Trains and Treats in Snoqualmie and Issaquah

IMG_5347_LUCiDI’ve been wanting to explore the Snoqualmie/ Issaquah area for quite some time. While we’ve taken friends and family to the falls, we never seem to be in the area long and we really haven’t spent any time in either town.

Fall seemed like the perfect time to check out both places, with the leaves changing, tourism slowing down, and crisp and cool weekends a-plenty for exploring the outdoors.

After spending a morning in nearby Carnation at Remlinger Farms picking out our pumpkin with my parents, we traveled toward our first stop–Snoqualmie.

We stopped for lunch along the way at Fall City’s Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn, which has been operating since 1916. I read that they had several gourmet mac and cheese dishes, and they did NOT disappoint. Mom had the original and I had a crab mac and cheese that was to die for–it was full of crab and so delicious! We love staying places that have rooms above the pub, and I would honestly consider coming back and staying here–great food, and a great location!

Once we were satiated we finished our drive to Snoqualmie and parked downtown by part of the Northwest Railway Museum. We quickly learned there are several aspects to the museum experience. You can visit the Railway History Center, you can ride the train, and you can explore the Northern Pacific Depot. We did the latter!

The depot is beautiful–it was built in 1890 and has since been restored, but it looks exactly like it did in old pictures. Now a National Historic Site, the depot is open to the public. You can roam around the waiting areas and explore old artifacts in what used to be the loading and storage docks. You can also buy your ticket and hop on the train when it pulls in!

I loved seeing the old advertisements for the railroads and learning how the luggage labels evolved from practical tags like those currently used by airlines to check your bags through, to tourism stamps that basically served as collectibles from all the places you had visited! It made me think about passport stamps and how they continue to evolve. At some points in history they are functional and at other times they have some character.

It was also interesting to read about how there used to be separate waiting areas for men and women, and how people would meet the train when they were expecting important deliveries, like appliances, that were shipped in via freight. It’s fascinating and every station and railroad company has its own stories.

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We also wandered around outside to see some of the old engines and cars on display. While several of them had platforms so you could climb the stairs and look in, only one seemed to actually be accessible. Unfortunately while we were there it was closed because someone had rented it for an event!

The U.S. Army Ambulance Services car was really neat. We were able to look inside the dining car, and you could see in to this tiny kitchen with a cafeteria bar where people would have JUST been able to squeeze along with their tray to collect their lunch and then head back to their area to eat.

I’m not sure how they managed to cook in that small space, and I have no idea how people were able to squeeze past one another to get their meal! I’ve been in the dining cars of both the commuter and long-distance trains Amtrak runs out of Seattle, and I can tell you they’ve come quite away in comfort since these cars were running.

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After walking around the depot we followed a trail along the tracks toward the Snoqualmie Centennial Log. The weather was clearing and we had a great view of the Cascades, which formed a lovely backdrop to the town.

I don’t love all the logging history, but the Centennial Log display, erected in 1989 for the impending centennial, had some interesting information about how the town sprung up following the railroad’s construction. It became a destination for people looking to hunt, fish and visit Snoqualmie Falls, and later became home to workers for a logging company (now Weyerhauser) that had a mill in the area.

There wasn’t any information about what type of tree it is, but it’s huge. I love those beautiful big trees and wish this one was still standing instead of on display.

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We spent more time walking around Snoqualmie than I had anticipated and were pretty tired by the time we were preparing to head to Issaquah. I had a feeling most shops would be closed by the time we arrived, which ended up being the case. Still, there was one destination on my list that was still open so we decided to head for Issaquah and squeeze in one last visit.

After finding parking near the Issaquah train station, we set off for a short walk to Boehm’s Candies. This place has such a cool story that I’m sharing what they have on their website:

Our founder, Julius Boehm (1897-1981), was born in Vienna, Austria. In 1924, Julius ran with his Austrian team in the 400-meter relay in the Paris Olympic Games, and in 1936, he was honored by being selected to carry the Olympic torch en route to Berlin for one kilometer over Austrian terrain.

As Julius had become a child of the mountains, he utilized his mountaineering skills to escape Hitler’s tyranny in 1940 and fled to Switzerland. From there he came to the Pacific Northwest in 1941.

In 1942, Julius and friend George Tedlock opened their first Candy Kitchen in the Ravenna area of Seattle. Julius drew upon the wisdom of his grandfather, a pastry chef to perfect the European line of confections while a mutual friend, candy maker Cecil Hall, helped refine the American line of chocolates.

In 1956, Julius moved Boehm’s Candies to the Issaquah foothills. The natural beauty of the green landscape and mountains reminded Julius of his homeland. The “Edelweiss Chalet” as it was named (symbolizing the beautiful flower of Switzerland) was the first Alpine chalet in the Northwest.

It’s quite the operation with both guided and self-guided tours of the production areas as well as classes for those interested in making chocolates. They specialize in hand dipped chocolates–in particular hand dipped truffles– which is apparently a dying art.

I thought it was amazing how unassuming it is for all that specialization and production. You would never think of it to look at it– t looks like a Swiss chalet with some lodging nearby, not a gourmet chocolate shop!

We went inside to purchase a few things before the shop closed, and then we walked around the self-guided tour space, peeking in the windows and reading the information about how the various traditional and nontraditional chocolates are made.

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We could see a beautiful garden area and chapel behind the buildings so we went out to explore that area as well. There were several information plaques, which we stopped to read as we made our way to the chapel itself.

It turned out Julius had always wanted to build a shrine to mountain climbers, and he did so by creating a replica of a 12th century Swiss chapel. The photos of the interior looked incredible, with beautiful murals on the ceiling and behind the altar.

Unfortunately the chapel is only accessible via guided tour, and we didn’t have reservations. I’m fairly certain they were finished with any tours for the day by that time anyway, but I would have liked to have gone in. Maybe next time!

Overall it was an incredible afternoon in the Snoqualmie area. We will have to come back and spend more time in Issaquah– maybe stay at our inn in Fall City!– and explore what else there is to see and do in this beautiful area!

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