Beyond Seattle and over the Cascade Divide there is a cabin in the hills of Winthrop. This is not just any cabin; there is a story to be told of when it was built and the trails that were blazed around it.
Justin's best friend from college spent his summers biking and running all the trails in the Methow Valley, and come winter, his family would spend every last minute Nordic skiing through the valley. Some of those trails they skied on were originally blazed by his father, David Longmuir. Back in the late 1970's Mr. Longmuir and his wife invested in a plot of land in the undiscovered Methow Valley. They were lucky to coincide with other skiers in the valley who drove the creation of the trails, including Larry Tobiska, Tucker and Melody Barksdale, and Dave Chantler. It was in Larry's own living room where they decided to create the Methow Valley Family Sports Council, the predecessor organization to the Methow Valley Trails. A small gathering soon grew into a mecca of Nordic ski trails.
These trails encompass an incredible network from Mazama to Sun Mountain and through Winthrop to Rendezvous. It's hard to describe the vastness of these trails until you actually get to the valley and experience the amount of dedication and determination that created these trails and has maintained them to date. Most would argue its the best Nordic skiing in the country.
Being back in the Northwest has rekindled my love for winter sports. I grew up snowboarding but never slipped on a ski until I got to the Methow Valley. I had no doubt I would fall in love with sport because it offered all the best things for an off-season trail runner: rigorous cardio, upper body strength, hip strength and opportunity to explore the outdoors. I read this article a couple months before the winter season approached and was fired up. Justin and I invested in skate skis and started planning our winter adventures.
Our first day on skis was a total joke. We hiked our food and bedding into the cabin, and with frozen hands and toes, hiked back to the car to ski before sundown. We got to the Cub Creek trail head and the car read 5 degrees (F)... and dropping. The sun was sinking quickly so we grabbed our headlamps. As other skiers raced back to their cars we naively slid down the trail, falling every 50ft or so trying to figure out how to use our dang skis! My hands were so cold I could barely grip my poles. We floundered for an hour and then called it quits. It was the coldest hike in the world getting back to the cabin! Luckily we had signed up for ski lessons with Mr. Longmuir's old-time friend Don Portman (who blazed the original trails for Sun Mountain) so we knew we could find a groove before our trip was over and hopefully stop stumbling in the snow.
I think the majority of skiers would tell you this, but don't attempt skate skiing without lessons! It's not like going for a run or swimming. There is a lot of technique involved that is even quite different from downhill skiing. I was so glad we had lessons from Don, which set us up for a much more enjoyable few days on the trails. Things were obvious once he taught us how to skate, but it was far from intuitive.
We spent four days in the Methow Valley, enchanted by the snow covered trees and serene winter trails. Every morning we would fire up the stove with eggs, sausage and hash and then hit the trails for most of the day. One of the fellow skiers on the trail stopped to say Hi while we were breaking for lunch. We told him it was our first time in the Methow during winter and that it felt pretty magical. He turned before skiing off and said "Magical is an understatement."
We would hike back to the cabin on tired legs and fill the wood-burning stove to the brim. We would spend the evening by the fire sipping tea and listening to blue grass on the radio. All of our conversations entailed plotting ways we could make a living in the Methow Valley or buy land for our own future cabin to build ourselves. When we couldn't keep our eyelids open anymore we would slip off to bed before another epic day of skiing.
Would it surprise you if I told you we are already planning our next trip back? Everyone who has had the opportunity to ski in the Methow admits there is nothing else like it. There isn't snow in the Seattle region for Nordic skiing at the moment so it only makes sense to make the trek east for some world class adventuring.
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.