Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Warthog Getaway Weekend: Methow Stylee

The wonderful thing about America is that you can drive a little ways and visit practically every kind of environment you can imagine, bar subtropical rainforest and anything having to do with the Maldives, or Australia, except for certain parts of Australia that look kind of like Eastern Washington only Eastern Washington has more fat people in sneakers.  Us fat people like to visit Eastern Washington to get our 'high desert' on.  We call out 'Kangaroo!' whenever we see a dog and then laugh hysterically, and call all the ducks 'koala bears' and feed them 'gum leaves' and 'scream' when they 'spit acid', which clears the campsites around ours like magic.

This year we visited the Methow Valley for a few days.  We left a town where it was 60 degrees and overcast.  Once we crossed over the pass we were in blue skies.  We just looked at each other and grinned in amazement.  It was pure bliss from that moment on. 
Just past the summit. Pure bliss beginning......NOW.

Yeah, we pussed out and took the van instead of the Victory.  This was as much a scouting expedition as a vacation, and it's nicer to be able to scout with a cup of coffee in hand.  That, and we wanted to sleep a. in campgrounds b. on a comfortable bed  c.inside a metal box that was d. safely above rattlesnake level, because  e. fuck rattlesnakes.  You're either in timber rattler country or desert rattler country out in Eastern Washington, and either one of them will bite you right on the hine and not give a fuck either way about it.  Nothing ruins a vacation like a snake hanging off your ass. Thus the van proved to be an excellent choice.  We only paid ten dollars on lodging and our butts remained reptile-free, unlike other we saw trudging around with five or six chomped on the back of them.

The Methow Valley is a different slice of Eastern Washington. The high forests are colder and damper than the Wenatchee side of the mountains, and there's a wider variety of plants...pine, fir, alder, spruce I think, vine maple, something that smelled intensely like juniper and a whole shitload of other stuff (yeah I know I should of brought my field guide but the dog ate it. Seriously.  And here you were so looking forward to a botany lesson too. )

Lotsa fuckin' trees really close together that are cold and wet.

What you notice most are the Ponderosa pines.You know, the ones I didn't take a picture of to put here. They're enormously tall and straight with close cinnamon-colored bark cut by black fissures.  The older the tree the higher up the trunk the  short limbs emerge, dividing into shorter downcurled branches, dark and sooty looking, covered in long green needles and gold buds. Nothing traps the sunset light like these trees.  .* 

The foothills descend into rolling plain, and the forest ends in yellow dog hills and grassy, gravelly plains scattered with small clumps of sagebrush.  The road you travel through them is edged with stunted oatgrass and short, silver artemesia.

Picturesque log cabin that we saw with hills arroyo trees etc.  And a bigass horse barn in the background.
 This is western kingbird country.  You see them on every fenceline shimmering in the heat.  Barn swallows, swifts and buzzards rise in circles up the hillsides, and osprey survey the lakes.  Ravens drop small rocks onto the picnic tables to chase you away.
One block off Main Street, Winthrop...the hardscrabble life of a wily forest denizen.

Elk and deer everywhere, even in downtown Winthrop, holding up traffic as they eat the municipal landscaping, wandering through the parking lot of the grocery store, wading up the creek to watch the bikers getting overserved at the Schoolhouse Pub.

We were those bikers. Us, and hundreds more funky nasty tattooed fuckers ambling around half lit, as it turned out.  We even met some hometown refugees and stood around in the middle of the street talking with them while all the other elderly miscreants baked in the sunshine, broke various misdemeanor laws,

Just a reminder from the Church of Christ, Winthrop.
  bought tchotchkes made in Indonesia, ate barbecue, and played their music too loud as they enjoyed the 'Western movie set' ambiance.

Yeah, Winthrop is a 'Western' theme town, and it's campy and touristy, but it's cool.

...and no western-themed town is complete without an abandoned hippie castle
  They could have gone the edelweiss splattered half-timbered Bavarian bullshit route, but they didn't, which means Winthrop beats the living shit out of Leavenworth in my book.  When I go on vacation I don't want to run into even the slightest chance of yodelling.  At all. Anywhere.  That's like first on my list of 'things to avoid while on vacation' in fact. 'Ebola' and 'rattlesnakes hanging off my ass' come next.

They have a craft show/farmers' market in the park every Saturday, and I failed to get a picture of it as well.  Imagine lots of old people with long grey braids and faded hand-dyed t-shirts selling organic honey and incredible outrageously gorgeous handmade jewelery and little crocheted outfits for your laptop.  It's a really good craft show. In fact the Methow is home to a rich and varied crafting legacy, one handed down not only from the primordial Native Americans but also the hippie scum that dried in a paisley ring around the valley back in 1969.  That, and you get snowed in for four months out of the year when the North Cascades highway closes,

..and closes with a bang I might add, with you stuck behind these battlements.
 it's probably a case of craft or die.  Anywho, there was some really good stuff there.  We even bought some of it.

We did a lot of exploring the backroads.  Saw a lot of ancient hippie dwellings, tepees, yurts, Victorian homes, double wides, and 'vacation gothic' mansions.  Saw some rivers. Saw lots of mountains. Saw this malachite green lake with the picturesque lightning-struck tree in front of it.

Diablo Lake.  As the very patient forest ranger with the fixed grin will tell you, it's that color because of all the 'glacier flour' suspended in the water which reflects this specific shade of green for a reason that you'd better not ask the patient forest ranger to tell you because it makes a vein in his forehead swell.

Then we came home. And here I is!

*The description I give here isn't of nursery-perfect specimens but trees that have survived fire at least once in their lives.  They generally survive a flashing-over and even lightning without noticing much, and come back green the next spring.  So there.