The best way is the wrong way

It was right there on the damn highway.

I only drove past it three times.

It must be Our American getting in my head. Usually, I keep my head on a swivel … looking left, right, left, right the entire time I’m out exploring.

He thinks it’s unsafe driving.

I can’t imagine being on an adventure without it. I swerve occasionally but, luckily, I’m usually on a desolate back road.

No traffic. And when I explored in Alberta, there were no ditches. Just fields. Bonus!

Anyhow, the first big stop on Our Great Escape yesterday was the Pflug mansion in Wauconda, Wash. It’s well photographed, so I knew it was set in a field … the crumbling home nestled in a valley of rolling hills.

A friend even sent me the geographic coordinates.

Latitude: 48°43’30.48″N
Longtitude: 119° 1’29.57″W

I found it on Google. I circled it on my map book.

Somehow, I marked it in a field south of route 20, buried in a field near Mt. Anne Road. And since I didn’t have cell service, I had no way to double check.

I drove past Wauconda, over the pass and found a sign dedicated to Old Wauconda.

Old Wauconda Washington

Like so many ghost towns in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, Wauconda was borne of the Gold Rush. The town built up around four gold mines, starting in the late 1890s.

And by 1904, the gold was all but gone. The residents moved west to the current townsite, which appears to be home to a few ranch operations and the few who want nothing of urbanization.

According to, Wauconda was a great place to pick up some hooch.

During the Prohibition Era of the 1920s and 1930s, an already developed industry of mountain stills became popular around Wauconda, and continued right into the 80s and 90s. Wauconda, amongst residents of north central Washington is known for its exceptional moonshine. It is not clear why this industry never did have someone take it and legalize it, but I have asked some of those that their families made it, and they seemed to get some sort of enjoyment of making it illegally, just for the fun of it!

Law enforcement personnel and government workers are reviled in Wauconda, no matter whether they’re county sheriffs or FBI.

That’s good to know.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t miss this story on

At the Independence Day celebration, held at Okanogan, WA, in 1922, a local Wauconda, WA cowboy, named Virgil Vance, strapped a horse saddle onto the top of a fuselage of an old two-seater biplane behind the rear pilot position, and rode that airplane into the air on that saddle, without seat belt, parachute, or any other safety apparatus holding him onto that saddle. The airplane did two loops and twists above the crowds before landing again. Mr. Vance said later that he had never ever held onto a piece of leather so tight as he did on that ride. He never attempted another feat like that again, but went on to die of old age in 1981, fathering two daughters and one son.

Yeehaw! In the spirit of Wauconda cowboys and free spirits, I was up for some off-roading.

I doubled back along Highway 20. Figuring I had to turn south, I looked for the right spot … private road, private road, Mount Anne Road … OK, Mount Anne Road, less trouble.

Mount Anne Road loses its pavement (no problem) and heads up into the Okanogan National Forest. The road winds and heads through some pretty woody areas.

I keep my eyes open for valleys and fields but no luck. I drive through a tiny community (three houses; please don’t drive any faster than 10 miles an hour ‘cuz you might hit a horse or a kid … or kick up too much dust).

I come across the old Keeler cabin, built around 1900.

abandoned cabin Wauconda Washington

I give up. I keep going up into more forested areas, not coming across any valleys or mansion ruins. I head back to the highway and I still can’t find the Pflug Mansion, a symbol of Gold Rush opulence in the middle of nowhere.

I hang a right south on one of the private roads, knowing I could get in some serious shit if I crossed someone having a bad day. And my propensity for going down side roads that could have deep ditches of snow or private crossings is another of My American’s pet peeves.

When I start to get followed by a herd of horses, I know I’m in the wrong spot again. A nifty little three-point turn around tree stumps and I’m heading back to the highway.


And just as I’m about to end the trek back down this private road and turn onto Route 20 bound for the ghost town of Bodie, there it is.

Right on the highway. A sign dedicated to the Pflug Mansion. And behind that sign, the house ruins in the distance.

The PG version: Oh for THE LOVE OF GOD.

I dare not write the R-rated version of what came out of my mouth.

abandoned home wauconda washington

I had to switch to my crappy 200mm kit lens to get the right shot, but there it is.

The Pflug Mansion.

John Pflug, a German immigrant, started building a mansion in the style of his home country in 1908, hauling all the materials from a sawmill about 10 miles away. He never finished the house and his family lived in a section of the house while the construction continued.

The Pflugs abandoned the home in 1921. John Pflug died in Spokane in 1956; his wife Anne passed two weeks later in Wilbur, Idaho.

I can only imagine what that mansion would have looked like had Pflug completed his project.

I just wish he had built it a bit closer to the road.

Of course, if he hadn’t, Shep and I wouldn’t have had the adventure we did.

beth lake washington

I could just go back to keeping my head on a swivel. Or Shep could be a better co-pilot.

I have to talk to him about that, maybe bribe him with cookies.

Stay tuned for more on Bodie and north central Washington State.

Check out the entire photo album on our Facebook page.

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