Trip Number: 12248A
Staff: Deirdre Butler
- Learn about organic farming and community supported agriculture from
award-winning Colorado University professors turned full-time farmers
- Get an introduction to viticulture complete with wine-tasting
- Enjoy the fall colors of the Rocky Mountains on easy to moderate day
- Van transportation from/to Denver airport and throughout the trip
- Lodgings in cozy, fully furnished cabins with access to secluded hot
- All meals including vegetarian-friendly gourmet meals on the farm
Photo: Kayann Short
"...the field is a poem to symbiosis, and a human contract with the natural."
- Adam Nicolson
In the USA, the average distance most of our food travels from farm to consumer
is 1,500 to 2,500 miles. But did you notice that little sticker on your Gala
apple? Produce of New Zealand. For many of us, our parents
and grandparents lived much closer to the land than we do today. Growing your
own vegetables, buying local, and only consuming fruits and vegetables in-season
was part of everyday life -- not an option.
This trip is about experiential learning -- learning how to reconnect with
the land and more deeply understanding terms such as green manuring, nitrogen
fixing, crop rotation, and soil stratification. All lessons will be conducted
on a small-scale working organic farm located north of Boulder, Colorado. We
will have the opportunity to do light work in the fields, plant garlic, and
harvest the fall produce. We'll tour the vineyard and get an introduction to
viticulture and climate-suited vine selection, then taste wines from locally
grown grapes and sample locally made cheeses. Our teachers are award-winning
former Colorado University professors and farmer-owners of Stonebridge Farm.
Stonebridge is a CSA, or "community supported agriculture" farm,
which means that people become members of the farm in the spring and receive
a weekly share of the produce during the growing season. Within CSA, people
organize community around the desire for fresh produce, as well as a concern
for food security in the form of local access to organic, non-genetically modified,
and seasonal produce.
Although CSA seems to have several roots, the one from which Stonebridge traces
itself started in Japan following the environmental and economic devastation
of World War II. There women consumers approached farmers to grow crops
specifically and personally for them to ensure food safety and security. This
concept is called teikei, meaning "putting a farmer's face on
food." In this mutually beneficial arrangement, consumers share the risk
of production by paying farmers at the beginning of the season and sharing the
bounty or losses of the fields. Subscriber members share an interest in the
farm that is more than financial, but social as well because they have a personal
stake in the survival of their farm. The teikei concept
was given the name "Community Supported Agriculture" in this country
by farmer Robyn Van Eyn in 1985 at Indian Line Farm, Massachusetts. In 1992,
the CSA concept came to Stonebridge and 20 seasons later continues to thrive,
be sustainable, and be deeply encouraging.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
In-between our lessons at Stonebridge, we will have day hikes in and around
Rocky Mountain National Park. Elk and deer may be seen on mountain side meadows,
and other wildlife encounters will include the black-tailed prairie dog, a keystone
species and "soil-engineer." None of the hikes will be strenuous and
all are rewarding: we'll see waterfalls, lakes, and peaks on cool, crisp fall
We'll be eating, drinking, and enjoying each other's company not only in the
Sunflower room at Stonebridge Farm, but at a local brewery that's renowned for
its own nationally acclaimed beer and other local restaurants.
To minimize use of fossil fuels, your trip leader will pick you up from Denver
International Airport in a passenger van to take you to your lodgings --cabins
located on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park next to the St. Vrain Creek.
Our Sierra Club trip begins with your arrival at Denver International Airport
(DIA) or if you choose to drive, our lodgings in Lyons, CO. We will meet at
DIA around 3 p.m. and travel by van to Lyons, CO. After getting settled in to
our cozy cabins we will meet to go over details for the upcoming week, safety
plans, gear, and answer any questions you might have. On the final day of our
trip, we should be back at DIA by around 1 p.m. so schedule your departing flight
accordingly. Denver is termed the "Mile High" city and our lodgings
are at a similar elevation. Our day hikes are easy to moderate and your acclimatization
process should be well underway by the time we start hiking. The majority of
our day hikes will be on maintained but uneven trails. The following is a tentative
description of our day-to-day activities. Inclement weather resulting in poor
field or trail conditions could create necessary changes to the itinerary.
Photo: Kayann Short
Day 1: We'll meet you no later than 3 p.m. at Denver International
Airport with our rented van on Sunday, October 14th. Then we'll drive west for
about two hours, heading toward Lyons, Colorado, with (hopefully) glorious views
of the Front Range. Our lodgings are cabins with access to secluded hot tubs,
situated next to the St. Vrain Creek in a valley crowned with ponderosa pine
trees and rocky out-crops of pink granite. After dinner the leaders will leave
you to relax and enjoy your new surroundings.
Day 2: After a leisurely breakfast in your cabin, we'll set
off to Stonebridge Farm, a short journey of about 20 minutes, aiming to arrive
by 10:00 a.m. There we will be welcomed by John and Kayann, with a tour of the
farm and an introduction to CSA. We'll have lunch in the Stonebridge community
Sunflower room -- formally a milking parlor. After lunch, we drive to Rocky
Mountain National Park (RMNP) to hike one of the park's best trails for fall
colors, which are provided by the aspens. It'll be a short hike of just 1.2
miles (elevation change 170 feet), with the option of continuing on to a mountain
lake, time permitting. We'll dine in Estes Park, a community that's located
at the very edge of RMNP (elevation 7,522 feet) and home of the Stanley Hotel,
featured in the Jack Nicholson movie, The Shining.
Day 3: Today we take a sack lunch and spend a full day hiking
in Rocky Mountain National Park -- our destination is an impressive waterfall.
The trail meanders through open meadows alongside a creek where we'll have an
excellent chance of spotting elk. Total distance is six miles, elevation change
is 1,060 feet. Tonight we'll have our dinner in the Sunflower room and watch
a movie -- a pertinent and thought-provoking film that encompasses related farming
Photo: Kayann Short
Day 4: This morning we'll hike a four-mile section of Boulder
County Open Space. The start of the trail is open, offering excellent views
of Coffin Top Mountain and Indian Lookout. After a climb of about 600 feet we
reach a wide open meadow where we'll see black-tailed prairie dogs and hear
their scouts issue the warning "yip, yip" as we approach. We'll have
our sack lunch either on the trail or at the trailhead where there is covered
seating. Mid-afternoon, we go back to Stonebridge Farm for our introductory
lesson in viticulture followed by a wine-tasting of grapes grown on Stonebridge
Farm and other local wines. We'll also be tasting samples of locally made cheeses.
Dinner will be served in the Sunflower room -- most likely accompanied by some
of the wines we tasted earlier.
Day 5: After breakfast, we head back to Stonebridge Farm arriving
around 9 a.m. to join the barter members in the fields. We'll learn about the
benefits of climate-adapted plants while we plant garlic, and will discuss crop
rotations, cycling of nitrogen-fixing plants and options available for optimal
winter green-manuring. We'll be joined by the barter members for lunch in the
Sunflower room. Our afternoon hike in the park includes great views of Hallett
Peak, Flattop Mountain, and Long's Peak (a 14ner) -- bring your camera. We pass
two lakes, the second surrounded by limber pines, to reach a third lake famed
for its emerald green color. This is a moderate hike of 3.6 miles with about
600 feet of elevation gain. Tonight we'll have a relaxed dinner in Lyons' renowned
brewery and restaurant, and might be treated with some live music.
Day 6: After a busy and energetic day yesterday, we'll have
a slow and relaxed start today. Mid morning, we'll visit a smaller scale CSA
whose specialty is goats, chickens, and bees. The owners Drew and Lyn (the makers
of some of the local cheeses we sampled previously) will be sharing with us
the joys and challenges presented by goat husbandry, cheese-making, and how
to keep chickens and bees safe from the local mega fauna (bears, mountain lions,
and bobcats)! After lunch we set off for a hike of about five miles in the Wild
Basin area of RMNP. The trail is adjacent to the North St. Vrain Creek -- a
noisy whitewater stream. Our elevation gain is about 950 feet. We'll pass through
a 1978 forest fire re-growth area on our way to some impressive waterfalls.
Dinner tonight in the Sunflower room will be prepared for us by an award-winning
chef who also happens to be our local outings chair.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 7: We have an early start today. At 8 a.m. we join the
barter members at Stonebridge Farm bringing in the fall vegetable harvest. Vegetables
are picked in multiples of 90, equal to the number of families/ subscribers
to the farm. Farm work is exhausting, so when our work is done it's back to
our cabins for lunch and a well-earned rest and a soak in the hot tub. The afternoon
is free -- relax, nap, sit, and contemplate next to the river. For those bubbling
with energy, there will be the option of a short hike near our cabins alongside
the St. Vrain Creek. Our last and farewell dinner will be in the nearby town
of Longmont at a small distinctive restaurant that prides itself on serving
the best seafood prepared in Caribbean-style with fresh fruit salsas and other
Day 8: Sunday, October 21st -- departure day. We need to clean
up our cabins, sort recycling from trash and check-out by 10 a.m. for the drive
back to Denver International Airport and your return journey home.
We will meet you with our van at Denver International Airport near your luggage
claim area so we'll need to know your travel plans. Our hope is to have everyone
assembled no later than 3 p.m. on the first day, Sunday, October 14th.
We'll return to Denver International Airport by about 1 p.m. on the last day
of the trip, Sunday, October 21st. Please schedule your return journey with
this time in mind.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Kayann Short
Our accommodations will be in self-contained, fully furnished cabins complete
with equipped kitchenettes. Your leader will be stocking your fridge and pantry
with drinks and food stuffs for self-prepared breakfasts, snacks and bedtime
drinks. Bedding and towels are provided. Our first meal will be a group dinner
at our lodging, and our last will be breakfast on the final day. Our cabins
offer a special treat -- ready and unlimited access to secluded hot tubs.
Meals will be a vegetarian-friendly. High-carbohydrate cereals, pasta, fresh
vegetables and fruit will make up the bulk, with cheese, nuts, and fish adding
a small amount of protein and fat. Most non-restaurant dinners will include
hot soup and a dessert -- no meal is complete without a treat. Nutritious snacks
and drinks will also be provided in your cabins -- keeping well hydrated while
at altitude is key to one's enjoyment.
For meals prepared and served in the Sunflower room at Stonebridge Farm we'll
split up into crews so that cooking, clean-up, and set-up chores can be handled
efficiently and fairly.
This trip is rated 1. The rating reflects the relatively short distances (2-6
miles) we travel on our day hikes. We will be following maintained trails throughout
the trip, though we can expect some trails to be uneven with loose stones. Our
lodging is at about 5,700 feet elevation and our highest elevation while day
hiking will be at about 10,000 feet. However the maximum elevation gain while
hiking will be at most about 1,000 feet. Since our day trips are in the mountains
and in the fall, it is possible that we'll encounter patches of snow as we approach
the highest elevations. Your leader will keep you appraised of weather conditions
as the start of the trip approaches.
While day hiking we plan to move at an easy pace with adequate rest stops to
enjoy the views and take photos. Participants should be in reasonable shape
to maximize their enjoyment of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Deirdre Butler
For our day hikes, all participants should have a good pair of sturdy, well-broken-in
hiking boots that cover the ankles and have been tested on previous hiking trips.
Fall weather in the Rockies is unpredictable. You'll need to be equipped with
good-quality, waterproof rain jacket and pants. You should bring warm, synthetic
or wool, layered clothing and a fleece or wool cap and gloves -- all of which
need to fit inside your day pack together with your lunch and water. We'll provide
a more extensive list of clothing and equipment with our pre-trip correspondence.
For our farm days, the same equipment as above will work together with a handful
of essential key ingredients -- an open mind, a willingness to participate and
ask questions and an acceptance that you will get dirty. This is what farming
is all about.
Suggested background reading to stimulate your mind and prompt your questions:
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Living sustainably is challenging. Boulder County has protected much of its
land from development by setting it aside as open space. But once citizens decide
not to build on a section of land, what happens next? Does the land belong entirely
to wildlife? Does it become a hiking and biking area for local residents? Does
it become agricultural land (or continue as that), and if so, do we grow only
organic crops on it? Or do genetically modified crops also belong on public
lands? Boulder County is facing these questions as it strives to become more
sustainable, so we'll explore how the locals and their leaders are addressing
On our day hikes walking through forests of ponderosa and lodgepole pine, we
may see the knock-on affects of climate change and warmer winters evidenced
by stands of dead trees -- victims of the endemic pine beetle. How should we
be managing our forests?
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy and participation in the goals of the Club. Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Rocky Mountain National Park.
"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs
of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Born in the UK, Deirdre Butler grew up hiking and horseback riding in Dartmoor National Park, southern England. In 2001 she joined Sierra Club and began leading local trips in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Deirdre has a passion for wildlife and Wildlands and takes delight in sharing her knowledge and field observations with trip participants. She believes in the maxim that what we come to know and understand, can lead to our work to protect. When not hiking, Deirdre barters her labor for organic veggies on a local CSA farm, makes 100% vegetable soaps and enjoys taking care of her cats, dog, and chickens. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Rebecca Dickson is a fourth-generation Coloradan who has hiked in the Colorado Rockies since she was a child. She has climbed all 54 of Colorado's fourteen-thousand-foot peaks. She is an avid backpacker who has co-led several national Sierra Club backcountry trips. Rebecca lives in Boulder where she teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado. She is a writer as well; her latest book is on Jane Austen. She is also a leader in her local Sierra Club group. When not hiking, teaching, writing, or organizing Sierra Club events, she likes to ride her bike, knit, garden, cook, and read.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips