The Wild Wild West

Miles upon miles of rolling hills that could be straight out of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove books. I almost expected to see a cattle drive along the way or a stampede. In spite of the western theme our vacation took on (first Republic and then Winthrop later on) the “wild” in wild, wild west stand for wildfires and more than just one. The first part of our vacation this time took us to the northeast part of Washington, to Lake Curlew, near the small town of Republic. It was a 6 hour drive to get here, 7 if you include stopping for gas and lunch in the Walmart parking lot.  Along the way we saw the devastation from several wildfires. First up was all the damage done in the Leavenworth Area along  highway 2.  Then we hit the big one, the carlton complex fire which took out most of Alta Lake State Park, and ran wild through the small town of Pateros which we drove right through. Just when you thought you were past  it all, billowing smoke greeted us as we arrived at Lake Curlew because another fire was started in Colville about 20 miles south. The majority of our time at Lake Curlew was smoke-filled but what an awesome week this was.

I had always wanted to see the northeastern part of Washington but the drive to get there was so long. When Curlew Lake State Park went on the reservation system we jumped at the chance to scoop up a spot (well two) and made our reservations. Again we were joined by family. My father in law once again was back up visiting from Florida. My parents also came along in their RV and my brother finally got some vacation time from work and joined the caravan. Our first day there we decided to take short drive to the town of Republic which we drove through somewhat the day before. The men knew there was a brewing company there and we decided to check it out. Well to our luck the only thing open that Sunday afternoon was the Republic Brewing Company. So while the men filled their growlers (great beer btw) my mother and I took the kids to see the small museum just a block over. The Ferry County Historical Center is located in a an old house which was built in 1911. Right next door you’ll find the Stonerose Interpretive Center where you can make arrangements to go on a fossil dig. The town of Republic was still neat to see in spite of all the closed shops. It has maintained it ‘s old mining town feel as some of the buildings still have their original facades. Above each doorway is a sign describing what the original shop used to be back in the late 1800’s.

Since Republic was sorta a bust we decided to head back to camp for lunch and then hit the road again this time heading towards Canada and the small town of Curlew. We had read about an antique car museum before we left and we wanted to check out. We also learned about an old hotel while we were in Republic that was worth seeing. So after lunch we hit the road again. We were disappointed when we arrived as the hotel was closed so we took our pictures on the outside and were walking back to the trucks when the door opened and one of the caretakers of the hotel offered to give us a tour. So we lucked out and were able to get a tour after all. The Ansorage Hotel was a popular place to stay when taking a trip on the great northern railway which the hotel was next to. Built in 1903 the hotel maintains most of original furnishings as the owner of the hotel donated all of it when she died. You can tour every room of the hotel which is stuffed full of 100 years of history. Henry Ford stayed there at one time while visiting relatives in the area as well.

After our time in Curlew we headed back towards camp and the  Antique Truck and Car Museum. This was the highlight of our trip and it was all because of a little old man named Al. He was the host of the museum and was so funny and charming it was hard to leave (I don’t think he wanted us to leave). He said he was in his 90’s but he didn’t look a day over 70. We were the only ones at the museum that day and he told us everything we ever wanted to know about old cars. There was quite the collection of cars there as well. This museum is full of privately owned cars. They keep them there when they aren’t using them for tourists to see. It didn’t look like much from the road but it sure was full of stuff inside. Sadly I didn’t get a picture of Al. I’m kicking myself for not taking one. It would be so worth the 7 hour drive again just to hang out with Al.

We spent 4 days at Lake Curlew. The rest of our time was filled with lazy days at camp including swimming, playing lasso golf, and eating good food. There was a campfire ban in place so we sadly didn’t get to have a fire but our lasso golf tournaments kept us busy at night as well as deer watching. I have never seen so many deer in my life. They come right into your campsite too. We also had a bit of excitement the last night as well when the rangers came a knocking around 9 pm telling us to hunker down a thunderstorm was on its way with 50 mph winds. All of the campers frantically took down tents and awnings in the dark. Our boys were actually sleeping in a tent this trip to let grandpa have the bunkhouse to himself and we had to move them onto the dinette as we had to take down their tent. Luckily the storm passed us with little damage. We only felt a little wind and some rain. The next morning we had to sort through all the stuff we took down in the dark and packed up for the next leg of our journey, Winthrop.

Winthrop, the city of cowboys and beer and I’m beginning to think is a cursed city. Some of you may remember we took a trip out here last year with yet again my father in law all the way from Florida. We had one mission, The Old Schoolhouse Brewery. Well if you remember our Great Brew Crawl, you’ll also remember that last year the day we went to Winthrop the water main broke and everything was shut down. We did not get to go to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery last year so this year we were going to make sure we did. This time we decided to stay in town at the beautiful Pine Near RV Park only in its second season of operation after being bought by new owners. The park is wonderful and right in town within walking (or stumbling distance) to the Old Schoolhouse. Well as you know Washington has been hit hard this year by wildfires. Winthrop itself was in danger at one time from fire. When we arrived in Winthrop as luck would have it the power was out in the entire valley which meant.. no beer!  Well we walked into town anyways in the hopes the power would return and after 5 hours of no power it came back on and we waited, and waited and waited for Old Schoolhouse to re-open but they never returned(even in spite of a sign on the door saying they would reopen when power was restored). I tell you though the beer is really good or we would not put up with all this frustration as we went back the next day for dinner and they were open but it was raining. The majority of their seating was closed because most of it is on their back patio. They did manage to squeeze us in but we had to sit in two groups at different tables not next to each other. They are not really set up for dining at least for more than small groups. Next time I think we’ll just fill growlers there and just look for one of the other highly rated restaurants to eat at.

Before our dinner at the Old Schoolhouse we did take as stroll through the Shafer Museum which was conveniently located right across the street from the rv park. Boy that is a neat place. It is way bigger than it looks and stuffed full of old west history. The museum is a replica of a turn of the century mining town. The Shafer museum was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. We spent a good chunk of time in there as there is so much to see.

The last leg of our trip was upon us and it was time to make the trek over the North Cascades Highway to once again Rasar State Park where we were meeting more of the family there for the weekend. We had two birthdays to celebrate, my sons and my aunts. We had a crowd waiting for us so after doing a load of laundry (our youngest son had too much ice cream at Sherri’s Sweet Shop and threw up all over his bunk) we hit the road. A two-hour drive and we arrived to our regular double site, right next to the other double site that the rest of the family had reserved. We spent the rest of the weekend again eating fabulous food, playing lasso golf, walking the skagit river trail and just  hanging out with family. We also were able to have our campfires at night as the burn ban was lifted shortly after we arrived.

We had a great time this vacation. It is always good camping with family but special having another chance to once again bring my father in law along. The boys love having two grandpas camping. We’ll see if he once again tags along next year. This is our last big trip of the year with only a handful of fall camping plans up and coming. My son playing football now interferes with some camping weekends. We are starting to think of where to go next year. Next year I think we’ll take a break from the hot weather of Eastern Washington and will stay on this side of the mountains, possibly head into Oregon along the coast. Any suggestions for us? Let us know in the comments below.