I took an unexpected liking to the little town of Winthrop and it’s Pine Near Campground on my 2014 tour through the Pacific Northwest. I am not typically a fan of towns with an “Old West” theme…too much shtick. But something was different about Winthrop. It felt like authentic Western ambiance, with just enough tourism thrown in to make it convenient. A couple of well stocked outfitter stores, the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, and the cozy Rocking Horse Bakery offered enough to hold my interest as I extended my stay day after day. I compared Winthrop and its little Pine Near Campground to the Hotel California of RV Parks….“you can check out, but you can never leave.”
We’d been camped at the Lone Fir Forest Service campground on the east side of North Cascades National Park in what came close to the perfect campground. It was small (only 27) sites, but well spaced out and reasonably level with nice gravel surface. The campground was set amidst beautiful evergreens and golden hardwoods, with many sites offering enough clearing to have a good view of the mountain and the southern sky for solar. A beautiful, wide cobblestone creek ran through the back of the campground providing soothing sounds to make it worth throwing on another blanket just so I could leave my windows open at night. Only one problem…no cell service.
Only 24 miles from Winthrop, it would have made sense to drive further on to our next stop after leaving Lone Fir. But I wanted Don to experience the little town of Winthrop, so we stopped for the night. After several nights of dry camping in the National Park, I was looking forward to the comfort and convenience of the little Pine Near RV Park once again.
One must walk through the Shafer Museum to reach downtown from the Pine Near Campground. This museum is the most extensive collection of (as Diana would say,) “rusty stuff” that I have seen. There are all sorts of antique farming implements, mining equipment, and turn of the century appliances preserved on the grounds of the museum.
As we passed through on our way to town, we were met by a docent of the museum. “Are you folks with the Road Scholar Group?” (“Road” as in tourists, not “Rhodes” as in academia) They had opened up all the museum buildings for one afternoon to accommodate this group, so we were allowed to crash the tour. It was fascinating to learn how such a small town has amassed such a vast collection.
Nothing warms me up to a town faster than a good bakery offering unique culinary creations. In 2014, it was the Cardamom Braid pastry at the Rocking Horse Bakery that won me over. This trip, it was the blackberry and lemon curd scone. These guys get it right on everything I sampled.
As I walked into the bakery, I recognized Anna, the female faction of the couple that owns the Pine Near Campground. When I was here in 2014, Anna was working in the front office. I walked over to say hello again, and she said, “Yes, I remember you! You are the woman who was working from her RV.”
Once back in the campground, I ran into Anna again. She offered to show me the new cabins she and her husband, Glen, had just renovated. They took an old storage building, completely renovated it into two cozy, modern cabins, still keeping to the Western theme of the town. So many creative touches add to the ambiance, from overhead lights made from mason jars, to washtub vent-hoods over the island kitchen, and beautiful pine flooring.
I knew Winthrop was a ski area, yet there weren’t really any steep mountains around tall enough to warrant a ski lift, so I asked what kind of winter activities would support keeping Pine Near open for the winter. I learned that there are over 200 miles of Nordic ski trails leaving right from town. Snowfall is typically sufficient enough by Thanksgiving to support winter sports. On one of my walks, I also came across a massive ice rink, just waiting for the first freeze. What a great winter getaway Winthrop would be!
Unfortunately, the little Pine Near Campground no longer participates in the Passport America program. But they do offer a generous discount for repeat customers….a welcome gesture proving the worthiness of a repeat visit!