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Walking in Wenatchee

By on April 27, 2020 in Outdoor Fun with 2 Comments
Darlene Matule stretches against Ped, a bronze sculpture on the riverfront trail. Photo by Donna Cassidy

What? Her walk? Yes, and the sights and people she sees are soul enriching

By Darlene Matule 

Years ago, if someone had told me I’d someday be living in downtown Wenatchee — in an old fruit warehouse — I’d have told them, “You’re crazy.”

Now I do live in that old fruit warehouse. And I love it.

We moved from Chelan in 2006 because the first-class healthcare was 45 minutes away. Five major surgeries later (four for Steve, one for me) we know we made a wise choice. 

Even if I were 30 years old and had no health problem worse than an occasional hangnail, I’d still choose to live in Wenatchee.”


But stop! Besides good doctors and hospitals, why do people come to Wenatchee? 

The answer — sports: Boating, fishing, golfing, hiking, rock climbing, river rafting, skiing, swimming.

“Mom,” my unbelieving daughter, who used to compete in AAU swim meets, said, “You? Sports? In 20 years vacationing at Lake Chelan Shores I never saw you in the pool. Reading books is your sport.” 

I pouted. “I’ll have you know I walk three miles a day. Five days a week.

“And,” I continued, “I walk to my bank. Where I also go to my twice-a-month meetings of Wenatchee Valley Writer’s Group. To the library. To two shoe stores. You know I love shoes! To my attorney’s office. To a mail drop.

“At first I could walk to the actual post office, and to several restaurants. To a delightful home décor store. Don’t you remember? Last Christmas you said it was like a fairy land. 

“And… how could I forget the Owl Soda Fountain where I get milkshakes served in a tall metal container that reminds me of my childhood? And, to get right down to the nitty-gritty of life, to the Plaza Super Jet where I can and do buy everything from chilled wine to tomatoes. And Crackle Barrel Cheddar cheese, which no other store in town carries.”

She acquiesced. I continued walking.

Wenatchee Avenue is a living history lesson. I love history. 

In four blocks, six buildings have the date built cut in stone — from 1906 to 1921. Three have bronze plates designating their inclusion in the Register of Historic Places. Three more have oval history plaques. 

Personally I remember Mills Brother’s store (100-plus years in business) from 2006 when my husband rented a white tuxedo for our 50th wedding anniversary. Their service and quality of merchandise equaled that we’d experienced in Spokane and Tacoma.

Everyone is friendly. I enjoy stopping and chatting with store owners on The Ave. At the pet store (even though I don’t have my dear Shadow dog any more). Two separate flooring stores. The Vietnamese restaurant (Tran has a compelling story). Davis Furniture (where master tile-layers were re-storing historic tiles).

I greet friends having coffee at Mela’s outside tables.

As I walk the pedestrian bridge, I see miles of empty oil rail tankers en route to The Bakken to refuel. And, once in a while, a jet plane in progress on its way from South Carolina to Everett.

Exiting, I’ve watched a dump turn into the newly opened Hilton Garden Inn. Over to the right is the Pybus Public Market (which deserves an article of its own).

Then, straight ahead, is one of my favorite sites — the Sculpture Garden. I climb up a cobblestone path. Pause to watch the majestic Columbia River. One day it’s a mirror — the next a mass of foaming, ocean-like waves. I breathe. Enjoy. 

Across the asphalt is the Wenatchee Riverfront Railway depot and a narrow track where kids enjoy a quarter-mile miniature train ride. Fun!

For me, the Riverfront Walk begins here. Built by the PUD (Public Utility District), it is well-used. I see dozens of walkers. 

For what seemed like weeks, I regularly met a man reading a book while walking. That’s right — reading and walking at the same time. When he quit appearing I wondered, Did he finish his book? 

Some people, like me, walk alone. Others with dogs. I see walkers pushing strollers (some with babies — others with small dogs). Chatting walkers. Singing walkers. People who use walkers to toddlers who can hardly walk, holding their parents’ hands.

Runners. Joggers. Events — from River Run on the Fourth to Thanksgiving’s Turkey on the Run.

Skate boarders. Bikers. Riding everything from an old Schwinn to Dr. Farrar riding his hand-cycle. Occasionally a couple on a bicycle made for two.


I meet next-door neighbors. Old friends. I make new friends. Friends I greet almost daily but only know by their first name — Marian, Lillian, Luther, Ramon. Say “Hi.” Chat.

Some whose name I don’t know, but whom I talk with often. The Waterman who, one day when the river was high, gave me a short history of what downtown looked like when the Columbia River flooded the city. 

The Old Man who collapsed, and I sat with on a park bench until help arrived. (Now his son walks with him.)

I love the flower gardens. One — The Riverfront Xeriscape — is maintained by WSU Chelan/Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners. It has 70 varieties of flowers and grasses designated as low water use. Each season produces a new display of color. 

Birds are everywhere. I’ve seen bald eagles and blue herons, robins and woodpeckers. Every spring a pair of ospreys mate and make a nest on a Douglas Fir-sized pole. It’s fun watching the babies learn how to fly. 

Mallard ducklings waddle 24 inches from my walking shoes.

One May, for a week, I watched the mating dance of raccoons as they raced up and down the cottonwood trees that grew right by the pavement. 

Occasionally I’ve smelled proof that skunks were not far away. But never saw them. Thank goodness!


I began walking five days a week while living in Chelan. In the spring of 2003.

The Wenatchee Riverfront Walk expanded my life. The exercise feeds my body. The always-changing-movie I experience — combined with the peace I feel — enriches my soul. 

Starting April 1, I expanded my morning walk to three and a half miles. 

If you see me on the way, be sure and say, “Hi!” 

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. I have always considered you amazing, Darlene, and this article is abundant proof of your glowing humanity!

  2. Stephanie DeGagne says:

    What a great story! Thank you for taking me on your walk with you!

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