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...
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...
Sitting in our cushy Merc seats we traveled to the places only scientist have been allowed to experience, true armchair traveler status for sure. However, it was
The Methow Valley five-star experience is well-known—in fact many people travel here seeking luxury of the material sort. However, one need not break the bank to enjoy hip accommodation, a thoughtfully-crafted meal, and intrepid adventure in the Valley.
Here are my favorite affordable attractions in this beautiful valley. With this list I hope you can make your stays in the Valley a more regular occurrence.
North Cascades Mountain Hostel’s tiny houses
If, like me, you’ve been over staying at hostels since that time you backpacked around Europe in your early twenties you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the style and privacy packed into Paul and Audrey’s hostel. Cabins start at $60 per night (if you must a bunk is $25) and renting one will put you within walking distance of all the great restaurants and bars in downtown Winthrop—not to mention just a short drive away from innumerable trailheads, peaks, and rivers.
Blue Star Coffee’s delicious drip
Bop over to Blue Star’s cafe and roastery in Twisp to find out how they put the magic in the cup. The holy stuff will provide ample morning resuscitation after a previous day’s intense ride, run, or ski without breaking the bank. Try whatever drip is on tap as it is likely to be seasonal, perfectly balanced, and roasted within the last couple days. While your drink is being crafted, look to your right and wave at the roaster hard at work behind the plexiglass window. Take your cup to go and pay homage to the fire-stricken land up the Twisp River drainage before hiking one of its many trails.
3 Bears Cafe’s small bites breakfast menu
You may wander in to 3 Bears to take a peek at their rotating art collection or to purchase yardage of unique fabric for your winter crafting project but the breakfast menu will keep you here for a bite to eat. Be sure to try their locally-grown Bluebird Grain Farms porrige—spalsh out on a side of thick-cut bacon. With a generous tip you’ll still clock in under $15 and you'll have plenty of juice to go rent a bike at Methow Cycle & Sport to ride around the Chewuch Loop.
Rocking Horse’s Friday lunch menu
Psst, here’s a super secret and delicious option that even you locals might not have discovered yet. Every Friday Teresa over at Rocking Horse prepares luscious lunch fare. She is equally as skilled with Indian cuisine as with the Ethiopian dish I enjoyed yesterday. For $6 this lunch is not only a steal but it is some of the only non-American cuisine one can find in the Valley. Supply is limited so snag yours as an early lunch. After refueling at this hearty lunch spot go for an afternoon fish at your favorite nearby alpine lake.
Arrowleaf Bistro’s Happy Hour
Arrowleaf boasts some of the finest farm-to-table fare to be found east or west of the Cascades. From 4pm to 5pm every day Arrowleaf serves up my favorite gin martini in the valley and for $5 each sometimes I spring for that second drink. Snag a seat on their charming porch as outdoor seating season wanes to enjoy some priceless people-watching and to observe the autumn colors. Top your afternoon snack off with one of owner Joanne's homemade macarons. I can’t wait to check out their new Winthrop digs when they’re complete in a few months.
Moody lighting, pizza cooked in an authentic wood-fired oven, and fine Italian wine don’t generally characterize a quality, budget-conscious meal. Over at Tappi in artsy Twisp every Tuesday’s menu includes two small salads, a pizza, and a bottle of wine for $25—plus all the ambience one could hope for on date night. Don’t miss their gluten-free options and a stellar bottle of Nebbiolo from their cellar. The space is cozy and Tuesdays are, for good reason, quite popular so be sure to make a reservation in advance.
Freestone Inn’s Local’s Night
Where else can you flyfish, paddleboard, heliski, trail run, and mountain bike from the premises of a luxury wilderness retreat boasting fine food and drink? I can’t think of another place besides the Freestone in wild Mazama. The new owners and managers are planning a special local’s night (read: all evening happy hour) which is slated to begin in November. Keep an eye out for a Field Report on this inventive new menu in the coming weeks. Be sure to stick around the neighborhood and stargaze—don’t forget your blanket and down jacket to lay out under the stars.
I rolled into town and was immediately sad. Familiar features and landmarks seemed all wrong in the strange, smoke-diffused atmosphere. Fewer cars lined the streets and only a handful of people were out and about. I made straight for Copper Glance to check in with the folks there and chat about wine and spirits. As we conversed and laughed, we spied an old friend outside and called for him to join us. He did, and we had a blast.
Someone sighed and we all knew what she was thinking... it really is lovely up here. Relaxing, full of friendship and great experiences. On one hand, the fires were scaring travelers away; on the other they were mostly missing out—and so were the local businesses.
And while it is certainly prudent for some to avoid any health risks associated with smoke—outdoors is mostly off limits—there is still much to be tasted and seen and enjoyed in the Methow Valley. I often wonder, as I assume many others do, how to best support communities and businesses and individuals when times such as these are upon them. Here are a few options that really will make a difference and, quite honestly, are also rewarding in and of themselves.
1. DRINK THE METHOW
You don't have to be there to drink the product of their labors—Coffee, Beer, and Wine—from the comfort of your own home or a restaurant or cafe near you. For morning vibes, buy a pound of Blue Star Coffee, better yet: buy a subscription. Order a craft brew from Old Schoolhouse (if you are lucky enough to find it on tap), call the brewery or check here to find where you can purchase bottles in local markets around the state. When sitting down to dinner, order a glass of Lost River wine: first rate and locally produced (in fact they start crush at their Winthrop winery the next few days). If you can't find a restaurant that carries Lost River, but are already a fan of their wines, why not become a member?
2. SHOP THE METHOW
As it turns out, we live in a digital age and you don't actually have to be physically present to buy goods direct from shops and studio. A great example is EQPD Gear, a micro manufacturer of way cool, multi purpose totes and bags they even ship for free. Other great Methow products include printed materials from Door No. 3—printed on old fashioned presses—their stationery is truly unique and meaningful. Foodies should call Thomson's Custom Meats and order their amazing ribeye steaks or peppered bacon. They'll ship it straight to your door. If you're in the valley, stock up on beef jerky (teriyaki) and landjager for on the road, which brings us to number three...
3. ROAD TRIP THE METHOW
That's right, actually drive up there. Stick to the main roads, of course, and give the heavy equipment trucks a wide berth on the highway, set the A/C on recirculate and visit the Methow Valley this weekend. It is one thing to sympathize with someone, but it is entirely another to be able to empathize, which requires actually being there with them, seeing what things are really like, truly understanding what their lives are like. So, hit the road and visit them. Tune in to K-Root (97.5-AM) as soon as you can get the signal, and drive from Twisp to Mazama and explore the valley from your car. Stop in at Twispworks and take in the artistic styles of Culler Studio and Keyser Studio. Enjoy breakfast or lunch overlooking the Methow River at 3 Bears. Eat dinner at Tappi (go for the wood fired pizza and order a bottle of red wine for the table). Don't forget to stop by The Wine Shed and pick out a unique spirit, wine or beer to take home. If you want to grab a late drink, as well as some more eats, hit up Copper Glance and shoot the breeze with the proprietors over an Indian Summer.
4. PLAN ON THE METHOW
Not the road-trip-adventurer type? Then book a trip for late (Indian) summer instead at Sun Mountain or Freestone Inn. When the smoke lifts it will be a great time to experience the outdoors with minimal traffic. Stop by Methow Cycle & Sport and pick up extra gear, tune up your bike, and hit the trails. If you want to be poised (and flexible) to take off at a moment's notice when everything does clear up, call now and secure a gift certificate for the cost of your lodging, that way you've actually committed yourself to going, but can still remain flexible.
More than anything, just do something, anything, to bless the Methow Valley. These four items are a great start to doing so in a meaningful way. You'll have a blast, guaranteed.