Mazama and Aeneas Valley have some things in common, first of which is mispronunciation of their names. Muh-zaa-muh (not muh-zah-muh). EE-knee-iss (not ay-nuhs). These two unincorporated Okanogan County communities are in company with numerous Washington cities, towns and communities that even fellow Washingtonians and newcomers, especially, struggle to pronounce correctly: Swinomish, Puyallup, Wahkiakum, Naches, Colville, to name a few.
When I first started my new job in Washington state many years ago, I was among other newcomers who had no idea that “Sequim” was pronounced skwim, dropping the “e.” I knew “pond array” (Pend Oreille) since that name also existed in Idaho, the state I had left. The difficult pronunciations always reminded me of my brief stint in Florida where Kissimmee is not kiss-UH-me! It’s KUH-sim-EE.
Back to the commonalities of Mazama and Aeneas Valley. As the crow flies, Aeneas Valley is due east of Mazama. Driving the 109 miles takes some twists and turns, first down valley to Pateros, upriver to Tonasket, right turn towards Wauconda, then 18 miles down a country road to the small village. Mazama is the westernmost unincorporated community and Aeneas is the easternmost unincorporated community in the largest county in Washington state. The center of community in Aeneas is the Country Store, not unlike the Mazama Store. Doug and Rose Isler purchased the store in 2018. Doug says he heard that the store was built in 1982 “because locals got tired of driving 25 miles to Tonasket to buy beer.”
With 5,315 square miles, Okanogan County is diverse in landscape and residents — from Mazama to Aeneas and Brewster to Oroville. The county website calls Okanogan County: Your Natural Destination. The Cascade Mountains to the west and the southern border of the mighty Columbia River are among the highlighted geographic features.
Seeking a Valentine’s getaway, my husband and I were intrigued by a special at Gamble Sands Resort, which draws golfers from afar to experience “pure golf with panoramic vistas and the beautiful Cascade Mountains and Columbia River meandering through the distance on every hole.” The course, located in the highlands above Brewster, is 115 acres of fescue grasses and plenty of, well, sand! What would it be like in winter, we wondered.
The Columbia River is a natural treasure and Washington state and Okanogan County are very fortunate to have it travel through in all of its beauty and glory. Lodging at Gamble Sands provides the finest views of the river from above. With snow still covering the course, there was a different mystique about the view. It was a completely different feel from when we stopped there for lunch during the hottest of summer days on a trip to Spokane.
During our overnight stay there, I was struck by the fact that this place was still in Okanogan County, a testament to the vastness of the “Natural Destination.” There are so many more places to explore in the county. How about Conconully? Try pronouncing (and spelling) that one. It’s KAHN-kah-NUL-lee!