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Of wild fires and the Wild West

Washington State: day twelve

View Washington State 2017 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Towards the North Cascades

We breakfasted again today at the Riverwalk Café, where I had some great scrambled eggs and Chris enjoyed his eggs and bacon. Then it was time to check out and hit the road again, heading towards the North Cascades.

The Methow Valley

Methow River

Our route today took us north, first on Hwy 97 and then on the scenic 153 through the Methow Valley to Twisp. Or at least, that was the plan. Roughly halfway along the 153, approaching the small community of Carlton, we were diverted on to a side road that seemed to run parallel to the main one. We assumed we were just going round some roadworks and would quickly rejoin the 153 but it soon became apparent that this was a lengthy detour, necessitated by the wild fire that was burning on the opposite hillside. We could see helicopters flying above, presumably dropping water, and I later read online that the road closure was because of the firefighters needing to use the road for access and equipment. I also read that it was around Carlton that Washington experienced its worst ever fire, in 2014, so I can imagine that this one evoked some bad memories here.

Wild fire near Carlton

For us though it was only a minor inconvenience as we speculated whether the road we were now on would take us, as it seemed to be doing, in the direction of Twisp. And indeed it did, joining Hwy 20 a little further west than the 153 and just at the edge of that small town.


The town of Twisp was founded on mining and timber (there is an interesting history of the town here: http://www.historylink.org/File/9943), but with both of those activities long since ceased, today it is a centre for local farmers and passing tourists. It is developing a reputation as an arty place, with galleries and an artists' cooperative, Twisp Works, and it was this that attracted us to stop here. But we soon realised that unfortunately none of the galleries are open on a Sunday. Still, there were plenty of interesting details on the streets of the town itself to keep our cameras busy.



In Twisp


And we enjoyed meeting this cool-looking local guy who was happy to pose for photos and chat for a while about the North Cascades area.

The Cinnamon Twisp Bakery in the centre of town is well known in the area, as the queue we encountered when we went there for an early lunch proved. But it was worth the wait, as Chris's pizza slice and my savoury brioche were very good, as was the orange and lemon juice - very refreshing.


After lunch we checked out the Twisp Works studios complex on the edge of town, finding them also disappointingly closed.

With everything shut up, and no works on display, there was little to see here, apart from a few pretty flowers in the garden of a textile artist, used for natural dyes.


In Winthrop

So we drove on to Winthrop, where we were to spend the night. Unlike Twisp (just nine miles to the east) Winthrop is very much open for business on a Sunday and parking space was at a premium, but the receptionist at our hotel, the Rio Vista, was happy to allow us to leave the car there even though it was too early to check in. So we parked and went exploring.

We browsed several galleries and shops, finding quite a lot that we liked but none enough to buy. We also of course took plenty of photos! Winthrop is somewhat bizarrely themed as a Wild West town, with raised wooden sidewalks, wooden store fronts and lots of appropriate decorative touches. It's a bit twee perhaps but unlike Bavarian Leavenworth we rather liked it - perhaps because at least the theme here is American.


A sign in town explains how Winthrop came to be this way. A former lumber mill owner, Otto Wagner, dreamed of restoring the town to the early 1900 era (I have no idea why he would dream of this, by the way, except that the sign says that it was to 'repay the people of this town' for their help in building the mill). The sign goes on to say that in 1972 the dream was realised, thanks to the efforts of his wife, and that the townspeople 'wish to express our deepest appreciation and heartfelt thanks for a dream come true …'

I also liked the fact that Winthrop seemed to have a broad appeal, visited by tourists, yes, but also popular with bikers, giving it a slightly rougher edge.

Bikers in Winthrop


We stopped for ice creams at the very popular Sheri's Sweet Shoppe (very good, especially the salted caramel) and then climbed the steps opposite our hotel to the Shafer Museum.

In some ways this is similar to the Pioneer Village we had visited in Cashmere a couple of days previously, in that it is a collection of historic buildings brought together in one spot, and we had been in two minds about bothering to visit. But I'm really glad that we did, as is more than enough difference to justify visiting both. Here there are fewer buildings but they are much more comprehensively filled with all sorts of objects appropriate to each. The General Store is packed with the goods that would have been sold in such an establishment, the Dress Shop hung with genuine costumes from 1900-1930, the Doctor's House full of bizarre instruments (including an early x-ray machine) and so on.

The museum was created around the home of the pioneering founder of Winthrop, Guy Waring. He built the house for his wife, Helen, in 1897, after she insisted on having a comfortable home before agreeing to move “out West”. She called it The Castle, and her home now forms a centrepiece for the museum, having been redecorated as a turn of the century rustic pioneer home. I also particularly liked the early Homesteaders' cabin and the Schoolhouse.

Homesteaders' cabin

Parlour in the pioneer home


Also on the site are numerous pieces of mining equipment, farming machinery (including an area devoted to the region's apple-growing), a stable, several old cars and carriages, and no doubt much more that I didn't even spot!

The stable

Old car

In the farming machinery area

For me the buildings were of the most interest but if you have any liking for old machinery you could happily poke around here for several hours. The museum is free, by the way, although donations of $3 per person are encouraged - and merited.

Our room at the Rio Vista

By now it was time to check into our hotel. I had chosen the Rio Vista for its convenient location in town as much as anything, but we were impressed by the size of our 'single queen' room (one of their smallest but much larger than many we had stayed in in this trip), while the promised river view was lovely.

When the afternoon sun had lost its heat we enjoyed sitting out on our private balcony watching (and listening to) the river flow past - or rather rivers, as two meet here, the Methow and the Chewuch. The confluence is right opposite the hotel, forming little stony islands littered with large trunks and dotted with shrubs and firs - a very pretty scene.

Views from our balcony

Carlos 1800

For dinner that night we decided on Mexican and went to Carlos 1800 at the other end of the main street. I had a very good margarita here, with cilantro, and the beers were good too (Modelo Especial). Chris reckoned his burrito was one of the best he'd ever had! My main course was one of their regional Yucatan specials, Pollo Mole, but although tasty I didn't enthuse quite as much as Chris. Service was friendly and the prices reasonable, but I'd have preferred the a/c to be a little less fierce as it wasn't that hot a night – but then, I often find that an issue in the US.

So back to the hotel, in anticipation of another national park tomorrow, and more mountain scenery ...

Posted by ToonSarah 02:33 Archived in USA Tagged buildings road_trip history river museum photography washington_state street_photography

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We area so used to everything being open here on Sundays that I shall learn by your lesson when traveling abroad and remember your experience.

For example, be aware, if you travel in Canada, "The only way you can legally move a bottle of wine from one province to another — or from another country into Canada — is with the permission of the provincial liquor control board."

So, if you live on the boundary of two provinces, it is actually illegal to take a bottle of wine from your house to your friends in the neighboring province - unless you get permission.

I digress. I loved the word picture you painted of sitting on your balcony, feeling the heat and listening to the music of the rivers.

by Yvonne Dumsday

Yes, it does look "a bit twee" -- which by the way is an expression I have never heard in the US, I don't believe, only in the UK.

by Nemorino

I'll remember that next time we're in Canada, Yvonne ;)

And Don, I'll also remember to translate 'twee' if using it in the US!

Thank you both :)

by ToonSarah

i am Canadian and don't relate to these restrictions. twee or otherwise. Canada is special in many ways. Even Canadians have problems understanding the complexity... But it's there and must be considered. Respect to all national groups! That's my hope!

by loubess

Hi Lou. I'm not sure I get your comment - the reference to twee was in relation to my description of the Wild West theme in Winthrop, not to Yvonne's mention of Canadian law. Certainly no one meant any offence to Canada, I am sure ?

by ToonSarah

Hi Loubless. I was in no way wanting to offend any Canadians. I love your country and visit as often as I can afford but do find your liquour laws a trifle puzzling. Many, many years ago (about 50 - so I am sure things have changed somewhat since then) when I worked in a night club in Hull, Quebec, the owner decided to try opening on a Sunday evening but we were not allowed to sell alcohol without food. The chef was not prepared to work on a Sunday so customers were given complimentary sandwiches - usually dried out and curling at the edges but, we had complied with the law and "served food".

by Yvonne Dumsday

Forest fires are a fact of life for us in the West. Not a very pleasant fact . . .

Twee is not commonly used in the USA but is not unknown. Lift and lorrie are more likely in need of translation. Jumper was the one that absolutely flummoxed me. In my childhood a jumper was a dress without sleeves and one wore a long-sleeved blouse or sweater underneath it. They were very popular for many years. That would equate to a jumper with a jumper underneath it.

Where we live (in California), most places are open on a Sunday so I would not have expected nor planned for the closures in Twisp. It looked like a cute place. We'll make an effort to plan it during the work week. Good warning!

by Beausoleil

Thanks for continuing to follow along Sally. Yes, the language differences can cause some puzzlement at times, can't they ?

We found places mostly to be open on a Sunday apart from this experience in Twisp - I guess being quite a small place they didn't find it worthwhile to open (although the bakery was doing a roaring trade)

by ToonSarah

Two lovely little town reviews... Wild fires, or bush fires as we call them in Australia, are terrible things.

by Wabat

Just spotted your comment Albert - apologies for the delay in thanking you :)

by ToonSarah

I particularly like those quaint little towns ... again a nice read!

by Ils1976

What I omitted to mention in this entry Ils was that at the Twisp Works studios I had one of my clumsy mishaps, bashing my leg against a tool that had been left on the ground while taking photos and not looking where I was going. No real harm done, luckily, apart from a very nasty bruise for some days!

by ToonSarah

Sorry to hear that ... luckily you didn't harm yourself too much. It sometimes happens to me as well. I try to do my best and look at the ground, but it seems it is my destiny! :(

by Ils1976

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