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...
If you know an uncommon local business that may have been impacted by the winter weather, why not brave the slippery sidewalks and go give them some...
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.
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
Field Report No. 20160325BA
Topic: Looking from one season to the last
Conditions: Mud and sun and cloudy drama
COMMENTS: I love looking from one season to the next: arrowleaf gnomes pushing their heads from the tamped-down ground to sun shouting from between snowstorms; raven crowing to herald seasonal springs flowing down this south-facing slope to a breeze still biting from the north. Clouds part, a shaming discourse scrambling the space between me and the full moon keeping the buzzing land awake at night growing, seeping, moving. The one-bar song of early spring's single meadowlark halfway up the little mountain near home reminded me of the siren song of the green season that drew me here to stay in the first place. Alone amidst the subtle bustle, I decided it was time to set up my camp chair, boil my water, and enjoy an afternoon press in good company.
KEY FEATURES: Trails runnable from beginning to muddy end. 360 degree views encapsulating the Pasayten, Mount Gardner, the Sawtooths, and the mighty Okanogan. A daily refresh of carefully-synchronized tiny flowers bursting from tattered winter masses of snow-crushed grass - return often to see the latest developments. No other visitors around for miles.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Grab a nip of Genepy for later at The Wine Shed and a brew for the alpine stove at Blue Star. Let KTRT roll as you navigate to the sunniest trailhead. Tip: point south like all those flowers who so wisely angle at the sun.
Field Report No. 20160320BA
Topic: A hunt for dry trail
COMMENTS: Upon first meeting the spongey, red soil of the first snow-free trail in Mazama for the spring I stamped my happy feet on it, jumped up and down on it, even yelled to no one in particular about my joy at finding it. After a long winter's many comings, spring finally showed her face this afternoon. I ran in grateful, wide strides on patches of dry trail between persistent islands of winter's icy clutch until I reached my favorite circle of verbose ponderosas perched vertiginously above the hussssshing Lost River. They spoke: "Spring is coming and we have company. Trust that the ground is here beneath the ice; it will provide you sustenance. We are your family, your friends, your confidants." Fortified with that message, my run reached its logical halfway point and I wheeled back to my car.
KEY FEATURES: Red earth matching red tree bark. The quiet roar of a river lost. Yells unheard, silence unspoiled, tiny treasures barely melted scattered pell-mell on the trail. A hundred birds singing the weak sun out from behind the clouds.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Check the Forest Service's road conditions update then choose an accessible trailhead. Go far, go fast, go with joy. Bookend your amble with coffee at The Mazama Store (Blue Star, mais oui) and brunch at the swank Freestone Inn.
Field Report No. 20160315BA
Topic: The three-in-one season
Conditions: Rock-radiated heat
COMMENTS: Bolstered by chatter of songbirds, accompanied by the clicking of a raven, I pulled on my helmet, rock shoes, and harness for the first time outdoors this year. Snow's breath braided with heatwaves off the crag; I peeled off layer after layer until I bellied-up to the rock in tights and a tank top, my grateful arms stretched like a horizon line beneath the sun's white light. As I stood there, bathed in spring's first clean warmth, I reflected on the past few days' outdoors time. Two days prior I'd snowmobiled in the pouring rain (and two layers of soaked hardshells) to ski at the pass. Yesterday I took my week's long run in a blizzard with my hood up. Spring in the Methow is a manic time. With all the options it can be challenging to choose the appropriate activity for the day's conditions but today I chose correctly.
KEY FEATURES: Snow audibly melting. Dry rock acting as a proximal space heater. Birds and deer reawakening, flushing from their winter hovels to eat and photosynthesize. Depth-of-field granted by a hawk's high peal.
RECOMMENDATIONS: After checking ski, rock, or running route beta in the Winthrop Public Library's stash, snag a soy chai and a cup of soup at Rocking Horse Bakery and jet to the nearest south-facing crag, muddy trail, or north-facing ski route. Word to the wise: Methow Cycle and Sport carries the widest array of sport fuel in the valley.
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: Looking back, these are the reasons I weekend-warriored my way from Spokane to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness three times in October...
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
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.
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.
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: At last we were off together--time away from home, from work (almost), and of course children (whom I love, really). I think we can all recognize the need to
COMMENTS: In the middle of the middle, I enjoy a sunset over Vantage Bridge and Wanapum lake. The dropping sun brandishes the muted desert colors with chrome—dusty to fuchsia, lavender to violet.