Friday, March 26, 2010

Sun, snow, mountains and bratwurst in 24 hours

This week was A Big Deal in the life of Yitka. I went on my first business trip.

My room!

While the term "business trip" might be conjuring images of airports...laptops in briefcases, business suits and meeting rooms, the click of heels walking on the marble floors of hotel lobbies...this was a different kind of business trip. (I do, however, insist on calling it such.)

Instead, I packed a notebook, swimsuit, hiking boots and my long-untouched Nikon D60, and hit the road after work on Wednesday.

"The road", as it were, was the lovely Highway 2, a route which quickly earned its place among the ranks of (1) the Florida Keys, (2) Highway 1 down the southern California coast, and (3) the entire state of Montana, for Yitka's Favorite Drives in America. I was on route to stay a night at a lovely mountain resort/retreat center buried deep in the wilderness outside of the small town of Leavenworth, Washington, and do an in-depth interview the following morning for a story assignment with OutdoorsNW.

Despite several warnings from friends and acquaintances that Leavenworth, WA is a magical place that's been known to steal the hearts of Seattleites, I suppose I was still half-expecting a sad sort of town with a bunch of prisons.

Instead, I got this:

Adorable Bavarian town nestled in the mountains!

I honestly had no idea what to expect from Leavenworth. But upon the "Wilkommen in Leavenworth" sign along the main drag, I got the idea: little Bavarian miracle town! Surrounded by snow-capped and Evergreen-coated peaks like, I enjoyed a bratwurst for lunch. I bought a couple greeting cards from their local bookshop (I can't ever pass up a rack of well-made greeting cards, and I have discovered a new favorite company.) I took a stroll down by the river. All lovely.

The Sleeping Lady, the resort itself that I stayed at, has been around for 15 years. It originally catered primarily to corporate retreats as a place for team-building, but it's evolved into a family leisure travel destination and personal center for rest and spiritual rejuvenation as well. I couldn't have asked for better timing; I was just lamenting in my journal a couple days ago how much I missed the hammock on my porch in Oberlin, the pond and waterfall in my old backyard in Kansas...basically, just personal outdoor space to relax in at any time of day. Happily, the camp was largely empty and so I had an entire evening to explore and play there in genuine quiet.

After one of the most delectable dinners of my life (freshly caught and grilled salmon with butter sauce, sauteed bok choy, freshly baked bread with fancy brie and chevre cheeses, fresh rhubarb with creme fraishe for dessert...most of the ingredients from local local as the organic garden fifty yards outside of the resort dining hall), I did something I've never done before: walked into an empty bar - the "Grotto", the resort's cozy onsite tavern - where I sat down, ordered a drink, and spent an hour or two chatting it up with the bartender. We actually had a really awesome conversation, and I appreciated how much easier it is to seek and find human connection in the quiet of a small mountain town than it is in the hustle and bustle of a city. I may love Seattle, but I'll never fully shake the Midwesterner in me...

I followed that up with a solo nighttime soak in the resort's outdoor hot pool - a natural rock hot tub of sorts, with steaming, crystal clear water, and all nestled below a grove of evergreens (and in the case of two nights ago, a gorgeous moon), at the foot of snow-capped mountains. Talk about relaxation. I slept like a baby on one of what are reputed to be the most comfortable mattresses in the world. And awoke to...

Delicious breakfast! Yummy scrambled eggs, spelt bread with rhubarb jam, 19-bean salad, chicken apple sausage, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice...and my interview! Won't write much here, despite wanting to...but I'll save my excitement from that for the article itself, which will run this summer.

The drive back home later that day involved a snowy traverse over Stevens Pass.

This next picture is one of my favorites from the whole trip...I was driving, rocking out to my music, looked up at the mountains and realized that I was right below the "snow line" - the horizon between the elevation at which it was actively snowing, and the elevation at which it was just raining...the line between which is entirely visible in this photo:

Awesome. What wasn't awesome was traffic coming back into the city. My drive out there was about two and a half hours. My drive home was four hours (four and a half when you include my numerous stops along the way to get out and photograph the scenery from the road.) Damn you, 520 and I-5. Sigh. But otherwise...truly a marvelous little getaway trip. And an exciting story to get down on paper ahead of me...

P.S. Also!!! A seriously awesome plug for a classmate/acquaintance/fellow creative writing major from Oberlin, Miss Lena Dunham, whose feature-length film, Tiny Furniture, just won "Best Narrative Feature" at SXSW in Austin, Texas! Trailer here.


  1. I think you’re totally exaggerating. NINETEEN beans!?

  2. damn, lucky you, was that all covered by your job? also, lena was in the NY Times last week, she's getting shout outs all over the place... but I don't actually know her.

  3. If you have a chance to go back, check out our website. We put it together as a hobby to help tourists coming to Leavenworth. You can find anything you want to know about Leavenworth and we have some mini-reviews on different places. Might be a help in your article.