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A gift from Leonard Sauer

By on July 29, 2019 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
Leonard Sauer and Blue Lady greet hikers from Northern California.

By Mari foreman Groff

My mother’s day wish was a family wildflower hike. 

Following the advice of a local hiking guru, my obliging husband steered our family of seven through the hamlet of Peshastin, up Anderson Canyon Road, to the base of Sauer’s Mountain.

The trailhead was not what we expected. No ranger station. No bathroom. No parking lot. 

An early view on the hike looking back on Peshastin.

A plainclothes man sat on a plastic chair, his black and white dog lay below a fold-up table adorned with a sliding scale of pinecones, two water jugs and a freshly picked bouquet of wildflowers. 

Uncertain, we looked closer and found a small, handpainted sign: “Parking.” Next to it stood a wooden donation box labeled “Sauer’s Trail.” Emboldened, we pulled in and unloaded.

While exchanging greetings, we learned this was Leonard Sauer of Sauer’s Mountain, and that the trail we were about to hike begins on his private land. 

Mari’s youngest daughter spotted this Lyall’s mariposa lily; they only grow in Eastern Washington state and British Columbia.

We met his friendly sidekick, Blue Lady, who was oh-so-welcoming to our young children. 

Leonard shared that his wife died a few years ago and now, most days, he and Blue Lady sit together at the trailhead, meeting the various pilgrims. 

By this time more visitors had arrived and, with Leonard’s assurance that the wildflowers were at their peak, he sent us on our way.

Up, up the steep trail we ventured into two hours of variegated flora and sweeping panoramas in seemingly every direction. 

At one point we unexpectedly moved from a ridgeline into a hushed glade erupting in yellows and indigos. I paused, needing a minute to absorb the serenity of this place.

Weeks later, our family was still talking about our lovely day on Sauer’s Mountain, and I wondered how that trail came to be. 

So I went back. 

Leonard was not in his chair this time. I found him and Blue Lady a bit up the trail, on his bench, chatting with two hikers just in from Northern California. 

I asked him to tell me about his trail and he graciously obliged.

“I grew up roaming every place in the hills of Leavenworth, and I think everyone should be able to hike the mountains.”

On the first part of the trail hikers encounter artistic additions made and placed by Leonard over the years.

He started the trail in the early 1960s, building about a mile a year in his free time. He’d previously spent summers building trails in the Icicle region for the Forest Service; he knew what he was doing. He’s maintained it for public use ever since.

 “Hikers come from all over,” Leonard told me. “From lots of different states, Italy, Spain, Australia.”

Leonard did not have an estimate for how many folks make the trek every year, but said he had 30 hikers the day before, and that springtime is usually the busiest.

Just that week, hikers reported seeing groundhogs and a cougar. Leonard was not surprised: “I saw a female cougar bedded down by the pond at the bottom of the trail earlier this summer. She looked at me and walked away.” 

He’s also had run-ins with a bobcat eyeing his chickens.

Leonard escorted me around the lower part of the trail, pointing out different wooden sculptures he carved with a chainsaw and placed along the path — an eagle, a mushroom, totem poles, a driftwood sea dragon, and several mysterious faces peering out of the trunks of trees.

The author takes in a flowering glade past the halfway point on the hike.

He also showed me some trees he planted, including a redwood, and demonstrated how, in addition to clearing the trail, he strategically cuts back tree branches to open up vistas for visitors.

I left with an even deeper appreciation for the gift of Sauer’s Mountain trail, and with a tangible token — a yellow flower handpicked for me by Leonard Sauer.

Mari Foreman Groff is a lawyer and Wenatchee native. She and her husband, Alan, grow tree fruit and some pretty cute kids.

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