Category Archives: Towns

Individual towns and places in Washington State

Two Ferries Sold

Last October the Hiyu and the M/V Evergreen State were put up for sale. Although it took quite a while they both now have new owners. Speaking of ferries, Anacortes is known mainly as the place to catch the ferry to the San Juan Islands, but the town has so much else to offer. Later I’ll tell you how you can win Anacortes Getaway for Two that my friend at Small Town Washington and the Experience Anacortes are giving away.

The Hiyu is destined to become a floating entertainment venue on Lake Union. Yeah, for keeping it local. The M/V Evergreen State will leave us and provide active ferry service in the protected waters of the southern Caribbean.

I would love to have a ferry, but as a freelance writer my income doesn’t jibe with the cost of these vessels. Starting bid for the Hiyu was $300,000 and it eventually sold for $150,000 while the Evergreen State price was dropped from a handsome $450,000 to $300,000 when it sold. The latter measures 296.7 feet and holds 87 cars. The former was the smallest of the fleet and carried only 34 cars.

What do you do with a ferry once you buy one?

Dyer Oxley, a writer at MyNorthwest.com, did lots of research on this and came up with some factual answers. Right here in our own neighborhood the M/V Skansonia serves as a wedding an event venue on the north shore of Lake Union in Seattle.

The M/V Rhododendron currently helps out with oyster farming in Fanny Bay, British Columbia, Oxley discovered.

Another retired vessel, the M/V Enetai is docked at Pier 3 in San Francisco and serves as a ballroom with a full bar.

Here is some ferry trivia for you:

  • 2 million commuters, tourists and travelers ride Washington State Ferries (WSF) in 2016
  • Those same ferries travelled 910,610 miles
  • The Seattle-to-Bremerton route carried 2.1 million foot passengers in 2016, the most since 2004
  • The Chimacum, a new Olympic Class ferry, will join the Seattle-to-Bremerton run in the spring of 2017
  • WSF is taking advisement on how to improve service on the busy Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route from a volunteer citizen group

 

Here’s the Anacortes giveaway contest and it is full of good stuff. Hurry, the contest ends April 15th.

Afternoon Tea

My daughter wanted to have a “girls” afternoon out and imbibe in tea and tiny finger sandwiches so I made reservations at The Secret Garden in Sumner, Washington. There, 75 different flavors of tea don the menu and the setting in a colonial style home couldn’t be more reminiscent of a slower time, less cell phone watching and excellent service.

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The “tea” meal was divided into courses. First came the pots of tea, which needed to steep a few minutes more after arriving at your table. My choice, Ambrosia, blended exotic fruits and coconut. It was as good as the menu promised.

You select from the menu a grouping of different items, much like the family meals at a Chinese restaurant. Three of us wanted the same grouping, while the 8-year-old preferred the children’s menu item with a main course of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, with the crusts removed, of course.

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Then came a sweet, flakey scone served with Devonshire cream, lemon curd and raspberry jam. After we’d finished the scones, we were given a scoop of mango sorbet to cleanse the palette. Then the showcase, the three-tiered tray of savory, sweet and sandwich treats, arrived.

Everything was presented in a beautiful and delicate way. You could tell much love and care went into the preparation. From the cucumber sandwiches to the pinwheels and quiches, nothing was left untouched by our table plus we needed a to-go box.

AfternoonTea20170325_123413copyReservations are recommended at The Secret Garden. Go early and peruse the lovely gift shop.

Other places where afternoon tea is served in this state:

Queen Mary Tea Room in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle

Cederberg Tea House in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle

The Silver Spoon Tea House in Spokane

Brambleberry Cottage & Tea Shoppe in Spokane

Even more suggestions here.

 

Now That’s a Train Ride

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In the first half of the 1900s, cooking for loggers fell to a few women. Some of them also washed the lumbermen’s clothes and cleaned their cabins. Known collectively as “flunkies,” they lived in their own shack. At the Logging Museum in Mineral,

FlunkyCabinthumbnail_20160722_133306Washington, you can visit a re-creation of one of their cabins complete with a wood burning stove, iron, nylons hanging on a clothesline and even a period radio.

You’ll board the Mount Rainier Railroad in the small town of Elbe. The turn-off from Highway 7 is easy to miss. Watch for the restaurant in a train car and make the next possible right turn, then park behind the train car. Buy your tickets inside the designated building or better yet, get them online to ensure you and your party have a seat on the train.

On our ride, a lady came through the cars selling authentic train whistles, something you might want to give to a child who doesn’t live with you. When the engineer puts the train in gear, you can sit back and watch nature pass by outside your window. The steam train chugs along as you travel through forested land, over Mineral Creek and alongside the Upper Nisqually River. MountRainierRailroadDSCF1954

The first half of the two-hour experience stops at the Logging Museum in Mineral. Besides the flunky cabin, you’ll have time to tour other buildings where loggers lived and ate plus a restoration shop and engine room. The authorities give you plenty of opportunity to look around and talk to the staff. Then you hop on board for the return trip to Elbe.

If you’ve already made plans for the rest of summer, no worries. The steam train becomes the Wine Express on September 24th with tastings provided by three local wineries. Later in the fall, the Great Pumpkin Patch Express takes over with Snoopy and Charlie Brown aboard and for the holidays the train transforms into the Polar Express.

Have you ridden the Mt. Rainier Railroad? What did you think?  MountRainierRailroadDSCF1946

Disclaimer:  My granddaughter, daughter and I were generously hosted on this trip.

What’s New and Cool in July, 2016

Have a Blast at Run of the River in Leavenworth, Updated

 

This beautiful, luxurious bed and breakfast has to be one of the few places where once you land, you never want to leave. Run of the River has conquered the science of splendor.

To enjoy the scenery, you can sit on your deck and sip a glass of wine or adjourn to some comfy chairs placed in the grass on the property. Then if you’re patient you’ll spot wildlife. When we visited, we spent a good part of one evening watching a doe and her two fawns drink from the creek below our balcony. What a pleasure and change from the busyness and traffic congestion most of us experience at home.

 

The next morning we discovered at breakfast that other guests had seen a cougar, a bear and a raccoon picking cherries high up in a cherry tree.

The endless chi cha cha and chirping of various birds, the lush greenery and the creek that reflected mirror stillness all make you feel like you’ve landed in nature’s wonderland. Of course, every once in awhile you need sustenance.

That’s what the morning breakfasts provide. Five-course gourmet meals that nobody can ever finish, filled with healthy, local, tasty ingredients. Everything is freshly made in the morning while you’re still lounging in bed, from the blended fruit juices to the quiches. Then if you need an afternoon snack or a dessert after your dinner out at a Leavenworth restaurant, you’ll find something sweet and delicious (and different everyday) in the dining area to take to your room.

Run of the River seems perfect for everyone – from those wanting to get away and relax to honeymooners from all over the globe (we met two from London).

Room amenities include an old-fashioned working typewriter, a rainshower in the bath, bird feeders on every deck, and more. Current specials feature a golfing package, a fishing package, a Canadian resident special and more.

 

Enjoy Yourself in Lynden

You might not have heard of this small town located just three miles from the Canadian border. In years past all their stores closed at 6 p.m. and remained closed all day on Sunday. Tourists couldn’t find much to do.

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Now all that has changed. The city’s first boutique hotel, the Inn at Lynden, opened just six months ago. I was hosted there the first part of June. You’ll not find ordinary lodging here. Instead all guests receive Nordstrom-quality treatment. Room amenities include a plush mattress, LCD high-def TVs, personal climate control, windows that open and luxurious bath products. But that’s not all.

 

Off the lobby you’ll find full-size stores for your shopping pleasure. Village Books with its wide array of reading material, décor and gifts; Drizzle Olive Oils and balsamic vinegars plus an out-of-this-world dining option, Avenue Bread with pastries, breakfast and lunch menus and the Bellingham Baby Company with everything you need for infants and toddlers. Next to the Inn, Overflow Taps serves craft beer and wine. My room was located above Overflow Taps and I can tell you that’s a happenin’ place in Lynden. They don’t serve food, but you can bring in your own food.

A charcuterie and fromage board at Drizzle

A charcuterie and fromage board at Drizzle

Back to the wonderful, caring service at the Inn. The owners actually work the desk so any complaints are handled immediately. They also have four complimentary bicycles guests can use to explore the town.

 

Eight years ago this building, Waples Mercantile, was almost totally destroyed by a fire and left abandoned. Now it has been restored and holds a place on the National Historic Register, thanks to the efforts of Matt and Teri Treat and Jeff and Deb McClure.

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Why not visit this summer for the Northwest Raspberry Fest from July 15-16 (2016) or for the Northwest Washington Fair (the grounds where Donald Trump addressed the community) from August 15-20 (2016)?

 

What’s New and Cool in June, 2016

I can’t even fathom how long a comprehensive list of every event taking place in Washington might be. It would probably break the Internet. So what I’m posting is can’t-miss festivals, new activities and darn it, my personal favorites.

June 2:  Alderbook Resort & Spa, where the spa happens to have doggy massages on the menu, presents the “Spirit of the Canal” Distillers Dinner. Make reservations through Edible Seattle or the resort which has discounted overnight specials for this occasion.

June 3-5:  Edmonds Waterfront Festival

 Edmonds ferry

Edmonds ferry

June 4:  Oddmall Emporium of the World, Everett. If anyone goes to this, please let me know what happens there. I’m intrigued.

June 4:  The town of Lynden will try to break the Guinness Book of World Records by making the world’s longest strawberry shortcake. This is where I’ll be.

June 4:  National Trails Day means free State Park admission in Washington on this Saturday. Should you want to combine visiting a state park with hiking, may I suggest looking at the Washington Trails Association site or check in with one of the most prolific hikers around, Craig Romano.

June 10-12:  Craft Wine Fest featuring beer as well in Vancouver, USA.

June 10-12:  Maple Valley Days, Maple Valley. My old stompin’ grounds so I’m partial to this town’s celebration.

June 11:  Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island is hosting a fishing derby for kids 16 and under. No license is required and because this is also National Get Outdoors Day, once again you don’t need a Discover Pass because all state parks offer free entry that day.

June 17-19:  Marysville Strawberry Festival

June 18-19:  Walla Walla Onion Festival. I wrote about this and several other Northwest festivals in the May/June issue of Northwest Travel & Life Magazine.

June 24-26:  Taste of Tacoma. My hometown and where I first tasted alligator on a stick. Travel Tacoma recently unveiled their spiffy new website where you can look for other attractions to visit.

June 25-26: Spokane’s Hoopfest, one of the biggest 3-on-3 basketball competitions in the nation. For lodging, restaurants and other activities in Spokane, look at their tourism site.

Just Plain Cool

You can now take a tour with a park ranger at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. Don’t mess with Mary Krauszer because she’s also a jammer for the Dockyard Derby Dames.

Mary Krauszer, new Pt. Defiance Ranger

Mary Krauszer, new Pt. Defiance Ranger

The San Juan Islands  recently introduced an app, San Juan Islands Insider, that gives you tips on where to explore, how to gather points and then trade those points in for goods and services on the islands. Available on either Google Play or at the App Store.

See Friday Harbor on the Jolly Trolley instead of hoofing it everywhere. By taking a riding tour, you can better scope out where you want to spend more time.   Jolly Trolley

As if Lakedale in Friday Harbor, doesn’t have enough different types of accommodations, this year they installed new canvas cottages.

Did I forget anything you absolutely love? If so, please let me know and I’ll add it.

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Trips of 2013

My friend and fellow travel writer, Sue Frause, wrote a summary of where she went in 2013 and what she recommended for the Examiner.com. I thought it was such a good idea that I’m doing it, too. All these trips came about because of writing assignments so most of my lodging and meals were complimentary, but that has not influenced my opinion. Here are some of the places I visited this year:

Alderbrook Resort & Spa (www.alderbrookresort.com)
Union, Washington

As I sat in the lobby by the blazing fire, I couldn’t help but think “what a great place to set a murder mystery.” Probably because I have read ones that have similar scenes. The setting in Union, Washington, is rural, yet serene. The lodge snuggles up against Hood Canal and the experience was almost surreal, it was so pleasant.

An Oregon reporter called Alderbrook the best lodge on the west side of Puget Sound. It’s outfitted with a wonderful spa, a gourmet restaurant and even has its own boat. If you want to rent a cottage, you can. They also have pet-friendly rooms. Whatever you choose to do, I hope you’ll have as memorable a time as I did.

White Pass
Washington

White Pass is one of our smaller places to engage in snow sports, but still beautiful with that crisp, clear mountain air and lots of snow. I attended the White Pass Winter Carnival with two other travel writers and wrote about it here for Northwest Travel Magazine. This event has been going on for years and even though I’m a native Washingtonian, I’d never heard of it before. The centerpiece of the event is a life-sized snow castle you can tour. At night a torchlight parade and fireworks light up the sky.

I also got to snowshoe for the first time on this trip. That’s now my new favorite snow sport. I’m not a skier or a snowboarder, but I do love just being in the mountains.

Sun Valley
Idaho

I had no idea what I’d been missing until this first visit. Sun Valley encompasses all my favorites in a compact little bundle – Lots of boutiques, many of which fall into the thrift category like the Gold Mine; all kinds of restaurants, snow and a Film Festival. Most of it is walkable, but if you’re tired or your destination seems a little far, the bus service is all free. Benches line the streets so you can sit and rest whenever you like.

I got to stay in the beautiful boutique hotel, Knob Hill Inn, a great location just on the edge of town. I woke up each morning to a panoramic view of the mountains. It was also next door to a cemetery, but Ernest Hemingway was buried there making that parcel of land another highlight of the trip.
Vancouver Island
British Columbia

Oh my gosh, I had no idea how gorgeous this locale could be. I’d only set foot in Victoria, the capitol, previously. This time, an individual press trip for a couple of stories I’d been assigned for Northwest Travel, had me taking the B.C. Ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo. Those vessels don’t have far to go to become cruise-ship size. They even have a gift shop onboard.

The first night I had the rare and unique pleasure of staying in one of the Free Spirit Spheres in Qualicum Beach. These spheres, suspended between trees, literally give you a taste of heaven because you’re right up there next to it. The next day I fell in love with the small seaside town of Cowichan Bay and returned there two more times on this trip.

On my last night I got to sleep in a very well furnished yurt at Merridale Ciderworks. It had a large clawfoot tub not that far from the bed. And the restaurant at Merridale had fantastic food and of course, very tasty cider. I’d return in a heartbeat.

More on my 2013 trips next time.

Sunshine Mill Now Makes Wine

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of touring the Sunshine Mill Artisan Plaza and Winery in The Dalles, Oregon. Who would have thought a flour mill could have become a luxury wine tasting room and event venue. But it has. The cave-like dining area reminded me of a place where the Bachelorette might dine with one of her chosen men.

Why is this place called the Sunshine Mill?

If you’ve ever eaten Cheez-it crackers, those salty delights came from this very site when the flour mill was operational. Constructed of concrete and rebar, the Sunshine Flour Mill extended to a height of 125 feet, making it the tallest structure in The Dalles. For the most part the exterior remains the same to this day. Eventually cracker production decreased and the mill lost its viability. After closing shop, it stood unused until James and Molly Martin purchased it and converted it to a winery.  

The Martins named their winery, Quenett, which means steelhead. In a short amount of time, it has grown to be the second largest winery in Oregon. Quenett produces 2,500 cases of bottled wine and 125,000 cases of Copa Di Vino a year.

Are you a “Shark Tank” fan? If you watch this Friday night TV show, you may have seen James Martin. On two different occasions he appeared before the millionaires (the Sharks) asking for support for his invention of wine by the glass. Each plastic glass contains a serving of wine and is sealed with foil and a plastic cap. These can be purchased at the winery and in grocery stores. I brought some home and really wish I had more. (I just noticed on the website you can put in your zip code and find the nearest place to buy Copa Di Vino). Excuse me I need to go to the store. 

Copa Di Vino

These little gems make great picnic accompaniments plus the wine tastes divine. Martin’s Copa Di Vino (the wine by the glass) has become one of the fastest growing brands in America. And he turned down the deals the sharks offered him.

The long and cavernous wine tasting room has chandeliers made entirely from wine bottles, a comfy couch or two, tables and more to look at then you’ll find in any other winery. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re near The Dalles.

Keep an eye on Sunshine because plans have been set into motion to make the grain silos into a seven-story hotel. If you think James Martin has unrealistic dreams, check out the photo gallery for the Quaker Square Hotel in Akron, Ohio. Converting grain silos into lavish lodging has already been done.

A Nod to Knob Hill in Ketchum, Idaho

In March I attended the beginning of the Sun Valley Film Festival for a writing assignment. Green Rubino, a public relations firm in Seattle, was kind enough to find me lodging at Knob Hill. Before my flight I checked out Knob Hill Inn on Tripadvisor.com. Almost every reviewer gave the hotel five stars. Everyone, but one gentleman who complained that it was next door to a cemetery. Those people won’t be partying and keep you up at night so I didn’t really understand his objection. Besides it’s a very historic cemetery where Ernest Hemingway is buried.

View from my hotel window in Sun Valley.

 

What a beautiful home away from home. The location, just outside downtown proper, made for quiet nights.

This boutique property houses 29 lovely rooms – all renovated in a chateau-style architecture last November. From the TVs to the bedding and even the custom furniture, everything matched the Sun Valley theme. And do you know how they got rid of the heavy European pieces purchased by the previous owner? They held a yard sale and sold it to the community.

 

And the staff – well if you wore socks, Knob Hill employees would knock them off with their superior service. They call it European charm. I call it rare and wonderful. From housekeeping to the front desk to the shuttle drivers, everyone went out of their way to make all the guests feel special. One afternoon while exploring the downtown shops I heard my name called. It was one of the hotel shuttle drivers asking me if I wanted a ride anywhere. 

I think Rick Steves was on to something when he referred to Idahoans as “freakishly friendly.”

Disclaimer:  Knob Hill hosted my stay.