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Mighty and magical Rogue is a rafter’s paradise

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Rogue
Photo by Deborah Stone
The orange rolls are reason enough to visit Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge in southern Oregon.

These sweet, melt-in-your-mouth dinner muffins are reminiscent of cinnamon buns, but with an orange twist.

They’re addictive, making it impossible to eat just one. And don’t try asking for the recipe. It’s a closely guarded secret, known to only a few insiders.

One of the lodge’s former owners, Elaine Hanten, is credited with their creation. Though she is no longer alive, Hanten’s orange rolls, as well as a number of her other delectable dishes, continue to be served at the lodge today.

Located 16 miles downstream from Grants Pass on the banks of the famed Rogue River, Morrison’s is an authentic log lodge with individual cottages interspersed among groves of evergreen, maple and oak trees.

Built in 1945 by river guide and lumber mill worker Lloyd Morrison, the lodge has grown over the years along with its clientele, which include fishermen, rafters, gold panners, rock hounds and active outdoor-lovers of all ages.

It’s also become a well-known destination for weddings, family reunions and other special events due to its picturesque setting, rustic charm and gracious hospitality. I stayed at Morrison’s last summer when I booked a lodge-to-lodge rafting trip with Rogue River Raft Trips.

It was the “lodge-to-lodge” description that hooked me from the start. The idea of rafting during the day and then retreating to a warm bed and home-cooked meal at night greatly appealed to me. Accustomed to camping-only raft trips, where setting up your own tent each evening is par for the course, I thrilled at the possibility of being tent-free for once.

It’s not that I mind sleeping in a tent. Actually, I like it. It’s the setting-up and taking-down process that gets old.

On a 3-day lodge-to-lodge Rogue River raft trip, the adventure begins at Morrison’s where close proximity to the river allows for a convenient “put in” place.

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When they’re not at the head of their boats navigating the rapids with calm assurance, you’ll find your rafting guides preparing gourmet lunches, leading group walks and later in the evening, strumming their guitars and making sweet music together. Photo by Deborah Stone.
Your group will get a safety briefing and trip prep talk the night before your departure and the next morning, after one of Morrison’s tasty breakfasts, you’ll be on your way.

Within minutes of paddling away from the banks, you’ll be transported to another world that sets its clocks by “river time.” Nature, not technology, dictates your actions. You slip quickly into a wilderness of renowned rapids, verdant gorges and golden hillsides with historical sites around every bend and some of the best wildlife viewing of all the rivers in the west. Many actually liken the experience of rafting the river as “floating through a zoo” due to the plentiful bald eagles, osprey, deer, bear, salmon and steelhead that make their home here.

The Rogue is a legendary waterway and its unique qualities were recognized in 1968 when it became one of the initial eight rivers designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

This area was first inhabited by Native Americans, followed by trappers and fur traders who arrived in the 1800s. Story has it that the waterway was named “River of the Rogues” after the Native Americans, who refused to give up their homes without a fight.

In 1851, gold was discovered, bringing more settlers, who eventually farmed the rich valley. The river, which originates in the Cascade Range’s Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness within Crater Lake National Park, flows for 215 miles and eventually empties into the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach. Before it converges with the ocean, it flows through the Coast Range, creating some of its most unforgettable rapids such as Rainie Falls, Upper and Lower Black Bar Falls, Coffee Pot and the illustrious Blossom Bar.

The Rogue is a perfect river for families to raft with 34 miles of Class II and III rapids, long flat stretches for swimming and a few exciting thrills and chills along the way.

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If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even paddle your own kayak down the river. Photo by Deborah Stone.
What’s ideal about this type of trip is that you can adapt the experience to meet your needs by determining your own participation level. You can sit back in your raft and enjoy the scenery, keeping one eye out for wildlife, while listening to your guide wax poetic about the area’s geology and natural history. Or you can be an active paddler in the process, responding to commands like “easy paddle,” “paddle,” “paddle hard” and “paddle or die!”

You can even try navigating the river on your own in an inflatable kayak. And if it gets too hot for you, simply climb out of the boat (after securing your guide’s permission) and let the rapids carry you downstream. The pace is leisurely, leaving plenty of time to take hikes to inspiring views, side creeks, cascading waterfalls and hidden swimming pools, as well as to historical sites such as author Zane Grey’s cabin and the Rogue River Ranch Museum.

The guides, several who have been coming down this river for many years, enjoy sharing their knowledge of the Rogue’s lore. The more senior helmsmen, like Larry, John and Stitch, call themselves the “Rogue Elders,” signifying their “fossil” status on the river.

They dispense their commentary in an entertaining manner, always managing to insert a few tall tales and jokes in the mix.

Their love and respect for the river is apparent and the length of their tenure as guides is testament to the fact that they truly cherish their work and this special environment. When they’re not at the head of their boats navigating the rapids with calm assurance, you’ll find these multi-talented men preparing gourmet lunches, leading group walks and later in the evening, strumming their guitars and making sweet music together.

Each brings his/her own colorful personality and perspective to the job, while helping to establish camaraderie within the group.

They also have a mischievous side, inciting water wars among boats and even encouraging their crews to do doughnuts in an eddy.

And yes, we all follow along, dutifully obeying orders as we gleefully act like kids, abandoning all adult propriety, while shedding the stress of our everyday lives.

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The rustic lodges along the Rogue are welcome beacons to river-goers and are known for their good old fashioned hospitality and hearty grub. Photo by Deborah Stone.
At the end of the day, you’ll find yourself at one of the rustic lodges on the river that accommodates hikers, rafters and fishermen. Black Bar, for example, was built in 1935 and originally catered to miners and packers who moved up and down the Rogue in the 1940s. It was named after gold miner William Black, who was murdered near the property, put into his boat and shoved off down the river.

Marial Lodge was built by Tom Billings and his daughter Marial ran it for many years before selling the place to Ted Camp in the 60s.

Today, it’s owned and run by Camp’s daughter Lori and her husband Pat Cameron. These lodges and others along the Rogue are welcome beacons to river-goers and are known for their good old fashioned hospitality and hearty grub.

At each, our group was given a warm welcome and treated like family. Sitting at long, wooden tables, we chowed down on biscuits and huckleberry jam, savory pot roast, fresh veggies from the garden and peach crisp with homemade ice cream for dessert.

Our bellies full, we moved outside to watch deer frolicking in the meadow, curled up with a good book on a porch swing or joined the guides in a sing-a-long. Sleep was never an issue, as the combination of fresh air and activity, along with the soothing sound of the river nearby, proved to be ideal sedatives.

All too soon, the final day rolled around and with it came wondrous Mule Creek Canyon and one of the most technical of all the rapids – Blossom Bar. A class IV-V rapid, Blossom Bar has the biggest drop of the trip with several different lines at varying water levels. It’s known for wrapping boats on the right side in the notorious “Picket Fence.”

Boaters are always grateful when they transit this rapid without issue. With our experienced Rogue River Raft guides leading the way, we navigated the rocky, churning stretch like pros and raised our paddles high to celebrate our success.

Then, just before we came to the “take-out” place, we spotted a bear cub climbing up the steep hillside. We chuckled at his tumbling skills and although we didn’t spy Mama Bear, we knew she probably wasn’t too far away.

Watching the little tyke’s antics made for a perfect ending to our grand adventure on the mighty and magical Rogue.

If you go:

Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge is a premier destination resort offering full-day and multi-day rafting and fishing packages. Options include camping only, lodge-to-lodge and a mix of camping/lodging trips. Also available are raft-supported hiking trips along the Rogue River Trail and specialty whitewater gourmet packages hosted by professional cheese makers and chocolatiers.

For more information:

Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge: 800-826-1963 or www.morrisonslodge.com

Rogue River Raft Trips: 800-826-1963 or www.rogueriverraft.com

Travel with a purpose opens eyes, widens world perspectives

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Nepal Market
Kathmandu, Nepal’s crazy, chaotic capitol city, is full of temples, holy sites, bustling outdoor markets, motorbikes and millions of people. Photo by Deborah Stone.
We take so many things for granted in America, from our creature comforts to our freedom of speech. We expect transportation to operate efficiently, technology to be readily accessible and emergency personnel to respond quickly in times of distress. We assume there will always be electricity, plumbing and clean drinking water. And we don’t give a second thought to the fact that our children’s public education is free and that citizens 18 and older have the right to vote. We nonchalantly presume that these “givens” will always be there and it is only when we leave the U.S. and travel somewhere else that we realize our good fortune.

I had the opportunity last fall to visit Nepal, a place coveted for its magnificent mountains, age-old cultures, adventure and spirituality. For many travelers, this country at the top of the world with its mystical allure is paradise on earth.

Look beyond the scenic grandeur and the beautifully adorned temples, however, and you will see that Nepal is a developing country with numerous economic, political and societal challenges. It quickly becomes very clear that the Nepalese don’t take anything in their lives for granted. Not food, power, employment, education … or even libraries.

Twenty years ago, such meccas of literacy were foreign to the majority of the population, 80 percent of which live in rural areas. It was a time in the country’s history marked by failed projects, hospitals without doctors, little to no infrastructure, dilapidated schools and a 30 percent literacy rate. Education among rural villages in particular was severely lacking and books were almost nonexistent.

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READ centers go beyond filling the traditional library role. They are catalysts for change, where people are provided with the opportunity to learn and use the information and knowledge they gain to enhance their own quality of life. Photo by Deborah Stone.
One woman was about to change this situation. Dr. Antonia (Toni) Neubauer, a former language professor and educational researcher, first came to Nepal in 1984. Prior to her trip, she had thought she was a worldly individual, but it didn’t take long before she quickly realized the truth.

“Going to Nepal was like going scuba diving for the first time and finding out there’s a whole other world down in the ocean below us,” she says. “It blew me away.”

Neubauer fell in love with the country and its people and made many return visits in the ensuing years. In 1988, she formed Myths and Mountains, a custom adventure tour company specializing in providing clients with personalized cultural and educational experiences.

Neubauer’s life-changing epiphany occurred during a trek in the Himalayas when she asked her friend and trekking guide, Ang Domi Lama, what he would want if he could have anything for his village. His wish, a library, caused a light bulb to go off in her head. She returned to the U.S. and began planting the seed for a vision that would slowly become reality. In 1991, Neubauer founded Rural Education and Development (READ), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping “inspire rural prosperity.”

That same year, eight porters carried 900 books over a 12,000-foot pass down into the tiny village of Junbesi to open the very first READ Community Library and Resource Center (CLRC).

Flash forward to the present. Today, there are 49 libraries in 38 districts in the country. READ Nepal partners with the communities to build the CLRCs, however, the projects are conceived, initiated and owned by the community and sustained by income-generating projects. Such projects include microfinance programs, store front rentals, ambulances, rice mills, radio stations and agricultural cooperatives among others. These businesses not only support the libraries, but also help fund other projects in the village, such as bridges, pre-schools, medical clinics, health education and women’s empowerment programs. During my memorable “Mountains, Monkeys & Books: READ Nepal Library Trip” this past fall, I was fortunate to travel with Dr. Neubauer and Myths & Mountains on the 20th anniversary of READ.

We were a group of seven who began our journey in Kathmandu, Nepal’s crazy, chaotic, colorful capital city. Full of temples and holy world heritage sites, bustling street markets, noisy motorbikes and several million people on the move, Kathmandu, though fascinating, assaults the senses for the first time visitor, who is usually more than ready to leave after a few days. Our group was eager to get on with our trip and head to the countryside to see READ’s work in action. In the town of Syangia, near the base of some of Nepal’s most famous mountains – Machapuchare, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri – the library is a thriving center that is sustained by a successful radio station serving 500,000 people within six districts.

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Villagers, honored by Dr. Antonia Neubauer’s presence, line up to greet her as she treks into their town. Photo by Deborah Stone.
There I met Basanti, a young woman intently studying to prepare for a public service exam. She explained to me that there are thousands of people competing for one position. She comes to the library because it has the materials she needs to read for the exam. Without the library, Basanti notes that she wouldn’t be able to take the test because the necessary books are too expensive for her to buy. The library has a reading area, a media center, a section devoted solely to women and a children’s room. Women’s groups use the center for their meetings and it is also a community gathering place for various organizations.

A flight to Jomson up north, followed by a picturesque half-day trek amid the jagged Annapurna peaks, led us to the small town of Tukche in the Lower Mustang Valley. Here, the library is one of the most successful of all of the projects. Built in 1998, it is well-run and well-used, sustained by a furniture factory where the men use wood from a local forest to create hand-made furnishings. Profits from the factory not only sustain the operations of the library, but have also helped to build a bridge over the nearby Kali Gandaki River, enabling children access to school on the other side of the river. Villagers are very intent on education and there is a K-12 school that even has a boarding hostel for those who come to the school from surrounding towns. There’s also a clinic and a Red Cross station. We spent some time with Kalpana, an intelligent and articulate 72-year-old woman, who serves as a role model for other women in the community. Though her husband is deceased, Kalpana continues to live independently in her 200-plus-year-old home, where she runs the family’s apple distillery, producing apple, carrot, cherry and apricot brandy that has quite the kick, I might say! She is actively involved in the library and was also instrumental in helping to build the Red Cross station. Her actions are proof that Nepalese women, who have always been repressed and held back by a patriarchal society, can be empowered to take control of their own lives and play an integral role in their communities. Back in Jomson, a town where many ethnic Thakalis live, the vivacious women’s committee serves dinner to our group in the library and then we all dance together to a mixture of local folk and pop music. We become whirling dervishes, caught up in the moment, united by the common language of music and fellowship.

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Dr. Antonia Neubauer founded READ in an effort to inspire rural prosperity in the villages of Nepal. Photo by Deborah Stone.
At each place we visit, we are met by throngs of villagers who adorn us with traditional garlands of marigolds and white scarves. They are delighted with our presence and deeply honored by Toni’s visit. They emanate warmth with their “Namaste” greetings and kind, open-armed hospitality, never hesitating to share what little they do have with others. The final library we visit is in Jhuwani, a village on the edge of Chitwan National Park in the tropical lowlands of south-central Nepal. Built in 2000, this library is a model for other centers, with an ambulance as its sustaining project. “People love the library,” says Sita Adhikari, president of the women’s cooperative in Jhuwani. She continues to explain that initially women in the town were too shy to come to the library when it was first built. Many thought that it was designated solely for men. Others felt they needed to dress nicely and wear shoes in order to go into the library, or that they had to be smart to gain entrance. Slowly, over time, with Adhikari’s efforts to create programs specifically targeted to mothers and their children, the women of the village began to come. “Today we have 500 women in the women’s cooperative,” notes Adhikari. “We have a savings and credit program and we’ve issued $65,000 in micro loans in the past year to women who want to start their own businesses.” Resident Indira Chaudhary, for example, took advantage of the center’s livelihood skills training in mushroom farming and received a loan from the women’s savings and credit cooperative to begin her own mushroom business. Her husband Somlal, after participating in similar training, started a beekeeping and honey production business. With the profits from their successful businesses, the couple was able to purchase their own new home. Another woman, who Adhikari introduces us to, used to spend her days chewing betel nut. Her life changed after she was inspired through the center to learn more about biogas. With training, she eventually became a biogas technician and installed 50 units in the village to make cooking easier for the women. Jhuwani’s library began as a modest single-story facility.

 

Today, it is a three-story building with community meeting space, a children’s room, reading and reference library, offices and music area. It’s a hub of activity and serves as a stimulus for community development. It’s clear the residents of Jhuwani have chosen not to “settle,” but rather to continue to dream big and through dedication and hard work, they are slowly making their dreams reality. Though each of the READ libraries we visited was unique in its own way, it was evident that they all went beyond filling the traditional library role. The centers are catalysts for change, where people are provided with the opportunity to learn and use the information and knowledge they gain to enhance their own quality of life. They are transformative vehicles with the power to exert influence on not only literacy, but also on economic and social development in Nepal. Sheri Woods-Green, a consultant for READ, once told Toni, “You’re not building a library. You’re building a village.”

The truth of these words resonated with Neubauer back then and they continue to do so today. “That’s really what it’s all about,” she says. “READ helps to create communities by bringing people together in pursuit of making their village a viable place to live and work.” Neubauer is proud of the organization she inspired and built from the ground up.

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The READ center in the village of Jhuwani began as a modest single-story facility. Today, it is a three-story building with community meeting space, a children’s room, reading and reference library, music room and offices. Photo by Deborah Stone.
It has been the recipient of three Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards and grants, including an Access to Learning Award in 2006, a replication grant in 2007, which has enabled the organization to replicate its model in countries outside of Nepal (currently, Bhutan and India),  and most recently, a sustainability and capacity building grant. The nonprofit parent organization, READ Global, of which READ Nepal, READ Bhutan and READ India are a part of, continues to shed light in rural communities within Asia. To date, there are 57 READ centers serving 125 villages worldwide, providing access to 1.8 million people and according to Tina Sciabica, READ Global’s executive director, the organization is committed to building 30 new READ centers in the next five years. There have been many challenges for Dr. Antonia Neubauer along the way and when others would ask “why?” she would always counter with “why not?” as she persevered through countless obstacles, continuing to prove the skeptics and naysayers wrong. What has kept her motivated throughout the years has been the positive impact she sees on the communities READ has helped. “Witnessing this first-hand impact has fed and nourished me in so many different ways,” she comments.

 

It is Neubauer’s hope that in the next 20 years, READ Global and READ Nepal will become household names such as Save the Children or other well-known organizations.

Knowing this committed visionary and dynamic woman and having had the special honor of getting an up-close and personal view of her in action, there is no doubt in my mind that whatever goal she sets will be achieved.

If you go: Myths and Mountains is an acclaimed travel company offering luxury, custom adventure and cultural immersive tours to Asia, Southeast Asia and South America. It is continuously listed as one of the “Top Ten Best Adventure Travel Companies” by National Geographic Adventure with several of its trips touted as “Best Tour of a Lifetime” by National Geographic Traveler. The company also offers travel with a purpose experiences through its READ trips to Nepal, Bhutan and India.

For more information: www.mythsandmountains.com or 800-670-MYTH.

Kites take flight at Long Beach

  • Written by Deborah Stone
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Kites fill the sky in all shapes and colors at the Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach.
In our complex, highly tech world, it’s nice to know that some things still retain their simplicity. Take kites, for example.

Anyone can make a basic one and set it to flight, provided there’s a bit of wind.

These colorful creations that soar and dance in the sky seem to evoke a childhood-like joy in people no matter what their age. And they can provide hours of low-cost amusement.

Even watching others fly kites is entertaining. At the recent Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach, kite enthusiasts abounded, from novices to famed fliers and kite designers.

They took part in kite building workshops, flying lessons and friendly competitions, as well as in an abundance of other hands-on activities during the weeklong summer festival.

Long Beach, deemed the "Kite Capital of the U.S.," is known for its numerous kite shops, resident kite flyers and the World Kite Museum & Hall of Fame.

The area also boasts miles of pristine sandy beaches, beautiful national and state parks, historic lighthouses, a wildlife refuge and a coastal bike and pedestrian trail, making it the ideal playground for outdoor aficionados.

The popular kite festival, which began in 1981 as a humble gathering of nine and one kite team, has grown over the years into one of the largest festivals of its kind in North America.

It attracts visitors from around the world who share a passion for kite flying. Among its many highlights are fighter kite competitions, kite ballet performances, fireworks, exhibitions and mass ascensions of hundreds of kites in the air at one time.

Each year, featured flyers are selected to add a unique blend of art and ingenuity to the week’s colorful skies.

This year, Bas Vreeswijk, from the Netherlands, and Karl Longbottom, from the United Kingdom, brought their special talents to the festival.

Vreeswijk displayed his bold and beautiful applique designs and aerial kite photography and Longbottom, an engineer by trade, showed off the superb quality, precision, balance and flying characteristics of his array of kites.

For those unversed in the world of kites, such as myself, a stop at the World Kite Museum is helpful. Here you’ll learn about the art, science and history of kites with exhibits that include kites from around the world, from bygone eras and from the present and future where the kite is a "green" source of power.

There are videos of kite fighting, stamps with kites on them from 37 different countries, kites that saved lives in WWII, a display on the development of technical uses for kites and more. At the festival, you’ll see spectacular kite trains — dozens of kites joined together and released one at a time into the sky. These can be traditional diamond shaped, rectangular with a round hole in the middle, shield shapes or in the semblance of birds such as parrots, swallows and hawks.

There are also arches, a series of kites anchored to the ground on each end that create billowing arch-like formations.

Numerous events draw hundreds of spectators. Rokkaku Battles, where Japanese style battle kites fight against one another in the air with the objective being to knock out the competition, are definite crowd pleasers.

On the other end of the spectrum is Kite Ballet. Participants in this activity fly their kites to music and are judged by the variety and difficulty of maneuvers executed, along with the choreography and flow. This activity can also involve teams of fliers working in unison.

The ante is upped in Mystery Ballet, where fliers do not know what song they will be flying to until the music starts.

Hot Tricks, another fan favorite, gives participants the opportunity to strut their stuff when it comes to displaying the newest stunts on the leading edge of the sport of kite flying. There are intricate spins, flips, floats and turns — maneuvers that you would not think possible with a kite – and the wow factor is extreme. The atmosphere at the festival is one of excitement, anticipation and sheer fun, with all ages getting into the action. The only downside is a crick in your neck, developed by a constant eye upwards. You’ll be mesmerized by the rainbow of colors, the different shapes and sizes and the sheer volume of kites that fill the sky.

County fair type booths line both sides of the beach approach, with assorted kite-related paraphernalia and crafts for sale, along with the usual festival fare. The best food, however, is found elsewhere.

And I don’t mean the proverbial fish and chips and chowder that most coastal towns offer.

For a truly memorable dining experience that would make even the most discerning foodie impressed, make your way to The Depot or The Shelburne Inn. The former was an actual depot building, constructed in the early 1900s by a subsidiary of Union Pacific, the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company. It was used up until 1930, when the railroad discontinued operation. Husband-wife team Michael Lalewicz and Nancy Gorshe opened The Depot nine years ago. Michael, a master chef, presides over the kitchen while Nancy, with her executive background, manages the place, setting a warm, hospitable tone to the casually appointed dining room.

When asked to describe his cooking, Chef Michael says, "It’s eclectic cuisine with a complex simplicity."

If you begin your meal with the Thai Calamari, you’ll realize instantly that you’re in good hands. The calamari, tender and sweet, are tossed with crispy won tons and Thai peanut cilantro sauce and sit on a bed of fresh spinach and Napa cabbage mix. Entrees in the "landfood" category include such specialties as Frenched Cut Veal Chop with a Jack Daniel glaze, Lamb New Delhi (braised lamb shank in a curry saffron broth) and Peppadew Chicken (lightly smoked chicken breast chargrilled on white cheddar cheese polenta cake topped with sweet African Peppadew BBQ sauce).

Being a seafood connoisseur, I focused on entrees like Peruvian Mango Sea Scallops and Clams Bucatini.

The melt-in-your-mouth scallops had a lively kick, courtesy of the spicy mango puree. And the Clams Bucatini was bursting with flavorful ocean razor and whole Willapa Bay steamer clams.

Though fabulously full, my friend and I just had to sample a few of Chef Michael’s dessert specials. A trio of homemade sorbet, infused with blackberries, raspberries and salmonberries, was incredibly refreshing, while the warm chocolate flourless tart with a hazelnut crust made us swoon.

Over at the Shelburne, fine dining reigns supreme. This historic country inn, which was established in 1896, is an authentic American classic that has been lovingly restored. Each of the 15 guest rooms is uniquely decorated with period antiques, original art and stained glass carefully selected over the years by longtime owners David Campiche and Laurie Anderson. Fresh, local ingredients take center stage in the elegant and intimate dining room.

A plate of heirloom tomatoes with Port Townsend Creamery Truffle Fromage Blanc, accompanied by Laurie’s homemade walnut-olive bread, made a delightful starter, followed by a bowl of Cioppino, chockfull of clams, mussels, salmon and prawns in a velvety smooth saffron broth.

Seared Columbia River Salmon with chanterelles and cauliflower puree took star billing for the main entree.

Other options included Roasted Rockfish, Wild Mushroom Risotto (David is a consummate forager), Beef Tenderloin with a smoked chanterelle ragout and Roasted Duck Breast with potato-nut hash.

Though you may be sated at this point, leave room for the sinfully delicious desserts, but be forewarned, the choices make it difficult to opt for just one.

There’s Lemon Blackberry Crème Brulee, Warm Chocolate Torte, a trio of homemade ice creams that may include such flavors as lavender, caramel and almond and a dreamsicle-like orange or "Eaton Mess," a traditional English dish consisting of vanilla cake, strawberry, whipped cream and house ice cream.

There are numerous places to stay in the Long Beach area, from family-friendly resorts to cozy inns and vacation rentals.

You can even stay at a lighthouse keeper’s residence. Among the many options is the Adrift Hotel, where my friend and I bunked during our getaway.

What used to be the old Edgewater is now a unique, contemporary property furnished with a combination of new, reclaimed and repurposed materials. The result is a modern, minimalist-style hotel with a laid-back environment. There are memory foam mattresses in each bedroom, free organic coffee and infused fruit waters in the lobby, complimentary bikes and a casual eatery and bar.

Pet lovers take note as the second floor is designated "dog-friendly."

The hotel is located oceanside and steps to the beach. It’s also close to town, where shops and cafes abound.

Though kites are what brought my friend and I to Long Beach initially, we discovered all the many other gems the area has to offer through various side trips.

One of the must-dos is Cape Disappointment State Park, where you can hike miles of trails that lead you through multiple ecosystems, from coastal for forests to saltwater marshes and grassy dunes.

You’ll want to make sure you visit both Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, with its panoramic view overlooking the Columbia River bar, as well as picturesque North Head Lighthouse, which is perched on the headland surrounded by the ocean in all its wild glory.

Nearby Ilwaco is the cranberry mecca of the Peninsula, where you can take a tour of a working bog and stop in at the Cranberry Museum to learn about all things cranberry.

For a flash back into the past, head to Oysterville, a National Historic District that feels like a movie back lot version of a 19th century coastal community.

Eight houses, a church, the cannery and a one-room schoolhouse are all on the National Register of Historic Places.

The town also boasts the oldest continuously operating post office in the state. The list goes on.

But, if it all proves too much for you, simply park yourself on the sand and grab some beach time, with or without a kite.

If you go:

Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau: 800-451-2542 or www.funbeach.com

Adrift Hotel : 800-561-2456 or www.adrifthotel.com

The Depot Restaurant: (360) 642-7880 or www.depotrestaurantdining.com

The Shelburne Inn: (360) 642-2442 or www.theshelburneinn.com

Stehekin – the jewel of the North Cascades

  • Written by Deborah Stone

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The Lady of the Lake passenger ferry is the most popular means of transportation to Stehekin. Photo by Deborah Stone.
When I told people I was going to Stehekin for a vacation, the common response was, “Where’s that?” Just guessing, some would say, “It’s in Canada, right?” Others would query with furrowed brows, “Is it in Europe somewhere?” Most had no idea that this gem of a destination happens to be right here in Washington State. Its remote location, though, has kept it a well-preserved secret, known only to those adventurous travelers who desire to go off the grid to access some of the most rugged grandeur in the Northwest.

Nestled at the headwaters of Lake Chelan, the third deepest lake in America, the Stehekin Valley is the gateway to the North Cascades National Park. It’s connected to the outside world only by foot, boat or plane. The journey to reach this area is part of the experience. For the majority of those who make the visit, the Lady of the Lake passenger ferry is the mode of transportation. You can opt for the slow boat, which takes four hours one way from Chelan, or the express, which cuts an hour and a half off the time.

As you travel up lake, you’ll quickly leave civilization behind and enter an unspoiled frontier, forgotten by time. You’ll go from the dry, desert-type climate of the lower Lake Chelan Valley through fiord-like gorges carved by glaciation and head deep into the Cascade Mountains. Along the way, you’ll be privy to Mother Nature’s artistry in the forms of spectacular, craggy peaks and lush, verdant forests. And it you’re lucky, you’ll spot a glimpse or two of some of the wildlife that call this area home. On a recent trip, my fellow passengers and I managed to spy several black bears, including a mother and her cub, scampering up the mountainside.  

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The Stehekin Valley Ranch offers good old-fashioned fun, adventure and relaxation, while providing all the comforts of home. Photos by Deborah Stone.
The name “Stehekin” is based on a local Native American word meaning “the way through.” Years ago, it was one of only a few travel routes through the formidable barrier of the North Cascades and served as a trading passageway for tribes, linking groups between the east of the mountains with those on the Puget Sound coast and beyond. Later, railroad and U.S. Army surveyors came to the region to chart routes through the mountains, followed by prospectors who staked their claims. Then came the homesteaders, who left a heritage of independence and self-sufficiency. Today, Stehekin is a community of about 85 year-round residents, scattered over nine miles of valley, who thrive in the isolation of this wilderness area. They’ve opted to create a life in a place lacking of many of the conveniences that most of us take for granted.

For visitors, Stehekin is the ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of our often hectic daily existences. It’s a unique destination that offers world class scenery and a menu of outdoor activities guaranteed to please all ages and adventure appetites. Though a few people only come for the day, most spend several days to a week enjoying all that the valley has to offer.

Despite Stehekin’s small size, it features a range of accommodations. Among them include the Stehekin Landing Resort, a concession of the National Park Service, several housekeeping cabins sprinkled through the lower valley, and a number of public campgrounds. And then there’s the Stehekin Valley Ranch, where I chose to stay during my visit. I was attracted to this property because of the many options it provides, in accommodations and recreational pursuits, as well as the family-style reputation it has garnered over the years. Located nine miles up-valley from “the landing” (the point of arrival for both boat and float plane passengers and considered the hub of Stehekin), the Ranch offers visitors simple, but comfortable and cozy tent cabins with kerosene lanterns for light and communal bath facilities nearby, as well as cabins with private bathrooms and some that include fully-equipped kitchenettes. Those who stay in either of the first two options receive full board and transportation services in the lower Stehekin Valley.

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Famed Rainbow Falls is a must-visit attraction in Stehekin. Photo by Deborah Stone.
To get around, as you won’t have a car while at the Ranch (having left it at the boat dock in Chelan), your options include hopping on one of the bright red Stehekin shuttle buses, which make four runs daily between the Stehekin Landing and High Bridge (about 11 miles one way), renting a bike or hoofing it. There are plenty of places to visit during your stay. Start with the Golden West Visitor Center a short walk up the hill from the boat landing, where you can get maps, books, hiking advice and trail reports from National Park Service staff, as well as hear presentations on the natural and cultural history of the Stehekin Valley. Nearby is The House that Jack Built, where you’ll find a wide array of items handcrafted by folks living in the valley. You’ll also want to stop at the lovely, misting Rainbow Falls, as well as pay a visit to the historic Old Stehekin Schoolhouse, which dates back to 1921. Down the road is the “New” Stehekin School, which opened in 1988. This year, it had seventeen students, spanning kindergarten through eighth grade. And then you’ll want to make a beeline for the famous Stehekin Pastry Company with its fresh-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls and other enticing baked goods.

Back at the Stehekin Ranch, guests usually congregate in the dining facility, a handsome log building, featuring family-style tables and an enormous crackling hearth where giant pots of cowboy coffee simmer. Here, folks gather for delicious home-cooked meals, while sharing their day’s exploits. The kitchen serves up tasty and hearty grub, from grilled salmon to BBQ chicken and ribs, accompanied by all the fixings. And it really shines when it comes to desserts. Pies in every flavor beckon and like a kid in a candy shop, you’ll be overwhelmed by the bounty. With all the activity that I did during the day, I found it easy to justify my nightly slice (or two) of pie – with whipped cream, of course!

You’ll never lack for things to do in Stehekin and the Ranch allows you to choose your own adventures. There’s exciting river rafting on the Stehekin River, kayaking on peaceful Lake Chelan, fly fishing, adrenaline-thumping mountain biking, guided scenic trail rides to picturesque Coon Lake on the Ranch’s steady Norwegian Fjord horses and hiking opportunities galore, from easy nature walks to more challenging climbs. As far as scenery goes, the Agnes Gorge Trail gets my vote for the perfect half-day hike. Its rewards are jaw-dropping views of majestic Agnes Mountain and the deep Agnes Gorge with its thundering 15-foot waterfall.

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Hop on one of the Ranch’s steady Norwegian Fjords for a trail ride to picturesque Coon Lake. Photo by Deborah Stone.
You can do it all, sample one or two of the activities, or simply do nothing but curl up with a book and doze off in one of the conveniently situated hammocks or Adirondacks at the Ranch. As you breathe in the fresh air and feast your eyes on the glorious scenery, you‘ll realize just how much you needed to disconnect and disengage from that rat race you call life. Your senses will come alive in this natural, unspoiled piece of paradise and you’ll understand why so many folks make Stehekin their annual pilgrimage.

Cliff Courtney, who was born and raised in Stehekin, and owns the 20-acre Ranch together with his wife Kerry, notes that close to sixty percent of their guests are repeat customers. They continue to come because they value the Stehekin experience. He says, “People have to really want to come here because it takes work to get here. Once they do, they realize what a special place it is and how untouched it is from outside influences.” He adds, “Many of our clients have travelled the world and they all agree that Stehekin is second to none. We like to say the Ranch is close to home, close to heaven.”

The frequent visitors I spoke with all emphasized the sense of family that exists at the Ranch and the way the staff makes them feel so completely at home. Intimacy is retained because there are only a few dozen people staying on the property at one time. Everyone’s on a first name basis and employees freely circulate among the guests, getting to know their preferences in order to provide personalized service.

It’s important to note that the Ranch is not your typical dude ranch establishment. Don’t expect nightly sing-a-longs, country line dancing or flashy horse show events. This is a laid back, casual place where people make their own entertainment. For most, evenings are spent reading, chatting near the fire, playing cards or board games in the upstairs game room, or taking a stroll to visit the horses. You’ll fall asleep to the sounds of the river and the great outdoors, and the last thing you’ll remember contemplating before your head hits the pillow is, “I wonder what kinds of pie they’ll have tomorrow?”

 

If you go:

For general visitor information about Stehekin: www.stehekin.com

Stehekin Valley Ranch: www.StehekinValleyRanch.com or 1-800-536-0745

Lady of the Lake: www.ladyofthelake.com

Any reason is a good reason to raft the Grand Canyon

  • Written by Deborah Stone

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Stunning scenery and towering temples of sandstone provide a mesmerizing backdrop as you travel the winding waterways through the Canyon. Courtesy of Arizona River Runners
The expression, “That was awesome!” does not begin to describe an experience that truly defies description. And yet, it was the one our group of adventurers found ourselves using over and over again as an expression for our epic journey. To an outsider, it might have sounded trite, but to us, those three words held a world of meaning and seemed to sum up the range of emotions we all felt during a magical and memorable seven-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon with Arizona River Runners.

There were 25 of us who came together to do this trip of a lifetime. Our group was comprised of fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, good friends, husbands and wives, solo travelers and colleagues. And though we hailed from different places and backgrounds, we all had one thing in common – a shared desire to do the mother of all raft trips through one of the most heralded natural wonders in the world. Each of us, however, had our own personal motivations for wanting to embark on this amazing experience. And so, you might ask, what drives people to explore the Grand Canyon from the seat of a raft?

They do it for the thrills and chills of experiencing impressive Class V rapids like Hermit, Granite, Crystal and the grand finale – the longest stretch of navigable whitewater in the country – Lava Falls. It’s a pure adrenaline rush to run the rapid train of the mighty Colorado River, no matter whether you’re in an oared or motorized raft. And when the water is really flowing (during my trip, it measured 23,000 – 25,000 cfs or cubic feet per second compared to a normal flow of 7 – 15,000 cfs), it’s one hellacious ride.

You can hear the roar of the thunderous rapids way before you reach them, which stokes the level of excitement and anticipation. And then you see the furious churning motion ahead and your heart begins to race. You assume the required position, batten down the hatches and then hold on tight for an extreme version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. My group adopted its own approval rating of the rapids by using what we called, a “yeee ha!” scale. The louder and longer we yelled these words, the crazier the rapid. For us, Hermit was the clear winner, as it not only had the gnarliest waves, which completely drenched us and our boats, but it seemed to go on forever. We all looked like drowned rats when it was over. But, we were giddy and laughing like a bunch of kids, as we savored the natural high of the experience.

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It’s all about the thrills and the chills when you ride the Colorado River’s rapid train through the Grand Canyon. Courtesy of Arizona River Runners
The Colorado River is mostly made up of snowmelt from the Rockies and rarely reaches temps above 50˚ F. This translates to water that can only be described as liquid ice. You’re guaranteed to gasp with shock when it hits you, no matter how hot it is outside. One of our group’s members likened the sensation of riding the rapids to being on a rollercoaster while getting shot at with a fire hose. The water packs a walloping punch and it knows no boundaries. You will come to respect its power and understand that it is a life force with a heartbeat and mind of its own.

They do it because the trip has been on their bucket list for many years. Maybe they’ve heard about the experience from a friend, or read stories or seen a program on T.V. about it. Or perhaps they’ve visited the Grand Canyon before and have been

fortunate to spy a glimpse of a sliver of the Colorado River from a perch at the top of the South Rim. The tales, the pictures and the descriptions fuel their fervor to explore the Canyon’s depths and get an up-close and personal view of its splendors. They think about it, dream about it and one day, they translate their goal into reality. And when at long last they accomplish their objective, they discover that the adventure exceeds their expectations in every possible way. They go on to be ambassadors for the experience, spreading the word far and wide and vowing to make a return trip.

They do it to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Canyon’s geology and history. On a raft trip, your knowledgeable guides will explain about the lives of the ancestral Native Americans who made the Grand Canyon their home. For a thousand years, these “ancient ones” roamed the area, carving small plots of farmland from rocky niches, hunting game on the rims above and building basic shelters under the ledges to protect them from the harsh elements. Remains of their dwellings are still visible and serve as reminders of the struggles these pre-historic people endured.

You’ll also learn facts about the first explorers; most prominent being John Wesley Powell, who led the initial exploration into this uncharted territory back in 1869. These adventurers were brave and determined individuals; many who lost their lives on the river as a result of inferior equipment, insufficient food and supplies, and inexperience. It seems only appropriate that those fearless men and women who met their demise during these early journeys receive recognition. Thus, a number of the rapids on the river are named in memory of some of these pioneers. All told, the tales the guides regale help bring the Canyon alive with “voices” from the past. They also give newfound appreciation to our ability today to make the same trip in safety and comfort.

As for the geological aspects, rock hounds will be particularly enthralled with the extensive information given about the Canyon’s layers and spectacular travertine formations. The rocks, some of which date back as much as two billion years, reveal a record of the earth’s past and are testimony to the combined effects of uplift, erosion and time. Even those who don’t know much about geology will find the details fascinating, as well as helpful in interpreting the ever-changing, vivid landscape.

They do it for the challenge and the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. For some people, it could be the first time they’ve gone rafting or encountered whitewater. For others, it might be the camping experience. And then there are those who aren’t seasoned hikers. It’s important to note that the hikes offered are always optional and usually include several choices based on level of difficulty. Some are fairly mellow, but others are of the “kick-butt” variety, where you’ll be scrambling among rocks, scaling ledges, fording streams and climbing atop boulders. The guides are always there to help, as are your fellow group members. Many a time did I grab for a willing hand or arm as I walked on narrow, exposed ledges that would have normally caused me to freeze due to my fear of heights. The goal is for everyone who wants to do the hikes to participate and you will be highly motivated to join in because it’s a chance to explore the hidden gems of the Canyon that can only be reached on foot.

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Hikes into side canyons reveal enchanting
hanging gardens and cascading waterfalls.
Photos by Deborah Stone
You’ll follow pathways dotted with wildflowers and blooming cacti and go through hallways of rock walls to small waterfalls, desert pools and unique rock formations. There’s Elves Chasm, an enchanting hanging garden with its dripping moss and ferns, and Stone Creek, with its clear cascading waterfall. Or magical Blacktail, a slot canyon with walls only 3 to 5 feet apart, that served as a natural amphitheater for an informal musical interlude by our talented guides. Other popular hikes include Upper Deer Creek with its ledges and carved narrows of Tapeats Sandstone, Nankoweap Ruins, where you can see the remains of Anasazi granaries, and Havasu Creek, an oasis of mineral-laden, turquoise blue water. The rewards of hiking in the Grand Canyon are many, as around each corner is a treasure that makes the effort worthwhile, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment that results from the endeavor.

They do it to disconnect and get in touch with nature on a more personal level. There are no cell phones, no computers or other technological devices to distract you when you’re rafting the Grand Canyon. You are off the grid and out of communication with the rest of the world. It’s an opportunity to leave the hectic grind behind and take a respite from the often overwhelming pressures of daily life and information overload. It may take a few days to get into the river routine, but once you adjust to it, that nagging feeling to check your e-mail disappears. You’re on Canyon time now, rising with the sun and sleeping under the star-studded sky. Decisions are few and far between, as your diligent crew tends to all the details, from rustling up the grub to finding the ideal campsite at the end of the day.

Your guides are more than just experienced boatmen and women who can read the mercurial water and navigate boats through the Canyon. On my trip, girl power reigned supreme. There were three über-fit females - veterans of the river - and one male. This hardworking team helped bring the group together, while juggling the roles of cooks, who created sumptuous and hearty meals; entertainers, who sang, played musical instruments and did stand-up comedy; and educators, who took pride in interpreting the natural surroundings. They clearly had a passion for their work, as well as for this special place, and they were committed to ensuring their clients had the most memorable and safest journey while under their care.

Your job is simply to make the most of this experience. Relax, tune in to your surroundings and let your senses come alive in this wilderness paradise. Prepare to be moved and mesmerized by one of Mother Nature’s magnificent creations.

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Venture off the river to picturesque Upper Deer Creek with
its ledges and carved narrows of Tapeats Sandstone.
Photo by Deborah Stone.
They do it to meet kindred souls and share in the camaraderie that such an experience creates. Strangers at first, your fellow rafters will feel like friends and family in no time. You’ll find that your group bonds quickly and connections are easily made within the socially conducive environment. Conversations flow while in the rafts, on the trails or at the campsites. Mealtimes are communal gatherings, which serve as ideal opportunities to talk about the day’s activities. And later, there might be music, more stories and musings about tomorrow’s stretch of the river. You’ll learn that the majority of people who participate in these types of trips are fun-loving, adventuresome spirits with a deep respect for the great outdoors. They’re friendly, open and upbeat individuals, who understand the importance of and necessity for cooperative effort. Most importantly, they have a sense of humor, which always comes in handy in such situations. All groups have their class clowns. Ours were Kirk and Karl, who we could always count on for our daily dose of over-the-top levity.

And…drumroll…they do it for the view from the loo! Clearly, this is not a reason the majority of folks are prompted to give at the onset of one of these trips. However, it becomes readily apparent after a few days on the river that this is definitely one of those bonus perks which deserves mention. On your trip, you will quickly learn about the toilet facilities. They are basically nonexistent when you’re away from a campsite area, however, when in camp, the guides will set up a portable toilet in a secluded area to allow privacy. The location is often strategically chosen to provide a view of such eye-pleasing sights as the ever-flowing river, a wall of intricately veined and marbleized rock or a set of craggy cliffs and ledges that provide the perfect backdrop for a glowing sunset. You’ll wax poetic as you sit upon the throne admiring the setting. A colorful lizard or two might even join you if you’re lucky. But don’t stay too long…others are waiting!

Any reason is a good reason to take a raft trip through the Grand Canyon. It’s a place that must be experienced to be truly appreciated. Pictures don’t do its breathtaking vistas justice, books can’t really describe its natural wonders and movies aren’t fully able to capture the sights and sounds of this unique environment the way your senses can. When you travel its winding waterways and hike among the towering walls, you will come to know the Canyon’s heart and soul. And I think you, too, will say of your experience, “That was awesome!”

If you go: There are many different rafting companies that run all-inclusive trips through the Grand Canyon. I opted to go with Arizona River Runners, one of the original outfitters, which has been in business since 1970. It has an excellent reputation in the industry due to its stellar safety record, experienced guides and high customer satisfaction ratings.

The company offers a range of options from a three-day, taste-of-the-canyon motorized excursion up to a full two-week oar powered adventure spanning 225 miles. The most popular packages are the 6 day/5 night or 7 day/6 night trips, where you’ll float 187 miles through the heart of the Canyon. 2011 rates start at $1,175 per person for the 3-day escape and top out at $3,295 for the 13-day ultimate Grand Canyon experience. Early season and group discount rates are available.

For more information: visit www.raftarizona.com or call 1-800-477-7238.