Recharging at Sleeping Lady and Mountain Springs

Chihuly Sculpture: Icicle Creek Chandelier

Sleeping Lady had beckoned for years yet the timing never was perfect…and getting reservations is a challenge. We lucked out with a chance inquiry recently and managed to land an Alcove room – not one of the bigger spaces but comfortable for two, with an alcove bed suitable for a third person or…for naps for two. Many of the buildings originally housed the Civilian Conservation Corps and were brought up to code when Harriet Bullitt purchased the property.

After selling King Broadcasting, Harriet Bullitt established Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat in 1995. Ownership was transferred to the Icicle Fund in late 2018 but the atmosphere does not seem to have been altered. The retreat space reminded us of Breitenbush in Oregon. A quiet place for regenerating your spirit.

Supposedly Sleeping Lady was fully booked, but I would never have guessed it given the peaceful aural landscape. No baggage handlers rush out to grab your gear. It is your job to move your luggage, in perfectly balanced carts, to your room.

The cabins are clustered around a rectangular open space with a wide connecting deck of recycled materials. Landscaping at these cabin clusters can vary form wooded to a pool and art sculpture. A bear proof garbage bin reminds you of your location at the edge of wilderness. (Entry to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area is just up Icicle River.). Workers were out raking up the pine needles as another reminder of the dangers of this proximity to the wilderness and potential fire catastrophe. Burnt forest can still be seen on some of the nearby hills from recent horrendous conflagrations.

An afternoon walk took us around the grounds (though not all 67 acres), past the dining hall, the bar with fountain cascading in the seating area , the bronze bell with salmon wrapped around the surface in bas relief, the hot pool under renovation, the theater and art school campus. Icicle River surges past below several iconic salmon statues on the property, and then at the bend transitions to a slow zen pace.

We placed a dinner order with O’Grady’s Pantry & Mercantile since the Kingfisher Restaurant and Wine Bar was closed, and sat outside in their patio as we waited…and waited. The kitchen had not received the order. In the cool breeze we managed to hunker down on a sofa yet some guys in shirt sleeves were hoping to find a way to turn on the outdoor heaters…but no luck. Only one person was staffing the bar and she had no clue. The macho men suffered with another beer in hand.

Dinner in chilled hands, we picked up the pace back to our room. The pear pizza with balsamic vinegar was worth the wait.

A full moon was to rise over the ridge, so we pulled up a couple of chairs and sat just below the dazzling Chihuly Icicle. When the moon emerged, it was not Blood Red but still striking in its brilliance.

As we settled in for the night, the overhead fan in the cathedral ceiling would not cooperate. Maintenance arrived and asked ME for the manual on the remote. I did not realize the extent of the self-help approach at Sleeping Lady. I pulled out my Leatherman (the maintenance guy did not come with tools), to help pop the remote. The front desk had no suitable batteries, but our guy located some and sure enough, with renewed energy, the fan cooperated and we could find the quiet we were searching for. Pioneer ingenuity saves us again.

Next morning the staffing had improved at O’Grady’s and we had a bountiful breakfast with heat provided by the morning sun.

Packed up, we headed up Icicle River Road for a short walk across the massive wooden bridge and the trail up to the Alpine Lakes area. When we saw three hikers carrying large backpacks (snowshoes strapped on the sides) bounding down the trail with hiking poles in their hands, we reconsidered moving any higher up the trail.

Up the road, we drove along the surging river. Climbers and kayakers were preparing for expeditions. We tried something more tame and checked out the lupine.

Plain Washington was are next rendezvous point with family for a mini-wedding at the Mountain Springs Lodge. A couple of co-workers owned cabins in Plain, so I had seen FB images of ski retreats, but I had never visited this valley. There is not much to the town of Plain – a small grocery store, one restaurant, and a hardware store that resembled the Mazama store in the Methow Valley, offering Plain arts and crafts Knick-knacks, espresso and baked goods as well as Roller Skis and boots. Yet some expensive real estate peppers the landscape, given the proximity to Lake Wenatchee and Fish Lake.

Some Mountain Springs cabins were having floors redone, so we stayed upstairs where three rooms are located and two nieces stayed in one nearby cabin, while other family members stayed a couple of miles away.

There was some tourist activity. A zip line company used the parking lot as a staging area and a fly fishing tutorial was taking place near a small pond. A sign requested that visitors not feed the fish while the lesson was going on, presumably so that the fish would bite. Not useful to the program if the fish are fat and happy.

During the brief ceremony near another pond, fish were leaping as the master of ceremonies delivered the wedding vows and declared the couple husband and wife. Irrigation sprinklers were watering the fields beyond. The property is still owned by the great grandson of W.W. Burgess who homesteaded here in 1895, after first stopping off at Orcas.

We had the lodge all to ourselves during dinner, and following the cake and a sugar rush, we headed to the room. Punching the remote fire starter and nothing but beeping. Without let up. So much for my fire starting ability. This was my manly job… and I failed. And no way we would get any sleep with the insistent alarm. The only person left in the place was the wedding planner so she got a maintenance guy on face time. The batteries needed to be changed so out came my Leatherman to unscrew the battery pack and cut the duck tape holding the thing together. With new batteries and salvaged duck tape, reassembly and reinstallation was successful. The Leatherman was folded up and we stretched out before the small fire in the huge stone fireplace. Frogs hanging out at the stocked fish pond performed an evening serenade.

About Whittoons

Cartoonist, and community organizer who has covered the globe as a doodlebugger, gandydancer, supernumerary steward, Able Bodied Seaman, Wireman, monkey man, Night Baker and dishwasher, Hobo, hitchhiker and husband.
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