Month: June 2017

Ohme, Oh My! Oasis in the Wilderness

Ohme, Oh My! Oasis in the Wilderness

When I was a child in summer camp we learned a song called “I Know A Place.”  It was a place of dreams and contentment.  I found that place!  It’s not in a valley as the song suggests.  It’s on a hill top –  in Wenatchee, Washington!  It is called Ohme Gardens!

One of the peaceful ponds at Ohme Gardens

The words of the song (author unknown, but famous among kid’s summer camps) go like this –

I know a place, where no one ever goes,

There’s peace and quiet, beauty and repose.

It’s hidden in a valley, beside a mountain stream,

And lying there beside the stream I find that I can dream.

Only a place of beauty to the eye,

Snow capped mountains towering in the sky,

Now, I know, that God has made this world for me.

One can imagine herself but in a dream,

Climbing up a mountain, or down a long ravine.

The magic of this peace and quiet evermore shall stay,

To make this place a haven, each and every day.

Oh how I wish I’d never have to leave

All of my life, such beauty to receive,

Now, I know, that God has made this world for me.


Ohme Gardens IS that place!  Oh. My. Goodness!  It is an absolutely delightful hilltop getaway whose description fits the above song so well, except the valley is a hilltop, and the stream is a tiny waterfall and several peaceful ponds. It truly is a haven with peace and quiet, beauty and repose.

Hidden Pond

Wenatchee, Washington sits on the east side of the Cascade mountain range, between the foothills of nearby Stevens Pass, and the Columbia River, smack dab in the middle of the state. Seriously almost dead center!  Look it up on a map. Summertime temperatures are known to hover in the 90’s or higher and winter temps drop well below 0, with plenty of snow, but there is always something to do in the vicinity.  The region is close to a variety of places that are great to visit all year round, but Ohme Gardens is the crown jewel of the area. The views are great because it is up quite high, but the gardens themselves are the true attraction.

The view from Ohme Gardens

A once barren hill save for the scrub brush which inhabited it, this lovely oasis is now the home of peaceful ponds, meandering rock stairways and pathways, and spectacular views of the valley and river below.  The painstaking and labor-intensive work that transformed this hill into the wonderful garden it is now was done by Herman Ohme (pronounced Oh me), his wife Ruth, and their sons, and was begun around 1930. Over the years, they took the native stone that was strewn along the nearby Columbia River and hauled it up to their bluff to build benches, steps, and pathways, which now dot and traverse the cliff and hilltop, winding through small meadows, around the pools they incorporated into it, and through stands of shade-producing trees and ‘flocks of flowers’ to transform the desert into a place of beauty and repose.

Rock stairway

Their flora assortment was found in the nearby Cascade Mountains, and carefully transplanted to give the feel of alpine meadows and forests. It was begun as a place of rest and recreation for themselves and a play and swimming area for their children, but has been open to the public since 1939 because the locals found out about it, the paper published a story on it and they were flooded with folks wanting to see this wonder in the wilderness. 

There is a natural well that Herman Ohme tapped whose water is accessed through a faucet in an old tree stump situated just inside the entrance, and you are welcome to partake of its cold refreshment. Trust me, you will need it long before you are done meandering up and down the paths which seem to cling to the side of the bluff.

Pathway on the side of the bluff

Sadly, this is not wheelchair accessible, nor is it a good fit for those who find it challenging to walk on uneven surfaces.  However, they have helped out by providing an array of walking sticks to choose from, which are free to use so long as you return them before leaving.  Turn to the right just past the entrance and you will find them hanging on the wall of the gift shop.

Once inside the gardens you can choose which way to go first.  If you have driven for awhile, or perhaps partaken of too much of that nice cold well water, you may need to use the rest rooms, which are clean, and conveniently located along the right hand path, just past the rustic Ox Yoke Lodge. Take time to stop and admire the handiwork of this rock and log Lodge. The sign says the logs are chinked with lichen, and there is a large Ox Yoke hanging from the roof.

Ox Yoke Lodge

As you come out of the restrooms, if you head to the right, you will ascend a small hill and be rewarded with the view of a lovely little pond down below. This is a great place to start, as you may want to go downhill first and save the coming up til you have refreshed yourself by sitting at one of the many beautiful ponds, each of which has unique home-made stone benches for peaceful pond-gazing. Explore the many paths which take you along the bluff at various levels. There are maps available at the entrance, which you will be given as you enter so you can orient yourself as you traverse the cliff-side paths, but as long as you keep going back up, you will always arrive at the center lawn just inside the gate, which then leads out to the parking lot. Except for the one path on the left as you enter the gardens, and which leads upwards from the lawn.

Don’t exit til you have taken the path up that hill opposite the rest rooms, on the other side of the center lawn.  It leads to a stone table where you might eat a picnic lunch as long as you clean up after yourself, and which makes a good resting point before heading further up the path to the Vista House, a covered outlook which was built on the highest point on their land. The views are camera worthy!

The south scenic viewpoint

The central paths, across the lawn, between the rock table path and the little knoll described earlier, lead to the Hobbit Bench, and more paths down the bluff.  The Hobbit’s Bench is a lovely hidden alcove with tree branches hanging down and covering all but the entrance.  It’s a wonderful photo op location, especially if the light is just right and lights up the occupant of the bench inside.

The Hobbit’s Bench

Most of the paths in the garden loop around to the right where you will find the various ponds, a little meadow, a tiny waterfall, and another awesome lookout.  Be careful, as the stairs do not have railings, and the rock slabs used for the paths and steps are uneven. Even if you are a pretty limber person, it might not hurt to grab a walking stick on your way in.  It’s not a long hike, but it can be challenging.  For those who may not be able to walk the paths, a good place to simply enjoy the peace of the place is at the upper lawn and its immediate surrounding areas.  It is still beautiful, but not treacherous for stumbling feet as some of us older folks sometimes have. I visited the gardens just a few months after having had a total knee replacement and managed OK, but was sure thankful for the walking stick, and knew I needed to take things slow and easy.  One stumble and there can be quite a fall in places where the path is steep. Parents, keep your little ones close if they are prone to running ahead and exploring at full tilt.  There are plenty of surprises in the landscape. Some safe; some not so safe if one is running or stumbling. 

One of the loveliest (and safer) surprises is the Lower Lawn and the Totem Pole Lodge.  The front of the Lodge is formed with pillars made of enormous burls.  Coming from a family who enjoys woodworking, I have an appreciation for burls.  Formed on trees when the grain goes wild and knots or burrs, called burls, grow into big gnarly bulbs, a burl looks odd from the outside, but is some of the most beautiful woodgrain on the inside.  The enormous burls that form the pillars of the front of the Lodge are polished smooth and shiny and give the structure a luster that makes it both beautiful and rustic at the same time. Go in and sit awhile on the tree stump chairs. Relax and cool off before heading on.

Burl pillars of the totem Pole Lodge

Be sure to visit the twin pools and the water fall, and admire the clusters of wildflowers brightening up the quaint hillside meadows.

Do take the time to read about the amazing family that built this beautiful place and make sure you leave enough time to visit all the scenic points of interest in the gardens before you leave.  You will be so glad you did.  And plan your visit according to the weather.  It does not open til late spring due to the steep paths and danger of snow making them slippery.  Rain is not the best weather to explore it in either.  It is built on a bluff. But then, Wenatchee is not known for a lot of rain in the summer, so pretty much anytime the weather warms up and the snow is gone will be a great time to visit, so long as it is between April 15th and October 15th.  You can peruse their website and get directions HERE.

If you are visiting the Seattle area from out of state and plan to skip over the mountains, do yourself a favor and visit Ohme Gardens. Plan some other activities on the east side as well, such as in the beautiful town of Leavenworth, modeled after Bavarian villages near the Swiss Alps due to the breathtaking mountain peaks nearby.  And plan to also see the Aplets and Cotlets factory in nearby Cashmere. Ohme does not take long to see. Plan to spend between 1 to 3 hours depending on how fast or slow you choose to meander the paths and explore the nooks and crannies with all their points of interest. But do yourself a favor and add it to your central Washington bucket-list. Note: If you visit during 90 – 100 degree heat, take a water bottle.  The gardens are significantly cooler than the rest of the region, but climbing the paths can make you thirsty. Sit and enjoy the ponds with their beautiful stone benches, and soak in the peacefulness and quiet. Leave your rushing and worrying behind and really take time to relax and look around at the beauty.

Until next time,

Blessings,   JorgieKae


“And as you walk yr road, as you live yr life, RELISH THE ROAD. And relish the fact

 that the road of yr life will probably be a windy road.”

Suzan-Lori Parks