Dear Upper Methow friends, I am so sorry these fires are happening close to your homes. While the lower valley can relate to your level 3 evacuations, the feeling is different. The destruction in 2014 was relatively quick, allowing us to assess loss and get to work — actions that gave us a measure of control. These fires are a pending uncertainty, leaving “control” frustratingly out of reach.
You are not alone — the entire valley holds their breath for you.
Every day around noon, the smoke haze clears below Carlton. The afternoon skies are blue and the air is fresh. Come on down to get a breath of fresh air and enjoy a cooling dip in one of several public access swimming holes. A Discover Pass is required for all Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recreation areas. Here are a few of my favorites, try all three and let me know which ones you enjoyed the most:
• Carlton Swimming Hole. A classic favorite with a beach and nearby store with chips and soda.
• McFarland Swimming Hole. The sandy beach gives way to a sunny, circular current surrounding the swimming hole. Hop on an inner tube and follow the flow round and round the edge of the pool, dipping over one small but exciting rapid. The parking lot a restroom and interpretive signs — including a poem by William Stafford. Nearby, the WDFW has a rotary-style fish trap used to estimate the number of Chinook and summer steelhead in the Methow River Basin.
• Irv Conner Methow River Access Site. Located 3 1/2 miles north of Pateros at the first bridge crossing the Methow River. Irv Conner was an avid fly fisherman and advocate of the Upper Columbia River and Methow Valley. The park-like setting along the river has shady picnic areas in soft green grass.
After a day of exploring Met-Low swimming holes, enjoy dinner in Pateros at our local favorite: Sweet River Bakery. Located across from Pateros Park, the bakery features brick oven pizzas, sandwiches, salads and local brews. A large shaded yard looks out onto the peaceful Columbia River. Live music fills the air on most Friday and Saturday evenings. Enjoy an after-dinner stroll along the shoreline. Visit Sweet River Bakery on Facebook for details.
And now, let’s get down to business. Recent events call for drastic measures: Festivus in July.
Traditional Festivus is held on Dec. 23. Author Daniel O’Keefe created the holiday in 1966 as an alternative to the commercialism of Christmas. “A Festivus for the rest of us,” was introduced in a 1997 Seinfeld episode co-written by O’Keefe’s son, Dan O’Keefe. The holiday includes an unadorned pole and the “Airing of Grievances,” in addition to a Festivus feast, feats of strength and Festivus miracles.
Let us commence with the “Airing of Grievances.” Be mindful of which pole you grab; it may be hot. On second thought, forget about the pole, just grab a water hose.
• Smoky skies. In addition to dust, pollen and COVID, smoke is yet another reason to wear a mask. It’s a Festivus Miracle that we have oodles of masks. I just got my contacts back in after a whopper of a pine pollen season, followed by alfalfa, and now this.
• Heat. I am a delicate flower, so is my garden. Between the smoke, ash, dust and pollen, I am a hot mess.
• Ash. I just swept all the pine needles and other flammable detritus from the porch and now it’s covered in ash. Hosing off the porch creates a bigger mess. It just mixes with the water and now the porch looks like a Georgia O’Keefe original. To make matters worse, I googled “ashes and water” to see if it made paint and instead, I find gregarious warnings that the water/ash mixture turns to lye and will melt your skin on contact. Forget O’Keefe, this is an Edvard Munch nightmare.
Apparently, an easy recipe for homemade soap is ashes, water and fat. Wouldn’t that be a trick to scrub my porch with the same ingredients that made the mess in the first place?