Some part-time residents use their visits to the Methow Valley to relax. Traci Hanes uses hers for home improvement.
Homestead improvement, that is. Traci is renovating her late husband’s 100-year-old homestead in Winthrop as a labor of love and a way to “preserve what my husband’s family worked so hard for,” she says.
Traci’s late husband, Dallas Hanes, started spending summers in the Methow Valley when he was just a little kid. “As soon as school got out, my husband’s parents would pack up the family and they’d relocate to the Methow Valley for the summer,” Traci says. The Hanes family had a partnership in the Brown Bear Mine near Hart’s Pass, where they “did hard rock mining with picks and shovels.”
The family had access to an old WWII weapons carrier, which they would load up with equipment and haul it up to Hart’s Pass to the mining claim (the records of which now reside at the Shafer Museum). “It is impressive what they accomplished,” Traci says of her in-laws.
The Hanes family lived from May through September in an old homestead on Johnson Lane near Winthrop and over the years made improvements to it, adding an outdoor kitchen and screened porch in 1952 and a bunkhouse in 1972, the year the North Cascades Highway opened.
Traci says that by the time her husband passed away in 2017, the old buildings weren’t habitable, so she set to work getting a new cabin built. Because it is in the floodplain, the cabin needed to be elevated, so Traci says she calls it her “chicken coop.”
Still, even with a new place to sleep on the family property, Traci wasn’t interested in simply replacing the old homestead; she wanted to safeguard family history. Plus, those old buildings were constructed from beautiful old wide planks, perfectly preserved, thanks in part to our dry climate. “There was pristine flooring covered with carpet,” Traci says. “The wood is just gorgeous — it needed to be repurposed.”
Traci’s neighbors, Dean and Chelsie McFetridge, helped her dismantle the bunkhouse, painstakingly preserving the wood for future use. Some of the planks are incorporated into decorative pieces in Traci’s new place, and many others are used in the home that the McFetridges are building.
“My heart would not allow me to tear down the old bunkhouse — too much love and care went into building it. I wanted to take as much care to unbuild it,” Traci says.
The hand-notched large logs that were used as the foundation of the bunkhouse were used to make a large, raised flower bed, with the help of Chelsie, as well as another neighbor, Daren Belsby, who has a few moments of extra time available after retiring from managing the North Cascades Smokejumper Basecamp last fall.
The project has had “more challenges than successes,” Traci says, including injuries, setbacks, and unforeseen circumstances, but “Daren, Dean, and Chelsie have been a big part of my ability to withstand all the delays — they’re great, helpful, loving neighbors.”
Traci is aware that her husband’s old family homestead is one of many of the original white settler cabins “collapsing out in the hills,” and hopes there is a way to preserve these homesteads, either onsite or by repurposing viable materials for other construction projects.