This, my first column written for the Valley Life page, is where I introduce myself. Like so many of us, I lived in the Methow part-time before making the leap “over the hill,” full-time. I’m a third-generation Seattleite who was raised in the home my grandfather built in 1910 near Ravenna Park, a park with a stream flowing through it that emptied into Green Lake where my father fished for trout. My mother was born in Paris and danced the cancan in the Folies Bergère. My uncle had the distinction of being the first person to ski down Mount Rainier.
I left Seattle at 17 when I was hired (thanks to affirmative action) for a summer job working for Umatilla National Forest. For the next eight summers, all the way through my undergraduate studies and veterinary school at WSU, I worked all over the state for various national forests including Okanogan National Forest. I never returned to urban life. Because I’ve lived, worked and been educated all over the state, I like to think of myself as a native of Washington.
I’ve been in and out of Okanogan County for 50 years, including traveling Highway 20 when it was first opened in 1972 shortly after Gov. Dan Evans made his inaugural drive over the North Cascades highway accompanied by his chauffeur, Ted Bundy. In the early 1970s, several of my friends fled the city to live on communes in the Okanogan Highlands where I was a frequent visitor, much attracted to riding full-tilt boogie across the landscape on their half-broke Arabian horses. This was when I fell in love with the arid wide-open country east of the mountains.
When I was still in veterinary school, my partner and I bought 40 acres of land near Lemanasky Lake, 15 miles west of Tonasket, a very remote location. We drove up to this land from Pullman every chance we got, occasionally skipping classes to extend the weekend. In the spring of 1980 as my stint in veterinary school was coming to an end, I studied for national boards by the light of a campfire while living in a tepee, waking up one Sunday morning to the sound of distant booming followed by falling ash that covered us like snow. (Mt. St. Helens going off for those of you who weren’t born yet or too young to remember)
After graduating from veterinary school, I had hoped to be a country vet somewhere in eastern Washington. But circumstances took me to Whidbey Island where I eventually had my own practice, raised my daughter and met my husband, George Schoenfeld. On Whidbey, I was able to fulfill my dream of raising and training horses for performance events as diverse as dressage, jumping and gymkhana, but most of all, so I could ride them up in the high country of the Olympic and Cascade mountains.
In 2008, my husband and I decided it was time to leave Whidbey Island and buy a place in the Methow Valley, a dream both of us had nurtured for many years. Whidbey Island had been good to us, but it was no longer rural and having to take a ferry every time we wanted to leave was getting old. Besides, I wanted a place where I could ride my horses out my front door without trailering them or getting on a ferry — and be surrounded by public lands. And that’s how we came to live in the Methow Valley.
My columns may lean heavily towards animal stories since critters have been my life focus, but I’m curious about so many things, I’m sure I can diversify. I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for a column. My email is listed at the bottom of the page.