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Amuse Bouche, Skamania Lodge

At Skamania Lodge

At Skamania Lodge, I meet a guy who reminds me of an old roommate. As nice and fun as this encounter is, I retreat to my room alone.

The next morning the golf balls will not go past the 150-yard sign. Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s the cold. Maybe it’s the unfamiliar driver I’ve borrowed from the pro-shop. Er, maybe it’s me. I try other targets successfully, like the Canada geese. Don’t worry; they populate golf courses everywhere in the Northwest and never get hit. They sense incoming missiles and move. These geese now have settled near the 200-yard marker, though. That’s just so mean.

A short walk downhill from the lodge takes me to the Columbia River Gorge Interpretive Center where I find artifacts and chronological displays from petroglyphs to a real vintage fish wheel and steam boat engine to photos of Bonneville dam construction. Then, upstairs, a Catholic rosary collection in its own church-like exhibit. Huh?

From the Interpretive Center, a paved path parallels Rock Creek Drive along Rock Creek Cove waterfront a mile to downtown Stevenson. I visit my favorite stores, Duck Soup and Bloomsbury’s, a two-level eclectic store with intriguing items from garden supplies, tea-towels, dishes, lotions and books to hand-made cards, jewelry, scarves felted hats, and handbags. Locals are having mid-morning java and fresh-baked goodies at Bahma Coffee Bar. I’m guessing they’re locals because their laptops are more engaging than the Columbia River view.

Time to get outta town. It’s outdoor recreation heaven here where the landscape folds back from the arid east to the lush temperate rain forests of the Cascades. I’d like to tackle those man-made steps 848 feet up to the top of Beacon Rock, the monolithic basalt core of an extinct volcano, but I get “chicken knees,” that is, a certain shaky weakness looking down from heights that makes my knees no longer work. No problem hiking up Wind Mountain though, since the steep trail is hidden in the woods and you don’t realize you’re getting precipitously high until you reach the top. What a view! What wind!

I meander through the rolling hills adjacent to Bonneville Dam & Locks and stop at the fish viewing windows on the Washington side to spy on migrating salmon. There are four monsters in there about 18-20 pounders. They stare at me. I stare at them.

It’s time to try out the soak and wrap at Bonneville Hot Springs Resort and Spa, but oh, no! Friends have recommended the place and it’s an eyesore motel-like structure, even more disturbing than Carson Hot Springs. I want to turn around and drive back to Skamania Lodge pronto, but I’ve booked a soak. I enter the hotel lobby and stand agog. Vaulted ceiling, enormous river rock fireplace, soaring two-story windows, overstuffed chairs and couches, some in leather, arranged in pleasant groupings. Gosh, it looks like an inviting lodge. But what ho! Large paintings of European royalty with ornate gold frames and fancy ironwork balustrades on the stairs and balcony. Castle? Northwest lodge?

In the sleek spa, I am greeted by two pert and perky 20-something year olds who take my money and then apparently assume I know everything and would rather chat with each other than show me the comfortable sunlit lounge and the entrance to the hot tubs. I wander and find my way. Within the inner sanctum, a helpful, more mature attendant shows me my locker, bathrobe, towels. I opt for a “long” tub which, at 5’5” I barely can stretch out in. It does make me wish for those old rusted mineral encrusted but very long tubs at Carson Hot Springs. The follow-up body wrap isn’t quite tight enough, like they mummify you at Carson either, but the room is modern, marbled, serene and ultra clean with rosemary-infused cool soaked towels on your brow.

Back at Skamania Lodge it’s time to catch the setting sun illuminating the basalt cliffs of the gorge in tones of gold and rose. The river is glassy calm, the color of steelhead. The awesome display is mesmerizing, but I am not too distracted to notice the Canada geese lounging on the lawn. Hmm, wonder if I have time for a round of golf.

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