Wednesday-- The Cascade Circle & Columbia River

Published: Sep. 27, 2018 at 1:35 AM EDT
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Wednesday—The Cascade Circle and Columbia River

This is my personal blog, and is NOT a news story. As such it is my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the station, my family nor anyone else.

The lack of internet signal forced me to post my last blog entry without editing it, or else miss the departing motor coach. I try to always wear my bright fluorescent green cap, not only to signal that we’re not leaving until/unless I’m headed back to the bus, rounding up others. It’s a simple visual reminder that we learned several trips ago, and really works well in crowded venues. But it also works in hotel lobbies, rest areas, visitor’s centers and attractions.

I caught a few spelling errors and straightened out a few turns of phrase that were confusing in this morning’s blog entry. Plus, I could find no photos accessible to me except for a BigFoot image. That’s life in the field, in rural eastern Washington. I’m not complaining, just explaining.

As it turns out, Bigfoot is the mascot of the Pacific Northwest, and Winthrop didn’t have exclusive rights to him. Almost every gift shop has some sticker, T-shirt, cap or other item to celebrate him. I’ve come close to purchasing a few, but have resisted. Today was the hardest yet, as we settle into the Bavarian Lodge in Leavenworth, we find a cute small soft teddy bear with a sign, “You may purchase these items Lodge Bear-$14.99, Our Neck of the Woods Pillow -$18.95, Lodge Throw- $79.95… at the Front Desk. Missing items upon check-out will be added to your final bill….” or words to that effect. It would be an easy choice to keep the bear for your youngest niece or grandchild. I resist.

But in the lobby, they have lots of items, from the Indian blanket in the corner, to the treasure chest of teddy bears in the central area, as well as lots more. Buried among the teddy bears I spy something else, slightly out of place. It’s an identically appointed cute, small soft and fury Bigfoot, same shade and manufacturer as the Teddy Bear! To the right are two more chests, with similar loads of teddy, and a few more Bigfoots… and in the third chest, mainly Bigfoot with one teddy hidden among them. It’s a smart marketing gimmick, making you spot the thing that doesn't quite fit, and think that you’ve plucked the last one out, with an impulse to buy for $14.99 plus tax. I resist, but only “just bearly.”

Earlier in the day, we motored through Twisp, WA…a small town named for the wasp, and we see many, many farms or horse ranches, as the western theme runs strong in this Methow Valley. We also see beehives for the first time, and more and more fruit orchards…apples, then pears, and finally vineyards as we reach the Columbia River. We’re told Lewis and Clark didn’t make it down this far, but wintered along the coast, trading with the natives, before returning over and through the Cascades the next year.

We are surprised by a pleasant Italian meal purchased by Holiday Vacations at a winery, and enjoy chicken over pasta with tossed salad, and chocolate muse. Some buy a glass of wine, but soft drinks, lemonade or tea are available. You never go hungry on the Holiday Vacation trip.

As we leave, I attempt a Facebook Live update, but find the signal strength may not be enough to go live. At least, I record a short 3 minute summary. All the rest of the day, I attempt to post Facebook Live updates. It’s a shame, ‘cause the views are great, the food is great, and the weather is great since we got off the water.

Instead, I have an inspiration, and ask all of our travel guests to share their BEST digital photo with the station. I offer them the easiest email address and tell them to include a brief description of what they are sharing, as well as a statement that it is for Scene Everywhere or On-Air use. I figure this will allow someone back at the station to share updates if my Facebook isn’t getting out. But I also know more than 2/3rds of them won’t know what Scene Everywhere is or how to access it. So I urge them to just send to

Almost immediately, a few come up with a GREAT picture to share, and I assist them in attaching them to an email aimed at the newsroom. Don’t know if it will bear fruit, but I hope that the pics are welcome.

We stop at one more location, the Ohme Gardens… a sort of combination of sunken garden and rock formation. Back in 1929, the owner bought ten acres and the rocky outcropping bluff where nothing would grow, and proceeded to put in an apple orchard. In his backyard, he started to plant a few exotic plants. He built a house and married the next year and the couple began to dig up trees or plants in the state forest (which was allowed without permit back then). They marked which side of the small saplings faced North and planted them with the same orientation. They also made a few pools, all within their backyard.

Word began to spread as the colorful flowers and greenery were spotted atop the rocky out cropping and people began dropping by to see the Ohme’s backyard. The word spread and more and more kept intruding. To discourage this trend during the Great Depression, they charged a quarter but it backfired and even MORE people came. The amateur effort to expand the garden continues with their sons, and rock paths, irrigation and more were added.

To make a long, interesting tale shorter, the owner sold the 10 acres of land/gardens to his son, and it flourished becoming a great draw for tourists and others over the decades. Resisting a two million dollar offer from a developer, the son finally sold the gardens to the State of Washington for only $600,000 with the understanding that they would be preserved and continued. This has continued for years and years.

We spent almost an hour prowling the grounds, climbing and descending rock steps and paths around a half dozen hidden pools and lots of pines, ferns and exotic plants, all maintained by irrigation in 9 of the original 10 acres. If you ask me, it reminds me strongly of “Rock City” in Chattanooga, TN from the late 1960s, but without as much "See Rock City" hype, billboards and bumper stickers. But the crew that currently run and maintain the gardens are not familiar with that other regional attraction.

We shop their gift shop for bargains and souvenirs, and find there are remarkable few, but greatly valued post cards, t-shirts, towels and a few other items. I score the last 2XL shirt with the saying : “Ohme Gardens, Wenatchee WA; “We just wanted to make a nice backyard,” by Ruth Ohme. I’m assured that the 2XL will shrink as it is 100% Cotton, and I intend to use it as a sleep shirt.

Arriving in Leavenworth, WA we discover this entire town has been converted to mimic a Bavarian town, starting back in 1969 when a man with vision visited another Bavarian-themed Californian town and saw how much of a tourist draw it was. Prior to that, Leavenworth was a dusty logging town, without prospects. He convinced the locals and businesses to rebuild, using a Bavarian architect, and it caught on.

These were not just facades tacked on, but a steady and complete rebuilding of the town, especially the downtown business district. It is such a tourist draw now, that rental space goes for a premium price, and a lot of fast negotiation goes on for any vacancy that might occur.

We walk to the Italian restaurant across the street for another spectacular meal, and then have the rest of the evening to ourselves. We are told we may sleep in again, as we will check out late and tour the Boeing Aircraft plant tomorrow. I fear that the next night, after our farewell dinner, will become a short overnight, as we will have to catch early flights and catch a direct flight home to Pittsburgh. But we shall see.

Everyone agrees the food has been good, the sights have been spectacular, and our complaints extremely small. It would appear that Holiday Vacations has a hit on their hands, as they have changed to name of the trip to “Pacific Northwest” tour. We agree that will attract more customers from across the nation next year, when the schedule will expand with more weeks scheduled to come to this Pacific Northwest wonderland.