Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Best kid-friendly hikes and bike rides in the Methow Valley - North Cascades hiking and biking with children

With our three kids at various ages, we've hiked most of the trails in the North Cascades that are doable for children.  We've also done our fair share of shlepping our offspring on trails that are difficult for adults, but that's a story for another day!

Here is a compilation of our favorite hikes and bike rides with kids in the Methow Valley.  We hang out there a lot because it's only a one and a half hour drive from our homestead, and it's much sunnier there than the rainy West-side of the mountains, with completely different flora and fauna (and our absolutely favorite bakery "Cinnamon Twisp").


Sun Mountain Lodge trails

With gorgeous views, easy access and many varied miles of scenic hiking trails, Sun Mountain Lodge is hard to beat.  Although the Beaver Pond trail is famous for birds and wildlife, our favorite hike is the View Ridge trail, because of the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the valley below.  It reminds me a little bit of the alpine region of my Southern German homeland.  You can make the hike into a loop by taking the Kraule trail back to the lodge, or extend the hike to various length on other trails.  

Here's a map of the trail system, and there are also maps and good markings on the trails.

From Winthrop take Twin Lakes Road for 3 1/2 miles and turn right on Patterson Lake Road.  Drive 5 1/2 miles to Sun Mountain Lodge.

Patterson Mountain

This 4 mile round-trip is on the way to Sun Mountain Lodge as well.  The wildflowers in spring and early summer are breathtaking, as are the views of the surrounding mountains and beautiful Patterson Lake below.  You could even run into some mules, which are apparently harmless to humans, if not to dogs.

From Winthrop take Twin Lakes Road for 3 1/2 miles and turn right on Patterson Lake Road.  Continue to the lake and park at the boat launch on the left. 

Pipestone Canyon

You could also do this as a bike ride.  It's a 5 mile round-trip in a gorgeous sandstone, rock-wall canyon located 7 miles Southeast of Winthrop.  This area is famous for birdwatching.  We've been hesitant to hike there because we heard that rattlesnakes love to hang out there in the hot summer, so it's best to do this hike in the spring and fall.  It's totally worth it!

From Winthrop, take East Side County Road 2 miles and turn left onto Bear Creek Road.  After 2.3 miles, turn right onto Lester Road, staying right onto Campbell Lake Road.  Continue 1.3 miles to the Pipestone Gate.

Lookout Mountain

We hiked here for my 40th birthday, and it made a special memory for us as a family.  It's a nice three mile round-trip hike to an abandoned fire lookout, from which you get a 360 degree view.  Very pretty, indeed.

From Twisp, drive West 1/4 mile on the Twisp River Road.  Turn left on Alder Creek Road (FS 4345-200) and continue 8 miles to the end of the road.

Goat Peak Lookout

This is a Methow Valley classic - a five mile round-trip hike to an active fire lookout on top of Goat Peak.  The 2.5 miles to the lookout are quite steep, but the climb is well worth the amazing views on top.
It's quite a drive to get to the trailhead, and it was rough going when we went, but it's worth it.

From Winthrop, take Highway 20 West for 8 miles.  Turn right onto Goat Creek Road (1163) at the Methow River bridge.  Drive 6.2 miles, turn right onto FS Road 52.  Go 3.7 miles, turn left on FS Road 5225.  Continue for 4.6 miles to FS Road 200.  Proceed 3 miles to the trailhead parking lot.  

Bike rides

One of my big loves is biking, and our two sons have done some pretty crazy bike rides with me.  My oldest son (he was 10 at the time) and I rode over the pass from Mazama.  I wrote about it here

Twisp River Road

This is such a pretty, picturesque ride.  It's very pastoral, with horses and cattle (and lots of deer) grazing in open fields.  Forests are interspersed with beautiful little homesteads, framed by mountains in the distance.  The ride follows the Twisp River, and you could ride all the way to the end of the road, or just go as long as you want and turn around.

Head West on the Twisp River Road from Twisp.

Twisp to Winthrop on the East County Road

This road parallels Highway 20 and is far less busy than the highway.  It's nine miles from Twisp to Winthrop, with a little up and down but totally doable, even for my six year old daughter on the ride-behind.  There's lots of beautiful things to look at while riding: old barns, mountains, lots of horses...

From Twisp, take the East County Road.  Preferably, start with a hearty breakfast at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery!  Or start riding in Winthrop and have lunch at the bakery.  Whatever you do, eat a cinnamon roll for me, will ya?

Chewuch Loop Rides

This is an easy 14 mile loop ride, starting in Winthrop.  Start up the West Chewuch Road and then back on the East Chewuch Road.  You could ride even further up the Chewuch Road to get more exercise all the way to Andrews Creek (about 24 miles from Winthrop).  
The loop ride is scenic and blissful and offers sweeping views of mountains and valleys.  You could put your feet in the Chewuch River if you are getting too hot.

There are many more trails and roads to explore, but I don't have space here to explain them all.  The above are our favorites, though.

It doesn't matter where you go - just take your kids out into nature and instill a love for the Earth in them!  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I implore you...

I implore you:  Don't put your dreams on hold because you don't have enough time, money, energy, experience, youth, wisdom, courage, or the right life partner. Instead, follow your heart's pull towards your vision, even if it doesn't make sense in the conventional sense, even if it might go against the grain of how everyone else lives.

I'm saying this because the reality of death loomed large this week, which made me realize that if I died tomorrow, I could honestly say that I lived my unconventional life richer and fuller than I ever thought possible. I'm living my dream, homesteading in tune with nature's rhythms, homeschooling our children and teaching them how to care for the earth. We grow a lot of our food and raise goats and lots of other livestock. I have always wanted this kind of simple life.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the work, or I get impatient because I want more of my dreams to be realized faster.  But then things get put back into perspective, just like it happened this week.

This week, my friend's husband (just a little older than my own husband) died in a horrific car accident. They have four children who are now fatherless. Two days after this happened, I sang with my a cappella group at a memorial service, where about a hundred people gathered to celebrate the life of a woman who used to rescue Greyhound dogs and was Mother to all. At this memorial, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen for ten years, and he told me that our mutual friend (who used to be my best friend before we had a falling out) had shot herself after a terrible battle with breast cancer that I didn't know about.

I came home that night dazed, rattled and deeply sad. First, I hugged my family. Second, I stepped out into our wilderness backyard and sucked in the sweet scent of honeysuckle that is climbing the side of our house.  Third, I walked to the goat barn and sat down in the straw to play with the baby goats, who happily jumped on my lap, leapfrogged in the air and head-butted each other.  Goat babies are the best cure for sadness.

I know that I could die tomorrow and that life could be over in a second.  The absolute worst thought is that something terrible might happen to my kids or husband.  It could happen to me, to you, to all of us, and that's why I'm saying: don't put off your dreams or live in fear.  Let's live with gratitude for what we have, and let's do it with gusto.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for these beings in my life:

And I can't tell you how grateful I am that I have mustered the courage to follow my heart, even if it seemed crazy to others - but always, always felt right in my own heart.

I am blessed with amazing people who call me friend and family.  I am blessed with our piece of land that sustains us.  Our garden is flourishing and will nourish us for many months.  

Oh, and six baby piggies joined our homestead this week.  They're loving all the fresh pasture, organic non-gmo grain and whey from my cheesemaking.

Now I would love to hear from you in the comments.  What are some dreams that you have been putting off?  And if you feel like it, share why.  It's good to be witnessed and heard, and I witness and hear you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How to make rose water - and why you should try this!

My little daughter and I worked in the garden for hours and decided to take a bath this afternoon to soothe our sore muscles. We didn't take an ordinary bath but added a major touch of luxury and lovely scent by adding rose water I had made a few days before, and for good measure we sprinkled some rose petals on the water.

This bath and this view (check out that climbing honeysuckle in the background!) was worthy of queens and princesses! Because that's what we are, and we deserve pampering, and so do you!

Spritzing rose water over your skin is a great youthful skin tonic, since it tightens pores, controls acne due to its balancing effect on the skin's PH, and smoothes tiny wrinkles. And who doesn't want that?

Let me show you how to make your own rose water so you can be spoiled, too. Cause you deserve it!

What you need:

- fresh or dried rose petals
- water (preferably without chlorine and chemicals)
- pot to boil water in
- colander or strainer

I harvest the rose petals from my own garden, which is overflowing with Old English Roses. Any roses will do, as long as they smell yummy and haven't been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. You can use fresh petals or dried petals, which you can buy here from Mountain Rose Herbs.

For this batch, I filled a quart mason jar loosely with rose petals. Some purists say it's best to pick the petals in the morning when the scent is strongest, but I picked mine in the evening, because that's when I had the time. It worked out just dandy smell-wise.

Put the petals in a pot and cover them with water, then bring to a low simmer. 

Put a lid on the pot and simmer until the color is drained out of the petals (maybe about half an hour or so). 

Let it all cool, and then strain the water through a colander and a funnel into a mason jar.

From there, you can pour the rose water into pretty spritz bottles.

The rose water keeps at room temperature for several days, and in the fridge for a month. Spraying cold rose water on your face on a hot day is heaven and will give you a glowing complexion!

I poured this whole quart jar of rose water into the bath I shared with my little one. Pretty color, intoxicating scent!

Have fun, and let me know how it goes!