The Methow Headwaters Deserves Protection

As the saying goes, “first impressions are everything,” and the Methow has, in my experience, always made the best of them.  The scene, more than a decade old, still plays out in my mind like film running through a camera: impossibly golden light melting through vibrant ponderosa pines; rust-red trunks and verdant needles gilded alike in 9 PM summertime glory. The serpentine stretch of asphalt slithering from the hairpin turn down, down, down; the windows open and the smell of a million miles of forest and an approaching wave of sagebrush on the horizon and suddenly the clearest creeks converge–Early Winters, Lost, Goat, Methow–lazily leading the way through a handful of the most idyllic desert towns.  You can practically see the roots that tie their inhabitants into the soil and the delicious fruit from so much loving labor lines each street and storefront. Like the cottonwood’s taproot being drawn to water, I felt an unmistakable draw to gather close to the banks of the Methow and simply stay awhile.

A few years ago I brought my parents–New Englanders in every sense of the word–to see the magic I’d stumbled upon years before, to breathe in this place that had rooted in my very soul, to make their own pilgrimage west as Theodore Winthrop had a century and a half ago.  As the sun set over the valley, we ventured out to gaze at the swarm of stars scattered like hayseed across the inky blackness and, sure enough, the hazy trail of the Milky Way began to grow up from the southeast horizon cutting a wide swath, like a belt, across the waist of the sky.  As we traced its path to the north horizon, we noticed a neon streak laying just above the ridgeline. A shiver ran through each of us as a ribbon of light danced and tumbled across the expanse above us. Though the darkness was so deep I could barely see my hand in front of my face, above us shone a display so remarkable and so alive.  And just like the first time I laid eyes on this valley I knew: this is my favorite place on earth.

That is why it is so disheartening to think about all the negative (and, in many instances, irreversible) ways an industrial-scale mine would affect this community and landscape. I have walked along the PCT and marveled at the pure, cold trickles of water that aggregate, like the circulatory system of the land itself, and give life to to the entire Methow Valley, and it’s undeniable that these vital headwaters deserve our protection.

As the owners of these public lands we have an opportunity to make our voices heard.  Please join us on Tuesday, November 13 for a public meeting to show your support and tell the BLM that you support the protection of the Methow Headwaters through the proposed mineral withdrawal.  Stop by the Old Schoolhouse Brewery from 5-6pm before heading over to the Winthrop Barn for the 6pm meeting. If you’re unable to attend in person, make your voice heard by submitting a comment in support of the mineral withdrawal here.  See you there!


Nick Lake travels the world telling stories of wild places and the the people who inhabit and visit them through still images, short films, and the written word. He works with many brands and organizations in dozens of states, provinces, and countries to inspire thousands of people to experience and protect our wildest places and to embrace an active, outdoor lifestyle. Check out more of his work on his website and Instagram.