Cle Elum, WA

Have you ever looked at a map and wondered what it looks like in real life? I did. The Cle Elum Valley Road is due north of Cle Elum Lake and follows the Cle Elum River which winds through a valley called Bob. Just kidding, it’s called Cle Elum Valley. The valley looks cool on Google maps, but today I’ll see it for reals. A valley, a river, a road, an Xterra, and two good friends. All the right ingredients for adventure.

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A scenic drive on I-90 takes us to what marks the beginning of our adventure, the Cle Elum Bakery. A coworker told me that the Cle Elum Bakery has “the best maple bars in the world.” And I’ve got to say, these maple bars are lit. And as if the maple bars aren’t good enough, the bakery serves espresso made from beans roasted by Caffé Vita. This is a wonderful place.

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Thanks to Brian, the Xterra is adorned with a nifty piece of tech. Said piece of tech is a GoPro camera mounted on a super cool motorized three-axis gimbal stabilizer which utilizes gyroscopic wizardry to shoot epic footage without the shaking.

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It is a scientific fact that a GoPro camera instantly raises the level of awesomeness of any activity by a factor of 3. It’s possible that I made that up but that’s beside the point. Footage from this trip should eventually makes its way onto the internet, so keep an eye out for that.

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Alex dips his feet in the Cle Elum River.
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Brian tries another camera angle for the GoPro.

Washington is an incredible state. One moment you’re driving through town, then in another moment you’re driving through nature. Having grown up in Washington, it’s easy to take it for granted. There’s so much to explore nearby.

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With Alex behind the wheel, we see that there’s water flowing across the road ahead. Brian disembarks and finds his way to the other side to film the water crossing. Meanwhile, anticipation grows on Alex’s face.

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The face of anticipation.

Brian throws the thumbs up and Alex throws the Xterra into first. The Xterra plows through the water, dipping down then bursting up, spraying water out on both sides. We holler with excitement as the Xterra roars up on the other side of the crossing. What a rush!

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Further up the road, we see an amazing view to our left and find a spot to pull over. I’ve never seen anything like this before. The best I can describe what I see is that it’s a shallow lake with a river running through the middle. Tall grass grows out above the shallow lake and bends with the breeze. Trees circle the lake and mountains stand tall in the background. We stare silently, not knowing what to say, and admire the beauty of the scene before us.

At the end of Cle Elum Valley Road is a parking area packed with cars. These cars belong to day hikers and backpackers exploring the Alpine Lakes Wilderness on foot. There was even a guy who was unloading a pair of skis. It seems that he intends to hike up to the glaciers for some back country skiing. Skiing in July. That’s pretty cool.

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On the way back to Cle Elum, we see a bunch of cars and RV’s parked down by Cle Elum Lake. We drive down there as our last scenic stop before we get dinner. The lake is so blue that it seems fake. The scenery made the perfect backdrop for a pair of VW vans that were kitted out for adventure. I see an off road adventure camper van in my future.

We wrap up our adventure at Smokey’s Bar-B-Que in Cle Elum. Baby back ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, fried pickle chips, baked beans, cole slaw, corn bread, sweet tea and good company. The perfect ending.

Click here for a map of this trip.

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