By Laurelle Walsh
Walk into the Twisp office of Washington Outfitters and Guides Association this week, and you’ll find WOGA secretary Marva Mountjoy going over last-minute details of the 2014 Ride to Rendezvous with the trail guides, teamsters, camp cooks and moving crews who staff the horse-powered adventure.
You may also overhear her on the phone with one of the ride’s 75 paying guests who will come from as far away as Maine and North Carolina, fielding anxious questions about wagons, weather, appropriate clothing and special dietary needs.
“This year we’ve reached people who had never heard about the ride before,” Mountjoy said. “And the newbies have to learn everything about the trip.”
The 16th annual Ride to Rendezvous departs the Methow Valley rodeo grounds on Tuesday morning (May 6), and returns to Winthrop on Friday, May 9. It’s a four-day, horse-drawn journey on the back roads, tracks and trails around the Methow Valley, which WOGA began in 1999 as a way to showcase its members’ outfitted trips and kick off the Packers Rendezvous during ’49er Days weekend (May 9 – 11 this year).
This year’s route is called the “Round the Valley” trip, a roughly 80-mile counter-clockwise expedition that takes riders through fields of golden balsamroot to downtown Twisp, across the Balky Hill, Davis Lake and Bear Creek areas, up the Chewuch River valley and into the hills of the Rendezvous before returning to civilization.
Some of this year’s “newbies” read about the Ride to Rendezvous in a March 1 Seattle Times travel essay by Methow Valley journalist Karen West. “I started receiving phone calls first thing Monday morning” after the story published, Mountjoy said.
She began booking reservations immediately, with many first-timers — a higher-than-normal number from the Seattle area — wanting to reserve a wagon seat rather than spend four days on horseback.
“I’m rounding up more wagons now,” said Mountjoy on Friday.
Other riders will rent a mount from Early Winters Outfitters, and some will ride their own horse or drive their own horse- or mule-drawn wagon, coach or carriage.
Mountjoy said trail guides Brian Varrelman and Tom Graves were out on Friday flagging trails for horseback riders who want extra off-road adventure during the trip.
Varrelman and Graves would also be “knocking on doors” getting permission to cross private property, Mountjoy said. “Without the landowners we wouldn’t be able to do this,” she said.
WOGA carries permits from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service to cross their lands.
Their are several opportunities for the public to get a look at the Ride to Rendezvous in camp or when they ride through town.
Visitors are welcome to try the $20 multi-course Dutch-oven dinner at the first night’s camp at the rodeo grounds on Monday evening (May 5), or at the Boulder Creek campground on Wednesday, starting around 5 p.m.
The wagon train will be rolling down Glover Street in Twisp around noon on Tuesday, and coming through downtown Winthrop at noon on Friday. Mountjoy said she hopes the public will turn out to greet them as they pass through both towns.
For more information about the Ride to Rendezvous call the WOGA office at 997-1080 or go to the website www.woga.org.