woman passed us and was excited to see an open Campsite! She turned her wheel sharply into the spot and managed to keep a large pile of rocks in her blind spot.  As her front wheel started up over the pile, her front spoiler was already peeling loose from the car, and one side popping forward, then the front wheel wedged itself into the boulder pile.. We kept walking.

I think about the money we spent to avoid the State park and it’s $22 a night fee.. The purchase of six acres, years of work, and the right to pay property taxes, and other fees.. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who would think we’re nuts.

George B.








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One Response to Labor Day Weekend Musings

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