In Central Washington, there’s a rustic mountain lodge and two kindred cottages set on 20 western-facing acres, backlit by the eternally snowcapped mountains of the Cascade Mountain Range. Located 1,000 feet higher in elevation, but only three miles as the crow flies, from the buzzing Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth, Mountain Home Lodge is an alpine-accented reprieve quite literally above it all.
Our car slowly climbs the unpaved, single lane road, a heavily wooded route speckled with lone yet manicured cabins and towering glacial rocks. With a left turn as the road ends onto the expanse of the property, deciduous trees and timeworn aspens border the vividly green lawn, guiding eyes up to the humble three-story lodge. Wildflowers roll out like the red carpet, guiding paparazzi to aim lenses at the peaks of which they edge. With a setting like this, it’s difficult to contain the urge to belt out the lyrics to iconic songs from “The Sound of Music” and spin in a circle with arms spread wide.
WHERE THE HEART IS
Brad and Kathy Schmidt’s Mountain Home Lodge is as advertised: The 10-room chalet feels like an extension of their home, the comforts and charms of the room and board matching the couple that owns it. Brad, a former advertising photographer, is a wealth of information on the area (he sits on Leavenworth’s promotions and advertising board). He is happy to share their story of being married for 29 years and searching for a half a decade to find the perfect bed-and-breakfast. His anecdotes like how he was a frequent lensman for model Kathy Ireland back in the day are worth curling up to the stone-hearth fireplace to hear.
Each guest is welcomed into the lodge by the couple with a platter of warm chocolate chip cookies, a tour of the facilities, a lowdown on the property and an escort to the cozy suites. Rooms are located on the upper and main floors, each quaintly appointed with cedar plank walls, a cushy antique-carved bed, vintage dresser, sitting chair, private restroom, a surround-sound stereo connected to a CD player and not much more, save for the bottle of Port and two tumblers for sipping. Because the room isn’t why you’re there: that majestic view outside the window is.
We need to stretch our legs after the three-hour drive from Seattle, so Brad sends us on a hike he promises is “mostly flat and worth the views,” a private meandering path that takes trekkers up the hillside to overlook the entire property. The two-mile round-trip hike traipses past prosperous floral and hidden fauna — rumor has it there are cougars in these hills — and merits the praise. The panorama is more spectacular from above, like a Monet painting brought to life.
Back down at lodge-level, we order glasses of wine from Kathy and head to the wrap-around patio to gaze at the sunbathed range. Cracker, one of two resident cats, finds a seat on my lap upon a plush blanket and all seems right in the world.
BEYOND THE ABODE
If a more active afternoon is on the agenda, Mountain Home Lodge is also outfitted with several hiking trails on the property (with hiking packs and walking sticks available), mountain biking routes, a tennis court, a hot tub and a small pool. In the winter, snowshoeing is a popular sport on the grounds, as well as cross-country and backcountry skiing. After the exercise, a plush theater room on the bottom floor might be looking pretty good with its meticulously updated DVD anthology and greatest hits collection of board games.
A 15-minute drive back down Mountain Home Road will take visitors into downtown Leavenworth, an experience unto itself. The once all-American logging town turned Bavaria nearly 60 years ago and, strapped in lederhosen holstering a bratwurst, it hasn’t looked back since. A popular travel destination, Leavenworth offers a little something for everyone (see sidebars), from beer festivals and year-round outdoor beer gardens to wine tasting rooms, retail boutiques, Western-themed photo shops, candy stores, parks, spas, theater and geocaching.
Back at the lodge, happy hour commences at 6 p.m. daily, pouring a red and white wine next to house-made hors d’oeuvres like chilled cucumber soup shooters or fresh-baked seasonal vegetable tarts. On Saturday evenings, the Chef’s Dinner is promptly served an hour later in the dining room, with Chef Ron Guenther’s four-course prefix meal highlighting ripe and locally sourced ingredients. The main for our dinner features crisp Washington asparagus, butter-sautéed carrots and a hearty dollop of mashed potatoes joined by an unctuous pistachio-crusted pork tenderloin.
A flock of wild turkeys passing by the second-story dining room serves as a enlivening intermission for guests eating that evening, but before long, Guenther’s impossibly decadent chocolate torte arrives and sends us straight into a sweet comatose for the night.
Somehow, enough hours pass so that we are ready to eat again, starting the next morning bright and early with the complimentary breakfast included with booking a room at Mountain Home Lodge. The scents of freshly brewed coffee usher us into the Great Room with its snapping fireplace and wall of windows. Breakfast is served, from blueberry pancakes with house-made blueberry syrup to a fruit platter and sausages, plus the lodge’s own granola mix.
The Schmidts are the consummate hosts, welcoming requests, exceeding expectations and embracing guests into their mountainside home. They’ll call you by your first names, know your story and can even recall how you like your coffee by the time you leave, all the more enticing you to come back and visit soon.