Back in March, we went on a trip to Winthrop, Washington that established it firmly as one of my favourite places in the world. We liked it so much that before we left, we booked another visit for the fall. This time we were able to take the North Cascades Scenic Highway, which was still under winter closure in March.
“Scenic” turned out to be a bit of an understatement. We stopped at Diablo Lake where tiny islands dotted impossibly green glacial water, and Washington Pass where mountains towered above the tiny curve of the highway. It looked unreal, but I’d find out soon that we hadn’t yet come anywhere close to seeing the best of the North Cascades.
A few miles further on we left the mountains behind and emerged in the sagebrush and wide open skies of the Methow Valley. It’s one of the things I love most about this area: the sheer variety of terrain and the abrupt transitions between wildly different landscapes.
Early the next morning, we set out for the same gorgeous trails we’d explored on snow bikes and snowshoes in the winter. In the summer, with the ETSX under me, they were even better. As a technical rider I’m fairly firmly in the begintermediate category, which isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the highly technical riding around Vancouver; I love the challenge and the steepness of the learning curve. However, sometimes all you want to do is rip the dirt as fast as you can without needing to think, and that’s how these trails begged to be ridden.
Smooth, flowing doubletrack took us around a lake, through a small creek, and then into a stretch of forested singletrack where I forgot that my bike had brakes and just whipped through the trees as fast as I could, slingshotting between the trunks and bunnyhopping off roots and yelling for joy because it was so ridiculously awesome. While the rest of the group caught up I circled back and rode it again, just for the hell of it.
Riding with me was our fabulous friend Cecily with her brand-new Rivendell Betty Foy. It was a fantastic area to introduce someone to singletrack riding, with plenty of trails that were more than soft and smooth enough to get used to being on the dirt and accommodate a bike with a rigid fork. While we rode J and our friend M, who are runners rather than cyclists, ran the trails behind us.
Our path eventually led us down to Patterson Lake, where the others started back toward town on the road while I climbed a longer trail back to the area where we’d left the car. Even the uphill was a ton of fun, switchbacking steadily up through the sagebrush above the lake before re-entering the trees and curving back around to the trailhead.
I loved the trails so much that I couldn’t bear the idea of being done with them after just one day. So on our final morning in town, we got up at the crack of dawn and snuck a final hour’s riding in before heading back to the cabin to clean up and pack. It still wasn’t nearly enough; I can’t wait to ride here again.