Ashley LodatoBy Ashley Lodato

The clear skies and cooler temperatures have been an invitation to hit the mountains lately and those Methow Valley residents who are able have been answering the call. Quite a few locals (as well as a great number of visitors) were spotted in the Stiletto Peak area over the weekend, now that the trails at the end of the Twisp River Road are accessible again.

After watching so many acres of forested land burn up this summer, it’s been reassuring to get out into lush green forests that remind us that most of our playground is still intact. The larch are about to turn to gold and it’s just a matter of time before we see that first dusting of snow on the peaks, so get out while you can!

Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers are in northern Washington in droves now, making the final push to the Canadian border. Two weekends ago I chatted with a through-hiker as we both filled water bottles at a stream near Grasshopper Pass. The hiker had slept the night before just north of Rainy Pass, unaware that the next morning there would be something like 400 runners chasing him up the trail in the Cutthroat Classic.

Lucky for him, he got out of camp early and hit Cutthroat Pass just a few minutes before the stampede. He hadn’t known about the trail run, but he said he could sense that something was up because he could feel the vibrations coming up the trail when he neared the top. We then parted ways, us toward Grasshopper Pass and him into the final two days of his 3,000-mile journey.

After a somewhat fragmented end of the season due to the fires, the Methow Valley Killer Whales finally had their final celebration—SplashFest—and awards ceremony. Graduated senior Hannah Hafsos won the Chase Brandenburg award, which is given annually to a swimmer who shows courage and compassion.

Young Chase swam for the Killer Whales when he was 5 and 6 years old and although he was just a new swimmer, he demonstrated great mental strength and tenacity; the award honors both the memory of Chase and the swimmer who displays similar qualities. Hannah served as an assistant coach for the younger swimmers this year, as well as being a team member herself, and had a string of personal records and winning events throughout the season.