Ski season in the West is really cranking up with another big storm that dumped eight feet of snow on Lake Tahoe and other parts of the Sierra Nevada. Turns out it’s the snowiest November in a decade, with all the major resorts opening for Thanksgiving with top-to-bottom runs operating.
Big Sky in Montana has twice its usual snowpack for Thanksgiving’s opening day and is launching a twin zipline as well so you can zoom 1500 feet alongside your sweetheart or best buddy.
And if you’ve made your way to Yosemite National Park, the Curry Village Ice Rink opens on Thanksgiving as well.
There are so many choices but one thing’s for sure: winter is here.
Lake Tahoe reported a foot of snow the other day. Two weeks ago I got word that almost four feet had dropped on Jackson Hole. A few days ago a little farther north, Big Sky Montana got a foot, with more falling and a lot more on the way.
It must be ski season.
A few years ago I went to Yellowstone in winter to see wildlife, cross-country ski to Old Faithful, ride the snow coach, and tool around on a snowmobile in the national forests outside the national park. On the way down from Bozeman we drove right past Big Sky and I made a mental note to come back and check it out. Continue reading »
I was recently in St. Louis and was pleasantly surprised about how spiffed up it has become. I attended Washington University there in the ’60s, and pretty much confined myself to its lovely campus. St. Louis itself was considered unwelcoming to us undergraduates.
No longer. Forest Park, the green spine that connects Washington University and the suburbs to the downtown area, has been beautifully reclaimed and in a space 60 percent bigger than New York’s Central Park, visitors and citizens can jog and bike along groomed trails and boat in large waterways.
One excellent excursion is to bike up to the famous Gateway Arch that was built to celebrate St. Louis’s colorful past as the provisioning place for western expansion. The arch, designed by renowned architect Enno Saarinen, is awesome. Continue reading »
Everyone knows that the Hawaiian Islands are romantic. But perhaps you don’t know how much more romantic they are off-season. I recently returned from a September sojourn in Kauai and Hawaii (the Big Island) and the unhurried and uncrowded islands were a special treat.
Like many people, when my kids were young, I had to arrange most of my vacations around my children’s schedule — which meant trips around school holidays. I had gotten in the habit of traveling to Hawaii around Christmas even when I could have gone other times. Big mistake.
This September, we had perfect weather every day of our two week vacation (not so likely in December) and all dining and tourism options were open and easy. Continue reading »
Want a romantic getaway near Seattle? I just tested one for you. My boyfriend and I went to celebrate our fourth year together at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville and coupled our getaway with dinner at The Herb Farm. If we had been really savvy we would have realized that Earth, Wind and Fire was performing at Chateau St. Michelle Winery right down the street (Woodinville is a wine center and St. Michelle has concerts all summer) and alas I only found out about the concert when we arrived - and there is no way you could go to both a concert and the nine course Herb Farm dinner!
So, here’s what’s romantic about the Willows-Herb Farm pairing. Everything. Continue reading »
“This has got to be the craziest sport I’ve ever done,” my friend George said to me as we rested on our mountain bikes gazing down a precipitous slope toward pine forest and spiky mountains in the distance. “Here we are in one of the most beautiful places on earth and when we’re on our bikes we can’t even look at the scenery!”
The mountain bike trails from the top of Sun Valley’s fabled Bald Mountain (9150 feet elevation) wind through meadows, switchback down sheer slopes, weave through pine forests, and really get the adrenaline flowing. We were cruising (or rather, braking) down eight-mile-long Warm Springs Trail because the friendly fellow who sold us tickets for the gondola to take us to the top sized us up and said, “Take Warm Springs Trail. You’ll see when you get up there that you have two choices, Cold Springs and Warm Springs. You folks want Warm Springs. It’ll be a lot better for you.” Then he grinned and said, as if questioning our resolve, “Cold Springs is not for the faint of heart.” Continue reading »
Before I start on this post — let me make a big apology to Walla Walla lovers. I too love this place but I have gotten too casual about it (I go quite often) and so when I first wrote up this blog post, I really didn’t check my spelling, facts, etc. the way I would for most places. So, the result, predictably, was lots of errors. Fortunately, this site has keen observers and they have made corrections. I humbly put them in, grateful — and embarrassed.
My sentiments still stand…the names of inns and restaurants have been changed to their rightful spelling.
Very high on my list of romantic getaways is a wine country retreat. Most people have at least name recognition with the wine country of Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and the contiguous valleys that go all the way up Humboldt county — but little Walla Walla is a jewel that is less known — but no less worthy.
This town is in the wine region of Washington state and is home to more than over 100 wineries, about 80 of which are open to the public either on weekends or by appointment. The quality of the wine is superb, the scenery is stunning, and there are fine restaurants and places to stay. Continue reading »
“That’s a big-fish cast,” guide Jim Santa said as my fly landed on the far side of the creek just shy of the willows lining the bank. The fly caught the current, drifted through the ripples into the shade, swirled once and flowed under the overhanging bush in the deep water. “Whoa. There’s gotta be a fish there. Put it back there again.”
I recast and landed the fly in the same spot, watched it run with the current in the shade, under the willows and through the deep water again. But no strike.
“People say they catch fish but only small ones, and I tell them they’ve got to put the fly where the big fish are. That cast was right where the big fish are,” Jim mused, as I couldn’t tempt a trout to rise to the fly.
“I’m pretty good,” he continued, “but I couldn’t make a better cast than that.”
That, of course, was music to my ears, even though I suspected that he said the same thing to everyone.
We were fishing Wild Horse Creek, a quintessential Idaho trout stream in Copper Basin in Challis National Forest 26 miles north of Sun Valley. Jim was leading me and three of my best friends through a morning of fly-fishing that promised lots of contemplation and — we hoped — a few fish. Continue reading »
But this month I was invited to a birthday party up at the Summit restaurant on top of the Crystal slopes and I realized there were new possibilities for love on resting ski slopes.
First there was the ride up. With the snow gone and the mountain temporarily ungroomed by the careful padding of ski machines, the actual contours of the mountain are easier to see and quite beautiful. It is also an adrenaline rush as you feel yourself go up the mountain and have a better idea of how high up you are. It took us two different lifts to get to the top, and then we were greeted by one of the most beautiful views on earth: Mt. Rainier undraped, no clouds whatsoever. Moreover there was a 360 view — we could see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker, all of them topped by glaciers. We were agog.
The Summit restaurant has a $79 gourmet meal but it couldn’t compete with the view. I am told they also have a very good brunch, but the view is what makes you hold hands, glad to be seeing this together. You might have gorgeous mountains you can visit during the summer too. I’m not sure they are as spectacular as this one, but if I were you, I’d go find out.
Washington’s San Juan Islands are about as romantic as you can get. They lie in Puget Sound and mark the boundary between the United States and Canada (just beyond them in Canada is an equally gorgeous group of islands called the Gulf Islands), and I was lucky enough to be there recently.
The islands get all the tourism they can handle, but if you take the ferry with your car and go on a weekday you can miss the weekend congestion. If you must go on a weekend and take the ferry from Anacortes (about an hour and a half from Seattle) or from British Columbia, prepare to wait in line a few hours. Locals know to get their car in line for the ferry early, spend time doing something else, and then have a friend drop them at their car before the ferry arrives. Continue reading »