Mia and I visited the Methow Valley in the winter of 2015. We said back then that we needed to check it out in the summer, well that time finally came. We just spent one wicked super fabulous week exploring the North Cascades and surrounding Okanogan National Forest. We hiked and mountain biked everyday and are already trying to figure out how to quit our jobs and move up there….(I’m only kind of kidding).
Before I go on I just need to put this out there. Have you ever gone someplace and it just clicked? Be it a fashion fanatic visiting Milan, Italy or a ski bum going to Aspen, Colorado. The Methow Valley is my definition of PARADISE. It’s very rural (huge plus in my book) the access to hiking, biking, skiing, running, lakes, rivers, etc is unrivaled compared to any other place I have been. It’s all right outside your door or a very short drive. The fact that it is almost completely reliant on vacation/recreation dollars is reminiscent of our New Hampshire lives before moving to Oregon, and I’m cognizant enough to realize that fact puts a bit of nostalgia for home in my head (no matter where I live NH will always be home). Heck, we left our mountain bikes on the porch all week without any fear of someone walking off with them. You cannot do that in the Portland Metro area!
We’ve been out here long enough to know that we will not retire in the PDX metro area. Don’t get me wrong, we like it here and we like our jobs. However the conversation has always been that Sisters, OR is the one city we’ve been to that would keep us in Oregon after retirement. Well, now I have to say that the Methow Valley is the place that may keep us in the PNW after retirement. We already started looking at properties and thinking about seasonal retirement jobs. Anyways, the point is that I am ready to move there today if we could figure out jobs.
So back to our trip…..
The drive up there is 7-7.5 hours from our place. The drive burned up most of Saturday with stops for food and any one of the 3 of us having to pee (of course we couldn’t all be on the same schedule). Plus having Codi in the car for that long without any breaks is not fair to him. So we let him wander around at some of the rest stops to stretch his legs. All in all the total trip time was closer to 9 hours.
We’ve grown used to renting houses the past several years. It’s not much more than a decent hotel and when you factor in eating out most meals for hotel living vs having a full blown kitchen right at your fingertips, well it just makes sense. Plus having Codi with us. A yard to play in, instead of stairs and a parking lot.
Day 1: Our first day we hiked up to Blue Lake. We had to stay in national forest vs. national park since Codi is not allowed on most trails within the national park. It wasn’t difficult to find suitable dog hikes and Blue Lake was a perfect way to start our trip.
On the way to the trailhead we stopped at one of those roadside “viewpoints”. One word….DAMN!!!!
From here to the Blue Lake parking area was maybe 2 miles. We totally lucked out and got a recently vacated spot at the trailhead. Cars were also parking along both sides of the highway, so we were psyched.
The trip from trailhead to lake is only about 2.5 miles. However the last 1/2 mile or so was still very much snowed in. Considering we were peaking out at around 6,300′ it did not surprise either of us.
Temps back at the rental house were already in the low 80’s before we left. Up at the trailhead they were in the mid 60’s at the start and low 70’s when we got back to the car.
Lucky for all us hikers there was a nice clear patch of rock overlooking the lake. We stopped and had lunch and just chilled out. The effort to view ratio on this one scores really well.
So yeah! Not a bad way to start vacation at all! Blue Lake Photos here
Day 2: We opted once again to hike to a lake. This time to Cutthroat Lake, a bit lower elevation than blue lake. It was also going to give me a chance to check out the area for a mountain bike ride up to Cutthroat Pass later on. Plenty of parking at this trailhead and we even managed to get somewhat in the shade! It was going to be in the low 90’s today and that was pretty much the trend for the rest of the week.
Only a couple tenths of a mile after the sketchy log crossing you come to the lake. Completely different vibe compared to Blue Lake. Still beautiful though!
Yup, sure wish I could have been working today instead of doing this!!!!! Heck No!
All the pics from Cutthroat Lake here.
Day 3: We hiked with Codi up to the top of Patterson Mountain just on the outskirts of Winthrop proper. Incredible views of the Methow Valley. This hike was completely different than the last two. For starters, we started at a lake instead of hiking to a lake. Secondly this one was way more arid and exposed.
Most of this hike was fully exposed and it was already in the mid 80’s. We made sure to give Codi a lot of water and rest in the few shady spots. There was a nice breeze at the top though and some shade for Codi to rest in.
We did the hike in a counterclockwise loop which allowed us a much more shaded descent back to the car. Then Codi got the chance for some more swimming (you see the pattern by now).
Later in the day Mia and I biked a short couple miles down the road from our rental house to hook up with the Methow Community Trails. We did a nice loop along the river between Wolf Creek Rd and the Mazama Store. These are not epic shredding trails you see in all the magazines (I did one of those on on Wedneday) but a nice quiet and serene setting in the woods that allowed Mia and I to spend some time riding side by side and chatting. I think she knows how much I love riding bikes and to be able to share that passion with her is something that I will always enjoy.
All the pics for Patterson Peak here.
Day 4: Today was awesome! Mia opted for a true vacation day of reading and relaxing. I took the opportunity to go explore one of the more iconic mountain bike trails up here. Cutthroat Pass is “only” 5.5 miles each way, but a nice 2,200′ of elevation gain! The first 2 miles are what Mia, Codi and I did the other day. However instead of turning left to the lake I turned right and proceeded to climb for the next hour.
The switchbacks were a lot of fun going up. I definitely appreciate the Ritchey P-650b compared to the 29er I had the past two years. It fits my riding style so much better.
I dragged my bike along more and more snow fields until eventually the trail really just stopped and it was all snow up to the pass. I left my bike on the trail and walked the last bit up to the top.
I’d be curious just exactly when will this snow be gone? It was another 90+ degree day in the valley. I wonder if it will be clear by the end of July? Start of August?
Later that evening Mia and I took Codi for a walk along the river so he could cool off.
All of Cutthroat Pass here.
Day 5: Thursday was going to be a scorcher in the valley. The goal was to get going and get some altitude in hopes that it would be cooler. Our original intention brought us down to Twisp and out along the Twisp River so we could hike Twisp Pass. This would have been our longest hike so far. It was already in the upper 80’s when we parked the car at approximately 3,600′. We hiked in about 2 miles and Codi was just dragging. We had hoped to be closer to the river during the hike but it was down in a gully and while we heard it the whole time we did not see it once in 2 miles. We decided to turn back and try another option for a hike. Codi did get to swim a bit in the Twisp River when we stopped at a campground for a few minutes to let him cool down.
Our second option for the day had been to head out to Tiffany Lake way the heck out in the Okanogan national forest. This is one of those trailheads where you leave the paved road and it is still almost an hour driving on decent to totally sketchy gravel roads. We gained right around 5,000′ in elevation in about 26 miles. The drive itself was pretty awesome but a bit white knuckle at times too. There was a forest fire out here in 2006 and much of the surrounding mountains look like a scene right out of Mordor.
This hike was an epic 2 mile round trip affair. We actually lost elevation right off the start too. However it was only 78 degrees up here at 6700′. It had been 100 when we left Winthrop!
The forest floor was lush with greenery and wildflowers but very few standing trees that were still producing foliage of any sort. Mostly just burnt out husks that contrasted starkly with the forest floor.
When we got home I poured over some maps and google maps too. Potentially there could be a very sweet gravel bike loop to ride along the route we drove. No idea of elevation or distance, only confirmed that it was possible at this point. All of the pics here.
Day 6: Today was our last full day before making the long drive back to Oregon. The plan to quit work and stay forever was not fully formulated so we figured it was best to return home Saturday. But in the meantime it was time to take advantage of one more day. We opted to hike up to Cedar Falls. This is a very short hike but again the temps would be hovering in the upper 90’s for a good part of the day.
I had to keep Codi leashed while he waded in the water just above the falls. It was just enough of an area for him to cool off and soak himself. I had no desire to see my furball go cascading over a waterfall though.
All 3 of us spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing, reading and “vacationing”. Mia and I went out for a date night in Winthrop and ate at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. A neat little establishment that, as the name would suggest, used to be the schoolhouse.
Well that is a summary of our vacation. I’m dreaming of hoping in the car and going back right now. Reality is going to work tomorrow, but a man can dream. Right?
Thanks for reading,