Nestled in majestic, wooded mountains, Leavenworth, WA is one of those unique, tiny towns that seem to exist solely for visitors. So where do the locals live? Only when you venture out of the Bavarian-themed central hub do you notice a few residential houses peppered on the edge of town. In Leavenworth you can find block upon block of Bavarian-styled shops and restaurants. Even the local dentist and lawyer’s office is located in classic structures that look as though they leapt off the screen from A Sound of Music. With all of its European charm, one would not expect to find a Starbucks, and yet there was one! But it was not easy to find. It was tucked away at the end of a street with the Starbucks name discreetly painted (Bavarian style) over the door. With all of its hotels and kitschy gift shops, some might call Leavenworth a tourist trap, but it’s the most charming trap I can think of.
Icicle Creek Trail
Time for a little exercise. Just out of town is the Leavenworth golf course, but we made a bee line for the Icicle Creek Trail. It’s a moderate to challenging hike, where the path can get quite rocky as you slowly ascend the side of the mountain. We were even fortunate to get a glimpse of a mountain goat looking down at us from the top!
We spent the night at the Bavarian Lodge. Upon check-in we were greeted warmly and given a small bag of house-made chocolate chip cookies. Our room was towards the back of the lodge with a great view of the mountains. As we walked in the room we were met with a tiny stuffed grizzly bear (available for purchase) on the bed.
By the time we settled in, our stomachs were growling, so we went in search of a reasonably priced meal. There are many different restaurants to choose from in Leavenworth; whether you’re in the mood for American, Mexican, Italian, or (of course) German. Most of the sit-down restaurants are a bit pricey, being a tourist town. However, after a little searching, we ended up at the perfect place; the Munchen Haus. For under $12 you can have an authentic German hot dog, a bag of chips AND a local draft beer. Compliment your dog with a vast array of sauces and yes, real German sauerkraut!
After dinner, we strolled the streets, browsing many of the gift shops and sharing a gelato as we sat down on a bench outside and people-watched. As the sun went down, we headed back to the lodge, donned our swimming gear and went out back to the pool and hot tub.
High Desert Country
We decided to stock up on snacks for the trip back to Portland the next day, so we stopped at the Safeway on the edge of town (also a Bavarian-style building). Leaving Leavenworth, we drove south on highway 97. The countryside in central Washington is dramatic, where you are surrounded by endless ranch land. This is high desert country at its best. At one point we were on a remote straight road, sagebrush on either side of us, when off in the distance I could see some sort of livestock start to cross the road. As we drove closer, we slowed down to a crawl as a huge flock of sheep continued to cross and surrounded our car, complete with a sheep dog.
My husband grew up in central Washington, and recently he was able to trace a couple of his pioneer ancestors to a Methodist cemetery just northeast of Goldendale, WA. A little pocket of history in the middle of nowhere. We stopped and he was able to find his great-great-grandparents’ graves. It turns out they were one of the founders of the nearby town of Bickleton.
South of Goldendale, the majestic Columbia River awaited for us to cross her, with Portland just another 90 minutes away. It was a fantastic weekend.