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Washington's Playground

Lake Chelan promises four seasons worth of fun with Fido, with 300 days of sunshine and a plethora of pooch-friendly places to sit, stay and play.
Written by Brandie Ahlgren | Photography by Julie Clegg | Click on images to enlarge
There is a first time for everything and this time, it’s my first visit to Lake Chelan. For years, I’d heard about Lake Chelan, especially from people who grew up in the Seattle area—friends who spent their summer vacations at the lake. And, now I know why. There is so much to see and do here, from dining at fine restaurants to partaking in water sports, to hiking, wine tasting, and so much more. Lake Chelan is truly Washington’s playground. And, what better way to enjoy a playground, than with your pooch?

And, that’s exactly what we do; upon arrival at Lakeside Lodge and Suites (our home away from home for the next two days), we meet up with Chelan-local, Jessica, and her nine-year-old boxer Harley. After the three hour drive from Seattle, we are ready to stretch our legs, so the first thing we do is head to the lake. Lakeside Lodge (hence, its name) is literally steps away from the lake (100 yards to be exact), with a huge, grassy park at the water’s edge. While Harley dips her toes in the water, we take in the breathtaking beauty of Lake Chelan.

The name “Chelan” comes from the Indian word, “Salish,” which means “deep water,” which is appropriate considering Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the country, boasting 1,486 feet at its deepest point. The 50.5-mile lake is fed year round from streams that originate deep in the Cascade Mountains, and its crystal clear water makes it ideal for all sorts of activities—today, during the dog days of summer, we see people of all ages swimming, water skiing, wind surfing, sun bathing (even someone doing yoga)—Lake Chelan is a playground indeed!

As the sun starts to set, we set off ourselves, and head to nearby Manson, located on the north shore of Lake Chelan. Our destination is Orchard Wood Ovens, where we are greeted by owners and fellow dog lovers, Tom Addison and Nathalie Ascher. I mention they are dog lovers, because Tom and Nathalie recently lost their pug Dash, and have set up a sweet little shrine at the restaurant in his honor (see photo on right). Of course, the outdoor patio at Orchard Wood Ovens is dog friendly and that is where we settle in (Harley included) to enjoy a medley of traditional wood fired pizzas, accompanied by a 2011 Viognier from local estate winery, Benson Vineyards.

After a delicious dinner (the goat cheese, caramelized onion, and balsamic reduction pizza is amazing), we head back to the lodge for a good night’s sleep, because the next day is going to be a busy one!

In the morning, we are greeted by our driver and tour guide for the day, Russ, with Lakeside Limousine.

He holds the door while Jessica, Harley, Julie and I pile in the back, excited for our first wine tasting excursion of the day at Rio Vista Wines. While we head there by limo, there is also the option of arriving by seaplane (no joke). Situated on the banks of the Columbia River, Rio Vista Wines is the only waterfront winery in the region and Chelan Seaplanes will whisk you there, with a 10-minute, scenic flight from Lake Chelan. Pretty cool!

The sweeping property at Rio Vista is gorgeous—and better yet, totally dog friendly. Harley is allowed to explore off-leash with her new pal, Rocky, the estate’s resident Lab and face that graces one of the winery’s 11 labels, Wacky White. While Harley and Rocky venture down to the river, we head to the tasting room, where we are met by winery owners John and Jan Little. The couple grows seven varieties of grapes on the property, from pinot gris to gewurztraminer (try saying that three times!) and all of them are delicious. Both Julie and I buy a bottle of Wacky White before embarking on our next wine tasting adventure at Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards.

First, a bit about the name “Hard Row to Hoe.” Apparently, the monicker celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of a man who ran a row boat taxi service on Lake Chelan in the 1930’s, ferrying miners by rowboat to a brothel located at Point Lovely. It’s quite a cheeky name for a seriously delicious wine, but pairs perfectly with the ambiance of the place, which embodies fun! The tasting room is a bit on the saucy side (be sure to go in for a closer look at the wall paper), with feather boas, velvet chaise lounges, and wines featuring names like “Nauti Buoy,” “Double Dip” and “Seduction Red.” It’s hot (no pun intended), so we opt for a glass of chilled rosé and head outside to join Harley on the lovely patio.

After Hard Row to Hoe, it’s off to the Blending Room, located back in Manson! Every Thursday during the summer, the Blending Room hosts a dog-friendly Yappy Hour to help raise money for the Humane Society of Wenatchee (HSW). With a $5 donation to HSW, you get 10% off your wine by the glass plus the enjoyment of having your pooch with you. There is even a fenced area adjacent to the tasting room, where your four-legged friend can play off-leash, while you and your two-legged friends enjoy a tasting flight that includes two of the winery’s whites and two of their reds—all four of them amazing, I might add.

Following wine tasting, we take a break for lunch, and enjoy delicious sandwiches from Village Market & Deli in Manson. More than a market and a deli, there is also a bar, where you can taste beer from Lake Chelan Brewery, located right next door and owned by the same family.

After lunch, Julie and I set out on our own to do some exploring. This is the first visit to Chelan for both of us (Julie has since been back with her family), and we are amazed at how bustling it is—although, come to think of it, it is summer, after all. Things definitely slow down in fall and winter, but Mike Steele, executive director of the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce assures us, there is no shortage of things to do. Cooler fall temperatures make for more enjoyable hiking and the Reach 1 Trail offers you and Fido a 3-mile-plus round-trip walk that overlooks the Chelan Dam, Lake Chelan and the Chelan River. The trail takes you from the Riverwalk Loop Trail in downtown Chelan to Reach 1 of the Chelan River—the uppermost section of the river that joins the Columbia River at Chelan Falls. Another trail favorite among locals is Chelan Butte. There is an old road crossing the face of the Butte that is perfect for running or hiking with your hound and offers some great views of Chelan and the lake.

If visiting Chelan in January (January 10-12 and 17-19, 2014, to be exact), then you will be there for the annual Lake Chelan Winterfest Festival. The town is transformed into a winter paradise, with an outdoor gallery of ice sculptures plus live music all weekend long, a beach bonfire, polar bear splash and the hugely popular, Winterfest Wine Walk.

Alas, Julie and I are here in July and the temperatures are toasty. We cool off back at the lodge by the outdoor swimming pool, before venturing back out for dinner.

Tonight we dine at Fromaggio Bistro, seated outside at one of the colorful picnic tables. Harley is tuckered after a day of wine tasting, so after a few attempts at begging, she decides to rest her head on the cool brick patio. It’s our last night in Chelan, so we go all out, starting with the antipasto plate, with artichokes, olives, peppers, pickled asparagus and green beans, fresh caper berries, cheese and Italian meats, accompanied with a house white wine, served over ice with a slice of lime. Very refreshing! As the name implies (“fromaggio” means “cheese” in Italian), and there is an entire section of the menu dedicated to cheese: Cheese Fondue, Fromaggio Mac-n-Cheese, and 3-Cheese Ravioli, to name a few. While I love cheese, the Beef Medallions in a Port Mushroom Sauce sounds too good to pass up. For dessert, we each order a different flavor of homemade gelato and share tastes. With flavors like Salted Caramel, Tiramisu, Pistachio, Lemon Curd, Chocolate Habanero, Green Tea White Chocolate, Fig Custard, it’s tough to choose just one!

The next day is our last day in Chelan, but before heading back to Seattle, a must-do is breakfast at Blueberry Hills Farms. Getting there is tricky, so set your GPS before you go. Luckily, we have Mike and Jessica to guide us, so we follow them through neighborhoods and back country roads to our destination. As we pull into the gravel parking lot, I cannot believe how many people are already here! But, don’t let the line out the door deter you. It moves quickly and before you know it, you and your pooch are comfortably seated on the outdoor patio overlooking the farm’s “u-pick” blueberry fields. And, no matter the wait, with items like Kari’s Blintz (one large sweet crepe filled with a blend of ricotta and cream cheeses, topped with your choice of warm pie filling: blueberry, peach, or both, and a dollop of whipped cream), it’s worth it. After breakfast, if you feel so inclined, grab a bucket from the counter outside, and pick blueberries in the nearby field to take home with you—blueberries are $2 a pound when you “u-pick.”

Alas, another one of our CityDog adventures has come to a close and it’s time to head back to the real world. However, this isn’t my last visit to Lake Chelan (and as I mentioned before, it wasn’t Julie’s). Whether it’s during the dog days of summer, or when it’s a winter wonderland, there is no shortage of things to see and do, from water sports to wine tasting, swimming to skiing, Lake Chelan offers year-round fun for you and Fido.

More Information
Lakeside Lodge and Suites
2312 W Woodin Avenue, Chelan, Wash.
509.682.4396; lakesidelodgeandsuites.com
Amenities include king or double queen suites, with lake views, heated indoor pool, kitchens and complimentary breakfast.

Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce
102 East Johnson Avenue, Chelan, Wash.
509.682.3503; lakechelan.com

Orchard Wood Ovens Pizza
70 Wapato Way, Manson, Wash.
509.687.3707; orchardwoodovens.com

Rio Vista Wines
24415 Highway #97, Chelan, Wash.
509.682.9713; riovistawines.com

Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards
300 Ivan Morse Road, Manson, Wash.
509.687.3000; hardrow.com

The Blending Room
222 E Wapato Way, Manson, Wash.
 509.293.9679; blendingroomwinery.com

Village Market & Deli
50 Wapato Way, Manson, Wash.
509.687.4444

Fromaggio Bistro & Wine Bar
14 E Wapato Way, Manson, Wash.
509.888.6452; fromaggiomanson.com

Blueberry Hills Farms
1315 Washington Street, Manson, Wash.
509.687.2379; wildaboutberries.com
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