Mild temperatures, sunshine, low noise levels, plenty of space, subtle breezes… those are the things we look for in our campground experiences. Too many days of rain, too many days of high temperatures, congested campgrounds, high winds, road or train noise, screaming neighbors, barking dogs… those are the things we try to avoid.
Add to the “avoid” list: mosquitos!
Riverbend RV Park (click here to read our review) looked idyllic when we pulled in, and had a rare feature that pleased us: pull-in/back-out sites FACING the Methow River, so our big front windshield had a front row view of the water flowing past. Odel scrubbed the dead bugs off the front of Scoopy and hooked us up while I deployed the slides and awning and adjusted our interior furnishing, just as always. After a short exploration of Winthrop and Twisp, the nearest towns, we were ready to relax on the green grass facing the river, wine in hand, contemplating dinner. Ahhhhh… what a life, right?
Wrong! Except for a short window of time midday, mosquitos rule here. No grilling. No sitting outdoors with the Kindle. Want that lovely bottle of Riesling we have chilling the in basement refrigerator? How many mosquito bites is it worth to you?? Not only are the pesky critters outdoors but, each time we open the door to go in or out, a swarm heads inside. We killed twenty one mosquitos (by Odel’s count – they are more attracted to him than to me) between the time we came home and the time we went to bed yesterday. RATS!
We arrived in Twisp armed with a USFS map of the area heavily annotated by Vladimir, our dinner host the other night, a retired forester who knows and obviously loves this area. Emboldened with our success exploring the remote roads of the Zumwalt Prairie near Joseph, we had several destinations in mind for our explorations of this area – beginning with a drive 30 miles north of Winthrop to a memorial for four firefighters who lost their lives ten years ago battling the Thirtymile fire.
Though we didn’t realize it, the day we picked (July 10) to visit the memorial and hike to the waterfall beyond was the date of the ten year anniversary of the terrible event. We discovered this while walking through Winthrop after breakfast, when we noticed a crowd of men and women in dark uniforms massing in a parking lot near the Saturday Farmers Market. When Odel asked what was up, he learned that a special memorial gathering was planned at the memorial to commemorate the loss – so we quickly decided to go another day.
We asked one of the local venders at the market for a suggestion on a hike, and on his excellent advice, ended up at the end of a dead end dirt road, the trailhead for the Foggy Dew trail. We signed the register and headed up, gaining 1,000 feet of elevation in 1.6 miles, a steady - but not too steep – climb through evergreen forest alongside rushing Gold Creek. Just as our stomachs started to rumble for lunch, the rush of Gold Creek’s waters turned to a roar, and we found a beautiful picnic spot next to Foggy Dew Falls.
We enjoyed our sandwiches, watched the astonishing volume of water fall and froth over boulders, then headed back down the trail, having not seen even one other hiker! It was a good workout for Odel’s knee, and a hike we highly recommend.
Back home, a crockpot of spicy Jambalaya was waiting – what a great appliance that is! :)
Next day, since Odel’s knee seemed no worse for the prior hike, we headed off to the Thirtymile memorial marker. The road from Winthrop follows the Chewuch River past many USFS campgrounds – all virtually empty mid-week. After 25 miles, the pavement ends. The dirt/gravel road continues to the memorial marker and beyond, to a trailhead through the burned canyon alongside the Chewuch River.
Before continuing on to the trailhead, we stopped to visit the memorial. What a sad story (click here to read the Yakima Herald’s article on the 10 year anniversary commemoration and the event). Fourteen firefighters and two campers were trapped in the steep canyon when an unattended campfire blew up out of control; four of the firefighters died as they sheltered in their emergency tents in the firestorm.
Besides the official memorial, many personal tokens adorn the low stone walls and nearby rocks: hats, t-shirts, medals, small toys. It was quiet and sobering and, once again, we saw no one else. I’m so glad we had not visited the prior day.
Then we headed up the road to the trailhead. What a change from Foggy Dew! Instead of thick forest with limited views, we could clearly see the river and the steep, rocky canyon walls. Thanks to the heavy snowfall this winter, waterfalls plunged down the canyon walls in places normally dry in July, I imagine.
Lots of snags and an open vista of the canyon.
Huge dead trees caught in the river below.
Hiking above the river in the sunshine, I reflected on the role of wildfires in the lifecycle of healthy forests.Snags, standing and fallen, filled the view… and all around and beneath them, green – grasses, understory, and new trees growing into new forest. Lack of heavy forest resulted in luxuriant wildflower gardens: thick stands of lupine and wild roses punctuated with Turk’s Cap, Indian Paintbrush, Red Columbine and Fireweed.
Lupine was common alongside the trail.
Spectacular Turk’s Cap.
At the two mile point, we conferred. Should we continue on for perhaps another mile to the falls indicated on the map? Odel’s knee felt good, so off we went. In less than a mile, we heard the roar of the waterfall; time for a sit-down break before heading back down the trail. Six hundred feet elevation gain in 2.7 miles, a round trip hike just under 5 1/2 miles. Odel’s knee surgeon would probably be appalled, but we were thrilled! :)
The Winthrop Emporium, in keeping with the western theme of the town.
A typical scene from the Methow Valley, looking northwest.
Though there is much more to explore here on the eastern edge of the Cascades, the mosquitos have triumphed; we’re heading west tomorrow. Too bad for us – today is cloudy with intermittent showers, as is the forecast for the next four days. We were looking forward to the spectacular scenery – new to us – of the North Cascades Highway, but it looks like the mountain tops will be in the clouds. We’ll see… maybe we’ll get lucky. :)