My brother still doesn’t believe in black helicopters, but we’ve seen them for real camping at Wanapum State Park on the Columbia River near Vantage. He slept through the stealthy night maneuvers and even though it’s been years and we’ve since learned there is a military base just over the hill so it’s not so scary mysterious, he still likes to tease us. We stop at Wanapum to swim, but no longer pitch tents there, preferring to camp in our friends orchard where we go every August to pick peaches.
Like Oregon, Washington is dry east of the Cascades and it doesn’t seem like summer until we get hot. Really, really hot. Like Eastern Oregon too, I love this arid landscape sometimes stark and sometimes dramatic and sometimes rolling golden wheat or irrigated lush green with orchards and vineyards. The Missoula or Bretz Floods scoured much of the land, leaving wonderful anomalies like Dry Falls, Soap Lake, rippled scablands and the “other” Columbia River gorge as dramatic as the well-known Oregon-Washington border segment.
Latah Bistro www.latahbistro.com 4241 S Cheney Spokane Road, 509.838.8338. Not-to-missed inspired Continental/European cuisine with Northwest flair, fresh, organic, local. Fine wines, beer and spirits. Fair Warning: weird location in strip mall beyond town, but worth it; Bistango Martini Lounge www.bistangolounge.com 108 N Post St, 509.624.8464, retro-hip atmosphere, inventive drinks and food, including outstanding real and counterfeit martinis. Live music, go-go dancers sometimes. Fair Warning: Join the crowd; Agave Latin Bistro, a tequila and tapas bar www.agavebistro.com (formerly Blufish) 830 W Sprague, 509.473.9180; Steam Plant Grill www.steamplantgrill.com 159 S Lincoln, 509.777.3900, restaurant within fascinating vintage steam plant, family fare, Coeur d'Alene beer brewed on premises, (try the stout float!); Anthony’s at Spokane Falls, 510 N Lincoln, 509.328.9009, for the view, seafood, good local wines and microbrews; Chicken ‘n More, 414 1/2 W Sprague Ave, 509.838.5071, southern style, chicken, ribs, catfish, baked beans; Downriver Grill www.thedownrivergrill.com 3315 W Northwest Boulevard, 509.323.1600, seasonal specials, great burgers, sandwiches, seafood & steaks, desserts made from scratch. Fine wines and microbrews; Wild Sage American Bistro www.wildsagebistro.com 916 W 2nd Ave, 509.456.7575, creative contemporary cuisine, stellar drinks, happy hour tapas; Moxie www.moxiemoxie.com 816 W Sprague, 509.456.3594, upscale Euro-Asian Cuisine, specialty drinks, desserts; Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar www.twigsbistro.com 808 W Main, 509.232.3376, eclectic upscale cuisine, features 24 different “martinis.” Fair Warning: inside River Park Square mall and another suburban location; Northern Lights Brewing Company 1003 E Trent Spokane, 509-242-2739; Frank’s Diner www.franksdiners.com 1516 W 2nd Ave, 509.747.8798, breakfast hot spot in vintage railroad diner car.
Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center www.marcuswhitmanhotel.com 866.826.9422. From 1928 to the 1960s the hotel was a destination for Presidents, dignitaries and movie stars. It fell into disrepair for nearly 20 years before being restored to its former glory. The ornate Grand Lobby and Georgian Room bespeak a history of extravagant wealth thanks to ranching and agricultural. Tower Suites feature Italian crafted furnishings, reminiscent of Renaissance opulence. Fair Warning: “Deluxe Rooms” are in the unfortunate motel-like addition detracting from the hotel’s grand style, but the exterior belies the stylish furnishings within. 19 Suites, 53 rooms from $109. The Marc Restaurant on site.
Hotel Lusso www.hotellusso.com One N Post St, 509.747.9750, elegant boutique hotel merged from two renovated historic buildings. Spacious rooms with fourteen-foot ceilings, luxurious modern Italian-style. Cavallino Lounge and 360 Restaurant on site. 48 rooms from $159.
Montvale Hotel www.montvalehotel.com 1005 W 1st Ave, 866.668.8253, 866.668.8253, renovated 1899 building, unique art-filled, cozy lounges as though staying in historic shabby chic private manor. Catacombs Pub and Scratch Restaurant on site. 36 rooms from $89.
Manhattan Project Reactor B Tour http://manhattanprojectbreactor.hanford.gov Atom bomb site tours at Hanford nuclear facility. Really. Busses leave from Richmond. Fair Warning: must register online at website. Pay attention to restrictions listed on website.
Toppenish “City of Murals” Kraffs, fantastic store full of western gear, Native American products and an amazing array of Pendleton coats, shirts, stacks of blankets and by-the-yard fabric! Home of Yakama Nation Cultural Center.
Leavenworth www.leavenworth.org if the Bavarian-themed town is not your style, visit for a bit, get some good food and head for the hills, rivers or golf courses. There’s amazing hiking, biking, bird-watching, rock climbing and bouldering! Yes, bouldering, where agile young folk scramble up boulders without ropes, acrobatic and silly fun in groups (someone has to break the fall...). For custom cross-country skiing, mountain, rock climbing adventures — John Race and Olivia Cussen at Northwest Mountain School www.mountainschool.com.
Wenatchee area www.wenatchee.org On the lake-like Columbia River, dammed at both ends, but Fair Warning: no place to rent boats!
Recreation + geologic wonders: Dry Falls, pot hole lakes, scablands, Soap Lake www.experiencewa.com At Vantage Wanapum State Park/Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park www.parks.wa.gov Museum, petroglyphs on cliff face, petrified forest, and nice camping with shaded lawns, swimming/picnic area. Fair Warning: the museum, petrified forest and camp site are a few miles apart. Ice Age Floods self-guided driving tour www.wenatcheevalley.org for downloadable maps. Geologic wonders deposited or scoured from the Missoula/Bretz floods that carved the Columbia River gorges. Yes, gorges plura — the more familiar gorge near Portland and the less well known in eastern Washington. Love this stuff.
Lake Chelan www.lakechelan.com just getting to Stehekin is a fun adventure by floatplane Chelan Airways www.chelanairways.com or Lady of the Lake boats www.ladyofthelake.com (take the Express if you want time to tour) Fair Warning: Seasonal May – October.
Peach Picking: (or buy fresh picked) Verhey’s Peaches in Royal City 509.346.9357. (If you need biodiesel, son Steve Verhey’s biodiesel in Ellensburg.) Orchard group tours www.appleorchardtours.com 866.459.9614
Wine touring: www.columbiariverwine.com and www.visityakima.com and www.okanoganwine.com and www.washingtonwinetours.com and www.lakechelanonline.com (crazy website, but has the info). Best view? Benson Vineyards www.bensonvineyards.com Lake Chelan & vineyard vistas from balcony of tasting room, cheeses, small plates available. Leave the driving — Lakeside Limos www.chelanlimo.com in Chelan will take you touring…
Wineries: Barrister Winerywww.barristerwinery.com fun labels, good reds, “Rough Justice”; Townshend Wine Cellar www.townshendcellar.com; Arbor Crest Wine Cellars www.arborcrest.com beautiful grounds with spectacular river view.
River fun: Canoe, kayak, hike the Little Spokane River Natural Area www.riversidestatepark.org; whitewater or scenic floats ROW www.rowadventurecenter.com and Pangaea River Rafting www.leaveboringbehind.com.
Bike rentals at Riverfront Park or Spoke n Sport; Riverfront Park www.spokaneriverfrontpark.com; Centennial Trail www.spokanecentennialtrail.orgChelan Bicycle Adventures www.chelanbicycleadventures.com will outfit you, take you to location, including an easy downhill, practically coast all the way route through orchards. Fun.
Spokane Indians baseball www.spokaneindiansbaseball.com.
Cat Tales Zoological Park www.cattales.org in Spokane.
Historic tours: The Davenport Hotel www.thedavenporthotel.com and Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox www.foxtheaterspokane.com; Bing Crosby Collection at Gonzaga Universit, www.gonzaga.edu; Manito Park designed by Olmstead Brothers, www.manitopark.org.
Auntie’s Bookstore www.auntiesbooks.com
Finders Keepers Shopping, art galleries and entertainment http://experiencespokane.com
Foodie Treats: Saunders Cheese Market artisan cheeses www.saunderscheesemarket.com; Coeur d’Alene Olive Company www.cdaoliveoil.com; The Chocolate Apothecary www.chocolateapothecary.com; Green Bluff Growers www.greenbluffgrowers.com and www.knappsongreenbluff.com. All of the above are in Spokane. Cashmere Cider Mill www.washingtonapplecountry.com cider plant and orchard tours; fine hand-made chocolates, Schocolat, Leavenworth www.schocolat.com.