I Ate the State – Okanogan County

Greetings!

Welcome to the largest county in Washington State, Okanogan County. Seriously, this county is ENORMOUS! In fact, I’d go as far to say it is ginormous – and filled with an equally large bevy of adventure-filled opportunities. I am absolutely blown away by the size and scale of the county every time I’m lucky enough to visit. Towering mountains, beautiful forests, winding rivers and some of the darkest, star-filled skies in North America are just a few of Okanogan County’s stunning attributes. It would take many trips to cover all it has to offer, but please join me as I pay tribute to the amazing areas I’ve visited thus far.

North Cascades
The North Cascades are calling!

There are many ways to hit up Okanogan County, including via our lovely neighbor, Canada. It is also possible to visit Okanogan County via the 440-mile Cascade Loop as it circles through King, Snohomish, Chelan, Skagit and Okanogan counties. This amazing route was recently and appropriately designated a National Scenic Byway in January of 2021. It is a fantastic way to visit the state and a beautiful representation of everything Washington has to offer.

Included as part of the Cascade Loop is the North Cascades Scenic Byway, also known as SR-20. Opened in 1972 to accommodate area hydroelectric projects as well as access to the newly created North Cascades National Park (1968), it is the longest highway in Washington. It is possible to traverse the entire state, beginning from coastal US-101 and ending at the border with Idaho. If you want to experience an amazing cross-section of the state’s bounty, SR-20 is the way to go!

Travel Alert: Okanogan County typically deals with very serious wildfires throughout the summer months. Portions of SR-20 and other thoroughfares are periodically closed and many trails, campsites, homes, lodges, etc. can close or experience various levels of evacuation. Please check the WSDOT before traveling and follow all fire stages and restrictions whenever in forested and dry areas. Be smart. Be safe!

Since Okanogan County is so large, it took me a few visits to experience even the moderate amount of adventures I’m about to share. I took different routes in and out of the county, but for this take, we’ll start out heading east on SR-20, off of I-5 in the Burlington area. (A great alternative off of I-5 is SR-530 to Darrington and then over to SR-20 near Rockport.) When the North Cascades pass is closed during the winter, another great route out of the Seattle area is via I-90 to Cle Elum and then SR-970­ to US-97 and Blewett Pass. US-97 will then meet up with US-2 at Peshastin and then back to US-97 at Orondo. Once in Okanogan County, take SR-153 from Pateros to head towards Twisp and Winthrop or stay on US-97 north towards Okanogan and the Canadian border. If you’re heading over from the eastern side of the state, US-395 out of the Spokane to SR-20 at Kettle Falls is great, as is US-395 out of the Tri-Cities area to SR-17 in Mesa and on to US-97.

The route via SR-20 through Skagit and Whatcom counties is spectacular. There are so many things to see and do along the way and so many glorious distractions. Eyes on the road, lovely travelers – we’re headed towards Okanogan County! That said, if you’re headed along SR-20, it would be road trip silliness to not check out a few of the more amazing spots along the way. I double-dog dare you to pass up these surreally beautiful sights on your next trip through the area. (Don’t actually take my dare – check out the sights!)

  • Directly off of SR-20 is the amazing Gorge Creek and Gorge Lake interpretive trail. The waterfall itself is breathtaking and can be viewed via a careful walk across the highway from the parking area. Even if you’re not a fan of heights, the area is well worth investigating.  
  • The deep turquoise, glacial waters of Diablo Lake blow me away every time I see them. There is much to do in the area, but taking a ride with the Diablo Lake Dam Tour, operated out of the very cool North Cascades Institute, is a great way to experience the area in a few hours. (Also a pick-up point for the Diablo Lake Ferry which heads to the incredibly unique, floating Ross Lake Resort.) Hit up my Whatcom County article for a more detailed view of the area.
  • If you don’t have time to stop at Diablo Lake proper, a quick stop at Diablo Lookout is a must! The views are soaring and everywhere you look presents the most perfect picture you’ve ever seen. (Pro Tip: It’s also a rest area and there aren’t many along this route. Just sayin’.)

Alrighty. After all that preamble and amazing roadway, we have at last arrived in Okanogan County! I will also commend you (and me!) for your fortitude while traversing over the formidable Washington Pass. (This part of SR-20 is very appropriately closed during the winter.) The North Cascades have been nicknamed “The Alps of North America,” and the comparison is well-deserved. This area is a haven for mountaineers, hikers and skiers alike, but even if you’re just heading over the pass, a stop at the Washington Pass Observation Site is a worthy adventure. At around 5500 feet, the views of Liberty Bell Mountain, Early Winters Spires and the highway as it snakes through the valley are awe-inspiring. The Alps are certainly something to behold, but the North Cascades are in a class of grandeur all their own.

After maneuvering through the impressive twists and turns of Washington Pass, the highway descends towards the idyllic, mountain town of Mazama and the enchanting Methow Valley. Washington has its fair share of stunning locales, but I can honestly say I’d move to the Mazama area tomorrow if it were possible. The most amazing scenery imaginable, all the outdoor adventure opportunities you could ever desire and the peaceful bliss of dark, star-studded skies can all be found in Mazama. While the area is rugged and doesn’t cater to modern convenience, it is not without its charms. A few places not to miss in the Mazama area:

  • If I lived in Mazama, I’d be at the incredibly cool, local institution, The Mazama Store every day. I’d have a regular table inside or a spot in their super-cool, outdoor courtyard. I’d eat one (or several) of their ridiculously tasty baked goods with several cups of their excellent coffee – in my personal mug. (OMG – their cream-cheese filled Everything Bagel!) I’d get my groceries, gas and takeaway food there. I’m pretty sure they’d be sick of me, but I wouldn’t leave. I can’t quit you, Mazama Store! And I would most certainly hang out at their yearly, Christmas at the End of the Road celebration. Cheers, Mazama! (Store open daily, 7am – 6pm. Gas 24hrs.)
  • Located conveniently behind the Mazama Store, The Goat’s Beard Mountain Supply has everything you need for exploring the local splendor. Gear sales and rentals available year-round, they have bikes, skis, snowshoes and more. A perfect spot to hit up before setting out on the amazing Methow Trails trailhead, located very close by. (Store open daily, 9am – 6pm)
  • Enjoy the ranch life at Freestone Inn at Wilson Ranch. (c. 1940s ranch) A lovely lodge and cabin layout feature 36 units with lake or forest view. For dining, check out their Sandy Butte Bistro, Moonshine Bar and Jack’s Hut. (Note: Dining options currently closed Monday/Tuesday. Check online for updates.) They are also located along the beautiful Sandy Butte Trail and are close to the Early Winters Campground and Early Winters Trail.
  • Close to cross-country ski trails and year-round activities, check out the Mazama Country Inn for their cozy inn and cabins. They also feature onsite yoga and tennis as well as a seasonal restaurant.

One of the biggest draws to the area is the undeniably spectacular North Cascades National Park. Featuring 300 glaciers, soaring mountain peaks, rugged terrain and lush forest, it is one of America’s most glorious gems. Just next door is the winner for *Best Supporting Forest in a Gorgeous Nature Scene, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. You truly can’t go wrong wherever you end up in this expansive, amazing setting. (*Not a real award, but should be)

If you’re up for an adrenaline rush and a view of all this majesty from the highest drivable point in Washington, take a trip to Slate Peak Lookout, located above Hart’s Pass. The road ends at 7488 feet at the Slate Peak parking area and is a narrow, steep gauntlet of unpaved twists and turns, complete with no guardrails. (Important note: Trailers are not allowed and RVs are highly discouraged.) Once you’re at the parking lot, it’s a half-mile hike to the lookout. If you happen to be in the area at night, I’ve heard the dark skies are filled with an absolute blanket of stars. Dreamy! (Side note: I totally got sucked into watching videos of people driving up the road. Yikes!)

Pro Tip: While there are no fees required to drive through the North Cascades National Park, they are often involved for parking within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Various National Park trails actually begin within the National Forest and could require a NW Forest Pass.

If you’d like to do some hiking, backpacking and camping or perhaps a climb in the park, there are SO many wonderful options for your adventure. For something epic, the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail runs through the south part of park and the 1200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail (WA, MT, ID) traverses through the upper-north of the state, through the park and down towards the coast. (Note: All overnight camping within the park requires a park Backcountry Permit.) Good spots to join up with the Pacific Crest Trail are off of SR-20 near the Rainy Pass Trailhead, the Cutthroat Lake trailhead or via the aforementioned Hart’s Pass.

For something not quite as involved, but equally epic and beautiful, consider these great backpacking and camping spots for your next trip to the North Cascades and Mazama area:

  • For the perfect combo of stunning views and a loop trail, check out the Heather-Maple Pass Loop off of SR-20, across from the Rainy Pass Trailhead.
  • Located in the area of the Washington Pass Lookout, Blue Lake is a very reasonable 2-mile hike from SR-20. The elevation gain is relatively low (1050 ft) and makes for a lovely family daytrip. You might even see a mountain goat!
  • Sporting some pretty amazing scenery and backcountry camping, Easy Pass and the Fisher Creek Trails offer a splendid cross-section of North Cascades glory. Park at the trailhead at milepost 151 on SR-20 to start your adventure.
  • For an amazing view, head to the historic Goat Peak Lookout and revel in the wonder of the North Cascades and Methow Valley.
  • Following along with the goat theme, Goat Wall Overlook offers yet another spectacular view of the North Cascades and Methow Valley and is easily reached from Mazama proper.
  • For great forest, flowers and more, the Robinson Creek Trail and the West Fork Methow Trail are very enjoyable hikes. (Hot tip: The Pacific Crest Trail can also be accessed from the West Fork Methow Trail.) If you’re up for camping in the area, the River Bend Campsite and Ballard Campground are good options. (Note: A NW Forest Pass is required for the Robinson Creek Trail and Ballard Campground areas.)

I am a creature of the snow. Winter is coming! (Doesn’t matter what time of year you might be reading this article…) The North Cascades are known for their stellar climbing challenges, both rock and alpine, and I dream of conquering even a small portion. Those snowy heights are within reach. I know it! (Gear up and grab the 10 Essentials first, but the mountains are calling!) In addition to climbing, the North Cascades and Methow Valley offer some of the country’s (nay, world’s) best cross-country skiing opportunities. Should you feel inspired to don your Gore-Tex and hit the winter wonderland, here are just a few of the snowy possibilities:

  • There are SO many amazing places to climb in the North Cascades. WOW. If you’ve got nerves of steel and a love of heights, the iconic Liberty Bell awaits. Forbidden Peak is considered one of the top, classic climbs in North America and is a surefire adrenaline rush. Add to that list, Sharkfin Tower, the Goat Wall and Eldorado Peak and you’re looking at some serious mountaineering magnificence.
  • If you’d like an assist with your ascent, hit up the experts at North Cascades Mountain Guides for both alpine and rock adventures – year-round! (Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 3pm and Saturday/Sunday, 8am – 5pm)
  • The North Cascades and Methow Valley support an incredible Nordic scene which includes cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-biking. In operation since the 1970s, the non-profit Methow Trails system is now North America’s largest cross-country ski area. Working with local landowners to allow access to private land, the groomed trails feature over 120-miles of snowy opportunity. One can even ski town to town and lodge to lodge – just like in Europe! Methow Trails also support some pretty amazing summer action as well.
  • In addition to climbing expeditions, North Cascade Mountain Guides also offer ski tours in North Cascades National Park. You could even try your hand (and legs!) at heli-skiing or backcountry touring with local outfit, North Cascades Heli.
  • Perhaps you’d like to sit down while enjoying your snowy adventuring. If snowmobiling is your jam, there are many amazing areas to hit up in the Methow Valley. Yellowjacket Sno-Park provides access to excellent snowmobile trails in the Hart’s Pass and Blackpine Basin areas. Eightmile Sno-Park, located out of Winthrop on West Chewuch Road is another great area to check out. Visit the Methow Valley Snowmobiling Association for local tips and be sure to have your Sno-Park and snowmobiling permits sorted out. (Required November thru March)
Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell, stunning with snow or without!

Heading east through the Methow Valley towards Winthrop is a beautiful adventure in and of itself. Any time of the year you happen to be in this area is guaranteed to be an extraordinary experience. Featuring snow-covered pastures and scenery in the winter, idyllic harvest colors in the fall and abundant flora and fauna in the warmer months, the area is a picture-perfect wonderland.

Longtime stewards of the valley, the Methow People, now part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have cherished the area for millennia. Flowing through this beautiful valley, the Methow River was a vital part of the Methow Peoples’ lives and to this day is an extremely integral part of valley life. A fine way to experience this timeless splendor is with a horseback riding adventure or a hike along the Methow Community Trail. Take a stop on the lovely Tawlks-Foster Suspension Bridge and take in the river scene. (Groomed for skiers in the winter!) The Methow Valley is always striking and not to be missed on your Okanogan County adventure.

Continuing through the Methow Valley on SR-20 will bring you directly into the very unique town of Winthrop. As you enter town, you might question if you’ve just stumbled into an Old West movie set. Nope – it’s just a typical day in Winthrop! Feel free to bust out your chaps and ride in on a horse, but more modern methods of transportation are equally welcome. In fact, on a busy weekend day, you’ll be lucky to snag one of the parking spots in the center of town. (SR-20 is the main route through town.)

While there are many aspects of early settler life that remain in Winthrop, the “western” feel of the town was inspired by the opening of SR-20 in 1972. Local merchants contributed $1000 each and a new era of industry began. Along with general updates, false facades were rebuilt, sidewalks were replaced with boardwalks and a “Westernization Code” was put in play. (In effect to this day.) Similar to what the nearby town of Leavenworth also accomplished, the town modernized its tourist appeal by taking a step back in time. Everything old is new again! (I say that to myself every birthday.)

Just as is the scene in nearby Mazama, outdoor activities and beautiful views are plentiful in Winthrop any time of the year. Whether you’re into cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, ice-skating, hockey, hiking, camping or fishing, Winthrop has you covered. And that’s just the short list! Even if you simply want to sit out at night and marvel at the wonderfully dark skies or look out from your hotel deck onto the Methow and Chewuch rivers as they converge, Winthrop can accommodate you. It is truly an excellent town to spend a spell. And maybe water your horse…

If you’re anything like me, you’re likely pretty hungry (and thirsty!) after all of that adventuring. Even if you were only sitting by the river, that takes some concentration! Which surely burns some amount of calories, right?? At any rate, it’s a very wise plan to spend some time enjoying the food and beverage scene in Winthrop. It may be a small area, but Winthrop certainly packs in some delicious options! Here are some of my favorite spots in Winthrop:

  • Featuring delicious craft cocktails and locally sourced ingredients, Copper Glance is an excellent place to enjoy a meal. The atmosphere is modern, but is set in a historic Winthrop locale. (Open Thursday – Saturday, 4-pm)
  • I absolutely love the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. If it’s a nice day, head directly to the beautiful riverside seating, overlooking the Chewuch River. I particularly enjoy their Methow Blonde with one of their amazing burgers or an order of Totchos. They also regularly feature live music in the summer. (Open Monday – Thursday, 3-8pm, Friday/Saturday, Noon – 9pm, Sunday, Noon – 8pm)
  • If you’re in need of a sugar fix, don’t miss a stop at the popular Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe. It can be a bit touristy on a busy weekend, but the delicious treats are worth the wait. (Open daily, 7am – 6pm. Open seasonally.)
  • I have a very special place in my heart for the fabulous Rocking Horse Bakery. Perhaps I’ll tell you the story one of these days… Don’t miss the amazing carrot cake and cup of their always excellent coffee. They feature Lariat Coffee Roasters which are conveniently located next door! I truly love this place. (Open Thursday – Monday, 7am – 2pm. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday.)
  • My brother and I enjoyed some seriously delicious pizza at East 20 Pizza. Featuring excellent pizza along with great beer and a fun atmosphere, it’s an all-around enjoyable place to stop. (Open daily, 3-8pm.)
  • Should you be feeling a little fancy during your Winthrop visit, head to the Arrowleaf Bistro for a delicious evening. Their menu features locally-sourced ingredients and a modern flair. Check out the roasted quail with local Bluebird Grain Farms farro! (Open for dinner, Thursday – Sunday, 5-9pm)
  • Featuring apples they grow themselves, the Methow Valley Cider House is a great place for cider and food. They also have the Apple Amphitheatre for live events and music. (Winter 2022 – Open daily, 12-8pm, closed Wednesdays.)
  • Stop in at the tasting room of boutique, family-owned Lost River Winery and enjoy a glass or two. A nice glass of Cab on a fall afternoon… yes, please! (Friday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm)
  • Offering tastings and small plates, the Brix Wine Bar & Bottle Shop is a lovely spot to both relax with a glass and replenish your wine rack. (Open Wednesday, 4-9pm, Thursday – Sunday, 1-5pm, 6pm on Friday/Saturday – Closed Monday/Tuesday)
  • If you’d like to take home a bit of the area bounty, stop by the Winthrop Farmers Market and stock up! (Sundays, 10am – 2pm in Winthrop Park. Spring thru Fall)

The very strollable boardwalks in Winthrop not only host excellent dining options, but feature several wonderful shops. Grab a good book, gear up for your outdoor adventures or stock up on crafting items – Winthrop has what you need. A few of the excellent shopping possibilities for your next visit:

  • In addition to a great supply of crafting, quilting and gift items, the 3 Bears Café & Quilts also offers casual breakfasts and great coffee in their inviting shop. Located at the east end town, it is well worth a stop. (Winter hours: Thursday – Monday, 10:30am – 5:30pm. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday)
  • If you’d like to cozy up in your cabin, stop by the charming Trail’s End Bookstore and grab something for your weekend library. (Open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm and Monday/Tuesday, 10am – 3pm)
  • Forget your ski poles? Need some cool new hiking boots? Stop in at Winthrop Mountain Sports and let them outfit you. They can fill your Nordic ski needs and rentals as well as hook you up with a sweet kayak. (Open daily, 9:30am – 6pm, 9am – 6pm on Saturday, 5pm on Sunday)
  • Backpacks, tents, Nordic ski gear and more! The very cool Cascades Outdoor Store has everything needed to trick out your outdoor adventures. (Sunday – Thursday, 9am – 6pm, Friday/Saturday, 9am – 5pm)
  • Should you plan on braving the local rivers, hit up Methow River Raft & Kayak and make sure you’re ready to go. In addition to gear and rentals, they also offer guided trips for rafting and kayaking. (Open daily, 10am – 5pm)
  • Want to learn more about the fat bike craze or rest a pair of skis or snowshoes? Stop by Methow Cycle & Sport and let them hook you up with all your year-round sporting needs. (Open daily, 9am – 5:30pm, 5pm on Sunday.)

Whether you want to enjoy some quality indoor time or spend your time trekking on a hiking or x-country trail, there are SO many possibilities in the Winthrop area:

  • Even if you are only passing through Winthrop, make time to visit the fascinating Shafer Museum, situated on a small hill above downtown. This step back in time features well-curated indoor exhibits as well as an extensive outdoor collection of mining implements and more. Open daily, 10am – 5pm in summer. (May 9th – September 19th) Note: The museum is also open in winter, but the buildings are closed and snow doesn’t get cleared. Also open by appointment year-round.
  • Looking to see that cool new indie film or catch a live performance from a NW band? The Barnyard Cinema is the place to be! Along with movies and live music, they also have a concession stand and a lounge with beer, wine and coffee.
  • In addition to the stellar Nordic scene, there are other chilly options to explore while in town. Head to the Winthrop Ice and Sports Rink for ice skating and hockey during your winter visit. This all-season rink also has roller/inline skating, roller hockey and pickleball in the summer. Check out their online schedule for more info.
  • In addition to the excellent, year-round outdoor opportunities of the Methow Trails, there are many other areas to check out. The Pipestone Canyon Rim Trail between Winthrop and Twisp and the Sa Teekh Wa Trail (Riverwalk Trail) via the beautiful Sa Teekh Wa Suspension Bridge are excellent options. Just out of Winthrop on East Chewuch Road is Falls Creek Falls with its lovely, 2.6-mile roundtrip trail to a series of falls. If you want to extend your trip to the area, hit up the Falls Creek Campground for some further outdoor adventure.
  • Perhaps you rolled into town with your ski boat or jet skis. If you’re looking for a place to put in, head to Pearrygin Lake State Park located just outside of Winthrop. It’s a great state park with camping, boating, fishing and winter Nordic opportunities. (Discover Pass required)

There are so many beautiful lodging options in Winthrop and surrounding areas. In addition to the large list of local hotels, lodges, cabins and campgrounds, there are also many opportunities available via sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. It does, however, get pretty busy in the summer months in particular. Book early for your adventures! A few of the excellent places where you can rest up from your adventuring:

  • Overlooking Winthrop and the valley, the Sun Mountain Lodge has much to offer from its spectacular, mountaintop perch. Even if you’re not staying at the lodge, the amazing views and beautiful drive are worth your time. If you are lucky enough to be staying there, be sure to check out the spa, excellent wine cellar, gift shop, pool and comfortable lodging. I wasn’t actually staying there on my last visit, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a delicious breakfast in their restaurant – AND a gorgeous view! Part of the Methow Trails system, there are winter trails for cross-country skiing, fat-biking, snowshoeing and summer trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. There is truly something for everyone at Sun Mountain Lodge.
  • I’ve stayed at the Hotel Rio Vista and very much enjoyed my time there. It’s more of a traditional motel setup, but what sets it apart are the river views from each room’s private deck. A glass of wine, the river and those star-filled skies? Dreamy!
  • The River’s Edge Resort is located appropriately on the Chewuch River in downtown Winthrop.  Featuring a series of charming cabins, some with their own hot tubs, the resort is an excellent place to spend your holiday.
  • Situated on the Methow River, River Run Inn & Cabins feature lovely rooms, cabins and a 6-bedroom house. They also have an indoor pool and hot tub, large grounds and a fire circle by the river. Methow River Raft & Kayak also offer trips leaving directly from the inn. Adventure at your doorstep!
  • Not only does the Spring Creek Ranch have lodging and host beautiful weddings and events, they are also well known for their alfalfa. Throw a wedding, rent a cabin and grab a bale (or ton!) of alfalfa from their 6-acre farm. All the things!
  • In addition to cozy rooms and complimentary breakfasts in their lodge, the Chewuch Inn also has seven cabins and lovely grounds which include a small, organic orchard.
  • Hit up The Virginian Resort & Hotel for their cozy, western-themed cabins and rooms with tranquil river views. I’m giving them extra points for having a groovy “1969” themed cabin.

As the area can get incredibly dry during the long, hot summers, the danger of wildfires runs extremely high. This danger has been increasing over the years, making the need for a rapid-deployment fire-fighting presence incredibly important and necessary. Enter the North Cascades Smokejumper Base. Located between Winthrop and nearby Twisp at the Methow Valley State Airport, the base supports the local firefighting effort, including the specialized smokejumper crew.

In 1939, Methow Valley became the birthplace of smoke-jumping. Today, there are nine primary locations in the western part of the US and Alaska. These bases support around 400 smokejumpers and owe their existence to the first crew out of the Methow Valley. If they’re not otherwise engaged in fighting fires, the base is open June 1st thru October 1st for free tours. (Daily, 10am – 5pm) The tour includes a museum and smokejumper planes. Go check out what these brave women and men do!

After visiting with the smokejumpers, hop back on SR-20 and head towards the wonderful town of Twisp. This little paradise of a town is well-known as an artist’s haven and even a quick visit easily showcases this claim. Packed into its relatively small borders lie tasty food options, top-notch galleries and beautiful outdoor possibilities. You won’t want to miss taking in the charms of Twisp.

On your next visit through the area, fuel up for your Twisp adventures at these delicious spots:

  • Don’t miss a stop at the iconic Cinnamon Twisp Bakery. Not only do they feature super tasty pastries, they also feature excellent breakfast bagel sandwiches and lunch offerings. Open Wednesday – Sunday, 7am – 3pm, Closed Monday/Tuesday.
  • For wood-fired, tasty Italian goodness, reserve a spot at Tappi. Enjoy pizza, pasta, delicious wines and more! (Open Friday – Tuesday, 5-7:30pm. Closed Wednesday/Thursday)
  • Who doesn’t love a bahn mi sandwich, a tasty burger or maybe a Korean fried chicken sandwich? YUM!! Check out the Fork food truck, located seasonably on the TwispWorks campus. (May thru mid-October, Wednesday – Saturday. Check online for hours.)
  • If you’re looking for a great cup of coffee, stop in at Blue Star Coffee Roasters and get your caffeine fix. Visit the coffee roasting plant where you can get fresh pastries and coffee onsite or order online. (They have a coffee subscription deal!) Open Monday – Saturday, 7:30am – 1:30pm.
  • The very cool Glover Street Market, located in the heart of downtown Twisp features a great grocery selection along with a food counter and groovy wine cellar. (Open Monday – Saturday, 9am – 6pm. Kitchen open 9am – 4pm. Closed Sunday.) Note: They’re for sale! If I had money to buy a local grocery spot… Crowd fund me??
  • If you happen to be in town on a Saturday between April and October, stop by the Twisp Farmers Market and stock up on local goods. (AKA: Methow Valley Farmer’s Market) Saturdays, 9am – noon (April – October)

There are so many amazing things to experience in the Twisp area. Want to add a bit of the Arts to your adventure? Done! Consider these creative options for your next stay in the area:

  • Perhaps you’d like to stay right in the middle of all that Twisp action. Drop off your bags at the very cool Twisp River Hotel Suites, located on the lovely Twisp River and relax in style.
  • I’m a sucker for a good vintage or thrift shop. I had a great time perusing the goods at The Thrifty Fox in downtown Twisp. (Open Wednesday thru Saturday, 10am – 4pm. Closed Sunday – Tuesday.)
  • Featuring local artists, the Confluence Gallery is an excellent place to check out all things arty. (Open Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm)
  • Should you be looking for some local theatre or maybe even a theatre camp, check out The Merc Playhouse in downtown Twisp. Check online for upcoming shows and auditions.
  • Located in the downtown area, the Methow Valley Interpretive Center features exhibits and an interpretive garden focusing on indigenous peoples and natural surroundings of the area. They also feature very interesting events and classes. (Open Friday – Sunday, Noon – 4pm, 10am on Saturday)
  • You can find Samantha Carlin’s work in various shops around the area, but Twisp-based Lucid Glassworks is also available online. I picked up a lovely glass from the Sun Mountain gift shop and I’m looking forward to expanding to a full set. (Currently waiting for it to ship, in fact!)
  • For a great opportunity to enjoy all things Twisp and gear up for the holidays, check out their Mistletoe Madness celebration in the downtown area. (December 3rd, 2021 from 3-7pm)

I can’t say enough good about local arts mecca, Twispworks, located in the downtown area. It’s an incredibly cool artist collective, sculpture garden, business incubator and more. A must-stop for your next Twisp visit. A few of the eclectic spots to explore at Twispworks:

  • If you’re looking for tasty beer, visit the OSB Taproom, located on the TwispWorks campus. An extension of Winthrop’s Old Schoolhouse Brewery, this new production facility and adjacent taproom are a great place to spend an afternoon. They also feature Methow Pure sparkling water. (Open Monday – Friday, 3pm – close and Saturday – Sunday, noon to close.)
  • Outside food is welcome at the OSB Taproom and Saskatoon Kitchens is ready to fill the bill. Located on the Twispworks campus, they feature some very tasty items. (Check out their Menu!)
  • Featuring artisan gifts and goods from the Methow Valley and Okanogan County, Methow Valley Goods is the perfect place to stop for that special gift. (Open Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm. Also available online!)
  • If you’re in the market for beautiful, hand-dyed wearable art, Culler Studio is the place to be! (Thursday/ Friday, 10am – 4pm, Saturday, 10am – 2pm. Closed Sunday – Wednesday.)
  • Featuring super cool bags, wallets, masks and more, the innovative eqpd is a great place to check out. Their HEPA masks and stadium bags are super rad!  (Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm, Saturday to 2pm, Closed Sunday)
  • Check out the Fireweed Print Shop for their letterpress facilities and unique hand-printed items. (Open Thursday/Friday, Noon – 4pm and Saturday, 11am – 2pm. Closed Sunday – Wednesday.)
  • As soon as I have a spot to hang one of their one-of-a-kind nests, I’m heading directly to Nice Nests. These species-specific nesting boxes use recycled materials and are absolutely charming. (Call for hours)

Okanogan County has definitely cornered the market on amazing outdoor opportunities and Twisp certainly holds up its part of the bargain. Beauty is everywhere! Here are a few amazing spots from which to view the majesty:

Trees
Take a moment and enjoy the beauty of the area…

After reveling in the artistic grandeur of Twisp, it was time to head back into the surrounding mountains. As a skier, it’s long been on my bucket-list to ski every ski hill in the state. Sadly, I still have a few places on my list and nearby Loup Loup Ski Bowl is one of them. Since I’m located on the west side of the state and the North Cascades pass is closed during the winter, it’s a bit of a haul to get to the area. However, since my most recent trip was in the summer months, I merrily made the trek. (Sans skis, unfortunately.)

Located in between Twisp and Okanogan off of SR-20, Loup Loup is small, but mighty. They have runs to suit all levels as well as cross-country trails and… Luge sledding!! I might just have to make the long winter trek to the area and check it out. A snow cat ferries lugers up the mountain, where an epic-looking ride down then ensues. COOL! And should snowmobiles be more your thing, head to the South Summit Sno-Park and unload your beast. (The area also features groomed cross-country trails.) Located on the south summit of Loup Loup pass.

Pro Tip: For the record, I’m used to driving in snow and I’ve driven my fair share of wacky ski-hill access roads. That said, the portion of SR-20 leading to Loup Loup pass and ski hill is not for the faint of heart, or driver of non-winter-friendly vehicles. Make sure you have chains and/or AWD during the colder months.

Another route out of Twisp is via SR-153. This path heads east towards a more arid region along the Columbia River before meeting with US-97. If you plan to head further north from Twisp, SR-20 is the most direct route, but heading down SR-153 allows a look at a beautiful part of the Columbia River as well as a visit to the nearby towns of Pateros and Brewster.

Located directly on the Columbia River at an especially wide bend in the river, Pateros is a nice place to enjoy a bit of sun. Set at the confluence of the Columbia and Methow Rivers, it is a particularly excellent spot for all water-based endeavors. Nearby Brewster offers many outdoor opportunities and sweeping views of the river. A few options to consider should you be visiting the area:

  • If you’d like to wake up to a view of the beautiful Columbia River, be sure to book Howards on the River for your overnight stay. In addition to the beautiful view, they feature a boat launch to help with your pursuit of watersports. Hit up their Super Stop for gas and groceries and adjacent restaurant, Rivers by Ed’s Mudville for a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Featuring scratch-baked goods, coffee, pizza and more, The Sweetriver Bakery is a great place to stop in the town center. They also feature live music in the summer months on their back patio. (Open daily, 7am – 7pm)
  • Stop in at the Pateros Museum for a look into the history of the area. (City Hall entrance – Open Monday – Friday, 8am – 4:30pm) Don’t miss the Methow Monument Native American sculpture park located behind City Hall near the river. For a more in-depth look into local Native American history and heritage, visit Fort Okanogan Interpretive Center in nearby Brewster. Managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the center features an emphasis on the Okanogan Tribe. (Open Wednesday – Friday, 8:30am – 4pm from May – September)
  • If you’re looking for golf action, there are great options in the area. Along with golf, the Pateros Alta Lake Golf Resort features lodging and a café by the name of Scratch. (Café open daily 7am – 3pm, 4pm on Friday/Saturday) Located in Brewster, the Gamble Sands course and their Danny Boy Bar & Grill are also a great choice. (Open daily, 60-min after sunrise – 10pm. Winter hours vary – check online) Lodging can be found at The Inn at Gamble Sands, which features a pool, fire pits and beautiful views of the Columbia River.
  • If you’d prefer to rough it a bit, nearby Alta Lake State Park offers camping, hiking, fishing, wind-surfing and swimming. (Discover Pass required for parking and permit required for boating.)
  • Should you be visiting during the winter, ample snowmobiling and x-country skiing opportunities can be found in the Black Canyon and South Fork Gold Creek sno-park areas. (Sno-Park permits required)
  • The towns of Pateros and Brewster and relatively small, but they do feature some big celebrations. Going since 1947, the Apple Pie Jamboree takes place the third weekend in July and is a great opportunity to indulge your love of pie as well as jet-ski races, fireworks and more. Taking advantage of that big bend in the river, the Pateros Hydro Races feature old-school hydroplanes in all their speedy glory. (August 26-28, 2022)

The most common route when heading north from Pateros and Brewster is via US-97. If you’re partial to roads less traveled, hit up Old Highway 97 off of US-97 in the Brewster area. It’s a lovely, tranquil route with acres of cherry orchards, waving fields of grain and sweeping vistas. That said, there was a bit of road construction on my last trip and several miles of it were unpaved gravel. It was well worth it, however, to experience the area from a less modern perspective. It was very easy to imagine riding horseback through the area en route to the next outpost…

Along the route, there are some excellent places to stop for a rest, enjoy the views and sample the area’s bounty. A couple of options to check out on your trek through the backroads:

  • Pull over in tiny Malott and visit the charming Malott Country Store. Along with all-day breakfast and desserts, they feature coffee, groceries, ice cream and more! (Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 7pm, Saturday, 10am – 7pm and Sunday, 11am – 6pm)
  • Don’t miss a stop at Smallwood Farms, located on SR-20 after the merge with Old Highway 97. Along with being a working farm, it’s a restaurant, fruit stand and grocery/gift store – and they have plenty of picnic space! If you’re into cherries, you’ll be extremely happy with your visit. (in season, of course) The store/restaurant is open seasonally – check online for hours.

After adventuring on Old Highway 97 and merging onto SR-20, it’s not too long before you’re back on the modern US-97. Heading further north on US-97 will soon bring you to the county seat of Okanogan County, fittingly named Okanogan. Established in 1888, Okanogan has long been at the center of local area commerce and culture. Located along the Okanogan River, it continues to serve as an important part of Okanogan County industry and interests.

One of the very interesting stories to be found in Okanogan involves the life and work of artist, Frank Matsura. After emigrating from Japan to the US in the early 1900s, he answered a Seattle newspaper ad and was hired at a hotel in nearby Conconully. During his time at the hotel, he spent his spare time photographing the Okanogan area and eventually moved into Okanogan proper in 1907. He became well known as both a photographer and muralist and contributed greatly to the commemoration of early Okanogan life and heritage. In January of 2022, a 60-foot mural was discovered during renovation of a downtown Okanogan building. (c. 1907) The hand-painted mural is being potentially attributed to Frank Matsura and the building’s new owners are currently working to restore the mural.

To explore the culture, history and industry of Okanogan and surrounding areas, consider these great options for your next visit:

  • Learn more about Frank Matsura and the early days of Okanogan with a visit to the Okanogan County Historical Museum in the downtown area. In addition to the museum, there is a firehouse exhibit next door as well an outdoor, historic Okanogan exhibit. (Open Memorial Day weekend – Labor Day weekend, call for hours/days)
  • For local festivities, entertainment and all things fried, head to the Okanogan County Fair & Rodeo every September and revel in this celebration of the county. If you’re in need of some new boots or a cowboy hat to pep up your rodeo-attending attire, stop in at longtime Okanogan staple, Rawson’s and get yourself outfitted.
  • Enjoy the area bounty and explore offerings from local artisans at the Okanogan Valley Farmers Market. (Saturdays, May thru October, 9am – 1pm. Hot tip: There is also a Tuesday version in nearby Omak from 3:30 – 6:30pm, June thru October.)

Important to any adventure is a great meal and a cozy place to stay. Okanogan can certainly help you out in both departments. On your next visit, check out these fine establishments:

  • For hearty panini sandwiches and fresh salads, head to The 509 – just good food for a tasty lunch. Monday – Friday, 10:30am – 2pm. Closed Sat/Sun
  • If a place features “wieners and wine,” I’m in! The Dawg House, located in the heart of downtown features both as well as delicious BBQ and a respectable tap list – not to mention mouthwatering cheesecake. They also feature live music on weekends and great outdoor seating. (Wednesday – Saturday, 4-8pm)
  • If you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast or juicy burger, stop by local fav, the Stockyard Café and fill up. Also, they have crinkle fries. Very important to note. (Open Tuesday – Saturday, 7am – 2pm)
  • I require a good cup of coffee (or three) in the morning and drive-thru spot, Free Bird Espresso fully came to the rescue on my recent visit. (Open Monday – Friday, 5:45am – 6pm, Saturday/Sunday, 6:45am – 5pm)
  • There are Vrbo and Airbnb options in the greater Okanogan area, but on my last visit I stayed at the local Quality Inn & Suites. It’s relatively basic, but reasonably priced and the staff was very friendly and helpful. Located close to US-97, it’s well situated as a base for exploring the area.

Not far north on US-97 lies the largest city in Okanogan County, Omak and its suburb, North Omak. The area is famous for its yearly Omak Stampede, but there are many great ways to enjoy the area. Located in the foothills of the Okanogan Highlands, a hilly, mountain range spread across Canada, Washington and Northern Idaho, the dark skies alone are worth a visit. It is also a great base of operations for your northern Washington adventures.

Okanogan is a big county and you’ve likely worked up a big appetite if you’ve made it all the way up to Omak. There are many great options to stave off the hunger on your next visit:

  • Check out the fresh bread and home-style cooking made with locally sourced ingredients in this classic Omak location. (c. 1906) The Breadline Café offers tasty lunch and dinner and is open Tuesday – Friday, 11am – 8pm.
  • Located on the main route through town, Magoo’s Family Restaurant features classic, diner breakfasts all day and hearty lunch options. (Open daily at 7am, 11am on Wednesdays.)
  • Stop in at family-run Red Rooster Grill for classic diner dishes with an international flair. Located in the heart of downtown Omak and open daily from 8am – 9:30pm.
  • Head to the hip, downtown spot, The Loggerhead for artisan pizza, good beer and a fun atmosphere. This family friendly location in downtown Omak is typically open Wednesday – Saturday, 3-9:30pm. (Check online as they are open seasonally – and for the occasional special event in the off-season.)
  • These guys were closed on my last visit, but I WILL be back and I’m planning on a tasty visit. Los Gallos, a restaurant and bar located in downtown Omak features not only Mexican fare, but Chinese as well! That’s a dream fusion, in my foodie opinion. Open daily, 11am – 8pm (11pm, Thursday – Sunday)
  • Located just out of North Omak and flanked by orchards and farmland, the Rockwall Cellars Winery is a nice spot to relax with a glass of wine. In the summer, their tasting room is open Monday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm. During January – April, it’s open Thursday – Saturday, 11am – 5pm. They also host live music and feature “Wine Down Wednesdays” from7-9pm. Bring your own food – there’s a BBQ available for grilling.

I will admit to enjoying a visit here and there to a good casino. Video poker? Yes, please. Is that a Zillion Gators slot machine I see there?? Move out of my way! (Damn. Now I have the ridiculous Zillion Gators theme song stuck in my head. I have no one to blame but myself.) If you’re visiting the Okanogan/Omak area, smack dab in the middle is the 12 Tribes Resort Casino, operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Featuring a large array of slots and table games, the casino also hosts several onsite restaurants, hotel and RV lodging and spa facilities. The casino is a hot spot for nightlife and entertainment in the area and a fun evening out. That said, they didn’t actually have Zillion Gators. I looked… Maybe next time?

While there is much to do in the Omak area year-round, one of the most popular attractions takes place over the second weekend in August. The Omak Stampede has been entertaining visitors since 1933 and features western and native art shows, the Indian Encampment & Pow Wow and the famous Suicide Race. Whether or not you’re a fan of horses and their riders careening down an insanely steep trail in the Suicide Race, there are many sights, sounds and tasty treats to enjoy at the Omak Stampede. (August 11-14, 2022 – Always second weekend in August)

If don’t happen to be around during the Stampede festivities, consider these entertaining options for your visit:

  • Featuring first-run films in a classic movie house setting, the Omak & Mirage Theaters in downtown Omak are the places to be. They also host drive-in movies at the Stampede Arena during the summer months.
  • While currently closed during Covid times, the Omak Performing Arts Center hopes to be back soon. Featuring all varieties of performance, both local and touring, they are the premier destination for the performing arts in the area.
  • If you’re looking for a unique getaway, head to Pine Stump Farms­ for one of their package deals. They feature a Country Weekend that comes with food, lodging and excursions of your choice. (Horseback riding, swimming, canoeing or hiking) as well as horseback adventures of varying length. And be sure to try their tasty cheeses on your visit!
  • If enjoying the natural beauty of the area is on your agenda, check out Omak lake, Washington’s largest salt lake. Located in the foothills of the Okanogan Highlands, the area features beaches, camping, fishing, swimming, boating and more. This beautiful area in Colville Federated Tribes land is well worth a visit. (Camping and boat launch permits required.) Also found in the Omak Lake area is the gravity-defying, 40-ton behemoth known as the Omak Balance Rock. You can hold it up with one finger!

If the laid-back scene in Okanogan and Omak still isn’t mellow enough, consider heading towards Conconully on Conconully Road just out of Okanogan. Set in a beautiful mountain valley, Conconully is surrounded by forest, stunningly dark skies, two lakes and an endless variety of outdoor opportunity. Home to snowmobiling, camping, hunting, fishing and more, it’s the perfect place to commune with the sportsperson in you.

Most importantly, it’s home to the annual Outhouse Races. (The 2022 races took place on January 15th) If you’re not inspired to build your own outhouse racer, line up along the course as outhouses careen down the street. True story! Check out the short film, “Fast Crapper” for an in-depth look into this very excellent Conconully tradition.

Whether you’re in the area to enjoy the outdoors or the outhouses, Conconully has some food and lodging options to help you appreciate your stay:

  • Hit up the Conconully General Store for all your gas, groceries, gifts, and treat needs. (And more!) They’ll also be hosting a local vendor market beginning the weekend of April 23rd, 2022.
  • If you’re up for hearty burgers or pizza, stop in at the Red Rock Saloon and trade some fishing tales with your buddies. Open Tuesday – Saturday, 4pm – 2am. Family friendly. (Closed Sunday/Monday)
  • Enjoy a bit of classic breakfast and pub fare at the Sit ‘n Bull Saloon. Open Monday – Thursday, 9am – 11pm, Friday/Saturday, 8am – 11pm and Sunday, 9am – 10pm. Family friendly.
  • If you happen to be in town on the fourth Saturday in September, don’t miss the Stew & Brew event. A mere $15 buys you tastings of several stews and local brews.
  • Learn more about this tiny community at the Conconully Area Historical Museum. (Open weekends and holidays, 10am – 4pm, Memorial Day to Labor Day and by appointment.)
  • There are plenty of great lodging and camping areas in and around Conconully. The Liar’s Cove Resort, Shady Pines Resort and Gibson’s North Fork Lodge all feature cabins and access to local lakes, fishing, boating and more.
  • Also featuring five cabins as well as RV and campsite accommodations, Conconully State Park features ample boating, camping, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling opportunities. (Discover Pass required. Fishing and boating permits required. Park facilities closed during the winter.)
  • Heading deeper into the forest surrounding Concunully, you’ll find the Salmon Meadows Campground. This area provides access to the Angel Pass Trail as well access to many snowmobiling and horse trails.
US 97
Okanogan Highlands and fruit on US 97

Heading closer to the Canadian border via US-97 will bring you to the tiny town of Tonasket. Fruit is big business in Okanogan County and Tonasket is an important player in the scene. Celebrate their part in one of Washington’s most important industries at these Tonasket spots:

  • Located off of Highway 7, Apple Cart Fruit features farm-fresh fruit throughout the year. Apples, cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and more! Open daily, 8am – 5pm, closed Sundays.
  • If you’re in the mood for homemade pie made with local fruit, stop by the quaint Shannon’s Place and dig in. If you need more than pie, check out their hearty breakfasts and weekend dinners. Open daily from 7:00am – 2:30pm. Friday/Saturday, open for dinner 4:30-7pm.
  • Stock up on all things natural and organic at the Tonasket Natural Foods Co-op. They feature an in-store deli with soup and sandwiches, local produce, meats, eggs and more. Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 7pm, Saturday, 9am – 6pm and Sunday, 11am – 4pm.
  • If you’re in the market for antiques or an eclectic gift, stop by The Olde Creamery and find your bliss. Open Monday – Saturday, 9am – 5:30pm, 8:30pm on Saturdays.
  • Buy directly from local artisans and farmers at the seasonal Tonasket Farmers Market. (Thursdays, 2-6pm, Mid May-October)
  • As is the case across Okanogan County, there are many beautiful areas to explore just out of town. Head to Bonaparte Lake and the Bonaparte Lake Campground for an outdoor adventure. The lake is very popular for fishing, including ice fishing in the winter. Along with stellar fishing, the campground features a boat launch, camping, swimming and hiking. (Fishing license required.)
  • For stunning hiking and very cool rock climbing options, hit up the Whistler Canyon Trailhead and take in the beautiful scenery. (Trailhead entrance located just off US-97.)
  • Should you feel like exploring the ghost towns of Okanogan County, head east on SR-20 out of Tonasket towards Wauconda and Old Wauconda. Outside of visiting the ghosts of Washington’s past, there isn’t much to do, but the drive is interesting and fairly quiet. Unfortunately, not to be confused with Wakanda.

If you’ve made it as far as Oroville, it’s only a few more miles to the Canadian border. You’ve also been traversing the beautiful Okanogan Trails Scenic Byway for the past 80 miles from Pateros and as you’ve seen during your trek, this part of the state packs in quite a bit of scenic wonder. If you’re looking to add more road trip street-cred to your adventure, check out the Highland Historic Loop (features northern Okanogan County and includes parts of adjacent Grant County) and the Many Lakes Historic Loop. (out of Oroville, heads to Nighthawk ghost town and on to Loomis and Conconully)

Oroville is the last town before the Canadian border. On my recent visit, the border was still closed due to Covid, but when open, it’s a very low-key affair to cross borders. None of those multiple lanes and gates; One lane and one gate. Voila! You’re in Canada! (As long as you have your passport or Washington State enhanced ID, of course.) Osoyoos is the closest Canadian town to the border and Penticton is just up from there. If you happened to have read my first Puerto Vallarta article, Penticton is home to the awesome couple I met during my adventures, Jorgen and Jen. Last I knew, Jorgen was head of the ski team at Penticton area Apex Mountain Resort, a ski hill I’d very much like to visit one of these days. I never cease to be amazed at just how small a world we all share.

Even during Covid times, it’s been possible to spend the day adventuring into Canada. Granted, it’s via water and you can’t legally touch the shore, but it’s still an international adventure! Spanning the border between the US and Canada, the international waters of Osoyoos Lake provide many relaxing opportunities for both Americans and Canadians. It’s possible to traverse the entire lake without a passport as long as you don’t go to land. Put in at the lovely Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial Park in Oroville and spend the day cruising the lake. In addition to a boat launch, the park also features fishing, swimming and camping.

When visiting the park, be sure to check out the private pond off to the side of the parking area. The number of trout in that pond – and the amount of commotion they were causing during my visit – was fantastic! (But it’s a private pond, so please don’t drop in a pole.) There was also an amazing variety of birds in the area. For more info about birding in the area, check out the Cascade Loop portion of the Audubon Society Great Washington Birding Trail.

In addition to Oroville’s dining opportunities, there are also some great ways to sample from the area’s wine scene. A few of the spots to help you enjoy your stay:

  • For beautiful views and a little vino, head to Esther Bricques Winery & Vineyard, located off US-97 between Tonasket and Oroville. They’re open daily from 1-6pm as well as Thursday evenings at 6pm for live music and tastings. (Thursday night events are year-round, but call ahead to make sure they’re open for afternoon tastings as they might be out in the vineyard.)
  • It was a beautiful sunny day on my last visit to Oroville and a stop at Taber’s Taste of Summer was the perfect way to celebrate. Set adjacent to a beautiful cherry orchard, this seasonal fruit stand, greenhouse and gift shop is a must-stop. The lovely owners also host “Wine Wednesdays” from 6-9pm with live music and food, which is a great opportunity to enjoy wine from their Copper Mountain Vineyards. (Opens in May, 10am – 5pm, fall hours vary seasonally)
  • While not a wine shop, Akins Fresh Market offers a good selection of local wine and beer as well as tasty treats for your picnic basket. (Open daily, 8am – 8pm) And don’t miss a stop at adjacent Country Store for all sorts of things you didn’t know you needed. Like my new “I heart Chickens” hoodie, for instance. (Open Monday – Saturday, 8am – 7pm, Sunday, 9am – 6pm)
  • Should you be craving a frosty beer rather than a glass of red, stop in at the Pastime Brewery and wet your whistle. (That said, they feature local wines as well!) In addition to a good tap list, they also feature house-smoked meats with homemade sauces and locally sourced ingredients. (Thursday – Monday, noon – 8pm. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday.)

On your next Oroville visit, why not enjoy some of that beautiful lake and mountain scene with a stay at one of the many local lodging establishments:

  • If you’ve been exploring the area around Osoyoos Lake, no doubt you’ve noticed how many homes dot the shoreline. If you’d like to spend more time on and around the lake, check out the Veranda Beach Resort. This upscale resort area is directly on the lake and features cottages, boating slips, a diner, grocery store and Veranda Beach Cellars winery.
  • Located west of Tonasket and Oroville, the Wannacut Lake Resort offers cabins, cottages and campsites on the lake. They have electric boat rentals available and a newly renovated restaurant opening sometime this year. (Opens for 2022 in on April 20th)
  • For a charming B&B experience in a beautiful ranch setting, head to Buena Vista Lodging in the North Oroville area for a relaxing weekend.
  • Work off some of that wining and dining on the Similkameen River Trail, a former railroad line located just west of Oroville off of US-97. Enjoy hiking, biking and gorgeous views on this easy-going paved/graveled trail.
Osoyoos Lake
Private homes and resorts dot the shores of Osoyoos Lake

Okanogan County is a jackpot for ghost towns and opportunities to take a step back in time abound. For a particularly fascinating look into county, state and international history, head to tiny Molson, a ghost town and museum located up Chesaw Road out of Oroville. The drive alone is worth the effort for its rolling hills, winding roads and absolute, complete solitude. Additionally, Molson sits very close to the Canadian border and there’s a country road (9 Mile Road) which parallels the country-dividing train tracks just out of Molson, all the way back down to Chesaw Road and into Oroville. Such an amazing part of the state! (Pro Tip: Cell reception cuts in and out on these roads and there isn’t a lot of traffic. Make sure you have a paper map on hand and know how to change a tire.)

The history you’re able to see along the drive to Molson is noteworthy, but you’ll want to grab your camera and jump out of the car as soon as you enter this tiny town. The first area you’ll come upon is the site of Old Molson and its now ghostly visage. Park in the small area just after turning into the site and get ready to transport back in time.

The buildings of Old Molson are largely intact with interiors which have been lost to the sands of time as well as portions featuring a museum-like format. This struck an engaging balance between stumbling upon a long-lost secret and handily learning all about it with an informative exhibit. I very much enjoyed exploring this slice of NW history and look forward to spending more time learning about the area on future visits.

Since Molson is very close to what is now the American/Canadian border, the area has quite a bit of shared history with our Canadian neighbors. As you drive into Old Molson, both flags are flying and after exploring the town, it’s an appropriate statement. So much trade, commerce and shared resources were a regular part of Molson’s day to day life and the international lines were often very blurred.

After roaming around Old Molson, do not miss a stop at the Molson Museum, located just past the ghost town. Originally the area’s schoolhouse, it has been closed for that purpose since 1969 and is now a fascinating museum dedicated to local history. The displays are well put together, charming and paint a very vivid picture of Molson life and times. An added bonus was the incredibly helpful and informative volunteer museum staff. They were very happy to discuss the area as well as serve up 50-cent coffee and brownies. I want all of my museum trips to be just like that! (Open daily from 10am – 5pm – Memorial Day thru Labor Day)

If you’re making the trek in and around Molson, there are many other points of history and interest to find in the area. Get out your map and find your way to these great spots on your next visit:

  • If you happen to be visiting Molson over the last weekend in August, head to the Molson Grange Hall for the popular Highland Stitchers Show & Sale. Beautiful, handmade quilts are on display and for sale! (Last Saturday in August, 9am – 3pm)
  • Taking place in Chesaw, every July 4th since 1942, the Chesaw Rodeo is a time-honored tradition in the area. Classic rodeo events, a parade, food and more! Another fun summer event in Chesaw is Chesaw Hot August Nights, featuring a classic car show and more. (The event was cancelled in 2021, but typically takes place the last Saturday in August)
  • If you’re visiting during winter and want to get in some skiing, make the trek up to cozy Sitzmark Ski Area. Follow Chesaw Road off of US-97 in Oroville up to Havillah Road and enjoy one of Washington’s old-school ski hills. (Open Thursday – Sunday. Lifts open 10am – 4pm. Ski hut and lodge open at 9am.)
  • For a bit of cross-country skiing on a network of groomed trails complete with warming hut, head to the Highlands Nordic Sno-park, located off of US-97 in Tonasket and up the Tonasket-Havillah Road. (Or take US-97 to Chesaw Road and onto Tonasket-Havillah Road.) A non-motorized Sno-Park Permit is required.
  • If you haven’t fulfilled your ghost town quota, head to Nighthawk, home to the oldest mining claim in the state. (c. 1860) Located on the opposite side of Oroville as Molson, take the Loomis-Oroville Road, west out of Oroville.

Yowsa! Okanogan County is a very large area to cover… But we did it! For the sake of wrapping up this particular Washington State odyssey, I’m going to save the spectacular Grand Coulee Dam for my upcoming Grant County adventure. Located in both Okanogan and Grant Counties, Grand Coulee Dam is an adventure not to be missed, but we’ll spend some quality time there during my Grant County travels. I promise!

And with that, we’ve come to the end of the road for Okanogan County. Well, not really, as we just left off in the middle of nowhere near Molson. Still a few miles to go before we get back home… Just as there are many ways to get in and around Okanogan County, there are equal amounts of beautiful routes to get you home. For this outing, I traveled back south on US-97 towards Pateros and Brewster, over to Blewett Pass and back towards I-90 and Seattle. It was a great drive! Bottom line, any path you take in and out of Okanogan County will inevitably be filled with beauty and adventure. It’s just a Washington State fact!

Until next time – Happy trails!

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Wind through the backroads of Okanogan County with my SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

  • Medicine – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (from Grace Potter & The Nocturnals)
  • The Long Way Home – Norah Jones (from Feels Like Home)
  • These Days – Jackson Browne (from For Everyman)
  • You Can Close Your Eyes – James Taylor (from Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon)
  • Right Down the Line – Gerry Rafferty (from City to City)
  • Wish the Wind Would Blow Me – Bob Schneider (from Burden of Proof)
  • I Gotta Get Drunk – The Little Willies (from The Little Willies)
  • Can’t Find My Way Home – Ellen McIlwaine (from Up From the Skies: The Polydor Years)
  • Fruits of My Labor – Lucina Williams (from World Without Tears)
  • A Little Too Soon to Say – Jackson Browne (from A Little Too Soon to Say)
  • Bigger Boat (feat. Randy Newman) – Brandy Clark (from Your Life Is A Record)
  • Mountain Greenery – Kat Edmonson, Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks (from Café Society)
  • Baker Street – Shawn Colvin, David Crosby (from Uncovered)
  • I Wish I Was the Moon – Neko Case (from Blacklisted)
  • Just Like Heaven – Katie Melua (from Piece by Piece)
  • I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory – Kathleen Edwards (from Asking for Flowers)
  • Wildflowers – The Wailin’ Jennys (from Fifteen)
  • September Fields – Frazey Ford (from Indian Ocean)
  • I Must Be in A Good Place Now – Fruit Bats, Vetiver (from In Real Life – Live at Spacebomb Studios)
  • Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon (from The Wind)
  • White Horses – Darlingside (from Birds Say)
  • Take the Long Way Home – Supertramp (from Breakfast in America)
Pine Cones
Happy trails to you!

Check out more I Ate the State adventures!

I Ate the State – Pacific County

Welcome back! It’s been far too long… I know we’re not running at full-capacity yet, in so many ways, but it feels like things are starting to look up again. Similar to spring flowers seeking the sun, I feel us starting to stretch our limbs, looking hopefully to the parting clouds. And to perhaps begin thinking about adventuring beyond our neighborhoods again…

It’s been an incredibly challenging time for the world – and it’s not over. There has been much loss, heartbreak and discord, but there has also been hope – and it’s growing. Neighbors have reached out to each other. Local businesses have done their best, against great hardship, to continue to serve their communities. The medical community, scientists, teachers, grocery store workers, restaurant staff, postal workers… SO many heroes have worked tirelessly to keep us safe, nourished and healthy. 

I actually visited Pacific County and started writing this article a little over a year ago, just before we all went into hibernation. I have very recently returned to Pacific County and have to say it was amazing. Yes, masks, outdoor dining and social distancing were definitely in rightful play, but to be able to walk along the beach and gaze out at the ocean was so very welcome and rejuvenating.

Aside from masked visits to local shops and take-away from local restaurants, I’ve been pretty sequestered within my two-bedroom apartment for the past year. Granted, I am incredibly grateful to have been able to work from home, but I’m looking forward to a time when a trip to the grocery store isn’t my big social outing. I’m excited to hang out with my friends and family somewhere other than on a Zoom call. I’m dreaming of seeing someone smile at me and being able to smile back, unmasked. I’m looking forward to hugs…

I know many of these cherished activities will be making a comeback, but in the meantime, I plan to continue to mask up, frequently wash my hands and do my best to be respectful and thankful to everyone who is working so hard to bring us back to some point of normalcy. We are all in this together and will persevere only by working together, respecting one another and honoring all of the hard work of our heroes.

COVID-19 Travel Advisory: Please review COVID-19 alerts and regulations ahead of your travels. Refer to CDC guidelines along with local and state guidelines and wear a mask whenever suggested or required.

Me and Sporty Spice, enjoying the sunset on Long Beach

And now, without further ado, onward to beautiful Pacific County!

There are very few beaches on the planet long enough and wide enough to easily accommodate beach-combing, horseback riding and an actual state (sand) highway, but Pacific County in southwestern Washington covers the bill. Add in shorelines brimming with some of the country’s most delicious seafood, lovely coastal wetlands and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and you won’t want to leave. Pacific County is a veritable treasure trove of delicious fare and unique adventure opportunities.

Established as one of the state’s oldest counties in 1851 and integral to Native American life for millennia prior, Pacific County holds a key place in the development of the United States. It was at Cape Disappointment, where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, the Lewis and Clark Expedition finally completed its mission in the fall of 1805. Originally part of the Oregon Territory, Pacific County found itself carved out of nearby Lewis County to officially become part of the Washington Territory. Even though it maintains a relatively small population in present day, the impact and continuing contributions of this tiny county cannot be underestimated in the grand scheme of the present-day United States.

While Pacific County is somewhat tucked away along the southwestern coast of the state, it is still fairly accessible. The route I typically favor takes me south on I-5 to US-101 (Exit 104, in Olympia) and on towards Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County via SR-8 and US-12. Once in Aberdeen, I head further southwest on SR-105 towards Grayland and North Cove. (With stops at Westport Winery and Cranberry Road Winery on the way out of Grays Harbor County. I mean, they’re right there, conveniently along the way…)

In general, I-5 accommodates the main arterials into Pacific County. It’s possible to hook up with US-101 further north near Olympic National Park and enjoy a beautiful drive down the coast. (All the way into the Los Angeles area, in fact!) Additional routes off of I-5 include US-12 (Exit 88 near Tenino), SR-6 (Exit 77 in Chehalis) and SR-4 (Exit 40 in Kelso). Any route you choose will inevitably feature mile after mile of beautiful scenery as you make your way to the coast. You can’t go wrong!

Driving south along SR-105 is an excellent example of the extensive, beautiful scenery, but as every rose has its thorn, the Pacific County coast has its battle with erosion. Portions of SR-105 have had to be relocated further inland over the years, along with many residences, buildings and a lighthouse being lost to the encroaching waters. It is quite appropriate the area has earned the nickname of Washaway Beach. The erosion is particularly visible driving through the North Cove area where the tiny North Cove Pioneer Cemetery had to be moved across the highway in 1977 due to erosion.

Not too far past North Cove on SR-105 is the exit to Tokeland Road and its namesake, the coastal community of Tokeland. Named for Chief Toke, the area maintains its strong connection to the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. A few miles down Tokeland Road, the Shoalwater Bay Casino (Daily, 10am – 12am; 2am Friday/Saturday) greets visitors with food and gaming as well as lodging at the adjacent Tradewinds on the Bay. Directly across the street lie more food options at the North Cove Bar & Grill (Currently Friday – Sunday, noon – 8pm; 7pm on Sunday) along with gas, food and conveniences at Georgetown Gas Station.

One place not to miss in the Tokeland area is the historic Tokeland Hotel and Restaurant. (On the National Register of Historic Places) Built in 1885 and the oldest hotel in the state, they regularly feature events such as Clam Jam, Oysterfest, Tokefest and more. In early May, along with local galleries and businesses, they host the popular Tokeland North Cove Art Studio Tour. Many of the local events were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, but will hopefully return in 2021. (Note: The Tokeland Hotel is reopening 6/1/21. Restaurant currently open for take-out, Friday – Sunday, 4-6pm.)

Situated on Willapa Bay, Tokeland is well-known for its contribution to the country’s seafood supply. Nearby Nelson Crab Inc. was in fact the first cannery on the west coast to can crab beginning in 1934 and continues the practice today. Operating out of a new building at the Port of Willapa Harbor and Tokeland Marina, they also feature a seafood counter, coffee service, ample seating and a fun gift shop featuring local artists and goods. (Daily, 9am – 5pm) If you happen to arrive via boat, public moorage is available as well as a RV park and boat ramp – and you can throw your own crab pots off of the public fishing pier!

Back on SR-105, my next destination was Raymond, the largest town in Pacific County. Along the way, I was drawn in by the beautiful scenery of the Smith Creek State Wildlife Recreation Area. Located across the bay from Tokeland, the area sports beautiful views and sweeping wetlands with great fishing and bird-watching opportunities. I was truly mesmerized by the views looking out over Willapa Bay and very glad I made time to take in the scene. 

While Raymond holds court as Pacific County’s largest town, it maintains a very homey, small-town vibe. Nestled just inland of Willapa Bay on the Willapa River, it enjoys rolling foothills as well as the coastal flavor of nearby waterways. When driving around the Raymond area, keep an eye out for the many steel statues along US-101, SR-6 and strategically placed throughout town. Made to depict local wildlife and Raymond residents, some of them are strikingly life-like; especially as seen around dusk. (I could’ve sworn those deer were real!)

Historically known for its lumber industry, Raymond also has an interesting artistic past. Northwest grunge gods, Nirvana, played their first gig at a Raymond house party in 1987. Additionally, my very favorite holiday tune, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on An Open Fire) was co-written by Raymond-born, award-winning composer, writer and producer, Robert Wells along with prolific musician, Mel Tormé. That’s a pretty eclectic and cool mash-up of musical history!

On your next visit to Raymond, take a little time to explore the continuing artistic legacy of the area as well as the beauty of its surroundings:

  • Learn more about Raymond’s history and the popular mode of transportation of days gone by at the well-curated Northwest Carriage Museum. (Open daily, 10am – 4pm) Don’t miss experiencing Raymond’s history of seafaring transportation at the Willapa Seaport Museum located directly next door. (Closed Sunday/Monday) And top it off with a stop at the Willapa Bay Public Market for unique finds from local artisans. (Friday/Saturday, 10am – 4pm)
  • Included on the National Register of Historic Places, the lovely Raymond Theater (c. 1928) is still entertaining Raymond residents and features local theater as well as live music and movies. Just down the street and also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Tudor-style Raymond Timberland Library (c. 1929) is a charming part of the downtown core and a great place to relax with good book.
  • The Raymond area is filled with beautiful river viewing opportunities and the Willapa Hills Trail is an excellent way to enjoy the scene. (Hook up with the 56-mile trail at Riverfront Park near the Northwest Carriage Museum) If you’re up for a bit of kayaking or paddle-boarding action, hit up local Willapa Paddle Adventures for Willapa River escapades. Or shenanigans. Your call.

After your Raymond adventuring, check out the local foodie scene and refuel for continuing exploration. A few ideas to get you started:

  • Not only can you grab a tasty burger and brew – or an insane bloody Mary – at Pitchwood Inn & Alehouse, they also have cozy rooms should you like to extend your Raymond exploits. (Alehouse open from noon to 9pm, 11pm on Friday/Saturday, 8pm on Sunday. Closed Mondays)
  • Featuring classic diner fare along with specialties like their stuffed sandwiches and fresh Willapa Bay oysters, Slater’s Diner is a great local mainstay. (Monday – Thursday, 11am – 7pm, 8pm Friday/Saturday. Noon to 7pm on Sunday)
  • Poutine, tots, brats, hand-dipped corndogs, beer and mead? What?? I’m in! I didn’t get a chance to stop at Wildman Brewing Company, but I’m making a point to visit on my next trip. (Family friendly. Open Tuesday – Thursday, 4pm – 8pm, 9pm on Friday. 11am – 9pm on Saturday, 7pm on Sunday. Closed Mondays.)
  • Drinking delicious wine often makes me say “WooHoo!” so it only seems appropriate a winery should make it their namesake. Check out WooHoo Winery for delicious wine and be sure to try their seasonal Glühwein. (Open Saturdays Noon – 6pm. They also have a tasting room in Leavenworth open Friday – Sunday)
  • If you’re visiting during a summer weekend, head to Smith Creek Blueberry Farm and stock up on u-pick blueberries. (Mmmm… Now I want blueberry pie…) Another great summer event in late August can be found just east on SR-6 in Menlo. Head to the Pacific County Fairgrounds and enjoy all manner of crazy fair food, goods and specialties from all around Pacific County and more. (Hopefully returning in August 2021)

From Raymond, it’s easy to travel southeast on SR-6 to meet back up with I-5 in the Chehalis area in Lewis County. There are a few tiny towns to drive through along the way, but it won’t take long before you meet up with Western Washington’s main arterial. On this journey, however, I chose to hook up with US-101 to head south towards the nearby town of South Bend.  

Billed as the Oyster Capital of the World and now serving as the county seat, South Bend provides 25% of the nation’s oyster harvest out of adjacent Willapa Bay. Oysterville originally served as the county seat until 1893 when disgruntled South Bend residents navigated steam boats up Willapa Bay and absconded with the county records. The pirated records were then relocated to South Bend where they have remained ever since. The scandal! 

For the scoop on Pacific County’s interesting past, stop in at the Pacific County Heritage Museum, located directly off of US-101 in downtown South Bend. (11am – 4pm, March through September and 12pm to 3pm during the winter months.) For more Pacific County information, pay a visit to the historic Pacific County Courthouse and take in the beautiful art glass dome. (c. 1910 and on the National Register of Historic Places)

Even if you are not a lover of oysters, there are many fine meals to be found in South Bend. The scene is a little quieter during the winter months, but there are always great dining options to explore.

  • Head to the casual River View Dining for a nice view of the Willapa River and great food. They do feature the local hero, the Goose Point oyster, but don’t miss their fish-n-chips and burgers. (11am – 8pm daily, 11:30 on Sunday. Closed Mondays.)
  • Oysters are in the name at the Chester Club & Oyster Bar and they represent them well, but they also have several other great dishes on the menu and regularly feature live music. (Daily, 10am – 2am)
  • Take your German specialties to go or grab a spot in the cozy seating area, but do make a stop at Jayden’s German Store & Deli. Featuring a great selection of European sweets, meats and more, they most importantly carry an impressive selection of goods from Germany. Mmmm… (Open daily, 11am – 5pm, 6pm on Friday/Saturday)
  • Newer to the South Bend foodie scene and offering great brew along with hand-tossed pizza and fresh oysters, the Willapa Brewing Company is an excellent addition to the South Bend scene. Check out the Bone River Oyster Stout – made with fresh oysters! (Open daily, noon – 7pm, 8pm on Friday/Saturday. Closed Tuesdays.)
  • I don’t think they have any drinks made with oysters, but you never know. For great, non-oysterfied coffee and beverages, stop in at Elixir Coffee and enjoy a drink, a great river view and something from their tasty menu. (The turmeric latte was particularly lovely! (Daily, 7am – 6pm) In addition to coffee, they also feature event catering and a nice array of handcrafted goods. After enjoying your coffee, stop in at Riverside Gallery next door and enjoy a bit of local artistry and design. (10:30am – 4:30pm, Thursday – Sunday. Closed Monday – Wednesday.)

While it’s possible to get to South Bend via the Willapa Hills Trail from Raymond, I chose to go with four wheels for this adventure. Granted, one might miss a bit in passing, but when there are delicious oyster spots to try and beautiful coastlines to explore, it seems a fair trade-off. Continuing past South Bend on US-101 will definitely lead you to great bounty on both counts. It is a stunning drive filled with twists, turns and gorgeous sloughs and not to be missed. (It also would be pretty amazing on a motorcycle!)

As you get closer towards the coast, you’ll pass through the Bone River Natural Area Preserve and Niawiakum River Natural Area Preserve. Both are protected for their coastal salt marshes, various species of birds and mammals as well as freshwater streams, wetlands and forested areas. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, consider a kayak trip up the Bone River. The Bone River Launch in the nearby Bay Center peninsula area is a popular place to put in. Definitely a bucket list item for a future adventure…

Also located in the Bay Center area and an excellent place to stop for an oyster pilgrimage is the iconic Goose Point Shellfish Farm & Oystery. (Open Friday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm; 5pm during winter) They offer fresh oysters and shellfish to go as well as oysters to enjoy in their picnic area. Grab a round of oysters and a Bone River Oyster Stout and enjoy the Willapa River scene. (They partnered with Willapa Brewing Company in nearby South Bend on the stout.) If you can’t get enough of the oysters – or that very unique stout – consider pitching a tent at nearby Bush Pioneer County Park and making a weekend of it. (Located on the very tip of the Bay Center peninsula and part of the Chinook Nation, where even more oysters can be found close by at the Ekone Oyster Company. Check out their online shop.)

The next stops on my itinerary were two of my very favorite spots in the state, Long Beach and Cape Disappointment. Along the way, however, were some excellent distractions and beautiful areas to explore. Not only is the drive spectacular all on its own, there are many breathtaking spots along the way to stop and commune with nature. If camping, hiking, fishing or just standing still and taking in the scene are your jam, this is the place to be. Just a few of the wonderful options to enjoy on your next Pacific County outing:

  • Out of the Bay Center area, head south on US-101 through the Nemah and Middle Nemah areas towards the gorgeous Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and Long Island coastal areas. The only way to visit Long Island is via private boat, but the bounty is worth it. Shellfish harvesting, hiking, camping and more await you on the island. Long Island has long been a home and point of resource for native tribes and is still used for cultural and spiritual occasions. Be sure to check out the Cedar Grove Trail which features trees over 900 years old. For hiking off-island, check out the Willapa Art Trail and Cutthroat Climb for relatively easy family hikes on a lovely boardwalk through the refuge. (Located at Milepost 24 on US-101. There is also a boat launch for Long Island in this area, across US-101 from the Milepost 24 refuge entrance.)
  • A great way to immerse oneself in the area is with a visit to the Wings Over Willapa festival in the fall. (September 23-26, 2021) It features tours, workshops and classes covering birding, art and a lecture series about the ecology, management and history of Willapa Bay.

Continuing southwest on US-101 will eventually bring you to a junction with SR-103 in the Seaview area. Congratulations – You’ve made it to the Pacific Ocean! And you didn’t have to travel for thousands of miles via horse, wagon or canoe to do it. Thank you, Lewis and Clark!

At this fork in the road, you can opt to go right and head into the bustling town of Long Beach or take a left and head towards Ilwaco and the epic Cape Disappointment. They’re both must-sea destinations and in easy reach of one another. However, since I was in need of some beach action and maybe a tasty treat, I took a right and headed into Seaview and Long Beach, located along the Long Beach Peninsula. We’ll head back towards Cape Disappointment shortly. No need for disappointment…

Before arriving in Long Beach proper, the lovely Seaview area offers several lodging and dining options for the peninsula visitor. Long Beach can get fairly crowded during the summer months and historic Seaview is nice if you’re looking for a little respite. A few spots to explore on your next adventure:

  • If you’re in need of a tasty, local brew, check out North Jetty Brewing for beer, light snacks and maybe even a bit of Bingo. I’m not a huge sour beer fan, but I truly loved their Yara Peach-Passion-fruit Sour as well as their super-drinkable Beach Beer Blonde Ale. They will even fill to-go cans! (Kid friendly (to 6pm), open daily at noon – Closed Tuesdays)
  • Visit local favorite, The Depot Restaurant for delicious farm and ocean-to-table fare served out of the historic Seaview train depot building. (c. 1900) (Open daily, 4:30 – 8:30pm)
  • A stop at the quaint 42nd Street Café & Bistro will yield a hearty breakfast or lunch and tasty bistro fare during the dinner hour. (8am – 12:30pm, 4:30 – 8pm for dinner. Closed Monday/Tuesday.)
  • For the ultimate in hip getaways, check out the historic Sou’Wester Lodge. Stay in the original lodge (c. 1892) or kick back in the adjacent vintage travel trailer resort, cabins or campsite. In addition to cool lodging, they also host various classes, wellness events, live music and artist residencies. Relax further in their Garden Spa and Finnish sauna and check out the goods in at the store in the vintage trailer. 
  • The historic Shelburne Hotel (c. 1896), along with its onsite restaurant and pub, offer trendy lodging, menus and cocktails in a vintage locale. The best of both worlds. (Pub open daily, Noon – 1pm, Monday – Thursday, 11pm on Friday; 8am – 10pm Saturday, 11pm on Sunday.)
  • For an up close and personal look at the history of Seaview, check out the Seaview Walking Tour and enjoy strolling by charming Seaview homes, lodging and more.

Is it maybe a little scary? Yes. Perhaps a little dangerous? Yes. Is it spectacularly beautiful, absolutely unique and full of cool travel cred? Yes, yes and YES! Welcome to Long Beach and the “World’s Longest Beach.” (Drivable. On a peninsula.) The world’s longest beach is actually Praia do Cassino in Brazil with a few beaches in other countries also being longer. But they’re not taking down the sign, so let’s just all be cool…

The scary and potentially dangerous parts come in the form of driving on the 28-mile beach, which is technically considered a state highway. (25 mph. Keep to the right and don’t drive on the dry sand! Seriously.) Of the 28-miles, there are sections closed to vehicles year-round as well areas closed seasonally to vehicles during razor clam season. Follow the general rules-of-the-road in addition to not driving on sand dunes and paying attention to the tides. Check out the Beach Safety and Rules for more information and tips.

If four-wheels on the beach aren’t for you, there are countless other ways to enjoy the day and Long Beach has quite a bit of beach to enjoy. Just a few of the excellent activities to explore during your next beach getaway:

  • Razor clam digging is very popular on Long Beach. Visit the WDFW site for dates, beaches, regulations and more – And don’t forget to procure a Shellfish & Seaweed License before you start digging. They can be purchased online or at one of many local area stores.
  • Horseback riding on the beach is a top item on my Washington State bucket list and my dream shall be realized soon – I know it! Riders can bring their own horses or hit up the outfits offering beach rides. Check out West Coast Horse Rides and The Long Beach Horse Rides for both guided and unguided rides (for the experienced riders) on the beach and the Red Barn Arena and Peninsula Saddle Club for options when bringing your own horses.
  • For an excellent day at the beach and a good bit of exercise, hit up the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail. The trail goes all the way to Ilwaco and Cape Disappointment State Park (8.5 miles one-way) and offers amazing views along the way. Be sure to visit the Long Beach Boardwalk and don’t miss the wooden whale sculptures near the Sid Snyder beach entrance.
  • It might not be Oahu’s North Shore, but you can still get your surf on in the Long Beach area. Head to Skookum Surf Company for gear, instruction and information on the local hot spots.
  • Long Beach takes kite flying to the next level. Bust out your old school diamond kite or grab the newest in kite technology from one of the many local kite shops. Be sure to visit the World Kite Museum near the beach to take in the majesty of riding the breeze and head to the Washington State International Kite Festival for even more majesty.(August 16-22, 2021)

Important note for any beach outing: Never turn your back on the wily ocean. Sneaker waves are REAL.

There are many great places to eat and stay while visiting the Long Beach area. Whether it’s a beach snack, casual meal or fine dining, Long Beach has you covered. There really is nothing finer than picnicking at the beach on a warm, sunny day. Or grabbing an ice cream cone and walking along the boardwalk. (But don’t count out those stormy beach days!)

The next time you’re in Long Beach, keep these excellent establishments in mind:

  • The Adrift Distillers (daily, 11am – 5pm) feature delicious spirits and tastings and the adjacent Adrift Hotel features onsite dining at the very hip Pickled Fish restaurant. (Daily, 8am – 10pm; 11pm, Friday/Saturday) Excellent food, cocktails and beach-side lodging in a trendy locale – Score! Reservations recommended for the Pickled Fish. I highly recommend the burrata salad, Dungeness crab cakes and vanilla Pavlova – as well as their Triticale Whiskey. (The Shelburne Hotel in Seaview, the Boardwalk Cottages and the Inn at Discovery Coast are sister establishments and equally cool.)
  • Located in the heart of downtown Long Beach, the Boreas Bed & Breakfast features a lovely handful of suites and a separate beach house. Each stay comes with a tasty breakfast and access to onsite features like their private hot tub and gardens.
  • For a quiet beach cottage setting, check out the Anchorage Cottages and Klipsan Beach Cottages, both located just north of Long Beach. Who doesn’t love waking up to a cup of coffee in a cozy beach cottage?
  • If you’re looking for great fish-n-chips and chowder in the heart of downtown Long Beach, stop by Castaways Seafood Grille. (Daily, 11:30am – 8pm) It’s also across the street from the amusement park and games – something for the whole family! But maybe hit the rides first… (Note: The Rides are currently closed for the season, but will hopefully return for the summer.)
  • Located directly next door to the crazy and amazing Marsh’s Museum on Pacific Ave South, Captain Bob’s Chowder serves delicious chowders, lobster rolls and more. (Daily, 11am – 5pm, closed Monday/Tuesday. Wow. I could really use some of their chowder right now…)
  • I love donuts. True story. And if I’m looking for a delicious donut fix while in Long Beach, I head directly to the Dylan’s Cottage Bakery & Delicatessen. (Try the cream cheese-stuffed croissants!) They also have a great deli with excellent sandwiches, soups, biscuits & gravy and more. Oh, and did I mention their delicious selection of PIES?? (Open daily, 4am – 5pm, 6pm Friday/Saturday)
  • Serving delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner in a cozy, old-school setting, the Drop Anchor Seafood & Grill is a great place to enjoy a meal after a day at the beach. Grab one of their chowder kits to take home and recreate the magic! (Daily, 11am – 7pm, with breakfast at 8am, Saturday/Sunday)
  • While also featuring great local seafood, the Australian-themed Lost Roo also serves up great burgers, sandwiches and drinks. (Fill up your growlers!) Adding to their festive atmosphere, it’s a great place to visit whenever a game is on. (Daily, 11:30am – 9pm, 10pm Friday/Saturday)
  • Feel like channeling your inner pirate? The family-friendly Hungry Harbor Grille features old-fashioned hamburgers and hot dogs, fish-n-chips, chowder and handmade milkshakes. Check out their Sunday Breakfast Buffet from 9-11am. Pet-friendly seating outside! (Daily, 11am – 7pm, 8pm Friday/Saturday)

It’s no secret that 2020 was a dark year. The Arts, festivals, concerts and many of our treasured activities were all put on hold. As things hopefully start to open up in the coming year, we can begin to enjoy artistic gatherings and celebration again. If you happen to be in the Long Beach area, here are a few options to consider:

  • If you are looking for quirky, crazy history and a treasure trove of wacky souvenirs and antiques, Marsh’s Free Museum is hands-down the place to be. Established in 1921, Marsh’s – and Jake the Alligator Man – have been greeting visitors for generations. I always come out of this place with things I never knew I needed. (Open daily, 10am – 5pm, 6pm Friday/Saturday)
  • Operating June through September, the Columbia-Pacific Farmers Market showcases local produce, seafood, flowers, crafts and much more. (Fridays, 12-5pm)
  • Established in 1945, Cranguyma Farms is an important part of the Long Beach agricultural heritage. They specialize in delicious cranberries, blueberries and holly and feature a u-pick blueberry season from late July to September. They also feature beautiful, custom holly wreaths during the holiday season.
  • If you’re a fun-guy, or just really love mushrooms like I do, the Wild Mushroom Celebration is well worth checking out. Many restaurants in the area feature special menus and several local hotels offer lodging specials. (Usually October thru mid-November – Stay tuned for 2021 dates)
  • Should you be wishing for a live soundtrack for your beach adventure, the Water Music Festival features ongoing musical events. Upcoming is the Music in the Gardens (7/1/21) and the Jazz & Oysters event. (8/15/21) Presented by the Water Music Society, these shows are a lovely way to enjoy the beach life.
  • Keep an eye on the Events page for the Peninsula Arts Association. Much hope they will again be featuring gallery tours and events in 2021.
  • Hopefully returning in 2021, the long-running Long Beach Razor Clam Festival is a great way to celebrate the bounty of the area and enjoy A LOT of clams. YUM!
  • Regardless of your age, The Rides (seasonal) and the Funland Family Fun Center are excellent additions to a night on the town. Souvenirs, ice cream, candy and all manner of treats (taffy, fudge, cotton candy, etc.) can be found in abundance. Who doesn’t love saltwater taffy at the beach?? (Located on Pacific Ave S and open daily, 10am – 10pm) And don’t forget to check out the WORLD’S LARGEST FRYING PAN, located next to The Rides! (Come on. There are certain things one just needs to experience in life. The WORLD’S LARGEST FRYING PAN clearly falls into that category.)

Heading north out of Long Beach on SR 103/Pacific Way will take you towards the lovely, coastal hamlets of Ocean Park, Nahcotta and Oysterville. (Note: The entire town of Oysterville is on the National Register of Historic Places!) These communities were important parts of the Clamshell Railroad which ran for decades through the area in the early 1900s. (While the railroad no longer runs, the Nahcotta train car is open twice a year for visitors in nearby Ilwaco.) These communities remain integral parts of the peninsula and have much to offer.

Just shy of the very tip of the peninsula, you’ll find beautiful Leadbetter Point State Park with its coastal trails, seaside forest, fishing and great clamming and crabbing opportunities. (Discover Pass required. Pro tip: The last part of the road to the main parking area for Leadbetter Point trail and beach access is single-lane and not the greatest for larger vehicles such as RVs.)

While making your way to this gorgeous, peaceful park, there are many excellent places to visit and things to do along the way:

  • Do not miss a visit to Jack’s County Store, located on the corner of SR-103 and Bay Avenue in Ocean Park. Established in 1885 when Washington was still a territory, it’s thought to be the oldest, continuously operating retail business in the state. It is full of great deals, an amazing array of goods and quirky awesomeness. (Not to mention, fresh grocery items and take-away!) Open daily, 7am – 8pm.
  • Located just off of SR-103, in the Ocean Park area, the Long Beach Peninsula Trading Post features a great variety of antiques and collectibles. This place is huge and could easily fill an afternoon. (Open daily, 10am – 5pm, closed Tuesday/Wednesday)
  • Check out Pacific Pines State Park day-park for great clamming, crabbing and picnicking opportunities along the coast. (Discover Pass required)
  • If you’re hoping to catch some Dungeness crab, head to the Port of Peninsula marina in Nahcotta. (Check the WDFW site before going for regulations, dates, etc. – And you’ll need a Shellfish & Seaweed License.) They also have an interpretive center and public boat launch. (Interpretive center open Memorial Day – Labor Day, Friday-Sunday and holidays, 11am – 4pm)
  • There is some amazing history to explore in the area and a walking tour of historic Oysterville is an excellent option. The Oysterville one-room school house and church are still in use and the Oysterville post office is the oldest continually operating post office in the state. It is said that Chief Klickeas of the Chinook Tribe originally introduced early settlers in the 1850s to its future namesake and main export, the oyster. For additional information, check out Sydney of Oysterville to learn more of the deep history of this area. Oysterville is a tiny hamlet indeed, but absolutely worth a look. Charming doesn’t begin to cover it!

If you weren’t able to catch your fill of shellfish or other seafood delicacies, there are several dining options in the area to help you on your way. Consider some delicious take-away to go with your relaxing hang on the beach!

  • Located just past downtown Long Beach, heading north on Pacific Avenue, the old-school burger joint, The Corral Drive-In is a great place to stop for a burger, fish sandwich, crinkle-fries, TOTS and more. Open daily, 11am – 8pm.
  • Grab a tasty sandwich at the Great Day Café (11:30am – 4pm, Tuesday – Saturday) and then head out for a round of golf on the adjoining Surfside Golf Course.
  • Check out Ocean Park’s MyCovio’s for Italian-inspired fare featuring local ingredients in a cozy setting. (Thursday through Sunday, 4-7pm) It’s recommended to call ahead for reservations, but take-out is also available.
  • For a great burger and local seafood specialties, stop in at Sara’s Rusty Spur Bar & Grill for a relaxing meal and frosty pint. (11am – 8pm, daily – 9pm Fri/Sat. Bar open to 11pm – Cash only, ATM inside.) Located on Bay Avenue in Ocean Park. They also have a dog-friendly deck area.
  • For a spot of tasty, Irish comfort food, head to the Crown Alley Irish Pub along Pacific Way in Ocean Park. (Open 4-10pm, Sunday-Thursday, Noon-11pm, Friday/Saturday, closed Tuesday/Wednesday) Hopefully they’ll again be able to host the awesome Coastal Celtic Music Festival in the coming year.
  • Speaking of festivals, the very fragrant and tasty Northwest Garlic Festival is set to tentatively return in September. I have a deep fondness for garlicky goodness and my fingers are crossed – and my garlic bulbs, braided. (September 18-19, 2021 at the Nahcotta Boat Basin)
  • Anita’s Coastal Café in Ocean Park is a cozy spot to stop for breakfast or lunch. Open daily, 8am to 1:45pm. Great local seafood features!
  • Also located in Ocean Park, The Berry Patch features hearty breakfasts and comfort-filled lunch and dinner plates, along with local seafood specialties. Open daily, 7am to 7pm.
  • Stop in at Willapa Oysters / Willapa Artisan Kitchen for fresh oysters, clams and take-away dishes to heat up at home. (Dungeness Crab Mac & Cheese, anyone??) They will also ship around the country. (Open daily, 11am – 6pm, located off SR-103 in the Oysterville area.)
  • If you’re roaming around the peninsula on the weekend, stop in at legendary Oysterville Sea Farms for fresh clam chowder, oysters and clams, wine and beer. There is also public access to Willapa Bay. (Friday – Sunday, 9:30am to 5pm) I’m still dreaming of the oysters and crab I enjoyed on my recent trip. The freshest, most delicious oysters I’ve ever had! WOW!

After taking in all of the sights and making your way to the tip of the peninsula, unless you have an awesome boat, it’s time to head back south. Not to worry, the drive is beautiful and there’s still a great bit of Pacific County to see south of Long Beach. We’re not done yet!

Head back down SR-103 towards Long Beach and continue forward onto US-101, just past Seaview. This will take directly into the little town of Ilwaco, tucked snugly into scenic Baker Bay. Looking out towards Oregon and enjoying the last waters of the Columbia River as they head out to sea, Ilwaco is a great place to spend a relaxing weekend as well as a jumping-off point for river and ocean adventures.

The general vibe in Ilwaco has always been relaxed and fairly chill when I’ve visited, but they do have their days of festivity and celebration. Whether it’s reveling in local waters, bounty or industry, Ilwaco has much to celebrate. Typically occurring during the second weekend of October and sponsored by the Columbia-Pacific Heritage Museum (Temporarily closed – Reopens June 1st), the Cranberrian Fair is a great way to pay homage to one of the area’s most important exports, the cranberry. Also sponsored by the museum is the Clamshell Railroad Days event during the third weekend of July. Hopefully both of these much-loved festivals will return in 2021.

Situated in the center of town, directly on Baker Bay, the Port of Ilwaco is a hub of activity and commerce. Home to local businesses, including great dining and hotel options, it’s a fine place to spend an afternoon or longer. Grab a bite to eat, a tasty beverage and gaze out onto the waterways – or take a strong along the Waterfront Walkway. (Part of the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail) Not a bad way way to spend a day…

Just a few of the excellent options to check out on your next visit to the Port of Ilwaco:

  • Considering Ilwaco’s beautiful location, history and environment, it is no wonder it’s a great spot for artists. The waterfront area features several galleries and it’s easy to spend an afternoon taking it all in. On my most recent visit, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting one of the artists and connecting the dots to a piece of art I’d picked up on my last visit to the area. I stopped in at the Don Nisbett Art Gallery and very quickly realized he was the artist responsible for the awesome 12th Salmon magnet I’d picked up at the Nelson Crab shop in Tokeland. I was so excited to meet the maker, but equally happy to enjoy a much broader view of his work. (And pick up a few more fun pieces, which he kindly autographed!) Dan is also a great resource for local information and stories – be sure to hit him up on your next visit! Should you be in town on the first Friday of the month in June through September, be sure to check out the First Friday art walk from 4-7pm along the waterfront.
  • If you happen to be visiting during late spring or the summer, check out the vibrant Saturday Market at the Port and enjoy local artisan goods, produce and more. (Opening Day, May 1st, 10am. Open May-Sept.)
  • In need of a caffeine boost? Stop by Roots Juice, Java & Salad Bar for a great cup of coffee or fresh juice – and a nice salad. (Open daily, 7am to 1:30pm, 6:30am to 10:30 on Saturdays, closed Sundays.)
  • Located just up from the port, the seasonal Serious Pizza serves up delicious pizza, sandwiches and more. Open during the spring months on Friday – Sunday from 11am – 7pm. During the summer months, they’re open Wednesday – Sunday from 11am – 7pm. (Closed November – February)
  • For a comfortable, but very hip stay in the area, head to the Salt Hotel & Pub, located by the marina and overlooking the port. The newly restored hotel is also host to the Salt Pub with its hearty pub fare and dog-friendly patio. I wanted at least a couple more orders of their clams. Delicious! (Thursday – Monday, 11:30am – 7pm, 8pm on Friday/Saturday. Pub closed Tuesday/Wednesday)
  • Bringing a little swank to the port area, the At the Helm Hotel & Pub is both comfortable and upscale. Located by the marina, this boutique hotel also features excellent dining at the Waterline Pub. (Open Thursday – Sunday.) In addition to great lodging and delicious local fare, they also host onsite yoga classes (Friday-Sunday), in-house massage and offer cruiser bike rentals. Enjoy a complimentary glass of beer/wine on check-in!
  • I was very excited to pick up some Sturgeon and freshly caught sole on my recent visit to Fish People seafood, located on the Ilwaco waterfront. Great prices, friendly staff and an excellent spot near the water – you can’t go wrong! (Open Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm) 
  • For more great lodging in the Ilwaco area, check out the Inn at Harbour Village (c. 1926) in downtown Ilwaco or the relaxing China Beach Retreat, just up the road towards Cape Disappointment State Park.  (Currently under renovation and temporarily closed)

Due to its strategic location near both fresh and salt waters, Ilwaco boasts several fishing charters and opportunities to catch that big one. Let the area experts show you around the area and help you in your quest.

  • Seabreeze Charters offers great fishing tours of area waters. Hit them up during sturgeon season (May 10 – June 5th) and try your hand at reeling in one of the prehistoric-looking monsters. Sturgeon can live for years and easily grow 6 feet and more. Growing up, I often swam in the Columbia and was sincerely hoping to never bump into one. That said, they prefer the deeper water, so that’s good… Seabreeze also features salmon, albacore and halibut fishing when in season.
  • Featuring fishing tours and lodging, the family-run Coho Charters & Motel offers sturgeon and salmon fishing trips on the Columbia River as well as crabbing tours out at sea.
  • Maybe fishing isn’t your bag. Maybe you want to enter your awesome yacht in a marathon race from Ilwaco all the way to Victoria B.C. (Also, can I come along?) Throw your life preserver into the ring and sign up for the yearly Pacific NW Yacht Race and give those sea legs a good stretch. (First week of May) The race didn’t happen in 2020, but hopefully you can bring me along in 2021. I’d even be amenable to 2022… 2023?

One of my very favorite parts of the entire state can be found just up the road from Ilwaco. Set upon windy bluffs, overlooking the merging waters of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean, Cape Disappointment State Park and its stunning lighthouses are a must-visit in Pacific County. (Discover Pass recommended, but you can purchase day passes on site.) The beauty, historical significance and adventure potential of this area are incomparable. In fact, the entire area is on the National Register of Historic Places.

As the area is apparently one of the foggiest places in the US with over 2500 hours a year of fog, the North Head Lighthouse (c. 1898) and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (c. 1856 – Oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific NW) are much needed and appreciated beacons of safety. That said, it’s always been sunny when I’ve visited. (Guess I don’t always bring the grey skies of Seattle with me…) Be sure to bring varied outerwear, plenty of water and a good flashlight or headlamp. (We’ll get to the flashlight part in a bit…)

Stop in at the excellent Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and learn all about the history and beauty of the area. Perched atop a 200-foot high cliff, it offers an amazing view of the North Jetty as it aids passage over the Columbia River Bar and into the Pacific Ocean. (The South Jetty aids passage from the Oregon side of the river) This convergence, also known as “The Graveyard of the Pacific,” hosts the very waters viewed by the Lewis & Clark Corp of Discovery as their 18-month, 3,700-mile journey from Missouri came to its fruition on November 7th, 1805.  

Along with serving as the epic entrance to the Pacific Ocean, the area has been home to the local Chinook Tribe for millennia. Skilled stewards of the land and water, they were instrumental in helping Lewis & Clark and their Corp of Discovery survive the harsh winter in the area and meet their expedition goals. Unfortunately, this friendship was tested when the expedition stole one of the Chinook Tribe’s canoes. It wasn’t until long after the fact that descendants of the Clark family “returned” the canoe to its rightful owners. (The Clark family presented a replica, 36’ seaworthy canoe to the Chinook Tribe in 2011.)

During your visit to the cape, don’t miss out on the many areas to explore. Grab your flashlight and snake in and out of the coastal defense batteries placed strategically throughout the grounds. As early as 1862, the cape has been providing defense for the nation and these batteries were in service throughout WW II. It’s both fascinating and sobering to wander through these narrow passageways and ponder the degree of force Washington State was prepared to release from its shores. (Don’t forget your flashlight!)

If you forgot your flashlight, rest assured there are many other activities to enjoy in the park. Put on your hiking boots and enjoy one of the many trails throughout the park. The Beards Hollow and Bell’s View trails leading up to the North Head Lighthouse are spectacular and the Coastal Forest and Benson Beach trails are also not to be missed. Actually walking to the end of the North Jetty which is just next to Benson Beach was truly awe-inspiring.

Consider extending your stay in the area by taking advantage of the ample camping spots, not to mention the 14 yurts, 3 Cabins and 3 lighthouse keeper’s residences/ vacation homes. This would certainly make hitting up the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail between Cape Disappointment State and Long Beach much more doable. (8.5 miles one-way. Only trail in park that allows bikes. Rent one in Ilwaco!) Or you can always throw in at the boat launch from Baker Bay on the Columbia River for some crabbing action near the North Jetty or hit up Benson Beach for a bit of clamming. (Shellfish and boat launch permits required.) And hopefully you’ll be able to end your night by taking in a show as part of the Waikiki Beach Concert Series. (June – August, every other Saturday. Cancelled for 2020.)

We’re nearing the end of our Pacific County adventure, but there are still a few great stops to enjoy on your way home. As I’m always up for a bit of meandering, I like to drive towards Chinook on US-101 and then SR-401 up to SR-4 out of the tiny community of Naselle. Heading towards Chinook is also advised if you plan on heading over the Columbia River towards lovely Astoria, Oregon or Wahkiakum County and on to I-5. (Important note: Goonies never say die!) 

Traveler Advisory: SR-401 is presently closed one mile east of US 101 due to roadway settlement. Keep an eye on the WSDOT website for updates on reopening. Use alternate routes.

Following this route will bring you by these great spots:

  • For a great cup of coffee and delicious cookies and pastries, stop in at Chinook Coffee Co. and fuel up for your coastal drive. (Daily, 7am – 3pm. Sometimes 4pm.)
  • For tasty pub fare and a good drink, check out the Columbia River Roadhouse in Chinook. They also feature live music and a casual, sports bar ambiance. (12-7pm, Tuesday – Thursday, 12-9pm Friday/Saturday. Closed Sunday/Monday.)
  • If you’re a history buff, plan a stop at the Fort Columbia Historical State Park just past Chinook and shortly before the bridge to Astoria, along the Columbia River. The area is small as compared to nearby coastal defense sites, but Fort Columbia is considered one of the United States’ most intact coastal defense sites and the Fort Columbia Interpretive Center is filled will artifacts and stories of the area’s history. (Temporarily closed due to Covid-19) In addition to a self-guided interpretive historic walk around the fort, there are a couple miles of hiking trails as well as two, charming vacation houses should you be interested in staying longer in the area.
  • Just before arriving at the bridge to Astoria sits the lovely St. Mary’s Station parish in tiny McGowan. There are nice trails to check out beginning from the parish parking lot and an absolutely beautiful view of the Columbia River. This is also the home of the Chinook Tribe’s Middle Village – Station Camp, an important part of Chinook life and trade and integral to their trade with the Lewis & Clark expedition.
  • Just past the bridge exit, along SR-401 sits the interestingly named spot, Dismal Nitch. It’s now a small rest area along the banks of the Columbia, but bears the historical distinction of hosting the Lewis & Clark expedition while they were riding out a severe winter storm before finally reaching the coast. So close, yet so far… (Travel Advisory: The rest area is presently closed for septic repairs. Keep an eye on the WSDOT website for updates on reopening.)
  • From Dismal Nitch, continue north on SR-401 up to the tiny Finnish community of Naselle. A portion of my family hails from Finland and I was very interested to learn how Finns found their way to this remote part of Washington. I didn’t need to look far as Naselle’s Appelo Archives Center answered many of my questions as I learned about the logging and fishing industries which drew Finnish and Scandinavian immigrants to the area. The museum and bookstore feature interesting exhibits and resources and the onsite café features delicious Finnish pastries and more. They also host the bi-annual Finnish-American Folk Festival which occurs in July. The 2020 event was cancelled due to Covid-19, so they are now set to return in 2022.
  • For other sightseeing and cultural opportunities in the area, check out the lovely Deep River Pioneer Lutheran Church (National Register of Historic Places, c. 1902) and the Knappton Cove Heritage Center (temporarily closed due to Covid-19), formerly known as the historic Columbia River Quarantine Station. (National Register of Historic Places, c. 1899)
  • There aren’t many dining options in the Naselle area, but the low-key Hunters Inn is known for its heart country-cooking and casual atmosphere. (Current hours, daily from 3-9pm)

And with that, it’s time to bring these Pacific County adventures to an end. For now… From Naselle, simply take SR-401 back up to SR-4 and head out to I-5 through Wahkiakum County. As there are so many areas to explore and enjoy in Pacific County, I find myself returning time and again. The beauty of the ocean, the Columbia River, coastal forests and delicious foodie opportunities will never get old. I can’t wait for my next visit – perhaps I’ll see you there. Say, would you happen to have a boat? Asking for a friend…

Until next time, please stay safe, get that vaccine and get ready to eat the state!

Cheers!

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Enjoy the ride with my Pacific County SPOTIFY PLAYLIST!

  • Ventura Highway – America (from Homecoming)
  • Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan (from Can’t Buy A Thrill)
  • Lovely Day – Bill Withers (from Menagerie)
  • I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash (from I Can See Clearly Now)
  • Cool Change  – Little River Band (from First Under the Wire)
  • Feels So Good – Single Version – Chuck Mangione (from Chuck Mangione: A&M Gold Series)
  • Happier than the Morning Sun – Stevie Wonder (from Music of My Mind)
  • You Can Close Your Eyes – James Taylor (from Mud Slide Slim & the Blue Horizon)
  • Angel from Montgomery – Bonnie Raitt (from Streetlights)
  • Light Enough to Travel – The Be Good Tanyas (from Blue Horse)
  • It’s Too Late – Carole King (from Tapestry)
  • Let ‘Em In – Wings (from Wings at the Speed of Sound)
  • Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne (from Jackson Browne – Saturate Before Using)
  • Isis – Live at Montreal Forum, Montreal, Quebec – December 1975 – Bob Dylan (from The Rolling Thunder Review – The 1975 Live Recordings)
  • Find Yourself – Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (from Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real)
  • Old Friend – Shooter Jennings (from The Wolf)
  • Long White Line – Sturgill Simpson (from Metamodern Sounds in Country Music)
  • The Life You Choose – Jason Isbell (from Something More than Free)
  • Something to Love – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (from The Nashville Sound)
  • You’ve Got A Friend in Me – From Toy Story – Randy Newman & Lyle Lovett (from Toy Story)
  • A Long Way to Get – Bob Schneider (from I’m Good Now)
  • The Boys of Summer – Don Henley (from Building the Perfect Beast)
  • Clean Getaway – Maria Taylor (from Lynn Teeter Flower)
  • Can’t Find My Way Home – Ellen McIlwaine (from Up From the Skies: The Polydor Years)
  • Life Is Beautiful – Keb’ Mo’ (from Just Like You/Suitcase)
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – Paolo Nutini & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (from An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall & the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program)
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – The Muppet Barbershop Quartet (from The Muppets – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire) – Mel Tormé (from That’s All)

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Check out more I Ate the State adventures:

I Ate the State – Special Edition: Summertime in Italy (featuring guest writer Erica Kees)

Greetings!

As I’m sure many of you are doing, I’ve been embarking upon a bit of armchair traveling these past few months. In addition to the many hours of travel and foodie shows I’ve been binge-watching, I’ve been doing a bit of traveling in my mind. Memories from past travels, amazing meals with family and friends, foodie adventures and misadventures – you name it, I’ve been dreaming of it. With these wonderful memories have come thoughts of places I’ve yet to visit and even ideas for future projects. It was that very inspiration which brings me to this special edition of I Ate the State.

I’ve been very lucky in my life to meet a handful of extraordinary people with whom I’ve been sharing adventures for many, many years. They are not only my dearest friends, but have become my family. They are people I love, respect and admire; people who have helped mold me into the person I am today. To imagine my life without this group of friends paints a sad and lackluster picture.

An important member of this cherished cast of characters is my dear friend, Erica Kees. One of the most interesting, talented and fearless people I’ve ever met, Erica is the true definition of a global citizen. Though we met growing up in the Tri-Cities, she has led a fascinating global life both before and after our desert adventures. Born in California, she spent her first few years in the Berkeley area. When her dad, Martin, graduated from Berkeley, the family moved to Nigeria where he taught Optometry and assisted in clinics in Benin City.  After two years, they returned to the states and found their way to Washington State for a spell. Since then, Erica has added many more locations to her travel and homestead passports over the years. The United States, the Cayman Islands, Guatemala, France and Italy are some of the places she’s called home and her travel roster is larger still. To say she has countless, enthralling adventures to share is indeed an understatement.

Erica and Martin
Erica and her brilliant dad, Martin. Talking to Martin about music and his amazing fractal art was always a joy.

Erica and I met while studying classical voice with Annabelle Wall in the Tri-Cities. We went to various vocal competitions, studied with the Maestro of the Mid-Columbia Symphony and spent hours talking about music and art. We also spent countless hours discussing the places we were excited to visit and the adventures we were dreaming of experiencing. (As there weren’t many artistic opportunities in the Tri-Cities at the time, this was an absolute necessity.) Additionally, her brilliant parents, Martin and Rena, were hugely influential to me in the areas of music, travel, creative thinking and much more. I owe my love of opera, Frank Zappa, Philip Glass and many other artists directly to Erica and her parents. I have the fondest memories of the Kees family, including randomly stopping by their home where I ended up talking with Erica’s dad, Martin, on the front porch about music for at least an hour. (Erica left her dad’s original Yamaha DX7 with me when she moved to the Cayman Islands and I still have it set up!)

During our college years, Erica and I studied together at both Columbia Basin College and Cornish College of the Arts and even lived in the same apartment building on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Unfortunately, our time together in Seattle was relatively short-lived as Erica made the decision to join her parents who had recently moved to the Cayman Islands. After enjoying life in the Caymans and fitting in various adventures and studies around the globe, she returned stateside to study Computer Science at the University of Chicago and Loyola University. While attending, she met her future husband, Enrico, who was a visiting Research Associate, based out of Milan, Italy. After finishing her degree, she continued to live and work in Chicago before leaving the States to embark upon an adventurous new chapter with Enrico in Monza, Italy.

And that is where we find Erica today; leading a beautiful life with Enrico and their two children, just outside of Milan in the lovely town of Monza. (I’m looking forward to visiting the beautiful Villa Reale and the Cathedral of Monza – circa 600 CE – on my future visit, not to mention MANY tasty restaurants.) Enrico is an Associate Professor at Politecnico di Milano and Erica is an adjunct teacher at the public high school for language learning and tourism, Mosè Bianchì. They still regularly visit the US, but spend the majority of their time in and around Italy. Food, family, travel, the Arts – All the things Erica and I dreamed of growing up are now an integral part of her daily life. I know she’ll never stop exploring or learning about the world around us and it’s one of my greatest wishes to at last get to join her on a few of her Italian adventures. After reading her article below, I’m pretty sure you’ll feel the same.

And without further ado, I present to you the lovely, Erica Kees to bring us a little slice of her Italian bliss. Take it away, Erica!

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Summer on a Plate – by Erica Kees

Firstly, I’d like to shout out to Dayna, my dear pal from our Tri-Cities days.  Grazie Mille (thanks a thousand! Yes, we do say thousand instead of a million!) for inviting me to add some Italian flavor to your highly entertaining, “I Ate the State” blog.  I can’t wait to follow Dayna’s further adventures in the Pacific Northwest and beyond (hopefully here, gosh darn it!) once we all somehow escape our own version of this Covid-19 nightmare.  In the meantime, I hope I can give you a glimpse, as an American living in northern Italy for the past 14 years, of our majestic and celebrated “summertime” menu.

Italians tend to eat lighter and brighter in the summer.  They actually refuse, completely turn up noses, to dishes they had devoured just a season ago.  At first, as an American, I could not understand the clear protocol about “stagionalità” or seasonality.  For example, polenta, stews, hot soups, fried food and other generally heavy dishes are considered strictly winter/autumn dishes.  However, chestnuts and pumpkin are only eaten in the fall.  Most Italians never enjoy a gelato in the winter!  They say that gelato is made for the summer.  In fact, my mother-in-law never had gelato in either the autumn or winter! In fact, all restaurants completely change their menus each season, well, unless they are created specifically to cater for tourists.  Why?  Well, usually tourists ask for the dishes they personally feel are typical even if it is in the wrong season.  So the restaurants do make exceptions and look on with a sense of pity, no doubt.

Let’s talk about the centerpiece of the Italian summer cuisine, the tomato. It’s certainly true that the tomato is a native fruit, born to the New World, but when you ponder the dishes of the Americas, the tomato does not leap to mind as the star ingredient.  There is no country, no group of people more united in their love and affection for the tomato, our “pomodoro”, than Italy.  Italians enjoy them in every way, not just as a way to dress up pasta or pizza – but also savory sun-dried and packed under oil, alongside beans, in soups, dotted on focaccia, or as the protagonist of the most famous of summer salads: La Insalata Caprese.  The name means “Salad of Capri,” the famous island just a 2-hour ferry ride from Naples.  (All Anglophones pronounce “Capri” incorrectly, leading to confusion.  I learnt very quickly that the accent is on the first syllable.) The Caprese represents the colors of the Italian flag; it feels like summer on a plate.  Why do you need a recipe to make it?  Well, you don’t really – surely we can remember the 3 essential ingredients:  tomatoes, basil, and the best mozzarella you can find.  Good luck there.  For sure, the summer sun and a green thumb can help. Every Italian nonna (grandma) will tell you it’s all about the quality of the ingredients that you use.  First of all, if the pomodori (tomatoes) are picked immediately from your garden, you will guarantee to have a showstopper on your plate.  If you find them at a local farm or market, your Caprese won’t win the four stars you’d get by growing them yourself but that’s clearly better than the supermarket, hands down.  Same goes for basil.  Why don’t you grow your own basilico on your balcony? (If you already do, scusami!) The leaves will be long and fragrant, just picked before dressing your Caprese.

Does anything close to real Mozzarella actually exist in America?  I’ve never found it. Well, I’m guessing there must be some incredibly savvy farmer out there raising grass-fed animals, creating some fantastic cheese in maybe California? You’ve got to find it! By all means, write me about it if you do.  Americans, for the most part, are agnostics when considering real Mozzarella! If you don’t know it actually exists, well, it isn’t a big problem until you actually try the real deal. Problem is, you will be converted once you’ve tried it. In Italy, the most prized form of Mozzarella is called “Mozzarella di latte di bufala” because only the Italian Water Buffalo’s milk, extremely rich and creamy, is used in all regions where the cheese is made.  This heavenly cheese came from the region of Campana, in the south.  Scientists are still unsure of where and when the Water Buffalo actually arrived in Italy.  We do know that the word “mozzarella” is from “mozzare”, meaning “cutting by hand,” as each piece is separated from the curd and formed into balls or “pearls of the table.”

Rodeo di Sapori Market
It says: “HER MAJESTY: The ‘FIGLIATA” This fantastic “Water Buffalo Mozzarella” filled with little bites and cream – you can only find it from us.” From “Rodeo di Sapori” market

What about additions to increase the savory flavors on your plate?  Freshly ground sea salt (but on the tomato not the cheese, please), pepper (optional), and a drizzling of an excellent Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (essential EVOO!) are key to dress or condire your Caprese.  You might feel inspired to add other flavors that complement the dish perfectly: fragrant oregano, finely chopped red onion, or even a handful of assorted olives and capers.  I’ve even broken the rules by adding a small 1/2  teaspoon of chopped chiles (just not done in Italy) but, that my friends, is an addition simply due to my Mexican roots. Others like to add balsamic vinegar, but I personally believe it pairs better with melon (for example, cantaloupe) and prosciutto crudo (raw cured ham), yet another summer delight.

Here in Monza, a northern suburb of Milan in the region of Lombardy, we have a number of open air markets that we frequent a few times a week.  They wouldn’t be considered “farmers’ markets” like in the States – they sell everything, from fruits & vegetables to fresh fish, cleaning supplies, and even underwear. I never miss the fresh ravioli maker’s stall (when I’m not searching for stylish new drawers) which has at least 30 different types on offer. Some popular fillings in the summer time are: shrimp and zucchini, fig and prosciutto ham, and ricotta cheese and lemon.  If you don’t have time to make your own ravioli (well only during a pandemic!) it’s the place to stop. Just add to salted boiling water and serve with a sage-butter sauce and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, the real deal.

Ravioli
Ravioli: Fig with prosciutto, Ricotta Lemon, Zucchini flowers, “speck” (an alpine ham) and brie, 5 cheeses

The open air markets are hardly ever closed.  The only time we’ve ever seen them closed was during our cruel spring Coronavirus lock-down from March to May.  Even when it is raining or freezing, the hundreds of vendors are selling, like I mentioned, everything from linens to sotto olio (which is anything packed in olive oil in glass jars meant to accompany your dishes, like artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, fish, and the like).  Most Italians do not like to cook during the unbearably hot summers, so picking up an already baked focaccia, some pizzette (little pizzas only sold at the bakeries or panifici), or ciabatte (loaves of bread in the shape of slippers, hence the name) is part of the “fast-food” tradition of summer that allows us to avoid turning on our ovens most of the time.

I wouldn’t actually call them recipes, per se, but here are two lovely summer salad ideas that are simple to assemble.  I’d love to see your versions of summer on a plate!  Drop me a jpeg! Contact me on Twitter @ericaamy

Buon appetito! E buone vacanze!

Insalata Caprese
Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese

  • 3 fist sized tomatoes, sliced. As ripe and fresh as possible, please (obviously, add more if you are hungry).
  • 1 ball of mozzarella di bufala (or facsimile)
  • A sprinkling of basil leaves (8-10)
  • Freshly ground sea salt and pepper
  • A drizzling of your best Italian EVOO

Non-traditional additions:

  • Minced red onion
  • Capers and olives
  • Diced chiles
  • Balsamic vinegar from Modena

Serve with crusty bread and more EVOO

Melon and “Burrata” (yet another type of Mozzarella) or with prosciutto

Melon and Burrata
Melon and Burrata – Delicious!

  • 3 or more slices of ripe cantaloupe melon
  • A ripe fig or two
  • Mozzarella (in this case “burrata”)
  • A sprig of basil
  • Drizzles of EVOO and balsalmic vinegar
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • Some crazy Californian folks even add sliced avocado, but this is really not Italian!
  • Schiacciatine al rosmarino (a type of crunchy flatbread topped with sea salt and rosemary)

Buckwheat Pasta
Fresh buckwheat pasta with ceci and summer veg – Sapori d’Abruzzo

 

In the spirit of Dayna’s blog and our deep love and connection to music, I’ve added a YouTube playlist so your mood becomes all the more Italiano-charged! For a non-video version, you can also check it out on SPOTIFY

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And now, back to my armchair…

Molte grazie, Erica, for the beautiful glimpse into your life in Italy. I truly can’t wait to visit and enjoy everything in person. While I’m waiting, I’ll just have to live vicariously through your words, recipes and lovely pictures… And perhaps share a few resources for Seattle-area readers should they be also be inspired to travel virtually.

Erica wrote of the glory of local buffalo mozzarella and featured burrata in one of her recipes. However, until I’m able to visit the Rodeo di Sapori Market in person, I will have to make do with local offerings. Though I’m certain shopping for Italian ingredients in a lovely Italian marketplace is definitely the way to go, there are also some pretty delicious resources in the Seattle area. Should you be looking for ingredients for your next Italian-inspired meal, consider these local options:

*Be sure to check online for updated Covid-19 guidelines and opening/closing times for the businesses featured below.

  • Check out De Laurenti Food & Wine for a dreamy treasure-trove of Italian specialty foods. Located in Pike Place Market since 1946, they feature fresh deli meats, cheeses, wines and more. This place is amazing and has been charming, daring and taunting me into trying delicious foods since my first childhood visit. I’m fairly certain they are wholly responsible for my long obsession with Italian nougat… (Open Mon-Sat, 10am – 5pm and Sun, 11am – 4pm)

PRO TIP: Do not miss a trip to world-renowned Pike Place Market, overlooking the waterfront in downtown Seattle. This is the place of my foodie and Art dreams and it has been fueling my stomach and artistic endeavors throughout my entire life. Check online for hours, but produce stands are generally open 9am – 5pm and the fish market, from 9am – 3pm. This place is a GOLD MINE.

  • While they don’t have mozzarella, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Pike Place Market does make some pretty amazing cheese. Their Flagship, New woman and cheese curd varieties are fantastic – and don’t miss out on their house-made Mac & Cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and the ongoing cheese curd show! (Watch them churn the cheese curds in a huge vat in the corner window) Order online for pick-up, 10am – 5pm daily.
  • Found in several local-area farmer’s markets, King’s Mozzarella features some pretty rockin’ and much sought after fresh mozzarella varieties. Check their Facebook page to see where they’ll be next!
  • For the most delectable, house-made cured meats, head to Salumi, located in Pioneer Square. Pick up everything needed for an epic charcuterie spread or fall in love with one of their amazing house sandwiches. (I would marry their Porchetta sandwich if it were legal.) They do also make delicious mozzarella and other cheeses in house – call ahead to place a takeout or delivery order. (Wed – Sat, 11am – 2pm and 4pm – 6pm)

Tomatoes and Mozz
My take on Erica’s recipe. Pretty tasty! (But missing that real-deal Italian mozz, for sure)

In addition to meats and cheeses, you might find yourself in need of fresh baked goods, vegetables and important items such as extra-virgin olive oil. You’re in great luck as Seattle and the surrounding areas have an excellent selection of farmer’s markets and local stores to hit up. Check out these great options for future recipe needs:

Should you be more in the market for a professional chef preparing your favorite Italian dishes, Seattle has a great offering in the way of restaurants. Would I prefer to be eating my meal and sipping a glass of wine at an outdoor table in, say, Monza, where I hope to soon be visiting my pal, Erica? ABSOLUTELY! However, since that might not be until (hopefully) next summer, I’ll live vicariously through the great local spots while I wait…

  • Focusing on Northern Italian cuisine, Café Juantia in Kirkland is absolutely wonderful. James Beard Award winner, Holly Smith, has been welcoming guests to this tucked away location since 2000. It is without a doubt, one of my favorite places to dine in the Northwest. They’re currently doing At Home with Café Juanita take-away orders where you can find full dinners, antipasti, burrata dishes, fresh heirloom tomatoes and much more. Tuesday – Friday, 2:30 – 4pm for pickup. (Order 24 hours in advance)
  • Opened in 1991, the year before I officially moved to Seattle, Serafina features delicious Italian fare in a charming, neighborhood setting. The burrata salad, Agnolotti dal Plin and a selection from their great wine list makes for quite a delicious evening. And don’t forget the panna cotta! I have many fond memories of listening to local Jazz artists at Serafina while enjoying a glass of wine. I even worked on a film shoot there during my short-lived film crew days. Very good times… Take-out and dine-in for dinner, Thursday through Sunday, 5-9pm.
  • For great pizza made in a handmade, wood-fired brick oven imported from Naples, head to Cornuto on Phinney Ridge. (Part of the Via Tribunali family of restaurants) Their Bufalina D.O.C. pizza and Mezza Luna Nutella dessert (Nutella filled calzone with powdered sugar – SO good!) are two of my very favorite things. Open for take-out from 4-9pm.
  • I love the DERU Market, located in Kirkland’s North Rose Hill neighborhood. They serve fantastic sandwiches on house-made focaccia bread, featuring house-roasted turkey and country ham, seasonal veggies, artisan cheeses and more. In addition, their wood-fired pizzas, farm salads, and baked goods are amazing. (I’m addicted to their salted peanut butter cookies and insanely large slices of cake.) They also feature giant meatballs, fig & pistachio meatloaf, veggie sides and a great offering of hot beverages and wine. Open daily, 8am – 9pm for take-out and limited delivery. (Pro tip: If you’re in need of great catering, look no further – DERU Market is awesome!)
  • Wallingford’s Bizzarro Italian Café is quirky, quaint, cozy and most importantly, delicious. Their house-made pasta – the Puttanesca and Sugar Snap Pea Carbonara are both delicious – meatballs and desserts are fabulous. They’re currently offering take-out and have opened an Outdoor Wine Corral for drinks while you wait for your take-away. Open 5pm – 8pm-ish.
  • Located in downtown Seattle and the Ballard neighborhood, Serious Pie is a great place to enjoy a pizza pie. They feature the classics, but I’m particularly fond of the Prosser Farm Potato, Rosemary and Pecorino Romano For dessert, DO NOT miss the Triple Coconut Cream Pie. Get it and don’t look back… Open for take-away, 11am – 7pm. Ballard Bonus: You can also order weekend brunch from Serious Biscuit. Check out the delicious breakfast biscuits like The Zack. YUM! They also feature Bloody Mary and Mimosa kits to-go! (Sat/Sun, 9am – 12pm for brunch) 11:30a – 8pm, for Serious Pie take-away.
  • Found in the Queen Anne neighborhood, How to Cook A Wolf features rustic, Italian-inspired food in a modern, yet cozy atmosphere. Their Prawn Tagliatelle and Heirloom Cucumber Salad (with huckleberries!) are excellent. Open daily for takeout from 4pm – 8pm. I’m also looking forward to another Ethan Stowell, Italian-inspired spot, Staple & Fancy re-opening. Their pasta and seafood dishes are delicious and trying their Chef’s Menu has long been on my to-do list.
  • While not necessarily a go-to for fine dining, Vito’s on Capitol Hill has been wooing patrons with their classic, darkened-booth Italian scene since 1953. Great drinks, classic fare, nightly music and who doesn’t love some private dining action in the Cougar Room? Currently open for take-away and delivery, Wed-Sun, 5-9pm.
  • Should you be perusing Pike Place Market for all the fresh goods, check out the delicious fare at longtime Market staple, The Pink Door. Classic, with a refined flair, their menu is very enjoyable and the ambiance is always lovely. I’m particularly fond of the lasagna and meatballs. Deck seating available and lunch and dinner takeout. Wednesday – Sunday, 11:30am – 4pm (lunch) and 5pm – 9pm (dinner)

As I bring this collaborative edition of I Ate the State to an end, I hope it finds you as inspired as I am to dive into a giant bowl of pasta and pour a large glass of vino. I’m very happy you had the opportunity to meet my dear friend, Erica, and hope you enjoyed your look into the beauty of the Italian summer. She has always been my hero when it comes going out and exploring the world; to venturing out and making her dreams become reality. This newest snapshot of her adventures only solidifies my feelings and I’m so excited to see more. I also have it on great authority that Erica and her family have recently returned from traipsing about the Italian countryside, further enjoying the summer bounty. (Abruzzo and all of its bounty looks amazing!) I can’t wait to see more of her pictures and start planning my future visit.

Until next time, take good care and be safe.

Ciao!

Brodetto Vastese
The lovely Erica enjoying ‘Brodetto Vastese’ in Abruzzo (13 types of fish in a garlic tomato reduction. Upon finishing the fish, you are brought pasta alla chitarra to clean the pan)

 

~ Collective words for a collective world ~

I Ate the State – Special Edition: I Ate the Neighborhood

Greetings from my office/living/entertainment/multi-purpose room! I hope this installment finds you well and safe in whatever room of the house you’re currently exploring. I was just in the spare bedroom a little while ago – what an adventure! Don’t worry. I brought snacks… And wine.

One of the main reasons I began I Ate the State was to highlight areas of the state I hadn’t visited. I grew up in Washington and thought I knew my state, but when breaking it down by county, I realized just how many areas I’d not yet explored; how many Washington State adventures were still lying in wait. There is so much unique beauty and culinary genius to enjoy in this state, but I know even after visiting every county, there will still be new adventures to experience. I’m willing to do the work…

In the meantime, however, I’ve been enjoying the state from a slightly smaller perspective. I’ve really missed getting out and exploring on a grander scale, but switching focus to the microcosm of my Bothell neighborhood has definitely been rewarding. Granted, my walking excursions and take-out from local restaurants don’t always match the grandeur of a good day or weekend trip, but they’re not a bad compromise. And just like I thought I knew my state, I also thought I knew my neighborhood… Seems regardless of the scale, there’s always something to explore; always something surprising to enjoy.

Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places. It can pop out of cracks in the sidewalks, wander across the sky in the movement of lazy clouds or burst into view with the blossoms of spring. It’s in the joy of little bunnies popping out of nowhere, making tracks down the road and in the sound of the ice cream truck rolling through the neighborhood. (ICE CREAM TRUCK!!! RUUUUUNNN!!!) There’s something to be said for beauty being in the eye of the beholder. One can behold it anywhere and in any capacity – You just need to keep your eyes open to its many charms. I’m working daily on keeping mine open during this very… unique and challenging time.

When I’m not busy chasing down the ice cream truck, I’ve been hitting up some of my favorite neighborhood spots for take-out and more. (Seriously – Can anyone deny the siren call of the ice cream truck? Is anyone not immediately reduced to a crazed 5-year old??) Here’s a short list of the awesome spots in old town Bothell I’ve been enjoying over the years as well as during the past couple months:

  • A long-time favorite of Bothell residents is the Ranch Drive-in on Bothell Way NE, in the heart of old town Bothell. (Since 1959!) I’ve been a devotee since moving to the area several years ago and hope to be a patron for many years to come. The menu is filled with classic treats, but my favorites are the Ranch Burger with cheese and the CRINKLE FRIES with their homemade tartar sauce. (#CRINKLEFRIES4LIFE) I’m also quite fond of their grilled hotdogs and fish sandwiches. Mmmm… Their walk-up window is currently open daily. Check website for hours. I LOVE YOU, RANCH DRIVE-IN.

  • The Hillcrest Bakery has been serving Bothell since 1934, with current family operation since 1965. It’s no wonder they’ve become such a mainstay in the community as their baked goods are I’ve ordered many cakes over the years and absolutely swear by their sausage rolls. (Phone in order and pick up around the back – Open until 6pm)

  • The classic Countryside Donut House off Main Street in old town Bothell has been enticing locals with their donuty goodness for many a year. I’m a big fan of their delectable maple bars and custard filled donuts. YUM!! Cash and check only. (Current hours: 5am – 3pm daily)

  • Alexa’s Café on Main Street in old town Bothell is actually the last dining room I visited before the statewide lock-down. Sigh… While I await the reopening of the restaurant in full, I’ll be ordering their delicious Eggs Benny for take-away. Great for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Alexa’s features dishes made with local ingredients in their cozy dining room. (Current take-out for Breakfast/Lunch only – 8:30am – 2pm, Wed-Sun)

Alexa's Cafe
The Eggs Benny at Alexa’s is delicious!!

  • Revolve Food & Wine is somewhat new to the Main Street scene in old town Bothell, but they’ve been making a delicious case to become part of the area staples. They are currently open for take-out and delivery from 4-7pm and specialize in gluten, grain, preservative and refined sugar-free dishes featuring high-quality local ingredients. They also have an excellent wine selection, along with cocktails and beer available for take-away.
  • I have two very important words for you: Truffle Popcorn. Everything I’ve tried at The Bine has been consistently delicious, but that truffle popcorn… DREAMY. I would eat it every day… And as surprising as it is to me, I’d also say the same about their Brussels sprouts. The rest of the menu is excellent, but I’d also like to personally recommend the Pho’rench Dip and either the bacon or veggie grilled cheese sandwiches. (Get both!) Their awesome beer and wine selection is also available for take-away. (Open daily, Noon – 8pm)

  • Teriyaki Best has been my local go-to teriyaki spot for many years. It’s a tiny place off Main Street in old town Bothell, but very big on flavor. The dishes are always tasty, the portions satisfying and the service great. I love the salmon teriyaki and the Katsu chicken. (Open for take-out at 11am – 8:30pm during week, Noon – 8pm Saturday. Closed Sunday.)
  • I’m a frequenter of their conveyor-belt operation, but have recently been enjoying the take-out options at Sushi Zone on Main Street in old town Bothell. I’m addicted to the Bothell and UW rolls as well as many other tasty items. Sesame balls!! (Order online and pick-up. No delivery. Check online for hours.)

Sushi Zone
DELICIOUS!

  • Located in old town Bothell on NE 183rd Street, The Cottage offers breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner in a cozy atmosphere. (Outdoor seating, curbside pickup and free delivery currently available.) In addition to single portions, they’re also presently offering family-style brunch and dinners along with date-night specials, a great coffee menu and adult beverages. They regularly host live music and during the lock-down are featuring online performances via Facebook. (Currently open 8am – 8pm, Mon-Fri, 9am – 8pm, Saturday and 9am – 3pm on Sunday)

  • I very much miss their original location (RIP Country Village), but I’m so happy Cranberry Cottage has found a new home in the old town Bothell area. It was dangerous enough when they were a 5-minute drive away, but now they’re a one-block walk DANGER! Chances are, if you’re a friend or family member, you’ve received a super-cool gift found over the years at Cranberry Cottage. And you probably will again!! (Currently open for limited curbside pick-up – order online.)

Cranberry Cottage
Curbside pick-up is available at the charming Cranberry Cottage

While I’m incredibly grateful for the excellent dining options within a few blocks of my home, I’m also working on keeping things interesting in my own kitchen. For the past two years, during spring, I’ve made treks down to beautiful Puerto Vallarta. I’ve been missing the sun and day-dreaming about the beach these past couple months, so I decided to try and recreate one of the dishes from my recent visit. The Shrimp and Avocado Tostadas Louie from Joe Jack’s Fish Shack are delicious and though I’m still fine-tuning the details, I’m pretty happy with my copycat results. YUM! I made some scratch hibiscus margaritas to go along with the tostadas and those, coupled with a sunny afternoon on the patio, were a much needed distraction from the office/living/entertainment/multi-purpose room setup.

I’ve also been exploring recipes online and found a great one for Chicken Pot Pie Biscuits on the lovely In Diane’s Kitchen website. They were delicious and reheated nicely in the oven throughout the week. In addition, I’ve been pretty happy with my various curry experiments and will be trying out a pulled ham Instant Pot dish later this week. Just trying to keep things tasty and interesting in the ol’ Quarantine Kitchen… And when all else fails, I’ve always got tater tots to fall back on… #TATERTOTS4LIFE

I have indeed been enjoying my neighborhood deep-dive, but am very much looking forward to the days of again branching out to the rest of the state. I love my neighborhood and it has a lot to offer, but it’s always fun to explore what other neighborhoods – and their neighbors – have to share. I’m also very much looking forward to exploring the state with friends and family. In the same vehicle. Less than 6-feet apart… But in the meantime, I’m happy to keep things safe and sound in my little corner of the world. I hope you are equally safe and sound – and staying sane – in your corner of the world as well.

Support your local businesses, support your neighbors – Eat the neighborhood! (But don’t eat your neighbors. That’s not right.)

Cheers!

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To help you enjoy your own explorations, I’ve curated a special list of happy, neighborhood strollin’ tunes. Check out the playlist on SPOTIFY. I guarantee these songs will make you smile!

  • Keep on Truckin’ – Eddie Kendricks (from Eddie Kendricks)
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor – Mister Rogers (Fred Rogers) (from You Are Special)
  • Traveling Without Moving – Jamiroquai (from Traveling Without Moving)
  • Come and get Your Love – Redbone (from Wovoka)
  • Time to Move On – Tom Petty (from Wildflowers)
  • Mah Na Mah Na – Sesame Street (from A Sesame Street Celebration)
  • Lovely Day – Bill Withers (from Menagerie)
  • Getaway – Earth, Wind & Fire (from Spirit)
  • Gone At Last – Paul Simon w/Phoebe Snow & The Jessy Dixon Singers (from Still Crazy After All These Years)
  • As – Stevie Wonder (from Songs in the Key of Life)
  • Beautiful World – Colin Hay (from Going Somewhere)
  • The Rainbow Co