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Methow Valley Weekend – and ordering a couple of Curtlo frames

27 Jun


Friday we set off for a cabin weekend in Mazama, with a car full of pups and a Surly Cross-Check on the back rack. This time we were able to take Highway 20, our favorite route, and marvel at the lack of snow compared to the May trip (but also at the continuing presence of it in spots, such as the Blue Lake trailhead cutoff).

We listened to the White Album, a couple of times, and generally had a great road trip kind of afternoon… made even more exciting at the thought we’d soon be meeting Doug Curtiss, of Curtlo cycles fame, to get set for a new frame for the SurlyLady! It was so much fun to see his workshop and meet him. The ‘Lady described what she was looking for (a sort of sporty road frame with cross sensibilities, i.e. wider tires) and he watched her ride around on the Cross-Check. The longest part of the appointment was spent trying to choose from among the paint samples (she still hasn’t decided on a color, but is narrowing it down).

By the end we put down a deposit in order to get things rolling. And then, uh, I sort of put down a deposit for a frame too! Same story, a sportif/cross frame.

Afterward we went for a hike up the West Fork trail, then the next day we put in several mini hikes (early quit hikes due to a washed out man-made bridge at Copper Glance, too much snow falling near Tiffany Mountain, and then, separately, a washed out log bridge on the Bernhardt trail). In the course of this however we had a grand time scooting around the valley. We scouted some amazing new loops (such as the one up to Black Pine Lake, off of the Twisp River Rd) to try in the future, when we go back with our bikes… and ideally, sometime later this year, our new Curtlo bikes.

Leaving the Methow Valley was tough as usual. We spent hours trying to figure out a way we could move there permanently… and as usual couldn’t think of anything practical, darn it. But today, even thrust back into the crazy stream of work stuff, life stuff, dirty house stuff and so on, I think back to the place we just left and imagine our next trip there, maybe in August. We’re excited about our new frames, of course, and the idea of having custom-fit bikes to go exploring on. Even better is the notion that we’re able to meet the fellow who will be making them. There’s something so cool about that, about knowing the environment these are getting made in, knowing that he’ll be brazing on say a warm summer afternoon with breezes perhaps blowing through from up the valley, from the Lost River area even. How cool to get some Methow-born bikes for future Methow-based adventures!



Methow, and How!

24 May

we found lost river to be lovely in the sun...

Lucky ducks we, in that we went on vacation to the marvelous Methow Valley last weekend! We wound up in a nice cabin in the Lost River area, right on a little offshoot of the Methow River, with a kickass view:

To die for...

The sun was out, the air was springy crisp, I was positively shaking to get out on the hiking and biking trails. After we unpacked, we skeedaddled over to the West Fork trail (just off the road that takes you to Hart’s Pass) for a nice afternoon hike. Starting off from the trailhead it started to rain a pinch, but then it seemed the rain clouds were working their way westward, almost as if we were chasing them until eventually the sun prevailed and the whole landscape opened up in relief, as did our lungs. Scree slopes, snowy crags, wildflowers, pines, lightning-blasted pines, shingle, shale and through it all the roaring water. There were lots of blowdowns on that trail, requiring some circumspect circumnavigations, but gave some nice momentary pauses like these:

I laid down in the dirt for you on this one... I should at least get a thank you.

The pups and SurlyLady and I were happy to get out to stretch our legs after the long drive over Stevens Pass and up the Methow Valley from Chelan. Road trips are so much fun, full of iPod shuffle play, gas station Jolly Rancher candies, letting the dogs out to pee at rest stops, scary locals, slow non-locals, and that perfect feeling of propping your feet up on the dashboard and the crunch of driveway gravel when you get to your destination, the quick tour of the rental, marveling at this and that, the throwing of bags and gear on the bed. I’ll never get tired of them, especially the ones you can take in the Northwest. I love this place so much. You can take yer fancy Euro vacations and… wait, no I like those too.

Mountain climbing, in the Subaru small ring...

The second day we went on an amazing trail, Robinson Creek. There was a lot of climbing, and the views! Oh I couldn’t get enough of them. At one point we came across a washout spot with a roaring snow melt creek that was impassable… we didn’t want the pups to get swept up in the fast current and then off the mountain. So we grabbed a couple of logs and carefully wedged them in a few strategic spots in order to create a little bridge, careful not to worsen the situation by diverting water or further eroding the banks. This allowed us to go on for a few more miles until we ran into a series of snow fields that were progressively wider and deeper. Still a little early in the year for mountain hiking, but I was amazed at how far we were able to go into the Pasayten.

Later that day the SurlyLady drove me and the Vaya down to the Winthrop barn so that I could do some adventure riding. We ran into KonaLad and CannondaleLady (ha!) on the Lost River Road – they were riding up to see if they could find us. After chatting we continued on to Winthrop and I said goodbye to the SurlyGal. I was determined to find some gravel. And I did.

Pavement isn't forever, but solo careers can be...

Wolf Creek Road

Gravel Grinda Panda

I proceeded from the Winthrop Barn up to Sun Mountain and toodled around on the smooth singletrack of the Methow Community Trail. What a lovely ride that is! When the conditions are better (not as much flooding from snow melt everywhere) I want to go back and explore more. As it was I knew I was running out of time and hustled to find a way back up to Lost River. I exited the Methow Community Trail on a road that later became Wolf Creek Road, seen in the pictures above. This is a corker of a gravel grinder, with sharp short hills, rough road conditions and an isolated, beautiful setting. Wolf Creek ends on Hwy 20 and the Community Trail continues west. I hopped onto Hwy 20 to get some speed, and then took the Community Trail when I noticed it left the highway for an interior bent. Strangely the surface of much of that part of the Trail seemed to be made of multi-colored glass pieces; this was disconcerting at first, to say the least, and I spent a few minutes trying to avoid the shiniest spots while thinking, dang that’s a lot of broken bottles. But then I realized the whole trail was sprinkled with the stuff… my guess is it’s some kind of recycled material. This section of the Trail was fun, curvy, swoopy, and plenty dirt intensive, with views of mountains and the river. Soon I came to the Mazama Store and fortified myself, not with vitamins and minerals, but this kind of goodness

Mazama Store baked goods... like crack for a cyclist.

That place is dangerous. If I lived nearby full time I’d gain back all 115 pounds in no time! So ended my gravel adventure ride for the trip. The next day, Saturday, I hooked up with JamisLad, KonaLad and CannondaleLady (sheesh this anonymity stuff is tiring) for a ride up to Washington Pass. The road was still closed, and yet reportedly cleared up to the famous hairpin turn next to Washington Pass proper. Closed road! No cars! Not having to hug the shoulder while 18-wheelers whip past, threatening to blow you off the road entirely with their slipstream!

This ride is, in my mind, what it’s all about. JamisLad and I struck off from our friends who had said they weren’t going to go all the way up… we were yakking along and not really noticing the grade. Before the Lone Fir campground I mentioned, “Once we get past that campground, that’s when the real climbing begins!” which in retrospect was pretty darn funny to say. Up to that point I’d been feeling fine, a little tired as JamisLad and I had come up from Winthrop, but feeling pretty good. That steep grade just past Cutthroat Pass however was a brutal wake up call! But again, that’s what it’s all about for me… pain, suffering, sure a little bit, but adventure and achievement! We coasted to a stop to take a break, next to some gigantic snow crushing trucks, had a snack, and mulled things over. Should we continue up or not? To up the ante, we heard then saw a small avalanche of snow come tumbling down about 50 yards ahead of us. Yikes! But, having relaxed a little, we soldiered on, the scent of the destination in our noses, that feeling of “we’re almost there, let’s do it!”. I think if either one of us had said, “Eh, let’s turn around now” it would have been easy to do just that. JamisLad was kicking butt at this point on his compact double gearing, grinding away slowly, while I felt like Pepe le Peu in my granny gear, bouncing along merrily. Then I saw the hairpin area and got so excited and we started surging forward and ran into this:


Bummer, we couldn’t go the last 100 yards to the hairpin! Oh well, it was still so worth it because very shortly we turned around and had an absolute ball going back down the mountain. With no cars around I just made for close to the middle of the road, didn’t touch the brakes, and whooped and hollered all the way back to the Lone Fir campground. I wanted to turn around and do it again!

Sunday,  with eyes bigger than my quads and calves, we took off for the Twisp River Road for some hiking. We’d intended to do a shorter route along the Southern rim of that valley, but the snow precluded this within 50 yards of the car. Instead we tried the northern side, the Scatter Lake trail to be exact, even though the 1988 edition of the Mountaineers book we had called it ‘grueling’ (80s hypberbole!). It was fairly grueling, but so much fun hiking with the pups. As we were driving back to Twisp I saw a road leading off to the North, Elbow Coulee, and remembered it from the map as part of a loop I’d like to do someday. We turned and found it to be a lovely little backroad route from the Twisp River Road up to Sun Mountain, bypassing the town of Twisp. Imagine a loop that wanders along the secluded Twisp River Road

Twisp River Road

then over this dirt/gravel combo:

Elbow Coulee

On up to Wolf Creek and then on to Mazama. That would be a fun ‘cross bike day indeed. I can’t wait to go back!