Twenty years ago I happily stumbled upon the great little Western-themed town of Winthrop in the wonderful Methow Valley. True to its mining and ranching roots, Winthrop has been converted into a portal into the past showcasing covered walkways, Wild West saloons, and Main Street facades. Easily passing for the originals, and some are the real deal, weather-streaked barnwood exteriors scream, “Giddy-up, pardner!” Scratching my head in bewilderment, I thought I landed on a back lot at Universal Studios. All that was missing was my gelded Appaloosa, spurs to go with the pointy boots and some chaw dribbling down my chin. And one of them big hats.
That day I came in over the Cascade Mountains from Puget Sound along State Highway 20, just another line on the map in need of exploring, and part of the fabled Cascade Loop Scenic Highway through North Cascades National Park dripping with 300 glaciers and countless waterfalls. Rolling west to east through a two-million acre swath of wild country of various bureaucratic designations, I vaguely remember a long, meandering climb, almost always up, that took me through dense Douglas fir, and nearer the summits, alpine meadows awash in lupine and fireweed. In keeping with the winter-waterlogged Pacific Northwest, everything was intensely green. There were few homes along the way to Winthrop, and back then, little traffic - the way I like it.