Rain and flour in the desert

Back home after a few days in Cortez, CO and Gallup, NM. It rained a lot while I was gone, and the roads were red and muddy. Every little arroyo and wash seemed to be churning with brown frothy water. It was weird, seeing all that moisture in the desert.

Scary skies from the motel in Cortez, CO.

Scary skies from the motel in Cortez, CO.

While in Cortez, I visited the makers of the (locally) famous Blue Bird flour, Cortez Milling. They buy dry land wheat from around the Four Corners, turn it into flour, and sell it in these pretty cloth bags. One of their biggest markets is on the Navajo reservation, where people use it to make frybread for Navajo tacos (picture fried dough filled with beans, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese). Apparently it’s stretchier and holds together better than normal flours–I asked some of the frybread makers at the flea market in Gallup. People also re-use the bags and make aprons, purses, tablecloths, etc, which you can buy at the flea market.

bluebird apron

I feel like Blue Bird is a hipster product waiting to happen. It’s locally-sourced, comes in sweet reusable packaging and is a small-scale, family-owned operation. Although because Cortez Milling doesn’t advertise (“We don’t need the business,” the owner told me), it’s hard to see how urban consumers would ever find out about it. But I’ll say it now: I knew Blue Bird before Blue Bird was cool.

Hello, Colorado!

It’s so nice to be back at home after a summer of backpacking in Wyoming and California.

This is how about checking email, making phone calls and returning to civilization feels after seven weeks of being in the wilderness.

This is about how checking email, making phone calls and returning to civilization feels after seven weeks of being in the wilderness.

Most recently I was traveling through the Lost Sierra, a region north of Lake Tahoe known mostly for its role in the gold rush (the highway there is even called Route 49). But I wasn’t there to buy a placer claim–I was there for the frosties.

The frosty in Chilcoot, CA.

Look for an upcoming story in High Country News’s travel issue about the all the vintage soft serve stands I could find in three days.