By Don Nelson
I walked out of the News office Monday afternoon and fell into a warp in the time-space continuum. This could not be Twisp in mid-January — not this drippy, sloppy, balmy, sunny, utterly discombobulating setting I encountered. Fifty degrees, the thermometer said. Really, I said. The hills to the east and north were bare of snow, and the farther, higher peaks were patchy white at best. As many of you have observed, it really did feel like spring, absent the emerging foliage — although the plants might get fooled too.
We are by and large an optimistic and upbeat community, but this slushy, mucky stretch is beginning to feel worrisome, especially as there is not much relief (that is, something like a paralyzing snow storm) in sight.
We’re doing our best. Eager skiers clogged the Mazama Store last Thursday, taking advantage of one of the few places in the valley with reliable trails. Still, there’s no getting around it: much more of this and our increasingly important winter recreation season will, literally, melt away. Already, much-anticipated seasonal events are being canceled, rescheduled or relocated.
Methow Valley winter — the real kind we are used to — can be an occasional inconvenience but it is not an annoyance. We embrace it, and invite people from all over to come and see why.
There’s still time for recovery, and hope is not our only resource. The Methow is always a beautiful place to visit, and we find ways to stay active. I’ve even heard that some hiking trails, such as the popular path to Cedar Falls, are accessible. Don’t put away the skis, snowshoes and parkas just yet.
There’s been a lot of chatter around the valley about an essay on the Patagonia website about the Methow’s economic underpinnings (see patagonia.com/us/patagonia.go?assetid=93784). It is a complimentary acknowledgement of how the valley has developed the so-called “hick-onomy” by supporting local agriculture, artists and artisans, and entrepreneurial, community-based ventures, and protected its natural assets.
A little oddly, the valley isn’t identified in the essay, although there are enough specific references that anyone familiar with the Methow will recognize it.
So nice, yes — but like many articles written from afar, it manages to mischaracterize a few things, most notably the time frame during which the Methow has become the place it is today.
According to the essay, “until last year” the Methow Valley economy was based almost entirely on tourism. Last year? Did I miss that magic moment when we all came to our senses simultaneously?
“Then recently, something changed,” the essay intones, as though we were sprinkled with fairy dust.
I guess if “by recently” you mean 30 or 40 years ago, that could be considered marginally accurate. Most of the things cited in the essay have been around a long time, but have been compressed as though they magically rose from the ground fully formed.
The well-meaning essay may create the false impression that all these things only just happened after we suddenly got some smarts, when it fact it’s been a decades-long process that was transformative over time only because so many people worked so hard at it.
Quibbling, maybe. Props to Patagonia for recognizing what makes this place special (and, I suppose, for not sending folks to their Google maps to find us). We know the full truth of it: time, patience, persistence, cooperation and community values are what shape our development, and will as long as we care about such things.