The River Says: “Welcome Home”
Whenever someone mentions Winthrop, I always tell them that it is my second home.
With a bit of a dreamy look upon my face, I talk about how I’ve been going to Winthrop since I was a very little girl. I was always so excited when Mom & Dad said it was time to go again. The drive, the time with my parents and sister, the views, the stores, the mini golf course….and of course Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe! By the end of the drive I was more than ready to sit down on one of the saddles and dive into a waffle cone with moose tracks and sprinkles.
In the morning, when it came to breakfast, little Kate was always ready for biscuits and gravy from Three Fingered Jacks. Even as an adult, walking in there brings all the memories flooding back and as I settle in to order a cup of coffee and biscuits and gravy, I know I have finally arrived back in my second home.
These days, as I pull into Winthrop, breathe in the air, and allow my eyes to soak up the view, the calming heart beats in my chest are less about my childhood memories and more about the way I have grown with this place. Since I began vacationing in Winthrop as a child, I have endured loss, grief, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more; I have grown up and had jobs and pets, I have dated the most amazing woman and gotten the absolute joy of marrying her, I have found and reveled in the joy of life.
Winthrop has always been there to welcome me home even when I didn’t know what home was, has always been there to celebrate with me, has always been there to remind me who I am.
I haven’t been to Winthrop with my parents and sister in several years, but they laid this foundation for me and instilled a love of this spot in my heart. I have continued to return to Winthrop every summer, something is always pulling me back. Friends have come with me and for the last three years I have brought the love of my life to the map dot I love most.
The first time I introduced her to the sounds and smells of Winthrop, we had only been dating for a few months. It was Labor Day weekend. We got to participate in the duck race – somewhere I think I still have our ticket from that! The views from our room were impeccable and we spent our days laughing, dipping our feet in the river, laying around on the grass, exploring, and most importantly loving each other. It made me beyond happy to watch her enjoy our vacation.
That weekend we added a lock with our initials on it to the bridge leading into town. Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe provided us with many chocolates to enjoy as we read to each other in the evenings (dark chocolate peanut butter bells for me, milk chocolate cherries for her), and the sounds of the river were calming. Winthrop is always able to calm my heart, whether I am anxious and feeling lost or simply nervous about the first vacation with my girlfriend.
We came back the next year to celebrate our first anniversary. Another lock on the bridge, another weekend full of delicious food and the sweet music of the river. I was less nervous this time and as we spread a blanket on the grass, toasted each other with champagne, and exchanged presents, I knew I had ﬁnally found my forever to bring with me every summer.
It was the next summer that was the most exciting though. We returned, for a longer period this time, for our honeymoon! One more lock on the bridge, many more chocolates tasted. We were bummed to find that Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon wasn’t serving breakfast any longer, but enjoyed exploring other breakfast spots. I had a crepe that was filled with bacon and it was divine.
Enough about the food though – we were on our honeymoon, so we went all out! This included a kayak trip on the Methow River and WOW that was so much fun! We laughed and screamed and took pictures. As we paddled down the river I reflected on how lucky I was to have a spot like this and a love like that. A home within a home.
What else do I speak of? Of course, there is no speaking of Winthrop without mentioning the Old Schoolhouse Brewery! I talk about watching live music there, splitting pretzels with my wife, drinking really good beer while I watch the river flow. The Methow Valley Ciderhouse is an absolute must and when I talk about it it’s always to say they have the only cider I drink anymore and that one year when we were there they had the most mouth watering nachos (seriously, can y’all bring those back?!).
Most recently, I talk with love in my eyes about how I needed a weekend away in the midst of my life crumbling, but knew we couldn’t afford it. We could afford to just go for the day though, and my wife knew how much I needed to escape just for a little bit to a place that made me feel less broken. She called and found out that Three Fingered Jacks was indeed serving breakfast again and even though she is the exact opposite of a morning person, she insisted we leave early in the morning so that we would make it for my beloved biscuits and gravy.
We left the dogs with my friend the night before, made sure the cat had enough food and entertainment, and got out of the house just as the sun was rising. The music and long drive were soothing and the closer we got to Winthrop the more I began to temporarily forget everything that was going on. The biscuits and gravy were just as delicious as I remembered and we spent the day shopping, taking pictures of each other, and eating ice cream. For the ﬁrst time in months I had a real smile on my face. We bought so much chocolate to bring home and were impressed that people still remembered us from prior years.
I was happy. I had been able to come home for one day.
When someone asks about a vacation spot or mentions Winthrop, I can go on and on about why I hold such a deep love for this little town. Not much has changed there since I was little and that reliability is a beautiful thing.
I tell them how I adored it as a child and how even though I’m not a child anymore I still make a point to come back each year because this place helped me grow and the sounds of the river were always and are still – “welcome home.”
Once upon a time, I was a small child with stars in my eyes, a messy ponytail, seated on a saddle outside of Sherri’s with ice cream dripping down my face.
I’m not so small anymore and my short hair doesn’t get as messy, but every year I return, take a seat on a saddle – and I still have stars in my eyes and ice cream dripping down my face.