This too shall pass
Methow Valley temperatures are still in the 90s. So why does it feel a bit like winter?
The unexpected closure of the North Cascades Highway, caused by a series of deluges that brought down several huge mudslides over the roadway, has suddenly left us in the isolation mode we usually experience when snows close the pass.
Isolation – even inconvenience – is the last thing we need as the tourism season peaks. And from anecdotal accounts, it has been good season for many valley businesses.
Not only is Highway 20 the main artery for valley-related tourism travel this time of year, it’s also a commercial corridor for delivery of goods and services. We count on all kinds of people getting here by that route. So do the businesses along the way in places such as Concrete, Rockport, Marblemount and Newhalem. In a sense, they are just as cut off as we are if travelers take alternate routes.
The work-arounds aren’t easy. Highway 2/Stevens Pass takes more time, and construction later this month will close a portion of that highway, making it an even longer trip when you account for the detours. Interstate 90/Snoqualmie Pass via Blewett Pass is also an alternative, but construction-related blasting on that route is also causing periodic delays.
Add to that the uncertainty of when the highway might reopen, and we have cause for concern.
That said, there’s no point in getting overwrought. People who want to get here will find a way. The Washington State Department of Transportation is working hard to clear the highway. If you’re looking for a bit of a silver lining, the extra traffic south of Winthrop on Highways 20 and 153 could be a boost for businesses along those routes.
“We still have roads coming in – great roads! Great scenery, great events, great businesses, great recreation,” Winthrop Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director Kristen Smith said in an email. “What we are offering has not changed. We shouldn’t feel the need to apologize, discount or compromise anything.”
“Of course merchants are concerned,” Smith added. “We are having incredible summer visitation. However, this doesn’t need to greatly impact us if businesses recognize and share with their guests that the drive up the Columbia Valley is not difficult and is incredibly scenic this time of year. … This is just another act of nature that gives us an opportunity to sell the Methow Valley as worth every detour it takes to get here.”
Amen to that.