The Methow on a Shoestring

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 in winter alpenglow

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. 

it is aspen season in the Rendezvous

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.

get stoked for freshies at Washington Pass!

Tappi Tuesdays
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.

Methow or Bust

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 outand so were the local businesses.

And while it is certainly prudent for some to avoid any health risks associated with smokeoutdoors is mostly off limitsthere 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.

You don't have to be there to drink the product of their laborsCoffee, Beer, and Winefrom 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?


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. 3printed on old fashioned pressestheir 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... 


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.

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.

Departure (pt 1)

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 (forest green and deep glossy green, respectively--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 old gramps with a frown on his face carefully making the cuts, nailing the pieces, attaching those perfectly greased piano hinges. Applying the varnish to the inside--a clear coat that has by now become a deep caramel so soft and glassy I want to touch it constantly.

We readied the gear and stocked the boxes, packed the car to the gills--don't forget the fishing poles, camp chairs--and it went relatively well. By well, I mean quickly. The house was a mess leading up to this easy packing job as we staged everything during the week and somehow my dear wife didn't go mad but kept adding and adjusting and checking off boxes from her list, (which I appreciated immensely) all I had to do was pack the car.

We fired it up the next morning, a bright morning as they often are in July, and pulled out of the driveway around ten, grabbed a coffee--it was okay, Espresso Emilia in my Aeropress brews and chills much better than the coffee we got this particular morning; something upon which we both agreed. But coffee is coffee and there aren't complaints because it still wakes you up and gets your heart pounding making it so much easier to apply the gas and speed down the highway, five or ten (maybe more) faster than posted without even noticing you're passing everybody in sight.

The Cascades were meant for driving. There is no doubt in my mind that our benevolent creator molded and sculpted these beautiful mountains 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 hands of W.P.A. men first, then relaid by the D.O.T. last. All that's left of those first 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 certainly blue jeans (maybe wool bibs, now that I think of it), all that's left to remember these men are stones with plaques and larger wooden signs painted brown with carved letters painted white, sometimes yellow. We speed past them not even thinking about them, though we admire the finely stacked stone walls that still remain and it's a damn shame when you think about it. 

But we don't often (think about it) because we're too busy driving--taking those curves at a caffeinated 69 miles per hour (45 recommended) and charging up 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? We're bound for Mount Rainier.

Intimacy on the Icicle

Field Report No. 20150801TB

We were on the hunt for a good river spot on the Icicle. We realized how unprepared we were when our stomachs began to growl. It was then decided that we needed to make a pit stop at one of the finest Mongolian BBQ spots in Eastern Washington.


After we filled upon on an array of fine meets and noodles, we walked across the street to the local brewery, picked up some 22’s, and headed down stream. After some lightweight bouldering maneuvers, we found a flat spot to set up camp.

Bootjack IPA

After cracking open the 22’s, we were entertained by the sight of fish attempting to swim upstream. The rest is history.

Flying Fish

Anticipation For Adventure

Field Report No. 20150726TB

Topic: Outdoors

Conditions: Adventurous

Slack Line

COMMENTS: Waking up to a bird’s footsteps on my window sill, with the sun piercing my eyes, I knew today was the day for an adventure. Preparation began with some morning instrumental jams, a cup of freshly pressed coffee, followed by a teakwood and tobacco candle I picked up a few weeks ago from a boutique in a neighboring town. I needed to fuel up so I headed to my local coffee roaster for a double shot of espresso and a hand crafted veggie omelet. After feeling the food hit me, it was time for adventure. The drive to the local trail head was filled with anticipation. The whole time I was thinking about what I was going to encounter. Once arrived, I grabbed my bag, water bottle, and camera, then charged the mountain. The way up was slow. I was so distracted by the natural architecture the forrest had to offer. The way the sun spilled onto the trail through the branches, with every step changed the temperature feeling on the back of neck. From shade to sunlight, this trail felt like it was made for me today. After snapping nearly five hundred pictures, I finally made it to the top. Struck by the beauty of the resting, still water, I had to pull my camera out once more so I could brag about my hike later. I was then on a mission for a flat spot on natures floor, too lay down my blanket for a quick rest. It was hard to sleep because of the busy buzzing bees in my ear. After failing to sleep, I decided it was time to set up my slack line. This was the peak of my adventure today. After falling a few times, it was time to head back down, so I could get some rest. Tomorrow is a new day, and always a new adventure. 

KEY FEATURES: Allow yourself a good four hour chunk if you decide to embark on this journey with me. 

RECOMMENDATIONS: Caffe Mela, Tumbleweed Bead Co., Posy Handpicked Goods. 

Our First Bikes

Comments: With fall's arrival, the sun seemed sweeter, ripe. My friend got his first motorcycle this summer, we've been meaning to ride since August. He came by after he got off work - we rode up