by Molly Steere
Reason #437 why I love living in Wenatchee: we can pack more play into the day. We don’t have to sit in traffic or drive for hours to experience the very best of the outdoors. Regardless of the season, unlimited recreation is quickly and easily accessible right in our backyard.
The week before daylight savings time, I sent a text to my friend, Erin, “I don’t suppose you’d be interested in a sunrise hike on Saturday morning? Weather looks decent.” Within minutes she responded with a resounding, “yes, yes, yes!”
Waking early on a weekend to greet the sunrise on a trail always feels like a reset of the season and my attitude. With anticipation, I met Erin at the Castle Rock trailhead at 5:30 am. A quarter moon was out and the skies were clear as we started up the trail, my breath making little clouds in the glow of my headlamp.
I’ve lived in the Wenatchee Valley for ten years and had not yet hiked the Castle Rock trail. It wasn’t an option until 2013 due to land disputes, but the Chelan Douglas Land Trust purchased property on the lower edge of Castle Rock so that residents and visitors alike could access this local landmark. For no apparent reason, I continued passing it over as a hike option even after accessibility was established.
I had been missing out. It’s a scenic trail, great for all skill levels, and well-maintained. In the burgeoning light of dawn we observed deer nibbling their trailside breakfast and when we came around the corner to the short scramble section to get to the top of the rock outcropping we saw three pairs of ears pop up. Waiting in silence, we witnessed several more deer come into full view and gracefully make their way up and over the rock on their way to their next dining spot.
On top of Castle Rock, we could see up and down the Columbia River. The sunrise reflected off the water, while behind us, a rose glow eased across the snow-covered foothills. The Wenatchee Valley looked peaceful, almost suspended in time. Erin and I sat on the rocks chatting, enjoying the view, and planning upcoming adventures.
Once the sun was up, we headed back down the trail and were back at our cars before 7 am. I had plenty of time to drive home, enjoy breakfast with my family, and change into my ski gear. We were up at Mission Ridge before the lifts were running.
It was a bluebird ski day with sunny skies and great snow — one of those stunning days you want to stick in your back pocket and pull out once in awhile during the blistering days of summer or grey days of January. This was Mission Ridge at its finest. My son, age eight, begged us to follow him on a trail off of Castle run. “C’mon! You have to try this!” he shouted over his shoulder. I knew exactly where he was taking us and, with a smile, followed him through the trees.
We popped back out into the sun at the base of a rock outcropping. My second Castle Rock of the day. The three of us sat in the snow and enjoyed the view for a few moments. Yet another expansive view of the beautiful valley we call home.
For the rest of the day, we chased each other all over the ski area, taking turns picking runs and leading the way. When the lifts closed, we headed home with happy hearts, and enough daylight left over to get some outdoor chores done.
Multi-sport days are common among the outdoor enthusiasts in the area, especially in the shoulder season. The possibilities are endless whether it’s hiking, biking, snowshoeing, skiing or you-fill-in-the-blank. Living in the Wenatchee Valley affords us extra time. We’re able to pack more fun into each day from before sunrise until our heads hit the pillow. And even better, we have the option to do it all again the next day!
This post was originally published 12/25/19.