Our family, like many this Christmas season, missed seeing family in 2020 and made up for it by making lots of plans near and far. We have a few Merry Birthdays to throw in the mix as well, which makes the holiday season flush with celebrations of all shapes and sizes.
This year in particular, these birthdays seem particularly significant with my son officially a teenager and my dad turning 80, adding special sentimentality to this year’s seasonal gatherings.
Also of significance is the charming and endearing Mary Bean turns 107. I offer Mary birthday wishes in my column each year because she’s remarkable and each year seems like a blessed miracle that she’s still next door. Each day, Mary walks our street with her daughter, Jo, and son, Dennis. They often wait until the clouds lift or there’s a break in the weather to head out for their stroll. But religiously, she walks even if inclement weather. A daily walk is one of her tricks to longevity. Faith and whole, unprocessed foods are also to credit. Happy birthday Mary, may 2022 bring more miracles to a longer and blessed life.
Our family of four planned last year to spend this Christmas in the Rendezvous Huts. We’ve done this once before and during the socially distanced winter last year, it seemed like a good idea to make a plan that could accommodate social distancing, or just a special off-grid Christmas in the wilderness. Thanks to the snowmobiles and new solar panels on the huts, the experience isn’t too rugged, and Santa found his way to Grizzly Hut. Grizzly Hut does have cell phone reception, so we were able to Facetime with family on Christmas morning, the only trick is keeping your phone charged.
Cell phones aside, the Rendezvous Huts are truly special and magical because they force you to be (mostly) unplugged. Tucked above the valley floor and nestled in the woods, they feel like an escape, despite their proximity. Spending a couple of days, melting water, using an outhouse, and stoking the fire for warmth gives a brief glimpse of what pioneer life was like. The accessibility by ski-in only, lack of running water and electricity, make for a slow-paced Christmas.
The huts have a quirky wonder about them. Each one has a handful of puzzles and board games to keep you entertained and a collection of mugs to sip warm drinks. The mugs, it appears, have been left at the huts throughout the years — not a matching pair among the lot. Our hut, appropriately, had an assortment of Christmas mugs to choose. But, one mug grabbed my curiosity. The handmade earthenware mug was a classic Old Time Pottery piece created as a first-place prize winner of the 1986 Methow Marathon.
I hope that mug lives in Grizzly Hut for the rest of its life. It seems like the proper resting place for a mug with such local lore. Old Time Pottery was a Winthrop Store that sold the creations of John and Agnes Almquist who continue to create durable, hand-crafted pottery found at markets and bazaars as Almquists Pots. The Almquists made many souvenir and prize mugs for MVSTA, now Methow Trails. The mug, like it’s surroundings, is well crafted, warming and reminiscent of the days when you could truly unplug.