Methow Valley Vacation

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.

34894932063_6fea98fe44_z
Our rental house for the week

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.

35777003516_cfac2d6590_z
see, now that is relaxed

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!!!!

35776995126_e392daea89_z
Mia, mountains and Codi all things I totally love!
35817787055_9bc2e9a3c5_z
Kind of wish I had my road bike with me on this trip

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.

35007542443_19784b03b3_z
We are headed for that snow

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.

35817681615_42d83db3b4_z
taking a second to cool off

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.

35817628985_6313b9996d_z
first glimpse of the lake

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.

35007445933_e8d019e6e5_z
So clear! and about 2/3 still ice covered
35817622645_7f8f0a54be_z
hike to a lake means swimming for Codi

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.

35777196186_64951d1e12_z
Ummm yeah, somebody is super attached to Mia

35685712391_a0aef8b227_z

35777188656_395fc5840c_z
Killer views start only a couple hundred meters into the day
35817970485_b620170138_z
Codi’s perspective
35817959155_0a1602ddea_z
Mia was not a fan of this off kilter log crossing.  Codi ran through the water

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!

35817947255_c429037976_z
Cutthroat Lake
35817935405_73d7726be8_z
More lakes means more swims!

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.

35685927921_724942b673_z
Part of this hike crossed some grazing lands, we didn’t see any cows today

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.

35818205645_4363303e66_z
Looking back at Patterson Lake

35648741432_6481831f90_z

35429578240_ba39dd3c6c_z
Patterson summit just over that rise
34977945814_b650b1d056_z
Looking up the Methow valley
35818111505_cd7ccf9a66_z
Some welcome shade at the summit

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).

35685820191_37369597e7_z1

35685793991_aa2b3f28bc_z
Swimming and rolling in the dirt!  A perfect day.

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.

35018331713_bd486d6b6f_z
Working on the goofy tan lines

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.

34978150274_81baa5e350_z
So dang sweet!  Just awesome
35008145143_81bf790cf4_z
The higher I got the more frequent the snow became

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.

35686111761_132544669e_z
Today did not suck!
35648873492_cb27b96d8e_z
Eventually it was more hiking than biking

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.

35648863732_55f6519060_z
Kind of high up today
35648859502_8cdf5429ca_z
Fat bike conditions up here
35686041031_84a9fd96a2_z
More crappy views today, should have just stayed home.

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.

35658971872_d3a88bae33_z
Does he look sick of swimming yet?

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.

34978388064_bc27980c9b_z
Codi hears the river but cannot see it

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.

35008375683_12224948d9_z
Looking at Tiffany Mountain

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!

35008343593_bfe7ac8d5a_z
going down right from the get go
35008334323_77262d84ea_z
11 years after a fire it is still spooky
35777724836_8745b326b9_z
Tiffany lake all to ourselves

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.

35429953540_7f1cc0b35e_z
Of course Codi went swimming
35429936390_d035fd29bb_z
Lots of pretty flowers

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.

35430265900_31926d6308_z
The falls were raging
35430246340_f30340900c_z
looking upstream from the top of the falls

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.

35778016496_5bcb7d0930_z
cold and clear cedar creek

All of Cedar Creek pics here.

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,

-Pete

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Methow Valley Vacation

  1. Love reading your blogs! You need to write a book of all your adventures of hiking and biking! Get it published, get rich and retire young!!!!! We have been in Canada since May 23rd with our RV. We did the US National Parks two years ago, inner US for all the cool sights last year, and de died to visit Canada for the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Canada. Came up through Seattle and into BC. Vancouver, Victoria, Lake Louise, Banff, Calgary are just a few places we visited. We have followed Trans Canada Rt. 1 across Canada. We are headed toward Ottawa at this point. Should be home 1st week…possibly 2nd week of Aug. it has been quite the adventure. Although Scott sends messages that he is anxious for us to return…..he misses his daily lunches at our house. You know that some things never change. We think of the Rhodes brothers often! We have many fond memories of you and Paul. Our best to Mia and don’t work too hard!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s