Small, But Mighty

The Eastern foothills of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains slope gently downward into the Yakima Highlands, dry lands thick with sagebrush and bunchgrass, rabbitbrush and wildflowers blooming in season. Here, where this upland desert gives way to the lush green leaves of apple trees growing neatly in rows, sits the city of Tieton, Washington. These trees support the region’s longstanding fruit business—employing much of Tieton today—thanks to an irrigation system that’s carried water from those same snow-capped peaks for over one hundred years.

The majority of Tieton’s population is of Mexican descent, finding work in the agricultural sector either laboring in the fields or packing fruit in warehouses. Other community members are the descendants of pioneers, able to share with you their family’s part in the history of this place in the same sentence as they greet you. There exists also a curious third group in Tieton. A small contingent of “out-of-towners” who are artists, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers, bringing a different kind of business to town—one of creativity and community-based entrepreneurship.

Tieton Arts & Humanities (TA&H), the nonprofit part of the larger arts incubator Mighty Tieton, brings people together by “engaging talented and creative individuals—from the Yakima Valley, the Northwest, and across the nation—[to] facilitate participation, collaboration, and community-based entrepreneurship among people with diverse backgrounds, ages, and education levels.”

But what does that look like? It looks like high schoolers participating in apprenticeships with Tieton Mosaic, learning creative skills that are applicable for future jobs. It looks like sugar skulls, Mexican dancing horses, and the outward celebration of death at TA&H’s annual Día de los Muertos community celebration. And it looks like a weekend gathering of poets from across the Northwest, learning and exploring poetry through LiTFUSE: A Poet’s Workshop.

TA&H brings out the vibrancy of Tieton. This is seen in colorful mosaics around town (explorable with a self-guided tour!) and even more so in the relationships fostered by events, new ideas formed at workshops, and in business successes from increased tourism. It can be seen when local youth flock to TA&H’s weekly summer art session, eager to learn and explore. And even more so, it is evident in the ethos of the town—people of all backgrounds greeting one another with fondness and welcoming visitors with eager curiosity.

After declining in the 1960s and 70s, Tieton’s population has recently grown to a bustling 1,200 and now sports a central square, park, and post office. The city now proudly has two restaurants—one Mexican and the other Salvadoran—that draw patrons from Tieton and the greater Yakima Valley. And any trip to Tieton isn’t complete without a visit to Panadería Santos, a Mexican bakery specializing in pan dulce. Frequented by locals and visitors alike, the sugary pastries are guaranteed to curb the sweetest cravings.

So it is in this way that Tieton—indeed, rural America—finds revival. Nestled between desert and
oasis, in an ever-evolving juxtaposition between time (the old and the new), languages (Spanish and English), and generations (the young and the elderly). All it takes is the vision and the heart to connect them.

Rough Hewn

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To get back to roots. Back to the woods and the mountains, great roaring streams—not roaring, really more like crashing, falling, cascading—yes, the Cascades were calling and we answered. It was time to get back. I pulled down the boxes, great green boxes, (a deep and glossy forest green—probably lead based and toxic) sturdy with long piano hinges that allow the sides to swing down, revealing drawers and cubbies waiting to be stocked with the accouterments of adventure. I imagine my grandpa slowly and carefully making the cuts, nailing the pieces, attaching those perfectly greased piano hinges—applying the Varathane to the inside—a clear coat that has by now become a deep caramel so soft and glassy I want to touch it constantly. I can’t imagine how long they took to make.

We readied the gear, stocked the boxes and packed the car to the gills The whole process went well. By well, I mean fast. The house was a mess leading up to this quick and easy packing job due to the fact that we’d staged everything the week prior.

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We fired it up the next morning, a bright, hot morning as they often are in July, pulled out of the driveway around ten, and grabbed a coffee—it was sub par. But coffee is coffee I suppose and I shouldn’t complain because it still wakes me up and gets my heart pounding making it so much easier to apply the gas and speed down the highway, five or ten (maybe more) miles per hour faster than posted without even noticing and pass everybody in sight.

The Cascades were meant for driving. There is no doubt in my mind that our creator molded and sculpted these beautiful mountains for driving—with jagged peaks and tree lined slopes, high meadows, low river valleys, hills with curves perfectly suited to long, serpentine highways snaking up and down and over and through—carved out by the D.O.T. and the hands of W.P.A. men. All that's left of those men—men with great dirty hands, probably cracked hands they once lifted to their faces to wipe the sweat from their brow, leaving ruddy streaks in their wake; men wearing old beat up hard hats with miners' lamps, probably great big boots also and button down shirts with blue jeans (maybe denim bibs, now that I think of it). All that's left are stones with little metal plaques or wooden signs painted brown with carved letters painted white or sometimes yellow. We speed past them not even thinking about them, though we admire the finely stacked rough hewn stone walls that still remain and it's a damn shame when you think about it.  

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But we don't often, because we're too busy driving—taking those curves at a caffeinated 69 miles per hour (45 recommended) and charging up the road to the top of the pass, flying over the crest and coasting down the other side. We're in a hurry to get where we're going and who can blame us, really? I suppose that’s the whole point of a road, anyhow. And I’m certainly happy that someone took the time to slow down and dream it into reality.

Waterfront Report

It was high time we got downtown and refueled. After a brief stroll on the waterfront we landed at Pybus Market. Surprisingly,

Valley View

FIELD REPORT No. 20180531AC

COMMENTS: With great excitement we made for the trailhead; it was to be our very first hike of the season. The day was warm and full of optimism. After many stops for "go power," at last we found our way to the top of the hill. And the Wenatchee valley view did not disappoint.

Already the green of spring was passing and the bright blooms of arrowleaf balsamroot were turning dull. The temperature rose as we descended, and was downright hot by the time we were back at the car.

RECOMMENDATIONS: If you're in Wenatchee and looking or a quick and rewarding hike consider the Jacobson Preserve Trail. It makes for a fantastic morning sortie, if you need to get your heart pumping. 

Opposite Day

Opposite Day

…this city is changing, and there’s a lot to learn. Today will be about deliberately opposing my prevailing impressions of Coeur d’Alene as an ignorant youth. It’s opposite day.

Lakeside in spring

A crisp spring afternoon was upon us. We loaded the boat at Field's Point Landing and headed uplake. Just around the corner the wind picked up

Vacancy to Vitality

Vacancy to Vitality

Where should we go? What should we do? Who are the key players? The names that come up repeatedly are the people we tend to pursue. The name “Spaceworks” came up a handful of times, and we didn’t really know what it was... 

Partnership

Partnership

We didn’t need to win the permit lottery to hike the Alpine Lakes because we got out there early in the season when snow was still packed down on the trail. We pursued...

Second Nature

The air is like water. It has a current all its own, flowing softly and evenly and we are immersed in it. Surrounding me crisp and cold and it presses up against my face, my legs, and my jacket. Although it’s windproof it feels like it isn’t because the air is pressing up against it, the air that is cold and flows like water, the air that we are immersed in.  

The air is fragrant, it smells like pine forrest, and snow, rich and wholesome. When I open my mouth it pours over my tongue and down my throat like ice cold mountain water—the water that is life-giving air. Its coldness fills my lungs and my body consumes it, heats it, and exhales it. The crazy thing is, I don’t think about it at all; it’s second nature.

We’re at Mission Ridge with the family and it’s an average day. By average I mean, awesome snow and a tremendous time. I’m not sure I qualify as a skier. I do ski, however I feel that the term “skier” denotes a certain level of skill and know-how that I most assuredly do not possess.

Last season, a freak accident last cut my learning period short (on day two, to be precise). So this season I’ve had all kinds of hang ups. The first trip down Mimi (green) this season was mental anguish and about halfway down I was ready to quit forever. I cannot describe in words how difficult it was to complete that run. I ended up doing it a couple more times that day and saying things like “I think I’ll just keep keep doing this one until I’m comfortable, maybe all season.”

It’s turns out I was full of crap though because the next time out, the siren song of skiing called me higher up Mission. I was still obsessing over perfectly groomed terrain, complete control at all times, not going too fast, the way my boots felt, the way the skis turned, the pitch of the run, other people nearby, and pretty much anything else you can think of. But I’ve caught the bug— correction— it’s not a bug is more of a drug (in the best sense of the word) and I couldn't get enough.

On this particular day though, the perfectly average amazing cold air day at Mission Ridge with the family it felt like we had the whole hill to ourselves. We did run after run after run (no black diamonds for me, yet) on fresh powder, under blue skies breathing in that life-giving air as we skied. And then something funny happened, I realized I wasn’t thinking about it at all. It felt second nature... mostly.

Best Brewers in Spokane

Best Brewers in Spokane

Swinging by The Blackbird before they opened, we asked owner Patrick McPherson his opinion on the best breweries in Spokane.

Southern Slopes

This time of year we all start to itch for some outdoor adventure free of cold and snow. It's easy to be tempted to violate closed preserves and other no-access lands.

Local Profile: Stone Parker

Local Profile: Stone Parker

He’s one of a handful of Northwest artists who specialize in the mokume-gane. In the foreground of Stone Parker’s work, the story of people’s lives are layered, soldered and polished... 

Give and Take

Give and Take

The water is cool and the air moves slowly past; it’s a calm day and friends are within earshot. Looking around, one imagines spending a fishing day among the Methow tribal people...

Riverkeeper

Riverkeeper

When I met Jerry in 2009, he was sitting in a café writing poems. On leave from a teaching job, he was exploring ways to engage with the community around salmon preservation and environmental policy. But it was poetry that...

Marionberry Handpies

Marionberry Handpies

Bake this weekend, with a friend or family member.

Between Swans & Swans

Between Swans & Swans

"We watched. We remembered that long winter on the farm, the solitude of hill after hill rolling white toward some faint horizon, beautiful and bare."

One of Those Days

FIELD REPORT No. 20180115DS

COMMENTS: It was just one of those days! A winter storm watch made for a crazy travel day around the region, and lots of folks hunkered down to watch the snow fall, rather than try and fight it. The next day brought clear skies, however and a blue bird day after a storm is hard to beat. Lighter than air powder, the sun beating down, and and my favorite, the golden powder glow seen here when Bridget Shae turns after dropping through the bomber chutes at Mission Ridge. 

KEY FEATURES: Arguably the best powder in the state is found in Wenatchee, WA at Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort. It features four chair lifts and 36 designated runs. You'll find trails, chutes, screamers, and bowls with a 2,250 foot vertical drop. The backcountry is easy to access, but do remember to check in with ski-patrol before you head out.

Mobile Plans

Mobile Plans

For Seth and Laura, Veraci Pizza is the story of the little cart that could… and still does.

Early Season Smiles

Early Season Smiles

Glover, a Spokane-based adventurer who often leads young people on transformational outdoor experiences with Peak 7 Adventures, says setting that early alarm for those first days of turns is "always worth it."

Connected

Connected

As I hung out around Spokane and Coeur d'Alene this summer, I started asking more questions of the places I frequent. Questions like: What causes are you passionate about? How does your business try to make a difference? Scroll through some of the answers I received...