This is something I should have posted in the summer, and never got around to. In fact, I did this ride in early July; it’s on my mind because winter has once again found the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been reminiscing about warmer, sunnier times while planning snow shoe trips. And I realized I’d never written about this ride from Winthrop.
Winthrop is a small town in northern Washington, and depends heavily on tourism. It has a cowboy facade, much like Leavenworth has a Bavarian character. Situated near North Cascades National Park, Winthrop attracts the outdoor crowd. Skiing and mountain biking are popular here, but I’d heard a lot of buzz about road riding in the Methow Valley, and, on a short vacation for the 4th of July, I decided to go find out for myself.
I parked at “the red barn” next to Methow Cycle & Sport, left my car, and rode into town for lunch. The kind folks at the bike shop told me I’d be able to leave my car there without it being towed or stolen. They were right!
Seattlites know eastern Washington as “the desert.” I hope these pictures give some idea why.
Until now, there have been rolling hills, but the road starts to pick up here. As it does, the scenery changes. The ride began in a desert-like steppe, too hot and dry to support many trees. Life begins to flourish at higher and higher altitudes. Notice how the bare dirt gives way to diverse, green ground cover in the two photos below.
At this point in the ride, the altimeter said I was more than 4,000 feet above sea level. The views of North Cascades peaks that I’d chosen this ride for were beginning to open up once again.
The climb was long, and steep in parts, and the pavement kept getting worse. By the time I reached the national forest boundary, I didn’t think chipseal could be any rougher, but, well, it’s astounding what people can do these days. The poor quality of the tarmac seemed to add to the wilderness feeling, though, and so did the fact that I saw no one else in the woods.
What goes up must come down. For a mile or so, the road climbs at a twisting 15 % grade, and this made for a fantastic, slightly technical, fun descent!
Leaving town, I took West Chewuch Road, so, naturally, I took the East road back to make a lollipop loop. East Chewuch Road is much nicer, if you prefer green plants to brown earth.
Hat tip to Mike McQuaide; I found this route in his book 75 Classic Rides – Washington.