For years we’ve heard people talk about the Methow Valley, so we finally decided to check it out and planned a trip to Winthrop, WA. The dates were booked back in March for an end-of-summer outing and finally it was time to go. Unfortunately it was also the middle of a terrible year of wildfires across the West Coast.
If you start in Seattle, Winthrop should be a three hour drive. But with a few stops we managed to make it six. Hazy, smoky skies followed us every step of the 120 mile journey and we were glad to just get out of the car. Our hotel was the Abby Creek Inn – situated a couple of miles past the main part of town and not quite walking distance to anything except a Thriftway and Ace Hardware. The hotel offered lazy river tubing and free breakfast, which were two big "sells" for me. I was also very excited to be practically next door to Morning Glory Hot Air Balloons and imagined taking great photos of the dawn lift-offs. Yeah.... no go with the smoke. It didn't take long to realize everything we planned was about to go right out the window...
DAY 1: WINTHROP, WA
• Our first full day started with a roll in to town and a stop at the Rocking Horse Bakery. I think this must be what most people do, since the place was hopping at 8am. Delicious coffee and quiche, so I can’t blame them. Little did we know we'd end up here another three times!
• You can walk up and down the main street in under an hour. I love the idea of supporting local, small businesses, but it was pretty obvious the prices were meant for tourists. No one would regularly pay $30 for a coffee mug, and I definitely wasn't going to (though I did like one that was close to forty bucks, ugh).
• You'd think the unusual amount of wildfires and smoke in the atmosphere would be a seriously busy time for the North Cascades Smoke Jumper Base, but it's actually the opposite. These guys look for fires that just started– a spark here from a lightning storm, a loose ember there from a campfire... Once the fires are raging and haze fills the air, they actually can't do their jobs and move on to other locations. We did see HUNDREDS of firefighters camped on the outskirts of town and throughout area during our stay. There is always a volunteer on duty to greet visitors at the base during regular hours and the tour and history lessons are free (and long! We were there over an hour).
• Because we're suckers for punishment, we continued being outside and stopped at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. Here they stock nearly a million steelhead salmon eggs and raise them through adulthood and release. Fun fact– not all the salmon decide to go, and those who stay back become rainbow trout! At the Hatchery you can also find several pools for rehabilitated beavers, but there were none present during our visit. Another fun activity, free to the public, tax dollars at work.
DAY 2: WINTHROP, WA
• The highlight of our second day was supposed to be a Cowboy Dinner at Sun Mountain Lodge. We had our reservations and planned to spend the bulk of the day at the Lodge, perhaps taking a fly fishing class before leaving on horseback for the dinner. Last year we went on a similar excursion at Yellowstone and it was a blast! However, ten people cancelled their reservations and we were left without the minimum number, so the whole event was off and we looked for other things to do on a Monday afternoon...
• Another stop I highly recommend is the Shafer Museum, perched high on a hilltop above the main street of Winthrop. It's a donation-based complex of over a dozen old, original buildings. A true window to the past, you can imagine what life during pioneer days was like while making a run for a land claim.
• The entire town makes a run for Sheri's Sweet Shoppe at all hours of the day for pastries, ice cream, candy, and lunch snacks. Bell and I stopped by for a round of mini golf, because, again, we're suckers for being outside in all situations.;) Their course was actually really fun and a particularly tricky hole was #8, and after a dozen false starts I told Isabella to just give it a good whack, and lo and behold she got a hole in one!
DAY 3: TRAVEL TO SEATTLE, WA
• Within minutes of loading the car with our luggage to go home, the power at the hotel went out. Thankful for the averted close call (cold shower anyone?) we made our way to the Rocking Horse Bakery again and realized the ENTIRE TOWN'S power was out. As if these people hadn't suffered enough already. On to Mazama and the one little store we could find with (yay!) fantastic coffee. The drive home was already going to be a doozy as we discovered even recirculating the air in the car was stifling, so a latte definitely helped ease the nerves.
• We did the obligatory stop at Diablo Lake along with pretty much everyone else on Hwy 7, and ooh'ed and ahh'ed at the pretty blue water. We tried to go camping in that area a couple of years back (first come, first served) and every campground was full, so we're a bit jaded of this area. It's a stunning National Recreation Area so it's no surprise it maintains high popularity.
Bottom line, we made the best of it and still had a good time despite the obstacles, however I don't expect to return any time soon. It's easier to get the Leavenworth which is just as fun (and popular).
Next up, Spokane, WA > > >