Monday, September 20, 2021
Sept. 20, 2021

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La Center offers food, fun

City center of attraction with plenty of sights to see, things to do

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
11 Photos
The new La Center Farmers Market is held every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m., complete with barbecued ribs from Smokin' Franks.
The new La Center Farmers Market is held every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m., complete with barbecued ribs from Smokin' Franks. (Photos by Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Several years ago, our family visited La Center for the summer concert series in Sternwheeler Park. We attended a packed performance by Beatles tribute band Abbey Roadster and barely managed to find a spot in the last row of the amphitheater. We clapped and sang along, savoring the late summer sun and the blue sliver of the East Fork of the Lewis River visible from our hillside perch.

Earlier that day, we’d enjoyed a lazy hike through La Center Bottoms, the 314-acre county-owned stewardship site that sprawls across the grassy river floodplains, bisected by Brezee Creek. We followed the easy out-and-back trail from Sternwheeler Park to the East Fork of the Lewis River, which in the early 1900s served as an aquatic highway to transport the region’s timber products — mainly cordwood and railroad ties — via sternwheeler to Portland.

Last Thursday, though, I was there for carbs. Sadie and Josie’s bakery at 582 N.W. Pacific Highway, owned by sisters, is not a sit-down place, but it’s still plenty entertaining. It’s like a carbohydrate Disneyland in there. The bakery serves up heaps of bread loaves, doughnuts, cakes, pies, rolls, biscuits and brownies. It also offers a selection of locally made jam as well as fudge, chocolate truffles and cheesecake. I lingered over the cinnamon rolls but eventually settled on blackberry coffee cake, moist and sweet with plump blackberries and a drizzle of royal icing.

After being so near the freshly baked doughnuts (why, oh why, hadn’t I gotten a cherry fritter?) I felt the need for coffee, so I walked over to the Stonehill Coffee House, a small but cheerfully modern coffee bar in a refurbished house on East Fourth Street. The air conditioning was going strong as I perused the menu of Stumptown coffee drinks featuring unusual flavors, such as chocolate-orange mocha and white chocolate lavender latte. This husband-and-wife-owned business doesn’t have an online menu so you can’t research your options before visiting; you’ll just have to be delighted when you get there.

I sat at one of two tables in the adjoining room, which contained a thoughtfully curated collection of vintage home décor for sale: cream-colored ceramic stacking mugs, wooden bowls, a soft white knitted blanket and natural fiber placemats. A pair of etched “Bride” and “Groom” champagne glasses came home with me as a gift for a soon-to-be-wed co-worker.

IF YOU GO

Sadie and Josie’s Bakery, 582 N.W. Pacific Highway, www.sadie-josies-bakery.com, 360-263-6200. Hours: 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday

Stonehill Coffee House, 209 E. Fourth St., www.instagram.com/stonehillcoffee, 360-909-1599. Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

The Trellis, 103 E. Fourth St., www.facebook.com/TheTrellis.LaCenter/, 360-263-5425. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

Sternwheeler Park, 100 E. Fourth St., www.ci.lacenter.wa.us/community/sternwheelerpark.php

La Center Bottoms, N.E. La Center Road at Aspen Ave., clark.wa.gov/public-works/la-center-bottoms, open 7 a.m. to dusk daily

Timmen’s Landing, 200 N.W. La Center Road, www.estuarypartnership.org/locations/launch-point/la-center-shore-launchtimmens-landing

La Center Farmers Market at La Center Church, 111 E. Fifth St., lacenterchurch.org/farmers-market, 360-263-2217. Hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 26

After coffee, I strolled across the street to Sternwheeler Park, where brick paths wend downhill through the grass and greenery, flanked by flowers and graced by local art. A sculpture grouping shows the life stages of a frog (tadpole, froglet and frog) with a mushroom for them to sit under. To the west of the amphitheater, a carved eagle and two salmon float atop towering, polished tree trunks.

A wall of blooming jasmine covers The Trellis, a gift shop on the corner of Fourth Street and Aspen. This is an indoor-outdoor shop, with upscale décor inside and garden art outside. I spent a long time here because there was so much to see and the heady smell of jasmine made me sleepy in the afternoon heat. I regret not buying a particular stone rabbit for my garden but I don’t regret the time spent chatting with the friendly salesperson.

To pass the time before the opening of the new La Center Farmers Market at La Center Church, 111 E. Fifth St., I walked back to Sternwheeler Park and sat in a shady spot, where the warm earth and summer breeze lulled me to lie back in the grass and look up at the sky.

At 4 p.m., I walked to the farmers market, already bustling with happy townspeople. Both sides of the parking lot were packed with vendors. I bought a bar of citrus-sage soap from MoonWinx, tasted tiny white alpine strawberries from MayFlauers, visited with the mother-and-daughter owners of Hoof & Petals goat milk products, browsed clothes from Ram and Co. and enjoyed a refreshing ginger-turmeric iced tea from Coffee Dogs. I would have gotten ribs and street tacos from Smokin’ Frank’s East Fork BBQ, but the line was so long that I made do with the tantalizing aroma of roasting meat. My hunger pangs drove me home, where I discovered that I’d left my glasses somewhere in La Center.

Our whole family returned a few days later to find my lost specs. We passed Timmen’s Landing, just west of Northwest La Center Road, and made a note to come back with our kayak. This land, originally homesteaded by Hannah and John Timmen in the late 1800s, is where the sternwheelers would stop and load lumber from one of the six flumes that terminated at the landing. Now there’s a small gravel parking area, a shore launch and an interpretive panel about the history of the town — originally known as Podunk, but christened La Center by John Timmen, as in, “Center of Commerce.” It’s still a center of commerce, of sorts, if you count the Palace Casino and Last Frontier Casino, forming a gateway as you cross the roundabout into town.

We checked at Sadie and Josie’s Bakery (no glasses, but we left with asiago focaccia and lemon bars) and then I remembered my blissful half-hour at Sternwheeler Park. Sure enough, there they were, wire frames glinting in the grass. A great fondness for La Center welled up in my heart as I donned my glasses and saw clearly for the first time in days.

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