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Finding peace at Pateros

A pair of Jet Skis skimmed the blue water of Lake Pateros. A wake trailed behind.

Minutes earlier, two young men sporting vibrantly colored life jackets walked toward the water exchanging big smiles. No other watercraft was in sight. Lake Pateros, sandwiched between Wells and Chief Joseph Dams on the Columbia River, was their own personal playground.

Zooming across the lake is an exhilarating ride, but what makes Pateros, Wash., special is its peaceful, parklike setting. Located at the confluence of the Methow and Columbia Rivers, Pateros is a green strip of an oasis among sagebrush, where orchards dot the slopes leading down to the river.

The lake can get choppy at times, with strong winds that slap water and boats against the floating dock at the Lake Pateros Motor Inn. However, in this small town of about 600, most mornings have been tranquil for us.

The day starts early. Everything begins to stir and move with the sun’s emergence at the eastern end of the lake. Birds chirp and call; they are first to break the day’s silence.

This is the peaceful Pateros I know. The one I wrote about when I filled out the motel’s comment card. Feeling moved by this serene environment in which to write and think, I placed several exclamation points after the sentence: “It’s so peaceful here!!!!”

On a recent Monday morning in Pateros, husband John and I woke not with peace, but with the dog pawing at our heads. If we fail to react fast enough, Kah-less will have no other choice but to start landing punches to our cheeks with his rough canine feet. John dressed quickly and took Kah-less out.

I drew the curtain back to view Lake Pateros and drink in a bright, new day. A big blue sky was overhead. From the balcony I took pictures of the long lake, the motel’s clear swimming pool, and the deep, green grass with a sign that reads: “No Dogs or Cats on the Lawn.”

Too bad for Kah-less, but the Riverfront Park next door is a nice substitute. A gentle, curving path with ample river access and doggie-bag dispensers makes a great place for walking the dog and meeting other travelers and pets.

This trip, Kah-less encountered a leashed cat whose owners stopped briefly on their summer vacation to somewhere else. Kah-less wanted to play, but kept a safe distance from the hissing feline.

A large rock in the park serves as a monument to the area’s early pioneers, with family names written all over the uneven surface.

The site at Pateros was settled in 1884. As goes the history of many rural western towns, the original city of Pateros is now beneath the Columbia River due to construction of a dam. The town was inundated in 1966 by Wells Dam.

Pateros was first known as Ives Landing – after Lee Ives, who had a ferry crossing and a hotel there – beginning in the late 1890s. Sternwheelers brought homesteaders who farmed the region and established orchards and cattle ranches.

A reminder of those early sternwheeler days is fastened to another big rock in the park. Positioned about a mile from its current location, a large iron ring or U-bolt was once used to pull boats up through the boiling Methow rapids.

In 1900, the town’s name was changed when Ives sold the landing to Spanish-American War veteran Charles E. Nosler. Nosler called it “Pateros” after a village in the Philippines.

Across the street from the park, we paused at the Sweet River Bakery for breakfast. Cherries oozed from the pastry pocket that I picked from the glass counter. A freshly baked multigrain loaf lasted several days beyond our trip as a hearty sandwich holder and a simple side to a meal.

The bakery, one of a handful of businesses in Pateros, prides itself on using old-fashioned baking techniques. Natural bread leavening and a brick hearth oven give the loaves a crisp crust and chewy middle.

Across the Methow River, just a little way up State Highway 153, the Rest Awhile Fruit Stand tempts travelers with seasonal bounty – beginning with early peaches, followed by varieties of cherries, apricots and other fruits from its own and neighboring orchards.

“Elbow drippers,” as Lois Wood refers to them, come in about mid-August. Those are lusciously sweet nectarines that end up with juice running down your fingers and arms, and maybe even dripping on your toes.

Lois and her husband Bill, along with their son and daughter-in-law, operate the stand. The family tradition goes back to Bill’s parents, who sold fruit near the Columbia River’s edge in Orondo. That stand soon became known as the “Rest Awhile Fruit Stand.”

Twenty-eight years ago, Bill and Lois began their own fruit business selling cherries from a picnic table along the highway. They borrowed the name from Bill’s parents’ old stand and continue to offer a place to sit down for a minute and stretch tired muscles aching from long hours of driving. In addition to produce, homemade fruit pies and cinnamon rolls are baked and sold from the Woods’ kitchen.

Lois agreed with me that Pateros is mainly a peaceful setting …well, except when the sounds from jet-boat engines bounce off the lake’s surrounding hills.

This happens during the Pateros Hydro Classic, held this summer on Aug. 27 and 28. The race is popular with spectators, filling local hotel rooms and the R.V. spaces adjacent to the park.

If you’re not into watching, you can get out on the water yourself. Hot weather makes Lake Pateros an ideal spot for kicking up spray with a Jet Ski. Both motorized and nonmotorized water craft are available for playing and exploring. (Contact Lake Pateros Rentals for information, 509-923-2175 or www.lakepaterosrentals.com.)

Lake Pateros can be your own private water playground – at least until you have to return the Jet Ski.

 

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