The Spokesman-Review

Winter Remedies Two Retreats Tucked Away In The Pristine Cascade Wilderness Offer Respite From Seasonal Blues

Ah, those Northwest winter blues. The air is chilled, the gray sky presses hard against the Earth, and dusk comes at 4 o’clock. What better time for a change of scene?

If it’s not feasible for you to beam down on an Acapulco beach, a brief retreat to the mountain wonderlands in our own back yard may be just what you need to cure the winter woes.

The two Washington state hideaways I’m personally drawn to have nearly the same name and, in fact, occupy the same Cascade mountain corridor. The similarities don’t stop there. Both resorts offer what outdoor lovers seek in the dead of winter: a clean white world punctuated by picture-postcard vistas, and plenty of facilities for getting out and enjoying it all.

Mountain Springs Lodge and Mountain Home Lodge are located a short drive (in different directions) from the popular Bavarian-style village of Leavenworth. Both were conceived as four-season getaways set within the pristine Cascade wilderness. Winter snows lure visitors who love Nordic skiing, sleigh riding, snowmobiling, sledding and snowshoeing.

“One thousand feet closer to heaven” is the way Brad and Kathy Schmidt describe their Mountain Home Lodge, in comparison to nearby Leavenworth. Perched on a hillside at 2,000 feet, the lodge fronts westward with a panoramic view of Mount Stuart and adjacent Cascade peaks.

The Schmidts represent a small group of people who have taken a big leap, spurred by a personal vision. A former advertising photographer and a bank vice president, Brad and Kathy turned their backs on their corporate lifestyles to try innkeeping. After an exhaustive search among more than a hundred Northwest properties, they found Mountain Home Lodge, remodeled it, and reopened it to guests in l984.

Open year-round, the resort is a few minutes drive from the village below. In winter, however, Mountain Home Road is smothered in snow. Guests park two miles from the lodge and ride the rest of the way in a comfortable tracked snow cat, highlighted by a spectacular view of Leavenworth resting in the valley far below.

The lodge perches above a 20-acre meadow just right for tobogganing and sledding. The surrounding foothills beckon guests to ski, snowshoe or just go for a casual walk wearing the resort-supplied snowshoes. For cross-country skiers there are miles of groomed trails appropriate for beginners to advanced Nordic enthusiasts. Journeys into pristine high country are made by snowmobiles, with a guide.

“Don’t you feel like you’re at the top of the world?” asked our guide Rob Davis as we stopped our snowmobiles at a spectacular viewpoint far above the lodge. We’d ridden over snow-choked logging roads, winding our way ever higher, always with the Stuart Range in view to the west, its peaks stark and assertive against a sky of cobalt blue. Guests can venture up to 35 miles from the lodge on easy, winding tracks, reaching Wedge Mountain at 5,000 feet and the Peshastin Overlook at 2,600 feet.

The lodge is one of those homey retreats where you think nothing of wearing your bedroom slippers to breakfast, and never lock your door. Focal point is the giant stone fireplace and soft lounging furniture, flanked by the dining area where three gourmet meals are served daily. Each evening a fullcourse meal starts at 6:30 with delectable appetizers and a complimentary selection of fine wines. After dinner, guests can star-gaze from the large outdoor hot tub.

The nine rooms and single suite are arranged on two floors. Each has its own special decor theme, followed faithfully to the last detail. The “Moose” room, for example, has nary a feature not related somehow to its namesake. The resort’s special suite has its own fireplace, king size bed and sitting area.

Although they share many amenities, the two mountain retreats differ somewhat in the type of accommodation offered. Mountain Springs Lodge, northeast of Leavenworth, has two spacious, newly built guest cabins, perfect for families, that sleep two to eight people and feature large fully furnished kitchens. Each unit has its own outdoor hot tub.

Mountain Springs is becoming well known for its elegant facilities for small conferences, family reunions, weddings, and other group retreats. The compound features two sizable lodges, each containing a great room for casual get-togethers, full kitchen, and a dining area seating up to 30, complementing the tastefully furnished bedrooms.

Located on the edge of the tiny hamlet of Plain, the resort is snugged up against the Cascade foothills; its neighbors are third-and fourth-generation ranchers who trace their ancestry to the settlement of the Washington Territory.

In 1892, a pioneer named W.W. Burgess traveled on foot with his trusty packhorse to the Plain Valley. He’d already explored most of the Okanogan territory looking for the perfect spot to settle down. At last he found it.

Three years later, he brought his new bride into the valley; she was fresh from Norway and almost immediately dismayed by the remoteness of her new home. But she stayed.

Over 100 years later, eager visitors to this enchanted valley can enjoy Mountain Springs Lodge within sight of the original Burgess log home. Host Bill Newell is Burgess’ great-grandson. He and his wife, Diana, recently remodeled the original farmhouse using native Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine.

In winter, one of the resort’s most popular offerings are its sleigh rides. Passengers, buried up to the nose in sheepskin blankets, ride up the adjacent valley to the sound of sleigh bells, where a twisting stream negotiates the snow banks, rushing beneath numerous beaver dams; river otters are likely to be spotted foraging in the chilly waters.

Trails lead the cross-country skier right from the lodge doorstep into a pristine mountain wilderness. For snowmobilers, everything is provided, including guide, cold-weather clothing and insulated boots. Five different tours are offered, from the laid-back “Grandpa’s Ridge Rocker” to the more adventuresome “Mile-High Extravaganza” that reaches Sugarloaf Lookout at 5,480 feet. There’s even a unique nighttime trip, two hours spent traveling under the moon and stars.

Mountain Springs also operates its snowmobile and sleigh rides daily for the general public, so even visitors staying in nearby Leavenworth can avail themselves of the winter amenities offered in the Plain Valley and nearby mountains.

In spring, summer and fall, the resort features horseback riding, pack trips, trail hiking, canoeing on Lake Wenatchee, white water rafting, and old-fashioned hay rides with a chuckwagon barbecue thrown in.

At Mountain Home Lodge, springtime brings blooms to the orchard in the 20-acre meadow; guests enjoy hiking, mountain biking, river trips, horseback riding, fishing, tennis and swimming in the resort pool.

Wildlife-viewing from both destinations includes a chance to spot elk, deer, bear and bald eagles.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: IF YOU GO Leavenworth, the jumping-off place for both Mountain Springs and Mountain Home lodges, is on Highway 2 about 185 miles west of Spokane, 14 miles beyond the Wenatchee turnoff. From the eastern edge of Leavenworth, take Highway 209 north to Plain, where Mountain Springs Lodge is located. Also on Leavenworth’s east side is a special posted area where guests of Mountain Home Lodge park their vehicles and are picked up by snow cat, by prior arrangement.

For more information Mountain Home Lodge, Box 687, Leavenworth, WA 98826; phone (800) 414-2378 or (509) 548-7077; fax (509) 548-5008; e-mail mhl@televar.com Mountain Springs Lodge, 19115 Chiwawa Loop Road, Leavenworth, WA 98826; phone (800) 858-2276 or (509) 763-2713; fax (509) 763-3505; web page: www.mtsprings.com

This sidebar appeared with the story: IF YOU GO Leavenworth, the jumping-off place for both Mountain Springs and Mountain Home lodges, is on Highway 2 about 185 miles west of Spokane, 14 miles beyond the Wenatchee turnoff. From the eastern edge of Leavenworth, take Highway 209 north to Plain, where Mountain Springs Lodge is located. Also on Leavenworth’s east side is a special posted area where guests of Mountain Home Lodge park their vehicles and are picked up by snow cat, by prior arrangement.

For more information Mountain Home Lodge, Box 687, Leavenworth, WA 98826; phone (800) 414-2378 or (509) 548-7077; fax (509) 548-5008; e-mail mhl@televar.com Mountain Springs Lodge, 19115 Chiwawa Loop Road, Leavenworth, WA 98826; phone (800) 858-2276 or (509) 763-2713; fax (509) 763-3505; web page: www.mtsprings.com



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