By Marie Brenner
It is America in slo-mo that draws me to Washington State Apple Country to check into Campbell’s Resort, an Ozzie-and-Harriet sprawl on the shore of Lake Chelan. For a city girl, Campbell’s, in Chelan—population 4,700, a town frozen in time since
Eisenhower—is an unusual Shangri-la. “Are you kidding?Campbell’s again?” my husband, the five-star business traveler, says. I have my reasons.
I’ve stopped trying to explain Campbell’s peculiar magic, but it is conjured by kids jumping in and out of pools, a heady mix of chlorine and Coppertone, bags of potato chips brought back from the grocery store, and barbecues by the lake that stretches 55 miles, fringed by mountains and emerald orchards. The buzz of boats, the swarm of boys casting for salmon from the pier. The chaise where I flop and unrev, surrounded by vanilla families, gathering as they have for almost a century. Up the lawn are the guest quarters and my room, a charm-free cocoon with sandpaper towels, where, on the hottest afternoons, I turn the air-conditioning up high, take to the bed, check out the classifieds in Wenatchee World, and relive Texas childhood summers in the lakes of the Hill Country, down a rabbit hole of memory.
The apple country, tucked away in the Cascade Mountains three hours east of Seattle, was the DMZ that brought me closer to my older brother, Carl: a Texas trial lawyer turned orchardist, red state to my blue state, yin to my yang, a Republican and fierce defender of the National Rifle Association. “Apple Man!” we called him soon after he bought these orchards. “Is that a joke?” Carl said.
On the hotel’s Pub and Veranda deck, Carl and I have tuna melts and fries and watch the town of Chelan stroll by. It is here that Carl zones out and dreams of developing a new breed for the area: the Honeycrisp, the caviar of fruit. We were up at dawn to walk the lanes of his orchards. The pickers on their silver ladders looked like koala bears. Baskets of dozens of varieties of apples for sale lined the side of the road. Before us was every kind of green, from moss green to the green of a gentleman’s club.
I remember the different colors of my first trip, at harvest time, when I saw from the tiny plane the astonishing panorama of orchard after orchard, a pointillist mirage. welcome to the apple capital of the world was the sign that greeted me in those tense days after 9/11, when I landed in Wenatchee, 30 minutes down the Columbia River valley from Campbell’s and my brother’s orchard. “You’ll calm down here,” Carl said, soon after I arrived. “Nothing much has changed in fifty years.”
Campbell’s has recently undergone a renovation, but when I return my routine will be the same. I will take a chaise by the lake. And decide once again not to wander over to Leavenworth to check out the Bavarian Village, or see Twisp, the sunflower capital of the state, or spend an afternoon in Walla Walla and its trendy vineyards. I will close my eyes as the babble of lake noise washes over me, my cell phone off, my BlackBerry ditched. Carl was right. Everything I need is there, especially my images of him and his apple trees.