After resting our bodies and catching up with friends in Idaho for a week, we were ready to enjoy a few climbing adventures to wrap up our final 2 weeks of the Still Moonin’ trip. Our final destinations, Washington Pass and Leavenworth, are some of our favorite areas in Washington. It was time to head back to the Pacific Northwest.
Our drive from Harrison to Winthrop, retraced the same route that my dad and I took 24 years ago while riding our bicycles across the USA. I will never forget climbing 4 mountain passes in 3 days (Rainy, Washington, Loup Loup and Disautel). It was a lot for a girl who had not trained, who was not used to mountains and was riding a fully loaded bike! However, I can thank that experience for my eventual move to the PNW and the start of my love affair with mountains. Plus, the memories of that time with my dad are precious, and we still reminisce whenever we are together.
So, it was fun to share a few of those memories on the drive with Mike. Mike had never seen Grand Coulee Dam, so we made a quick stop to take in the enormous concrete structure. The amount of concrete in the structure is enough to pave a 3’ sidewalk around the equator 2 times!
We arrived at Lone Fir campground late, but somehow lucked into a wonderful camping spot for the whole week. Plus, the campground was upgraded this year with running water and even had some nice camp hosts!
We woke up to a blue-bird day, but my finger was still swollen and very sore. I was bummed about the finger, as I had big climbing plans for this week which will just have to wait for another time. If we could not climb, we would hike and enjoy the scenery of this gorgeous area!
Blue Lake is a trail we have hiked many times, but we have never actually made it to the lake as we always turn off about a mile short onto the climber’s trail to the Liberty Bell group. We had a gorgeous day, blue sky, and no wind. As we were hiking, it was the first time we saw everyone on the trail wearing masks/buffs. In Wyoming and Idaho, we would avoid people by getting off the trail, but few wore masks. The meadow was in full bloom with lupine, sunflowers, and white/pink heather.
The lake turned out to be gorgeous. Very blue, go figure, and surrounded by step talus fields. There were lots of fish jumping that almost looked like pods of tiny dolphins. A few people were brave enough to jump in, but the water was way too cold for me. We enjoyed the views and sun while eating our lunch. It was a nice way to spend a day.
The next day, we hiked Maple Pass loop, which starts from Rainy Pass, for a rewarding 8 miles hike. It is popular, but we managed to find a nice gap between groups to have our own space. The hike climbs through pretty forests with moss beards on the trees which made us feel like we were home. We took the side trail to Lake Ann. It was surrounded by steep hillsides which we would end up climbing up to the ridge to hike around the whole lake. The skeeters were bad, so we took just a few quick pictures and back on the move.
As we continued to hike, we were treated with great views of Black Peak. We had climbed it many years ago but remember it fondly.
From here we climbed up and up to Maple Pass with stunning views into the North Cascades. Glacier and Dome Peak were in full view plus countless more. Wow, such beauty.
From here it was all downhill. We enjoyed great views of the Liberty Bell group and Rainy Pass. It was fun to look at these mountains as we have stood on the summit of most of them!
One of our favorite things about visiting this area is the Mazama Country Store. It is a 20-minute drive downhill from the campground into the gorgeous Methow Valley. Every time we descend, I still remember zooming down on my bicycle, the best descent of my life! The reason why I like the store so much is they have an amazing assortment of treats, good coffee, and a great back patio. We ended up coming here several times during our week to sample the different pastries, yum!
Poster Peak has been on our list for awhile and since the climbing is easy, we decided it would be a good option for my finger.
We woke up early to misty weather, not a great sign, and an extra sore finger. However, we decided to at least give it a go. On the approach, we somehow misread the instructions and missed our turn ending up hiking to Kangaroo Pass instead. We decided it wasn’t meant to be that day and bagged the climb. It was a pretty little hike and an area I would like to explore another day.
The next day, we decided to attempt Poster again. We got the approach right this time, but at the base, the mist was swirling. Visibility was terrible, plus it was cold. After hanging out for a bit, we were not feeling it at all so decided to turn around. On the way out, Mike strained his calf muscle which had been tight all week. The Raff’s were out for the count. 0 summits in 7 days plus 2 injuries. Not exactly the way we had wanted to spend our last week of our climbing adventure, but in true Raff style, we made the best of it and had fun.
From Washington Pass, we headed south to Leavenworth to meet Mike’s parents for the week. We had not seen them since we left Portland in June 2019, so it was so great to get to spend the week together in one of our favorite places.
One of our favorite things to do besides climbing is wine tasting, and Lake Chelan has some fabulous wineries. Mike’s parents first introduced us to this wine region 13 years ago, so it is a fun summer tradition to make a day of it tasting with them. Our favorite is Nefarious, a small family owned winery with a nice lineup of whites and reds. They have an incredible back patio which we enjoyed while sipping our wine.
Tildio is another old favorite. I enjoy their red blends, but they also have a yummy Sauvignon Blanc. They were only pouring by the glass, so we enjoyed their shady patio. Succession is newer and quickly becoming one of our favorites. They have excellent wine with good prices. I also like their tasting lawn with tables right next to the grapes! To wrap up the day, we had BBQ at Chelan Winery, which was delicious.
We spent the rest of the week enjoying catching up and relaxing with Mike’s parents. We all enjoy walking the gorgeous river path to town. In town, we have our favorite shops… chocolate, cheese, olive oil, and gelato, which is quite the culinary experience!
Leavenworth has great climbing, and we decided to test our injuries by climbing a few pitches. The first day, we climbed super easy on a fun 3-pitch climb called Groundhog’s Day. It went okay, but neither my finger nor Mike’s calf did well. We took a day off and then tried to climb one last time, hoping by some miracle we were cured. Nope, climbing R&D, a fun 4-pitch climb, confirmed we were both hurt and climbing was out. Based on that, I decided to make a doctor’s appointment back in Portland which later confirmed a pretty bad broken finger! What a bummer.
Throughout the week, I had plenty of time to reflect upon our trip. It has been an amazing 14 months filled with so many adventures, new experiences, and joy! We are so incredibly blessed to have taken this time together, and I am so happy that we made it happen as we promised ourselves after our Many Moons trip 9 years ago!
I was having mixed feelings about it almost being over but also excited to go home to see friends. I was sad to leave the freedom, spontaneity, and simple life behind… our chores took 5 minutes, we only needed what fits in the van and we had so much quality time together with low stress. I will miss the small towns and being able to avoid crowds by climbing in the middle of the week. I will miss sleeping in Craggin’; it ended up being so cozy, and I will miss the daily adventures. But on the flip side, I will not miss the constant planning on limited wifi, trying to figure out where we were going to sleep tonight and where to go tomorrow.
After 14 months, we pointed Craggin’ home and felt a little sad. It was fun to drive by all the familiar mountains…Stuart, Adams, Rainier, and Hood, plus enjoy the dramatic views of the gorge. As soon as we pulled into our driveway, it felt nice to be home. The trip may be over, but we will continue to keep the adventures alive. For now, we will transition again with Mike teaching remotely, me searching for a job and us welcoming a new addition, Kalymnos Stimulus Raff (Kaly), our puppy into the family.