Leavenworth, Washington: Gateway to the Enchantments. Backcountry skier’s delight. Alpine climber’s Valhalla. Boulderer’s sending ground. Beer drinker’s garden. Faux-Bavarian paradise.
Leavenworth sprouted its unremarkable beginnings as a timber community in the late 1800s. Great North Railroad chose Leavenworth as its headquarters until the 1920s when it relocated to Wenatchee, about 20 miles away. This relocation nearly destroyed Leavenworth.
Luckily, in 1962, the Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) Committee emerged. Led by Owen and Pauline Watson whom had visited Danish styled Solvang, California in 1958, Leavenworth became the Bavarian village that it is today.
By town ordinance, every building operating within the business district must be Bavarian themed and styled. Safeway, Napa Auto Parts, even Wells Fargo comply blissfully with this mandate. The funny thing is, it works. People come from all over the Pacific Northwest to see Leavenworth, particularly for Oktoberfest.
Upon my first visit, I was appalled. I thought to myself, “How in the flying hell could somebody think this was a good idea?!” I mean, there’s a nutcracker museum.
That was before I experienced the beer gardens. And the hat shoppe. And the candy store. And the ice cream stores. And the beer gardens. And the ice cream stores. And don’t forget the schnitzels. And Der Ritterhof Motor Inn.
I have been Lili von Shtupped into loving Leavenworth.
While the creation of this Bavarian village has swept me away and given me a place to dork out completely, the real magic of Leavenworth lies just outside of town. Down Icicle Creek Road or Highway 2, visitors find any and all kinds of recreation opportunities.
Personally, I recreate in two ways when I am in Leavenworth: I climb and I drink beer. Generally not simultaneously, but occasionally if we are bouldering.
The cragging around Leavenworth is terribly fun. It’s spread out enough so that you can climb unencumbered by tourist mobs and varied enough to keep your strongest friends happy.
The alpine climbing is unsurpassed. Being the gateway to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Leavenworth is the staging area for a multitude of alpine climbs (A future post will chronicle an attempt of the Stanley Burgner route of Prusik Peak for my thirtieth birthday). The past decade has seen some remarkable first ascents in the Enchantments by some stupendously strong young climbers.
Finally, the bouldering around Leavenworth is marvelous. Not being a dedicated boulderer, I don’t send very hard. Though in speaking with people who are dedicated, this place is sweet.
Most importantly, as some of my photos in the gallery below indicate, Leavenworth offers the solace and respite of the mountains. Drive six miles out of town and you find yourself perched upon the spine of a mountain, the only evidence of man’s existence being the road you drove in on (well, that and your car).
If you’re ever in the area, I cannot recommend highly enough making a point of visiting this little town. Even if you’re skeptical, chances are you’ll be shopping for a pair of lederhosen to wear upon your return visit.