By Joanna Bastian
There are plenty of artsy photo ops in the lower valley. Call it a state of disrepair or “charmingly rustic,” metaphorical images viewed through a lens abound in the “MetLow.”
Swaying in the breeze with a few jagged footboards clinging to rusty cables, the remains of two footbridges on both the south and north end of the town of Methow slouch above white capped rapids. Swinging above the river, at one time both townspeople and workers would jauntily make their way from one side of the river to the other on suspension bridges made by the commercial orchards.
It is difficult to imagine crossing such a bridge in its original state without feeling dizzy. Imagine carrying a sack of groceries, with the daily mail tucked in the top, and holding a child’s hand as the bridge bounced and swayed ever so slightly with each footstep, the wind blowing down the canyon as the river roiled below.
On the south end of town, the Skylstad, Petersen and Avrill Orchard Company built a walking bridge for the workers staying at the Methow Hotel. The hotel served as a seasonal bunkhouse for orchard workers and used to be where the post office is today.
Several years ago, as I stood along the roadside taking pictures of kayakers navigating the rapids beneath the deteriorating bridge, Helen (Skylstad) Zahn stopped her car beside me and leaned out the window to tell me how she remembered carrying groceries across that bridge with her kids scampering along in front of her.
Another footbridge used to connect the two sides of the river just north of Methow. The ramparts and a bit of decking are still on either side of the river. Cables and jagged boards dangle just yards above the water.
Art Nordang remembers helping his father raise the bridge with a net during high water. In 1948 the footbridge on the north end of town was washed away during the historic flood that also took homes, businesses, and a church downriver to the mighty Columbia and out to sea.
As the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) installed paved roads and large concrete bridges for vehicles to get from Pateros to Twisp, they included sidewalks along the sides of the bridge. The sidewalks are still in place, albeit a bit crumbly. Instead of repairing the walkways, the WSDOT installed “Sidewalk Closed” signs. The lower valley accumulated yet another charmingly rustic, unsafe and unusable relic.
It is tempting to draw a comparison between the Methow Valley and Shel Silverstein’s classic poem, “Where the Sidewalk Ends:”
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.