First let me start with apologizing for the delay in posting these last couple of blogs from our trip. Things got busy once we got home, and life just gets going on its own. But I am resolved to complete the series and share our last few stops with you.
After almost 2½ months on the water, it was time to move back inland. While we really enjoyed our time “on the water”, the seafood, the beautiful coastlines, cool ocean breezes, marine life, and exquisite sunsets we did miss our mountains. So we headed east into north central Washington and the eastern edges of the Cascade range. Our first stop was Wenatchee, WA and the Apple Orchard capital of the west.
Our trip east on I-90 and up Hwy 97 got us back into the mountains quickly. The area has some very dramatic peaks. We stayed at a very nice county park right along the river, Wenatchee River County Park about halfway between the city of Wenatchee and Leavenworth. Very spacious sites, full hook-ups and quiet. Though we did not see any, live ones that is, they say the deer run through there a lot.
We took a day trip into Leavenworth to explore the “Bavaria of the U.S.”. Leavenworth was originally a timber and lumber town. Then in the 1960’s the railroad moved its tracks and the town almost turned into a ghost town, so the town elders got together, embraced the ambiance of the mountains and decided to turn it into a Bavarian town. They redid the storefronts, established festivals and celebrations, started German restaurants and bakeries. The entire town looks like something right out of the Alps. We found a wonderful gingerbread bakery, a local craft bierhall, and some fun shops.
The area along the Wenatchee River valley and up along the Columbia is also famous for its apple and fruit tree orchards. We visited a few and stopped at fruit stands. There were some local apple varieties we tried and enjoyed. The orchards were really fascinating. They stretched for acres and acres. Most of the trees in the orchards were weighted down full of fruit; apples, pears, and even some peaches were on the trees. They use trellises to help hold up the small trees and there were stacks of empty crates waiting to be filled with the harvested fruit.
We also took a side trip through the small town of Cashmere. It was right next to our campground and known two landmarks – Aplets and Cotlets and a wonderful 9/11 memorial. We visited the Aplet factory and had a tasting, not really our thing, but still an interesting visit. The 9/11 Spirit of America memorial was very well done. It won a competition by the the Spirit of America Foundation as the place in Washington for a 9/11 memorial. It has a distinct sculpture celebrating the first responders and people lost in the tragedy. There is also a piece of the steel girders from the towers. We were really moved by the memorial.
Our trip to the area was not all about towns. We took a day trip up to Wenatchee Lake State Park for some short hikes and a picnic. Wenatchee Lake is a large natural lake on the boundaries of the Cascades. It is surrounded by some beautiful forest and mountain peaks. We took a short hike along the north shore and to the beach area and then a drive along the opposite shoreline and out to a remote forest service picnic area called Glacier View Campground. It was deserted. We found a great picnic table with views of the lake, mountains, and the glacier off in the distance.
The highlight of the visit was definitely our hike to Lake Valhalla. Located about 35 miles west of Leavenworth, the trail starts at the Springbrook trailhead and winds its way up to the Pacific Crest Trail to the lake, about 3.5 miles and 1500 ft up from the trailhead parking lot. The scenery was amazing on the way up. We met and chatted with a thru hiker who had started the PCT back in April at the California/Mexico border and only had 100 miles to go to complete the trip. She was a solo hiker who couldn’t have been more than 25. We were inspired by her tenacity and drive, not to mention the magnitude of her accomplishment. Besides the mountains and the forest, the fall colors were all coming out. It was the best hike for fall colors of our entire tip. Once we got to the lake, it was incredible. Lake Valhalla is a deep mountain lake situated in a bowl surrounded by high rocky peaks. We found a secluded quiet overlook for lunch and to just sit and enjoy the view. Our hike back down was just as amazing as the sun really illuminated all the fall colors. By far one of the top hikes of our entire PNW trip.
Our stay in the area was a little slower paced then most of our previous stops, but it was still a wonderful return to the mountains and back into th