Roadtrip to Historic Dayton, WA

 

By Erin Beil

 

CLOSE YOUR EYES AND IMAGINE. The open road stretches to the horizon line with rolling green hills in the rearview. Your windows are down with the sweet smell of spring rushing through the car. White windmills cover fields, moving in slow, relaxing rotations while the sun kisses your cheeks.

This is the scenery you can experience on the drive down to Dayton, Washington. Just 25 miles from Walla Walla, it’s an area thick with history-and wine. Passed through in 1806 by Merriweather Lewis and William Clark, Dayton is now a thriving community rich in wineries and organic foods.

On the way in to Dayton, roughly 20 minutes before entering the town, you will see signs for the Palouse (spelled Palus) Falls State Park. This is a do not miss! Paired with a stunning view of the Snake River, the Palouse Falls rise 198 feet over a majestic canyon ridge. Coming out of nowhere, these falls are a product of the mountain runoff from Missoula, Montana. Hiking trails are located along the canyon ridges providing picturesque panoramic views of the falls and the Snake River. During the spring and summer months, full service camping is also available in the park.

Quietly nestled at the foot of the Blue Mountains and the Snake River, Dayton offers activities ranging from downhill skiing in the winter to some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest fishing and hunting in the summer. The Blue Mountains also offer a selection of choice summer picnicking spots with huckleberry picking. Dayton’s small town atmosphere also provides a main street full of quaint galleries and antique shops, diners and wine tasting classes at the Patit Creek Cellars.

 

With a historical feel encompassing the town, old-fashioned lamp posts line Main Street with Lewis and Clark flags indicating Dayton’s stretch of the famous trail. More than 117 houses and buildings within the town are on the National Historic Register, along with the colonial style courthouse and train depot equipped with canons in the front yard. Walking tours are available on the weekends, featuring the historic background for each establishment, breathtaking architecture, and an old-fashioned soda from Elk Drug.

The land and history of Dayton can also be seen by horseback riding through the Tucannon-Wenaha wilderness with Western Life Outfitters. If equestrian just isn’t your thing, try touring Dayton’s wine country and historic buildings in the comfort of a small bus tour.

Among the many different nature trails, the Lewis and Clark-Patit Creek Campsite is one of the newest attractions to Dayton. Free to the public and open year-round, this exhibit features over 80 steel silhouette sculptures depicting Lewis and Clark’s journey when they passed through the area.

Once the hunger strikes, which it will with all of the activities in which to partake, Wildberries Whole Foods Caf specializes in organic cooking. Restaurant owner and head chef Judith Henderson says, “When you come to Wildberries, you’re not just eating a meal, you’re feeding your soul and your attitude.”

With items on the menu ranging from organic salad equipped with strawberries, tangerines, locally made cheese and lemon curry dressing, to organic corn beef sandwiches on sour rye bread with tart cherry mustard topped with caramelized Walla Walla sweet onions. A wine pairing of a local wine is offered for each entre. For the dessert I recommend the dark chocolate cherry espresso brownie paired with a cup of espresso. “Our focus is sustainable communities with sustainable attitudes,” says Henderson.

After a long day of exploring and wine tasting, the time has come to rest your weary soul. High on the list of recommendations is the Purple House Bed and Breakfast. Built in 1882, this elegantly remodeled Queen Anne style mansion holds modern day comforts with the culture of yesteryear. Set back on a quiet side street, sweeping views of the Blue Mountains are at your window sill. Each reservation includes a full breakfast and access to the library and parlor. Small pets are welcome guests as well.

For you night owls, Dayton also offers outdoor movies and wine on Saturday nights. The movies are projected onto the top of a selected downtown building, playing old classics late into the night. Wine packages are also available.

Summer is just around the corner, so there is no better time to plan that road trip. Just pack up the car or motorcycle, grab some sunflower seeds, and get ready for scenery you thought was only in dreams. Now is the time to enjoy food that melts in your mouth and wine that cleanses your palate. Take a long weekend from work and discover one of Washington’s hidden gems.

 

 

For more information visit: http://www.historicdayton.com

To find berry picking patches visit: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/uma/recreat.htm

When You Go:

Dayton, WA is 125 miles southwest from Spokane. Driving time is approximately 2 hours and 46 minutes. From Spokane, head South on US-195 toward Pullman/Colfax. Go 56.8 miles and bear right on WA-26 toward Walla Walla, WA. Go 16.5 miles and turn left on State Route 127. Go 27.1 miles. Turns into US-12. Go for 22.7 miles. Turns into East Main Street and takes you into the center of Dayton.

For lodging: Purple House Bed and Breakfast, 415 East Clay Street, (509) 382-3159. www.info@purplehousebnb.com. Rates: Double Bedroom (upstairs, shared bath) $85 per night. Master Suite (Downstairs, private bath, direct access to pool) $125 per night. All reservations include full breakfast and pool access, other accommodations can be made upon request.

Food/Wine:

 

Wildberries Whole Foods and Catering

426 E. Main St.

(509) 382-9000

 

Patit Creek Wine Cellars

725 E. Dayton Ave.

(509) 382-2625