WALLY'S WORLD: Plenty of ambience found at Naches Tavern

Lo, those many years ago, the first column I ever wrote for this distinguished, little weekly paper was about the Naches Tavern, 18 miles up state Route 410 toward Crystal Mountain. I chose that alpine watering hole for my initial offering because it has always been one of my favorite saloons – and that’s saying something significant given the hundreds upon hundreds of gin mills I’ve stumbled into between New York City and San Francisco.

Unfortunately, I rarely get up there to visit the place because it’s simply too far to drive when you’re half plastered. (As you surely realize if you’ve read my ramblings for any length of time, I’m also quite fond of the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle – and that two of my favorite bars in all the world should be located within two hours of one another is, indeed, very strange and unlikely.)

The Naches is part of the tiny, unincorporated hamlet of Greenwater, which you’ve certainly noticed if you’ve driven to Crystal or across the pass to Yakima. The village has a service station, an authentic general store (and you don’t see many of them anymore) and a couple of other businesses including, of course, the tavern. Between 100 and 200 people live within a two block radius, but you’d never guess that many since few of their homes are visible from the highway.

Things change slowly at these high altitudes. The tavern has been remodeled a bit, but not enough to destroy its old, battle-scared atmosphere, and it’s added an outside beer garden.

Most recently, Tina White-Edwards has opened a crafts gallery in the little building beside the store where the sheriff’s office, affectionately known as the “Sheriff’s Shack,” used to be. She calls the shop “Greenwater Reflections” and it’s worth a stop the next time you pass through this wide spot in the road. Her hand-made necklaces, bracelets, wood crafts and other folk art, composed of turquoise, silver, pewter and other metals and semiprecious stones, are really quite exquisite, clever and attractive. She sells her creations at outlets all over the United States, including galleries in Boston, El Paso, Rapid City, S.D., and Mobile, Ala. She also does oil and acrylic paintings of landscapes in the area.

Given my corrupt morality, I actually prefer the tavern to Tina’s shop. (My mind is like an unlicensed assault rifle, outlawed in nearly every state.) I invited her for a drink, but she politely refused, indicating she doesn’t use alcohol or drugs. But don’t get the idea she’s conservative or conventional. Tina is a single mother with eight children (which is another story and column in itself) so she obviously plays by her own rules.

The second I stepped through the tavern’s entrance, I was swept by a wave of nostalgia that almost knocked me off my feet. It was like coming “home” and I was suddenly, for the briefest of seconds, 30 years old again.

And, by golly, there’s Frank Wierleski sitting at the head of the bar, which is precisely where Frank should be! It’s rather reassuring to know he’s still holding court over his domain.

Kudos for Frank! And for Tina as well!

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