Field Report No. 20161211NM
Topic: Late-fall hike on Lewis Butte
Conditions: Cold, nostalgic
COMMENTS: We park the car and scan the dashboards of others in the lot. Everyone else has also forgotten their Discover passes, and their absentmindedness puts us at ease. We cross the gravel road and start the climb up Lewis Butte. It’s late-November in the Methow and this hike, though not thought of much throughout the rest of the year, is suddenly popular again. People flock to these hills in May to frolic amongst the yellow balsam root flowers, but come summer its southern exposure makes conditions unbearably hot. And autumn is better suited for mountain biking—or raking leaves if there’s time. By the end of November, everyone’s leaves are turning to mulch in compost piles, only the die-hard continue to bike, and everyone is itching and praying for snow.
But Lewis Butte returns to mind as the perfect dry-land training option for those wishing they were gliding on skis rather than lacing up boots. As I trudge up the steep hill behind my spry fifty-five-year-old mother, I remember the annual Lewis Butte hike the entire Methow Valley Nordic Ski Team would take each year. The littlest who were chatting excitedly would timidly smile in awe as the high schoolers strode by in the midst of intervals. Hiking Lewis Butte was a landmark in the calendar year of the ski community, just as the first day of school is for kids. It meant the start of the season.
I felt the same tinge of excitement well up in me this time up the hill years later. The air was crisp and the first layer of snow in the mountains shouted “our turn” to the green of fields below. After scanning the view, I took a deep lung-awakening gulp of air and turned back uphill—to catch up with my mom.