By Joanna Bastian
I’m one of those responsible adults who drives below the speed limit at night, and takes it slow whenever there is inclement weather or ice on the roads. Regardless of the time of day or weather, I also drive ridiculously slow on Gold Creek Loop Road. With all the curves and the cliffs of insanity dropping off into the river, going fast feels — stupid.
I had no idea what the real speed limit was on Gold Creek Loop Road until I read about it in the Methow Valley News. It pays to read the paper, you learn something new every day — or at least every Wednesday and Thursday, depending on your mode of news delivery.
Gold Creek Loop is fabulously scenic. The road follows a large bend in the Methow River. Eagles perch in trees above deep eddies waiting for their silvery meal to appear. The depth of the river reflects back varying hues of light — sparkling clear over rocky shallows, and ultramarine blues from the deep pools. If you need a good excuse to enjoy this diversion along Highway 153, let me provide this useful guide, from north to south, starting on the north end of the loop, just 3 miles south of Carlton:
• Walker Windmill Farm — Playful goats romp about fields that surround English-style gardens. Shaggy white Great Perigees dogs stand guard, occasionally chasing predatory birds that swoop in low, talons outstretched towards a baby goat. Gary and Patty Walker are the creative artists and owners of Walker Windmill Farm. They start everything by seed in their hothouse and the soil is nourished with organic compost generated on site. No chemicals are used — pest control is managed by a flock of Guinea hens. This is the one of the healthiest, most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.
• Gold Creek Trading Post — To be honest, I don’t know if this was a trading post or not. The owner once told me it might have been a hotel or trading post for the area. It certainly looks like a hotel from a different era. The two-story, white clapboard private home is dwarfed by shady willow trees and large lilac bushes. In front is a large field with a baseball diamond. I’ve often imagined this place as a community center for families of miners on Gold Creek, or the young men from the CCC camp up the road. If anyone knows the history of this two-story white home, give me a call, I’d love to know more about this important- looking place.
• The Cliffs of Insanity — Methow’s own perilous rock face overhanging a raging river. Below is a secretly good fishing spot.
• Blind Corners — seriously, go super slow. The number of near-miss, head-on collisions around these turns are enough to make your hair curl … or straighten curly hair.
• Gold Creek Schoolhouse — Johnnie Duguay shared the goriest ghost story about the schoolhouse. Further up the road at one of the mines, a worker waited for his friend to give him a promised ride home. When the friend failed to appear, the miner struck out on foot and found his friend at the schoolhouse. The long walk did nothing to cool the miner’s heels, as he murdered his no-show friend on the spot.
• The Swimming Hole — A shady beach slopes gently down into a pool. The river is deep enough to swim across, beware of fast currents during high water season.
Just a few yards after the swimming hole, Gold Creek Loop Road returns to Highway 153. I hope you’ve enjoyed this side road, and take it slow.