Wenatchee-Chelan Loop: The Columbia, Always a Stunner



Weather forecasts are extremely unreliable at this time of year. Nevertheless, after scrutinizing the charts for the whole region, we determined that eastern Washington would have the best weather, and the rest of the area would be cloudy and rainy. The problem was that it was the May Long Weekend, and long weekends are a terrible time to cross the border to the US. At least we knew what to expect, and brought along a zen attitude and a book. After a 2.5-3 hour wait in the car, with stressed out drivers aggressively trying to change lanes or push their way in after bypassing the line by going to the duty free, we finally emerged on the other side of the dark tunnel and were on our way.

Yup, Mexican food

Yup, Mexican food

Not so fast though. While in the lineup, we noticed we only had 12 USD on us, not quite enough for eating Mexican food to our heart’s content and camping fees, so we stopped in Bellingham to exchange money. As I was struggling to stay awake and feeling the first pangs of hunger, just after the ridiculous fake-Bavarian style town of Leavenworth, we hit the jackpot with an unexpected Mexican taco truck by the side of the road, where we had an excellent lunch. The store nearby stocked many Mexican products, all the signs were in Spanish, which was also the chosen language of communication.

Once in Wenatchee we drove to Walla Walla Point Park, found a place to park our car by a nearby Hardware Store, and began cycling on the Apple Capitol Recreational Loop Trail at 4:30pm, not exactly an early start. Most of the people in the park appeared to be Mexican, and after our earlier experience that day I was starting to wonder if we had perhaps been magically teleported to Mexico. After crossing the Wenatchee River we crossed the Columbia River, which we followed for most of the next two days.

Always a stunner...

Always a stunner…

The guidebook claimed that “this ride is about the Columbia River, which is always in view, and always a stunner”, a line which we kept quoting. After a few hours of cycling along the river, in increasingly stronger winds, we reached Daroga State Park. Looking down at the campground, I had to rub my eyes and pinch myself to make sure it was real: camping for $12 on a beautiful island in the middle of the Columbia River?! We cycled right into our camp spot, while most others took multiple trips to carry their gear down in wheelbarrows. At this point we noticed that the wind was much stronger than on the road. Thankfully each camp spot had a wooden wall for protection from the wind, so we ate behind one of those and went to sleep.

Yes, we'll camp here for the night.

Yes, we’ll camp here for the night

Hmmm, Cider....

Hmmm, Cider….

The next morning started slow. With the long days, we didn’t bother setting an alarm clock. Then we had a flat tire soon after leaving camp, and got distracted by the Orondo Cider Works where we had two delicious ciders. We stopped for a snack at the Beebe Bridge Park, and after a short swim in the Columbia River, I pronounced it officially summer.

We crossed the Beebe Bridge to the west side of the Columbia, and climbed up Apple Acres Road, before arriving to Lake Chelan. The bright sandy beach with turquoise water was a real surprise – the scene seemed more appropriate for a Caribbean Island. At least until we noticed that the tiny sliver of public beach we were on was surrounded by private beaches with large “No Trespassing” signs, as they do in the US. A short time later we noticed a memorial by the side of the road, with a long list of names on it and some toys. After inspecting it closely, we found out the sad story: on November 26, 1945, in a snow storm, a school bus plunged into the lake, taking with it the driver and 15 students.


Lake Chelan

This must be the hiker/biker site

This must be the hiker/biker site

After arriving to the Lake Chelan State Park we looked all over for the hiker-biker sites, and then it started pouring so we took shelter. Finally we decided the lush and comfy lawn in the center of the campground “must be” the hiker-biker area, so we set up camp there. We had carried some mangoes from the Mexican store outside of Leavenworth, and even though it was a small pile of mangoes it still reminded me of the same time the year before, when we had practically as many mangoes as we could possibly eat.

Leaving camp we started climbing up Navarre Coulee Rd, and prepared ourselves for a long haul, but it was over pretty quick. There was a large group of road cyclists zooming down the hill in the opposite direction, and we kept having to wave hello to them. After a fast and long descent back to the Columbia River, we passed through the not too interesting town of Entiat, and cycled back to Wenatchee. Arriving back to the car there is always a moment of suspense – will the car be there? Will we have a flat tire? But as usual, we just packed up our things and began the long drive back home.

Crossing the Wenatchee River, almost back

Crossing the Wenatchee River, almost back

Since we knew the border would be almost as awful on the way out, we tried any possible way to delay ourselves in Bellingham: burritos and pupusas at a taco truck, shopping for cheese and chocolate at Trader Joe’s and Haggen, delicious sesame paste ice cream at Mallard’s, but finally we had no excuses remaining and had to drive to the border where we waited for “only” one hour and arrived home after midnight, tired but happy.

summer is here!

Summer is here!

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5 Responses to Wenatchee-Chelan Loop: The Columbia, Always a Stunner

  1. Nicole says:

    Hilarious account!!! Loved it…


    We enjoyed participating in your latest adventure, almost (but not quite!!) as having been along ourselves. G&G

  3. Scott Webster says:

    This TR is making me hungry.

  4. Zack says:

    Great post, I’m glad to see you’re managing to fit in some weekend warrior style bike touring!

    • Gili says:

      Zack, we do what we can, in Hawaii now for a somewhat longer than weekend jaunt on the bikes…

      Scott: yep, our trips to the US tend to involve lots of yummy Mexican food. Give it a try?

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