Early September Days to Remember on the Way to, from and at Washington's Methow Valley and the Northern Cascades HighwaySaturday
September 28, 2013
Before 8 a.m. on a Thursday in Early September, Darlene, Nora the Schnauzer and I started a 260-mile drive north from Walla Walla to Winthrop.
We planned to stay two-nights and drive home on Saturday.
We passed the Country Mercantile (after gearing up at the Chocolate Factory) north of Pasco. We continued through Moses Lake and Soap Lake, skirted the Sun Lakes and Coulee City (within sight).
We trucked through Bridgeport, Brewster, Pateros, and Twisp.
We cruised the final eight miles to Winthrop.
The drive took five hours, 43 minutes moving time and 6 hours, 46 minutes total time, including the long dalliance in Bridgeport while I photographed amazing tree-sized carvings.
After moving into the Winthrop Inn soon after 2 p.m., we drove back to Twisp to dine at the Twist River Pub, which allowed Nora to sit with us on the shaded deck (90-degree heat prevented leaving her in the truck). The shushing of the rippling Twisp River a few feet away soothed our travelers' stress. So did lunch and a Black Porter brew in a frosted glass.
Darlene had fish and chips. I chomped the Cowboy Salad.
On the way back to Winthrop, we twisted-and-turned uphill for 18 miles (round trip) to Sun Mountain Lodge. Its verdant campus-style layout exuded a red-carpet welcome to the 1-percent with horse stables, tennis courts and forested cross-country ski trails and rental facilities during the snow months.
We didn't stop.
Well, going down the hill, we paused to gander at the far valley and Patterson Lake.
Before turning in at the Winthrop Inn, in the heart of the Methow Valley, we strolled the town's main drag with its Western motif boardwalk and tourist-bait ships.
With 322 miles on the odometer, I bought gas from a 1950's style gas pump that sloshed onto the truck and my right hand and after filling the tank with 14.47 gallons.
Fair mileage, unless the pump stopped too soon.
On Friday we ate the motel breakfast, scones and coffee. Then, as I walked Nora for her morning toilet, a hot-air balloon launched from the lot behind the motel
Well stoked, we continued for another 17 miles on the North Cascade Highway to Washington Pass. We, even Nora the Schnauzer, dropped jaws at the stunning high-mountain scenery. Nora and I spent lazy time strolling around the looping overlook, climbing rocks and gawking at the rugged mountain.
Back at Mazama, we hankered for another of brush with the lip-smacking Maple-Walnut Cinnamon Roll delights, but they had sold out. And we settled for sandwiches and a somewhat less tasty Plain Jane roll.
We drove the Goat Creek Road south, parallel to the main highway, to a trail head a mile from the store. Darlene read in the shade while Nora and I walked the popular bird-watchers' trail to the suspension bridge over the Methow River.
Birds, if present, mostly avoided detection. I may have seen a brief flush of black-capped chickadees through a streamside thicket. And wobbly robins
clinging on wind-dancing fronds imbibed berries that verged upon fermenting.
Finally, two female common mergansers spotted me and sprinted on their toes across the water to burst into flight. I grimaced at leaving the big lens with Darlene as I snapped (somewhat vague) images with the smaller zoom.
I hate to be so unprepared. But it happens. A lot!
From there, we scooted all the way back to Twisp and visited the relatively new Twisp Ponds Discovery Ecological Trail.
Nora and I dawdled along the nature trail through a cool woods along a stream where an intense effort aims to improve salmon habitat. We visited all 10 stops supported by a colorful and informative trail guide.
As the afternoon dwindled away, we drove northeast (more or less) of Winthrop to Pearrygin Lake State Park and paid more attention to the expensive homes along the way than we did to the lake.
On the way to the motel, we stopped and strolled the boardwalk again to relax after a long, hectic day.
We downed scones and coffee early Saturday morning. As I accompanied Nora on her morning toilet, a colorful hot-air balloon launched from the lot between the motel and the river.
We turned toward home instead.
Then we paused again to study the Bridgeport tree carvings, to visit the park at Chief Joseph Dam and to tour the Colville Tribal's Fort Okanogan Interpretive Center.
We enjoyed the visit.