After more than a year of enduring Covid isolation sans fun travel, I finally mustered the courage and broke free this summer to go on a purely frivolous road trip. Still in partial mask-wearing, hand sanitizing mode, I was emboldened by knowing I am fully vaccinated, and at least most other people around me are, too. I was eager to restart my travel adventures. I was also interested in observing the differences in travel brought about by Covid.
For this trip, I had two destinations in mind—Leavenworth and Wenatchee, both towns in east Washington State. Why these places? Because on my very odd bucket list is attending the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration. How could I skip it (no pun intended)? The first dance I learned as a child from my Slovenian mom was the polka, so this was a tribute to my Eastern European roots. Plus, this wonderful celebration happens almost in my own backyard!
Only 23 miles east of Leavenworth lies my second destination of Wenatchee. Here, I wanted to check out the Apple Capital Loop. This beautiful wheelchair accessible trail runs for 22 miles along the banks of the mighty Columbia River.
I chose to stay in Wenatchee, as the town is bigger, not as hilly as Leavenworth, and has more choices of hotels and restaurants. I also guessed it would be less crowded since it was not the center of this festival. I stayed at the Cedar Inn in East Wenatchee—an excellent choice. My room (number 130) was impressively spacious and well set up for wheelchair access. It comfortably met my needs. The hotel is conveniently located near many great restaurants that, due to Covid, now offer curbside pick-up, and the Cedar Inn is only 450 feet away from one of the entrances to the Apple Capial Loop.
The Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration is only one of dozens of events held in Leavenworth, Washington in a typical year. Leavenworth’s primary Covid modifications for their events are holding key activities outdoors, and reducing restaurant capacities. Mask-wearing is currently optional.
The first day of the celebration, Eastern European and German-style polkas were featured (think the Pennsylvania Polka from the movie Groundhog Day). The bands played in the gazebo at Front Street Park as on-lookers sat or milled about. Lots of artisan booths lined Front Street, displaying paintings, photographs, drawings and other arts. The town was busy but not over crowded, which I found comforting. I was charmed by an elderly couple who danced a waltz in front of the gazebo, displaying grace and skill in their slow and careful dance.
Zydeco music was featured the next day. I love Zydeco—it’s happy party music and brings together accordions, fiddles and a unique rhythm instrument called the frottoir, like a modified washboard. Zydeco, from Cagin country, emerged from the blending of several cultures—French, African American and German, to name a few. As the band played, I was mesmerized not only by the talent of the accordion player pulling and squeezing out energetic notes, but also by the sound and sight of the woman playing the frottoir. She stretched, tapped and strummed out a clicking, vibrating rhythm, a sincerely unique combination of sounds. A little boy and girl from the audience were captivated by the tunes and couldn’t stand still. They danced in an animated, wheeling freestyle in front of the crowd. Other bands played throughout the four-day event, including a series of students and teachers of this waning artform.
The Apple Capital Loop
My second goal on this trip was to check out the Apple Capital Loop. It is listed as wheelchair accessible on some websites, but I have run across some inaccuracies on the web. I wanted to see for myself.
The Apple Capital Loop has many entry points since it stretches for 22 miles from Lincoln Rock State Park west of town to Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park in Wenatchee. I tried three sections, covering a total of about 8 miles (really 16 miles since I went one way then turned around). Each section was uniquely beautiful. Each part offered its own views and its own feel and ambiance. I went in mornings and evenings to stay cooler in the sunny and hot clime east of the Cascades. It turned out to be a good Covid activity, as it was outdoors, uncrowded and some folks wore masks.
My first day, I entered the trail from Wenatchee Riverfront Park and headed north toward Walla Walla Point on a more metropolitan stretch. The views along this glassy section of the Columbia River were gorgeous, as I wheeled down the incredibly well maintained asphalt path. I wheeled by greenspace and gardens and picnic tables and sandy beaches. I passed docks of a yacht club where two men were putting in a kayak and I stopped at the Helpful Coyote Saves the Salmon sculpture to read the Native American story. Turning around and heading south past my vehicle, I checked out the south side of Riverfront Park. I crossed a high footbridge that traversed the BNSF railyard. The sight at the top gave a birdseye view of Wenatchee’s industrial side—quite interesting.
I began my next exploration at Confluence State Park. This park has plenty of parking, restrooms, and camping. The trail was relatively flat, a bit drier landscape and a little further from the river. I passed by picnic tables and behind massive fruit warehouses that smelled like hard applecider. The trail was in great shape and mostly level with some gentle slopes.
I ended my trail reconnaissance at Lincoln Rock State Park, which was underwhelming at first. But just at first. It was very dry here and the slope was a little greater. I passed over a few footbridges and under many electric wires. I finally realized why there were so many wires when I approached a fabulous vista overlooking the Rocky Reach Dam.
Although in total, I covered only eight miles of this trail, every part I saw was excellent. The scenery was great, the trail very nicely maintained and the whole thing was very wheelchair-friendly.
For my first road trip after over a year of Covid enclosure, this trip was perfect. The biggest Covid modifications I observed included events being held only outdoors, a broader availablility of curbside pick-up at restaurants, and reduced indoor capacities at restaurants. For me, these adjustments in community and business routines made my trip comfortable, easy and so worthwhile!