Winthrop Blues 2014


first plume

This is our eleventh year attending the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues.  It is the one place where we can let loose and party.  This year was different though.  It is hard to put into words the feelings there: eerie, surreal, hairy, scary, sad, worrisome and/or spooky.  The first sign of trouble came in the photo above.  We had packed Bluesie up and looked into the fire situation.  We knew there were fires near Entiat but did not know of any in the Methow valley.  In  fact, Tom had looked at the Inciweb site and no fires were listed in the area on Thursday morning.  So we drove the North Cascades pass and admired the views until the above plume came into site.  Here it is a little closer.

more plume


We were told when we pulled into the Blues Ranch that the fires were moving away from us (which made sense since the winds were heading west to east) but also that they were about to turn off the power.  We also found out all the roads out of Winthrop were closed except the North Cascades Highway.  So we settled into our camp site and walked around.  Here is the smoke above the campground that evening.

smoke over campsite

Thursday evening plume

I did not get photos of the flames on the hillsides that night.  The next morning we had heard that Pateros had burned badly, near Alta Lake.  This is where we have camped several years.  Our hearts were really saddened by this news, and the news of all the houses in the area burning as well.  We worried about the orchard we get our peaches from every year.  We worried about the orchard we get our crabapples from.  We worried about our friends’ homes in the area.  Our internet service was off and on, likely from the fire so it was hard to get accurate news.  Here is the largest plume Friday morning.

Friday plume

We walked into Winthrop to check it out.  The power was still out and all the restaurants and bars were closed, including our favorite Three Fingered Jacks.  Several of the business were open without lights, air conditioning or internet access for credit card payments.  We did our best to support the local businesses there. The fire information line posted in Winthrop was always busy so of no help.  Here is a photo of Winthrop at the time.  It is hard to appreciate the difference from usual.

powerless Winthrop

We returned to the ranch and noticed the smoke had worsened on the hills there.

Friday evening smoke

Here is the smoke beyond the beer garden.

smoke behind beer garden

Here is a beautiful sunset.


And here are the flames above the campground after dark.

flames above campgroundAnd here is a particularly large one.

fireThe next morning we did enjoy the music.  The organizers assured us that we were in no danger from the fires.  They had offered free camping with showers, potable water and food vendors for those that were displaced by the fire, about 100 people at that point.  It was obvious that a lot fewer people were attending the blues show this year.  There were a lot less campers and  a lot less motorcycles in particular.  But we decided to enjoy it as best we could, since we could not do anything to stop the fires.  Here is the first performer David Vest.

David Vest

Here is Doctorfunk.


And here is the Soul of John Black.

Soul of John Black

We took a quick portapotty break and I took this photo of these flags with the smoke behind.

smoke and flags

Next we saw Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings,

Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings

we ate dinner at our camp kitchen,

camp kitchen and then saw Charlie Musselwhite.

Charlie Musselwhite

The last show of the day was the Royal Southern Brotherhood.

Royal Southern Brotherhood

The next day we awoke to more scary smoke plumes.

Saturday plume

We sat down to enjoy David Vest and then Homemade Jamz.

TomHomemade Jamzsmoking guitarmuffler guitarRyan Perry and Ann

Above is a photo with the guitarist Ryan Perry and our friend Ann with Jeff in the background taking a photo.  Below they are dancing.

Ann and Jeff dancing

We then saw the Chris O’Leary Band.

Chris Oleary Band

The winds had shifted and were now from the east to the west.  So that was worrisome about the fires heading our direction but the more immediate concern was that the smoke came our way.

smokesmoke_2orange sunTom and Ann in Methow RiverAbove is Tom and Ann in the smoky Methow River, cooling off.  The Holmes Brothers played next as the skies got darker.

Holmes Brothers

oranger sun

Fortunately for us (but not for the people out east) the winds shifted again and the smoke cleared out.  We then saw our favorite Too Slim and the Taildraggers play.

Too SlimToo Slim_2Jim PughPeter Damon and Too Slim

Here is a large flame on the hill Sunday night.

Sunday night flame

And finally here is a rock Ann made with rocks at our campsite before we all departed.

Anns rock heart



Here is a photo of Tom, me, Ann, Jeff, and Chad (another camping neighbor) in front of Bluesy the Floozy.

Banjo photo





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6 Responses to Winthrop Blues 2014

  1. Liz says:

    SCARY STUFF! I’m glad you guys made it back over the Pass safely.

  2. Karen Petersen says:

    A trip to remember! The photos of the fires at night give me shivers!

  3. Jackie Craw says:

    Glad to hear the festival continued in spite of the fire drama, and that you guys are safe! the fire that burned Pateros affected us the next morning. In January we moved to our newly built house in an area of Chelan called Union Valley. We were not on ANY evacuation notice so I went to work. An hour later, the radio said Union Valley was on level 2 evacuation. Given how fast the fire was the night before, I was very unnerved. the kids and I all left our jobs, went home and quickly packed important papers, pictures, scrapbooks, momentos etc. Friends from town heard the evac notice and just showed up at our place, packing up their cars. One friend scored a horse trailer from her friend, and we were able to move the 2 llamas, 4 sheep to another friends for safekeeping. We stuck around and continued to pack stuff and left it by the front door in case we went to level 3. We had the chickens, cats, dogs corralled so we could grab them in a hurry. Fortunately, firefighters were able to hold the fire at Antoine Creek (2 drainages away). We brought home the livestock a week later. Quite frankly, i have not unpacked. We could have another fire at any time. in fact, yesterday, there was one near our place, a “sleeper fire” from the lightning 2 days ago. Sadly we have been through 2 wildfires 2 years ago that did burn around our old place. that is one of the hazzards of living on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, and we DID choose to live here, so I can’t complain. the benefits of living here out weigh the risks. sorry to ramble. Once again, glad you were able to enjoy the festival.

    • Donna says:

      It was little more challenging to enjoy this year with the fires raging. I am sorry to hear about your fire drama but glad you and yours are safe as well. Sounds smart to stay packed. My family lost 3 cabins in the Snag Canyon fire as well as many irreplaceable items. We will be starting the clean up soon.

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