Washington State: day twelve
16.07.2017 - 16.07.2017
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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 ...