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...
COMMENTS: At F&C, we've noticed that our mission is somewhat encapsulated by a couple of viral hashtags that will once again make their rounds this weekend.
After hiking up several switchbacks, Esmeralda Peak became increasingly outstanding with the November sun glaring against the rock and snow.
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
COMMENTS: I finally did it. I got my trusty road bike out of the shed, tuned her up and went for a ride on the Little Wenatchee River Road...
Field Report No. 20160107BB
Topic: Pregnant powder skiing
Conditions: Frigid and stable
COMMENTS: Today my dream line laid just on the shudder side of the shade of an orange backbone of granite. It was moderately steep and entirely untracked, all 3400' of it. Despite having worn my 6000m layering system on the sled ride to the pass the wind whistled right past my two puffies and softshell down my unzipped pants, split where my five month pregnant belly lolled out in the bitter cold the entire skin up. Topping out in a forlorn, proud notch above 8000' I had the feeling I always have in places like these, one of wanting to root in and build myself a nest amongst the scrabble of stone and ice to ride out the night's show of tiny lights. I dropped in to the couloir, the biggest and most intimidating I've skiied yet, and worked hard racing the day's death to its treed outflow. Night siphoned away the intrepid blues replacing them with impossible rose and lavender as we strapped skis to the sled and flowed down to the valley, windchill reaching well below zero.
KEY FEATURES: Parka-penetrating, eyeball-freezing-open, screaming-barfies-inducing cold. The kind of peace only to be found twenty miles from a car in fresh-deep powder.
RECOMMENDATIONS: If you don't tote a snowmobile of your own plan on hiring a guide or better yet a heli from North Cascades Heli which is conveniently located next door to the lavish Freestone Inn. After a long day's leg-stretch in the silent vicinity of the Liberty Bell Group cozy up next to the fire in the Freestone's dining room and enjoy any number of cocktails from their new menu.
Field Report No. 20151231BB
Topic: Speaking with a mountain
Conditions: Cold smoke
COMMENTS: The soul heals a little at a time. Rhythmic uphill thumping then losing it all slicing through cold smoke on the way down helps.
Today I reached the shadow indicating my entrance to the draw between buttes a few pushes earlier than I did yesterday indicating the subtle extension of the day's sun. Soon the mountain's fold swallowed me gratefully and I was up to my tingling scalp in the exhilaration of a lonely silent ski. I contemplated, I wrote this poem and that's words in the air, I feathered out bony wings so that I'd be prepared to fly down from the unremarkable summit when my aerobic work was done for the lap. How many times have I moved to one staggering mountain zone or another or performed my artistic alpinism in the world's greatest places only to settle on the tiniest humble hill as my object of daily worship? It must be these forgotten solitary places that keep their secrets best.
KEY FEATURES: The best powder in the Methow, silence ringing in my ears, and views spanning from Washington Pass to the Okanogan--an excellent way to survey coverage to plot one's next backcountry venture. Talkative krumholtz and rooibos chai to keep me company. Cristalline suspended water vapor dancing on the huff of a breeze makes it all a bit more magickal.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Après-ski, splash out on the S.O.B. at Arrowleaf Bistro to celebrate the close of another year with your loved ones. My voracious and discerning appetite always agrees with bacon mashed potatoes, a rare sirloin, and artfully-paired wine in their charming space.
COMMENTS: From the metal cage of my car I can hear the tapping of rain on the roof, the rocks, and the puddles around me.
COMMENTS: Crowds of people summited Mount Adams this year, but these two stole the show. I had never seen
COMMENTS: My car strove to meet the distinct line of the season’s first storm as I pointed toward Washington Pass. Monoliths on both sides
COMMENTS: Scrabbles of week-old snow are slung against the coldest contours. I've come to this familiar swath of the Okanogan again today to listen intently to the land and its coveys of grouse hoping I can become more worthy of their harvest. Instead of hooting I hear only
COMMENTS: With an early Thursday departure and a freshly brewed coffee from Good Mood Food, we made our way to the Colchuck Lake Trailhead.
COMMENTS: The drabness of late summer is gone, supplanted by these mercenaries of color. They proselytize to the mist while I sing silently to my notebook; sparse raindrops blot my words.
COMMENTS: We hit the road early and made it to Twisp by 7 AM--grabbed a coffee, then flew up the highway to Winthrop where we
FIELD REPORT NO. 20140831AC
COMMENTS: After crossing the bridge into town, we took breakfast at 3 Bears Cafe & Quilts. An interesting cafe set in a quilt shop, right of the main drag in Winthrop. It was a bit nippy outside so we sat indoors, admiring the decor (in particular the light fixtures) and discussing our plans for the day. After some debate we settled on attacking the Cutthroat Trail, just a ways past Mazama. With the smoke now completely gone we figured we'd have a great view of the North Cascades from the top.
KEY FEATURES: The atmosphere at 3 Bears Cafe & Quilts is really quite sublime, the fabrics absorb a great deal of the noise so you feel as though you are the only table in the place when in fact there may be another party sitting right around the corner.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Order the breakfast tacos, you won't be disappointed. After your ride, cool off over at Copper Glance.
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.
COMMENTS: With my wife just finishing another long day of meetings at her teachers' conference, I can tell from her text messages that she's tired.
COMMENTS: I happen to sell booze for a living (partially) which makes for really great experiences in really great places all over a large portion of Washington State. I load up the car with cases of
COMMENTS: A business trip from Spokane offers a chance for my first visit to Wenatchee's famed Pybus Market. Earlier this summer, I was in San Francisco at the historic Ferry Terminal. What happens in San Fran happens in Wenatchee...
COMMENTS: It's not babysitting when you're the dad; that's called parenting. After my wife is all set up at her work conference at the Coast Hotel and Wenatchee Convention Center, it's the girls and me for the next eight hours or so. No sweat, right? Step one: treat yo self.