Along the Rio Grande Trail near Aspen CO

Along the Rio Grande Trail near Aspen CO

DAY 4 — With kids, it’s always good to have a destination in mind—a waterfall on a hike, a swimming pool at the end of a road trip.

With grown kids, what can be better than a distillery? We’re staying in Snowmass in house rented through Portico Club and have decided on this beautiful sunny late summer day to bike on the Rio Grande Trail from Aspen to Basalt—20-something miles and blissfully mostly down hill (thank you Four Mountain Sports for the rental bikes with padded seats!).

The Rio Grande Trail is built within the former rail corridor of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

The trail is mostly paved and is popular with bikers as well as walkers. During the winter, cross country skiers and snow-shoers use the trial.

In summer, it’s all about bikers, runners, walkers.  Many people opt to bike from the trailhead in Aspen about 10 miles as far as Woody Creek Tavern; today we opt to go another 10 miles to visit the new Woody Creek Distillery—where vodka is being made from potatoes grown in Woody Creek.

Impressive distillation equipment at Woody Creek Distillers

Impressive distillation equipment at Woody Creek Distillers

The best part:  The Aspen Ski Company has arranged a shuttle to bring us back so after sampling the amazing vodka cocktails—think the Colorado Cucumber with Vodka, cucumber apple, ginger and Lemon, and the Harvest Moon with Bacon infused whiskey, blackberry-lemongrass syrup, rosemary sage and bitters—we don’t have to ride the 20 miles back—mostly uphill.

Another option:  Bike another 20 miles to the famous hot springs in Glenwood Springs—a great destination with kids—and then take the public bus back.

It is a gorgeous ride—past waterfalls, mountain vistas, wildflowers and horse ranches.  We meander along the Roaring Fork River with mountain vistas in view.

It doesn’t matter that my daughters are way ahead on their bikes.  I’ve found something we can all enjoy as a family.  And let’s not forget lunch in Basalt—a cute town where many who work in Aspen live—and a visit to the newly opened Woody Creek Distillery.  Owner Pat Scanlon tells us he had the idea because he had all of this land in Woody Creek, where he was just growing hay.

Why not grow potatoes, he thought.  Why not grow potatoes to make potato vodka?  

Woody Creek Distillers is the first distillery in the historic Aspen Valley and just eight miles from downtown Aspen.  It’s the first and so far only craft distillery in the country with control over every element of potato vodka production—from growing the potatoes to the local mountain spring water to distilling the spirits.

The distillery is sparkling—the latest copper equipment (they are also experimenting with whiskey, rum and other spirits) and a tasting room that just begs for a mixology class…

We learn at the turn of the 20th Century potatoes were grown here in rich soil…at one time,  more potatoes were grown here than in Idaho. But with the decline of the mining industry, and the fewer trains to Denver, farmers began grazing cattle rather than growing potatoes—until now.

Owner Pat Scanlon handfilling vodka bottles at Woody Creek Distillers

Owner Pat Scanlon handfilling vodka bottles at Woody Creek Distillers

“A lot of people thought I was nuts at first,” said Pat Scanlon.  Now, it seems as his vodka is gaining a cult following and his beautiful new tasting room—designed by his wife Mary—it seems he has the last laugh.  “It feels like magic,” he says, looking around.

I feel like it’s magic too—a perfect day with 20 something kids in the mountains.