May 9, 2020
by David Ryan

Looking for Medallion Trees on the Faulty Trail

The Sandia Mountains, immediately east of Albuquerque, have several dozen if not over 100 Medallion Trees. They are very large trees that have a round metal medallion (smaller than a silver dollar) mounted on them about chest high from the ground. Each medallion is named for an event that occurred on or around the tree’s germination date. The medallions are briefly mentioned on page 100 of The Gentle Art of Wandering.

The medallion’s creator (or creators) has not been made public. Whoever did make the medallions had the patience to locate very large trees in the Sandias, drill core samples, carefully count the rings, make the medallions, and then return to the tree to mount them.

What an incredible pastime for the medallion creator. And for us, what an incredible way to enhance a hike by spotting one while walking through the mountains. Many of them can be found along or near the Faulty Trail on the east side of the Sandias. The Faulty Trail is featured in Hikes 2 and 14 in the 3rd Edition of 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Albuquerque. Continue Reading →

Exploring Galena and Dubuque on Foot

April 16, 2020
by David Ryan

Exploring Galena and Dubuque on Foot – Now Available

A book about Dubuque Stairs and Galena Stairs and other points of interest

Exploring Galena and Dubuque on Foot is a new walking book about two of the most scenic and historic communities in the entire country. Rather than the flat or gently rolling landscape of most of the Midwest, Galena and Dubuque are set in the middle of tall hills, deep valleys, and steep bluffs.

Galena, with its start as a lead-mining boom town in the 1830s and 1840s, has the finest collection of pre-Civil War buildings in the country! Dubuque, too, was a lead-mining boom town. But with a later start than Galena, Dubuque has the finest collection Victorian houses from the second half of the 19th century.

This new book is the result of the continuing popularity of two posts I wrote for this blog in 2013. The first about the public stairways in Dubuque ( and the second about the stairways in Galena (

With so many reader visits to the two blog posts, my dog Petey and I decided to take several trips to the area last fall (2019) to see if there was enough material for a public stairway or walking book. In addition to plenty of stairways we found plenty of other items to make for compelling walks. All of the walks in the book take place in areas that were meant to be walked and explored on foot.

One of the Galena walks traces the footsteps of Ulysses S. Grant and visits all the places that impacted his life during the year he lived in Galena just before the Civil War. Had Grant not come to Galena to work in his father’s leather business in April 1860, Grant would never have had the opportunity to become the general who won the Civil War and who then went on to become the 18th President of the United States. To get from his pre-Civil War home to his place of work, Grant had to take a stairway that has 252 steps today.

One of the walks in Dubuque takes advantage of one of the handful of funicular (incline) railroads remaining in the country. Another walk in Dubuque climbs into a historic neighborhood on a 173-step stairway that is almost magical. You’ll feel like Dorothy and Toto landing in Oz when you reach the top.

The book has 144 pages, 5 maps, and over 100 photographs. The book is available on this website ( and will soon be available at other outlets.

September 19, 2019
by David Ryan

Looking for Tied Houses in the Midwest

A major tenet from The Gentle Art of Wandering is that, no matter where you are, you can always find something interesting. On a recent trip to the Midwest, my dog Petey and I wandered around looking for old Tied Houses.

Tied houses were taverns owned by a large or local brewery. The tavern was tied to the brewery for the beer they sold. Tied houses were very common at the turn of the last century and obviously went dark in 1920 with the coming of Prohibition. One of the provisions of Repeal at the end of 1933 was to eliminate the practice of tied houses. Breweries were now required to sell their product to a distributor who in turn sold the beer to a tavern or retailer. This three-tier distribution system is still in place today. A notable exemption from the three-tier system are brewpubs and craft breweries.

Continue Reading →