November 20, 2019

Wild Mystery: A Day in Dayton

userBy Gwen Dildine user0 Comment

Most of the time we have a plan. We’ve researched, studied maps, and have an itinerary. That is definitely one way to learn about our area. Much can be gained, however, by not having the foggiest idea what to do. I might even argue that the unexpected often enhances the sense of adventure.

We received a great tip from a trusted outdoor enthusiasts that Dayton, Washington is home to a lovely in-town trail. So one foggy morning this fall, we gained just enough elevation to trade zero visibility for wide open vistas and headed northeast.

Wild Mystery: Where will it be?

Dayton, Washington has a lot to offer any outdoor enthusiast. The Liberty Theater, Historic Depot Museum, a charming main street (that turns into a holiday wonderland in December), and Blue Mountain Station are all worthy of incorporating into any trip, planned or spontaneous.

On this particular foggy day in Walla Walla turned gorgeous morning in Dayton, we scouted a new-to-us walking path that starts downtown and follows the Touchet River upstream to its intersection with Fourth Street. The Touchet River Levee Trail is nestled between the river and a patchwork of private and public land.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

The levee trail following the Touchet River in Dayton, Washington is just one of many things to do in this lovely outdoor recreation gateway community. On this gorgeous fall day we walked, we played, we discovered, and worked up an appetite for the Moose Creek Cafe & Bakery.

As the adults were busy scolding each other for passing by this trail for years (likely on beeline to Moose Creek Cafe & Bakery so you understand our distraction), our instant affinity for this lovely path was interrupted by chanting. Our kids were marching along behind us with a pad of paper and pen singing, “Wild mystery. Where will it be?” Then they would drop to the ground, investigate something, write it down, and return to chanting, walking, and observing.

The adults found a cozy glacial erratic to enjoy the river and fall colors, while the kids inventoried everything from a hollowed out tree to a gristmill to the occasional remnants of man’s best friend. Further down the trail we discovered Pietrzycki Park. It’s truly a trail that keeps on giving! The kids will beg for naptime, and, if the adults are smart, they will save some steps for a stroll through downtown.

Photo Credit: Kiddos

While looking for gum, the kids found a pad of paper in my purse. By the end of the day, they published the Wild Mistries, a notepad of discoveries along the Levee Trail. Spoiler alert–there is plenty to find. Note my oilcloth backdrop.

From Moose to Buffalo

One of our favorite stops to recharge and regroup is the Moose Creek Cafe & Bakery. They had me at the oilcloth on the tables. I became a lifer after my first bite of maple covered pumpkin bread. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a moose theme? If you are hungry, need a coffee, and are in the market for a creative gift or two this is the place for you. We spent a few moments reflecting on all the mysteries solved, and then set out to figure out a few more.

In hopes of avoiding fog all together, we did the most logical thing we could think of–drive up a mountain in the middle of November. The hope was to reach Teepee Trailhead one last time. We made it to Godman Campground. Those last six miles have already checked into winter, and we have a strict no-sketchy-road-conditions policy that we’ve developed over years of experience and bleeding hands (long story). With many stops along the road to play in the snow and enjoy the views, our magical mystery tour headed back to Walla Walla.

In an effort to complete a book of wild mysteries, we kept our eyes peeled. Would you believe we found buffalo? We did. We actually had to turn around because no one believed my claim. I’m not sure why they are there, but they looked absolutely stunning against the rolling golden foothills at sunset. And if that doesn’t sound like a magical way to end the weekend, the most gigantic moon started its accent.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

The Moose Creek Cafe & Bakery is one of our favorite stops. Breakfast, lunch, snack, coffee–they have you covered. With plenty of seating and an extremely enticing pastry display, no judgement if you go back for more.

Start Your Wild Mystery

Timing. Chance. Adventure. You won’t know what you’ll discover until you get out and explore. We set out on a tip from a friend, and we came home with a new go-to spot and a smidgen more sanity thanks to literally getting out of the fog. Outdoor adventures don’t have to be grueling. They don’t have to be in the mountains. It can be sitting on a 15,000 year old rock next to a river. It can be running through a patch of snow at a hibernating campground. Start your magical, wild mystery tour.