Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pappi & Monty - Hot Air Balloons in the Methow Valley.

The Methow Valley moose mosey in the meadows with the magnificent mountains meditating in the misty distance.  It’s a special day.  Monty’s father, Pappi has come back for a visit.  

Monty rushes to his dad’s side and says, “Hey, Dad, look up there! What’s that?”

Raising a knowledgeable eye, Monty’s father tilts his head with its huge velvet-covered antlers toward where his son is looking. “It’s a hot air balloon, son,” he says. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

 “How does it stay up there? I don’t hear it, like when I see an airplane.”

“No son, it’s quite different. Hot air balloons are based on a very basic scientific principle: warmer air rises in cooler air.”

Monty’s eyes grow wide with admiration. His dad is SO smart. But in the very next breath, Monty says, “Huh?”

Seeing his son’s confusion, Pappi says, “Can you see the people in the little basket below the balloon?” Monty nods. “Well, they have a burner that heats the air inside the balloon. It doesn’t burn the balloon, but the balloon has to be big enough so the air inside it will lift what’s below it…. the people and the straw basket.”

Pappi says gently, “Close your eyes and pretend you’re in the basket. You’ll hear a very loud noise. It’s the big burner turning on. The basket you’re in rises and as you look down, the trees are below you.” Monty’s eyebrows rise over his closed eyes. He can barely imagine being above the trees, but he tries very hard.

His father whispers, “Now, you’re floating over the valley, and you can see the human cross-country ski trails below you, but they’re getting smaller.” Pappi pauses and closes his own eyes to gather the sensations he has heard from people in the woods when they did not know he was nearby.  “When there’s enough hot air to keep the balloon up by itself, they turn off the burner, and all you can hear is silence.” Pappi pauses. He waits. He breathes in the spring air and listens to the quiet.  Monty is young, but he is patient, and he listens, too.  They stand side-by-side, eyes closed, ears twitching in the happy calm of being quiet together.

At last, Pappi opens his eyes just as Monty opens his. They smile at each other and then at the beautiful balloon, floating above the mountains.

# # #

Every year in early March, the Methow Valley plays host to the Balloon Round Up, now in it's 18th year. Feast your eyes on the season's first Balloon Festival and experience the sights, sounds and learn about the history of Ballooning as the oldest form of human flight. March 6th, 7th & 8th, 2015.

To learn more about the history of Hot Air Ballooning Click Here.

And to reserve a place to stay while you attend the festival Click Here.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Christmas at the End of the Road.

Breathe in the crisp, Pacific Northwest atmosphere. Exhale and your breath makes little white puffs in the Valley air. Thanksgiving was yesterday, and the Friday after kicks off the holiday season in the Methow Valley with good old mountain fun.  Norman Rockwell would be at home here, and you’re invited to be a part of it. In fact, we hope you come to enjoy the strictly “non–big-city” serenity that an outdoor vacation spot can deliver like nothing else.

 "Oh Boy! It's Pop with a new Plymouth!" - Norman Rockwell

Because, it’s an Old Fashioned Cowboy Christmas, we hope you will join us for a weekend of holiday spirit in true Western tradition.

“Christmas at the End of the Road” weekend kicks off Friday, November 28, 2014.

This weekend is chock full of entertainment for families that you’ll remember and want to repeat for years to come! Starting new traditions or returning to this outdoor paradise for a tried and true alternative to the city madness can make all the difference in your approach to the entire winter holiday season. Trust us. We’re not kidding.  

Photo credit:  "Christmas at the End of the Road" - Facebook page 

Evenings are filled with music, Town Lighting, Caroling, and even Fireworks! We won’t bore you by repeating the schedule here. Please go to the Winthrop Washington website for the glorious small-town array of events, and bring your mittens to rub together over the burn barrels scattered everywhere.

Photo credit:

Tuck the town’s holiday events around all the outdoor activities offered in the Methow Valley: skiing, hiking and ice skating, chopping wood, or simply enjoying the robust, clear air. AAAHHH...

Photo credit: Tripadvisor.coma

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Salmon! They "Just Keep Swimming."

The Columbia River and its meandering path through the Pacific Northwest makes it the largest river west of the Rocky Mountains releasing 2.2 billion cubic feet of water into the Pacific Ocean every day. At 1200 miles long it produces more hydroelectric power than any other river in all of North America and in the 18th century the river was home to over 15 million spawning salmon. 

After facing near extinction in the 20th century from over fishing, water contamination, dam construction and overall human neglect this August reported record levels of Salmon returning to the mouth of the Columbia River with close to 3 million fish arriving, things are looking up for Salmon in the 21st century.  

Salmon are anadromous species this means they are born in freshwater and then migrate to saltwater only to return to their freshwater birthplace to spawn. This is the ultimate survival of the fittest story where you hope to find the toughest, strongest and luckiest 1% of Salmon to complete the journey and pass their genes on to the next generation. 

For Salmon born in the Methow Valley this is a 600 mile transformational process that involves maneuvering through 9 hydro-electric dams and avoiding countless animal and human predators all along the way.  Much like the people who call the Methow Valley home survival of the fittest is now a team effort. 

For the Salmon this team now includes humans whom are both responsible for making it dam (did we say that) hard for the salmon to swim back home to spawn and are responsible for the hatcheries that help nature along by making lots of baby salmon. Other conservationists help the salmon along by making it easier for them to “climb” back up the river using a series of stair-like objects to get them around the dams so they can arrive at their sacred spawning grounds. 

So if you are interested in viewing and experiencing who the strongest, toughest, smartest top 1% of the Salmon species are you will want to visit the Methow Valley in September, where the habitat restoration efforts include river art, log jams and two pedestrian bridges for easy Salmon sightings.  

To clarify I do not eat Salmon anymore. Call me a Salmon cheerleader. In our family we are split evenly: two for eating salmon and two against.  

The half of my family that eats salmon supports a multi-billion dollar industry in the Pacific Rim (including Japan, Korea, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska) that supports the livelihood of fishermen, hatchery owners, canning companies, and tourism to the tune of tens of thousands of jobs, these individuals need to be celebrated and congratulated as they are now aiding in what is looking to become another endangered species success story. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival

The Piano in the River

The piano’s legs are cold. 

No one knows exactly how it happened, but the piano appeared in the river this morning —and while she is trying to maintain her grandeur and insouciance, she suffers humiliation. 

The Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival draws near; the piano, a Steinway, holds steady, waiting for rescue, fighting to rise above the indignity, and enduring squiggly, slimy fish that swim around her pedals and legs. On this, the first day, a curious North Cascades black bear bumps the piano one more octave down the river, and the low A would pay the price forever more. The piano would have floated away had it not been caught by a gracious root, kind enough to hold the piano near the river’s edge.

Photo by: Teri Pieper

Four musicians come to visit the piano to try to pull her out, but the well-meaning root that has saved her now becomes her captor. On day two, the music director comes with a friend and tries again to pull the majestic instrument from the cold river. The open lid keeps her soundboard cold and the felted mallets grow soggy. The piano shudders again, and some kind soul, sensing her discomfort, closes her lid. Later, a brave pianist wades into the river and tries to play, but the water has soaked the sound. Opened to the elements, the strings can only mutter, the piano fights to be heard, and in the end, the sound falls flat: she has failed! 

There is a lonely elegance to the suffering. The Steinway, matte black (not shiny, no, not shiny), braces. Trying to remain aloof and unbothered, the “L” size, as she is called, stands quietly. She has the 160-year Steinway history to defend —a reputation to uphold. No ordinary instrument, this Steinway feels an obligation to not only endure the elements, the ridicule, and the ignominy, but also to maintain her grandeur for the good of the Chamber Music Festival, already in its 18th year.

Late in the afternoon of the third day, the piano in the river is rescued. Now with her pedals warm, her soundboard dry, and her legs polished, she will perform. Oh yes. She will be there. She wouldn’t miss the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival for all the tea in China or all the wine in the Methow Valley.

Kathryn’s Riff on the Mendelsohn’s Piano Trio in c Minor Op 66, No. 2 trees now thick with fog, spiking through the woodland carpet. She has a last glimpse of her lover as he rides away from her, not seeing, not hearing, and not knowing she is there. The fog saturates the trees, muffling the sound of her voice. She [the music] runs frantically after him until she can run no farther. 

Photo by: Ed Stockard

[In the adagio section] Exhausted and spent, she seeks shelter in a tiny cabin. It is small with one table. A fireplace holds a cauldron of stale water. A worn oval rug and barren slat bed are the only pieces of furniture. The wind pushes through the tiny spaces in the walls. The woman crawls under the rug, curls up against the cold, and weeps.

[As the music picks up again] We see the man in the forest on horseback, still looking for his lost love. Frenzied, he turns one way and the next, the music insinuating his angst and frustration. At long last, and as the music slows near the end of the piece, we know that he has chanced upon the cabin. Has it been weeks later? Months? Years? 

Photo by: Kyrie Jardin of Central Reservations

What is left of her is covered with moss. A few strands of gray hair with traces of black cough out from under the raised mossy rug — an embossment on the bare wood floor. He would have missed her had it not been for the necklace, his gift to her for their engagement. He cries out, the plaintiff theme repeating one last time. As the music ends, he closes the door on the cabin, his lover, and the necklace. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Methow Style, Sights, Smells, Sounds, Tastes & Touch

Where does “Style” come from?

Style enters and exits through our senses. In the sensory rich Methow Valley, I challenge myself to define the Methow Style so I can use the words of it to re-write my style and weave a new wardrobe. Here goes:

Methow Valley Sights

Courtesy of: Jennifer Cumming

The sheer natural beauty of the area makes transformation seem easy: enticing, alluring landscapes send my resolve into overdrive. The area exhales a style of splendor— and a silent summons to slow appreciation. Consider the art that exudes from folks who live here. The Valley attracts artists of all disciplines from painters to sculptures, poets to novelists: the muses live happily in these inspirational environs, or why else would there be so many fine examples of their creations? In fact, take a look at the Methow Arts website, celebrating 30 years of arts here in the valley!

Methow Valley Smells

From the aroma of freshly baked breads at the Rocking Horse Bakery the ‘Heartbeat of Winthrop’ and Mazama Country Store products with locally grown organic wheat to the smell of fresh hops at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery with an assortment of award winning brews and local wines, I can barely contain the urge to spend all my time eating and drinking. And why not? It’s the best. The warm summers’ grass and dirt bouquets imprint on my olfactory nerve as few other memories will.

Methow Valley Sounds

There is not much more to recommend the Valley than the huge, deafening sound of silence here. Broken only by the whoosh of wind, or the crack of tree limbs breaking under the weight of snow, the quiet closes in on style, helping me to define and shape the me I want to be. Turn the page, and music fills the air. The Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, attracts people from far and wide. The music muse listens and smiles.

Methow Valley Tastes

Courtesy of: Glover Street Market

Almost-all-natural ice cream awaits visitors at the Twisp Glover Street Market along with Organic Smoothies, and an honest-to-goodness Wine Cellar. Restaurants abound. Home grown veggies and fruits, spices and plants are stirred with love into the jams, jellies, mustards, and special brews, drinks, and flavors to tantalize your taste, sustain your style.

Methow Valley Touch

  Courtesy of: Central Reservations

Every day, I see prickly, cold, warm, soft, furry, rough, smooth, dry, wet and more. It’s all here. It’s the style. It’s in style. It’s all about style. I’m so glad to be discovering the Methow Style. Join me. Find and define your divine style — here in the sense-rich, stylish Methow Valley.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Methow Style

Personal style as defined by one of my dear close friends goes way beyond what we wear. They explain that style is how you respond to life’s events and how you act. It is the color of your personality -- springy pink, fire-engine red, dandelion yellow, growing green, bristled brown, impassioned purple, sunny orange -- and all of these colors are found throughout the Methow Valley.

There is more than one gem hiding in the Methow Valley. 
“This is a little gem of a place and we are not telling anyone about it, so we have a better chance of booking again, wink, wink.” says a impassioned patron after a visit to this Winthrop lodging, which is located downtown at the Purple Sage Suite along the riverfront.  If you are looking to escape the urban environment and explore a piece of the North Cascade Mountains, then look to the Methow Valley, tucked inside the rugged folds of resting volcanic mountains.  

Purple Sage Suite
I love the Methow Style, and have come again not only to define it, but more importantly to see if I can understand it well enough to absorb it — maybe by osmosis— if I’m lucky!

The sun has just come up. I open the window to inhale the mountain air. Each time I have come, it’s been in a different season, and I have a distinct experience.

I happened to be in the Methow during a fundraiser for Room One, a local health and human resource center. Teams of women were competing wearing colorful, fun costumes.

Photo courtesy of Kurt Snover.
The cute ladies in this photo from my last trip remind me that winter does not prevent the denizens of the Methow Valley from having fun outside. Timid and orange, neither red nor yellow, I look at the photo of this happy, pink-tutu troop and smile — and then I frown because I did not join in. They had an extra tutu. “Would you like to dance?” they asked. “No thanks,” I said. And now I wish I had.

Grizzly Mountain Homestead
Back home, I pull a take-life-seriously color over my head, and don worried brows, and a down turned mouth when I dress in the morning. The Methow Style invites me to change wardrobes, psychic and physical. Is that why I return again and again?

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Trails Beckon . . . .

"It is time for you to wake up and find a beautiful winter day in the Valley." 

The “Valley” is the scenic, world-renowned Methow Valley, located in Washington state’s North Cascade Mountains. The “Trail” is the Methow Valley’s claim to fame: the largest groomed Nordic ski trail system in North America with 120 miles (200km) of groomed trails surrounded by more than a million acres of wilderness and forest lands.

“They” are the ridiculously famous, delightfully wholesome Methow Valley Bjornsen kids, Sadie and Erik, and Brian Gregg, who are proud members of the 2014 U.S. Olympics Ski Team for Cross Country. Or “They” could just as easily be any of the others who train or moved here to train:  retired three-time Olympian Leslie Thompson Hall; Laura McCabe, who trained for her second Olympics, the 1998 Nagano Games; Roberto Carcelen, the first Peruvian-American cross-country ski Olympian; or veteran U.S. ski team member Torin Koos, another of this year’s Olympic Ski team.

The path to the Olympics is brutally rigorous. The athletes must have at least 100 points garnered from placing in World Cup competitions under the jurisdiction of the FIS or Federation Internationale de Ski. In fact, Sadie Bjornsen and Kikkan Randall (also on this year’s Olympic Ski Team) became the first Americans to ever win a World Cup Medal in a Sprint Relay, a Silver, at the 2011 Dusseldorf, Germany. 

So, besides lots and lots of practice, perhaps we can give a little credit to the amazing Nordic ski trail system in this part of the U.S. It used to be separate trails back in early 1970s. But thanks to a few good men (and women!) the length of the trails were slowly patched together to make one long trail, and then faithfully groomed for the most effective training and enjoyment of cross-country skiers from across the U.S. and around the globe. 

This behind-the-scenes hero is the Methow Valley Sports Trails Association or MVSTA for short. The non-profit association was founded in 1972 with the opening of the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20), and took its current name in 1995.

They are a dedicated bunch: If you would like to see the Groom Report, updated daily, it is a quick click from their website and since the MVSTA is solely supported by tickets, be sure to purchase yours at points around the Valley, and online.

By the way, these intrepid volunteers live in the area, and brave the cold to keep the trail in tip-top shape. Thank them if you run into them on or off the Trail!

So, if it’s good enough for Olympians (by supplying 3 of the 14 US Ski Team members this year, the Methow Valley contributed over 20% of the entire team!), the Methow Valley Nordic Ski trail system should be great for the beginning to intermediate skier, right? What? You’re not an Olympic skier, you say? Well guess what? The helpful MVSTA website describes which parts of the Trail are best for where you are in your skiing skills. How cool is that?

Visit soon and often — winter, summer, spring or fall. The Methow Valley cities of Carlton, Mazama, Pateros, Twisp, and Winthrop take you back to the Old West, offering funky festivals, weathered barns, great music, and superb dining. Stay in a romantic cabin, a charming cottage or an elegant resort. Get ready to enjoy sunshine, fairs, rivers, snow, trails, hiking, biking, and more! Cross-country ski the largest groomed Nordic ski trail system in North America, and breathe in the stunning beauty of the North Cascade Mountains.