Eastern Escapes: Small-town Getaways

Head to the sunny side with a trip to these pastoral easterly locales.
Vickie's Tieton Cafe has been serving up sustenance for more than 40 years

Tieton
{ Population: 1,191 }

For the better part of the last decade, there wasn’t much more to the Yakima Valley town of Tieton than a handful of seldom-open storefronts clustered around a sleepy town square and a few abandoned fruit warehouses. But by a twist of fate involving a bicycle ride and a patch of goathead thorns, this blip on the map is now home to a vibrant community of transplanted Seattle artists and artisans who have transformed its empty spaces into the likes of a kite shop, a printmaking studio, installation galleries, a bindery and bookshop, and 14 condo lofts (all sold!). Now you’ll find year-round events, from both national and local art exhibitions to Mexican Day of the Dead festivals and a curious wintertime competition called “Stümpen Tössen.”

Art book publisher Ed Marquand, the group’s ringleader of sorts, is happy to take visitors on a tour of what he now calls “Mighty Tieton.” His letterpress studio and book bindery, where all manner of paper wonders are produced for sale at his downtown Seattle shop, Paper Hammer, is an essential stop (613 Elm St.). The Mexican pastries baked up at Santos Panaderia are worth the trip alone (810 Wisconsin Ave.; 509.673.1121).

If you plan to stay overnight, your singular option is the quaint and comfortable El Nido Cabins (206.941.8801; elnidotieton@gmail.com). Once you’ve seen all there is to see (which doesn’t take long), head up the hill toward Yakima to The Tasting Room (250 Ehler Road; 509.966.0686), which pours tastings from area wineries from Thursday through Monday in spring and summer. And whatever you do, don’t leave without asking Marquand to tell the story of the goathead thorns. —CODY BAY

GETTING THERE: About two and three-quarter hours southeast of Seattle via I-90 eastbound and U.S. Highway 97 South. “Mighty Tieton” tours, mightytieton.com; info@mightytieton.com. See map.

 

Joseph, OR
{ Population: 1,081 }

Picture downtown Winthrop, but with a jagged mountain backdrop, bronze statues on every block, and a mix of ranchers, artisans and 30-something self-starters on the patio at The Embers Brew House (204 N Main St.; 541.432.2739)—that’s Joseph.

Two and half hours from Walla Walla through river canyons and farmlands on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, you ascend the Wallowa Valley to this stop-light-free town—the last on Oregon’s Highway 82 and the jumping-off point for hikes to 10,000-foot summits in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and white-water trips into Hells Canyon’s 8,000-foot-deep gorge. Known for art as much as adventure, Joseph is flush with galleries displaying the local talent in glass, metals, textiles, ceramics and Western art.

True to its cowboy roots, this a DIY town: There’s no spa, wine bar or bike path, but you can book a massage at Beecrowbee bath shop (1 S Main St.; 541.432.0158), taste huckleberry cordial at Stein Distillery (604 N Main St.; 503.642.2659) and rent a bike from Joseph Hardware (15 S Main St.; 541.432.2271) to cruise the two miles to Wallowa Lake, the star attraction. Sun yourself at the beach to take in the mountain views and a quick dip in the pristine waters, or continue to the Wallowa Lake Tramway to survey the spellbinding topography from on high (59919 Wallowa Lake Hwy.; 541.432.5331). Afterwards, slake hunger and thirst with a loaded grass-fed-beef Ranch burger and handcrafted beer from Mutiny Brewing Company (600 N Main St.; 541.432.5274), part of the local food wave that’s fostered a new winery, coffee roaster and chocolatier. The downtown East Street Cottages (001 East St.; 541.432.2651) or Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast (309 S Main St.; 541.432. 0230) are your best lodging options for staying car-free until the road trip back home. —LYNNE CURRY
Photo by Jeff Diener

GETTING THERE: About seven hours southeast of Seattle in Oregon via I-90 East and I-82 East. See map.

 

Waitsburg
{ Population: 1,217 }

For cyclists, the hundreds of miles of paved road that unfurl through acres of wheat fields are irresistible. For gourmets, a cult of discerning gastronomes proffering smart, spirited cuisine makes it a destination. And for artists, Waitsburg offers a seductive refuge with room to build and dream.

“I call Waitsburg hipstoric—part hipster and part historic,” offers Imbert Matthee, who purchased the Waitsburg Times in 2009 and transformed it into a thriving weekly, then opened trendy Coppei Cafe (Coppei Cafe, 137 Main St.; 509.524.8184) and the snug Seven Porches Guest House (329 Main St.; 509.378.9212) late last year. “The area’s pioneers built the foundation, and a new generation of entrepreneurs honors that history while adding their own style to Main Street.”

Twenty-one miles from Walla Walla, Waitsburg is little more than a three-block drag etched through farmland—and without a vineyard in sight. Visit Walla Walla for wine, but come to Waitsburg for craft beer and cocktails. Jim German, an artist and longtime Seattle bartender, and his wife, artist Claire Johnston, moved here in 2004 for “aesthetic and economic purposes.” They soon opened a gallery, AMO Art (117 Main St., 509.876.1264), and Jimgermanbar (119 Main St.; 509.337.6001), their “taverna-style lounge in the middle of nowhere” tendering imaginative cocktails and eclectic plates.

Across the street, the Whoopemup Hollow Café (120 Main St.; 509.337.9000) serves upscale Cajun dishes in a down-home atmosphere. Next door, untamable vintner Charles Smith renovated the American Legion Hall into the Anchor Bar, a jukebox joint featuring live music, pinball machines and tap beer alongside bottles of his award-winning wines (128 Main St.; 509.337.3008).

Stay in town at one of two darling, fully furnished cottages owned by Seattle Times wine columnist Paul Gregutt and his wife, Stanton (and check out their brand-new gift shop in town, Bubbles and Chocolate). Take a 10-mile drive to nearby Dayton to sample artisanal goat and sheep cheeses at the Monteillet Fromagerie (Dayton, 109 Ward Road; 509.382.1917), then head to brand-new Mace Mead Works (Dayton, 250 E Main St.; 509.540.0000) to sip several varieties of the honey wine on tap. —ALI BASYE
Photo by Patrick Bennett

GETTING THERE: Four and a half hours from Seattle via Interstate 90 East to U.S. 97 South. Continue on Interstate 82 East to U.S. 12 East. Turn left on State Route 124 East to Waitsburg. See map.

 

Orondo
{ Population 1,215 }

“Blink and you’ll miss it” doesn’t quite cover the experience of this town without a town between Wenatchee and Lake Chelan along the eastern bank of Lake Entiat. This stretch of land, the westside approach to Chelan, is loaded with scenic twists of the road flanked by scrubby, golden brown hills.

But what is lacking in a small-town center of any kind (it does have a post office, though!) is more than made up for with the abundant back-road stands and shops along the drive selling fruit, hanging flower baskets and other locally made goods.

The unofficial town center is Orondo Cider Works (Orondo, 1 Edgewater Drive, 509.784.1029), the big red barn at the crest of the hill up from Sun Cove Estates, a subdivision of mainly vacation homes. This is the kind of place where, when snow doesn’t fall from the sky, it’s brought in by the truckload so that neighborhood kids have a sledding hill.

Although summer is a great time to visit for the nonstop seasonal rotation of fresh fruit, we also like to go in early October, when a pair of festivals bring life—and delicious foods, wines, live music and more—to Orondo. The Lake Chelan Crush festival (crushlakechelan.com) features winery events and tastings, while the Lake Chelan Cider and Donut Days festival offers a chance to fling an apple with a giant slingshot, Angry Birds style, toward a target in the field at Orondo Cider Works; sample its delicious soft (and hard!) cider; and scarf down old-fashioned apple cider and pumpkin doughnuts.

But for ice cream lovers, the real attraction is the “Cream of the Crop” ice cream, made with a NitroCream machine—a kind of KitchenAid mixer on steroids, with a metal hose hookup that blasts billowing bursts of liquid nitrogen into a mix of fresh cream, sugar and fixings to flash-freeze custom-made servings of ice cream as you stand by, oohing and ahhing. One of only two of its kind (the other is making the Los Angeles party circuit), the machine was invented by entrepreneur Robert Kennedy of nearby Rock Island.

Farther north on 97 toward Chelan, Lone Pine Fruit and Espresso (Orondo, 23041 Hwy. 97; 509.682.1514) beckons with its greenhouse and garden décor, an outdoor waterfall-landscaped beer garden (weekends and evenings, May through October), and a shop full of locally made gifts and seasonal fruit pies (cherry almond, mixed berry, apricot, apple and others) made from scratch by manager Jenny Robelia, pies that Rachael Ray called the best in the country in 2008. On the drive back home toward Seattle, leave room in your car for one of Estes Fruit Stand’s (East Wenatchee, 13656 State Route 2, 509.884.2034) massive flower baskets, from Ladybug Hanging Flowers.

Orondo is an easy 30-minute drive from Lake Chelan, which is now brimming with wineries (Tsillian, Nefarious, Hard Row to Hoe, to name a few). Locals like the restaurant CJ’s Oasis, at The Lodge at Desert Canyon (Orondo, 1030 Desert Canyon Blvd.; 509.784.1234), where you can stay in suite accommodations and play a round of golf, but your best dining bets are still in Chelan. Rental properties in Orondo are also available through chelanvacationproperties.com and vrbo.com. —RACHEL HART

GETTING THERE: Head toward Lake Chelan (via U.S. 2 to U.S. 97), but when you approach Wenatchee, take U.S. Highway 2 East/U.S. Highway 97 North for the Sunset Highway, which flanks the east side of Lake Entiat. Orondo is 23 miles from there. See map.