Looking for a day trip this summer that's less of an Inland Northwest obligation (Grand Coulee Dam, Steptoe Butte, Palouse Falls, etc.) and more of an adventure along the lines of The Land That Time Forgot? We've got one here. But be forewarned, this is more of an expedition than anything resembling a carefree beach stroll -- it requires a fair amount of daring, stamina and expertise in addition to a healthy sense of curiosity. We're talking about one of the Northwest's most unusual yet little-known natural
features -- the mysterious Blue Lake Rhino Cave.
Located high in the side of a basalt cliff overlooking Blue Lake, just a few miles south of State Highway 2 near Dry Falls, the Rhino Cave is actually a fossilized impression of a prehistoric rhinoceros called Dicerantherium which lived on the Columbian Plateau during the Miocene period, roughly 14 million years ago. During that period, molten basalt was flowing as lava across what is now Eastern Washington from eruptions to the southeast. In the most likely scenario, the advancing lava flowed over the body of the rhinoceros (which was dead and floating in a shallow pond) completely entombing the animal. As the rock cooled and solidified, it created a basalt cavity in the shape of the rhino that would be later partially exposed during the erosion of the lower Grand Coulee. When the cave was discovered by a group of boys in 1935, it still contained fossilized rhino teeth and bones. Scientists later used the cave to cast a three-dimensional model of the animal (a replica is on display at the Dry Falls Interpretive Center).
Wanna see it? Here's how. First of all, you'll need a boat, as the cave is most easily accessed via the waters of Blue Lake (rentals are available at the resort). To get there, take Highway 2 West to Coulee City (a two-hour drive from Spokane) and then continue across the dike at the south end of Banks Lake. At the far end of the dike, take a left onto Highway 17 and venture south past Sun Lakes State Park. From there, it's only a few miles to Blue Lake. Take a left at the Blue Lake Resort and drive a few hundred feet to the entrance of the park. A couple bucks to the locals for parking and boat launch access, and you'll be on your way. Your destination is a shallow inlet that forms one of two coves at the north end of the lake (yes, a good map would be extremely helpful). Veer right into the first, southernmost cove -- the one leading into Jasper Canyon. As soon as you enter that inlet, start looking on the right for a cave in the cliffs near the end of the lobe. Here you can easily land your boat. Now your expedition kicks into high gear. Seek out a white R painted on the cliff (location of the Rhino Cave) and begin your ascent. It's no cakewalk -- even slightly hazardous for kids, inexperienced climbers or those in poor physical condition -- but shambling up the loose basalt slides is the worst part -- that is, until you have to come down the same way. Take it slow and easy. And bring lots of water and sunscreen. You'll need both. -- Mike Corrigan
The Archie Bray Foundation
To drive to "the Bray," as it's called in contemporary arts circles, is to take on a journey of almost mythical proportions. You start in the urban sprawl of I-90 heading east. You drive alongside Lake Coeur d'Alene, through Wallace and past the old Mission until suddenly you're up in the forested passes just west of the Montana state line. The next stretch is populated by huge billboards for the "Silver Dollar," western Montana's famous truck stop/gift shop/gambling emporium/family restaurant. The Clark Fork River winds under, around and alongside I-90 until about Missoula, after which the freeway starts to climb again. You take the exit for Highway 12, which is a gorgeous ascent of the Rocky Mountains that takes you up over the Continental Divide and drops you neatly into the foothills outside Helena.
The Archie Bray Foundation is one of the nation's leading centers for the ceramic arts. Founded on the ruins of a failed brick-making business, the 26-acre grounds include artist studios, a clay business, gallery space and above all, the magical beehive kilns. No longer used for firing, the huge circular kilns are crystallized on the inside with various minerals and are used by the residents for showing films and holding other events.
Created by Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos in 1951, the Archie Bray Foundation (named for its brickmaker-turned-arts patron) is widely considered the birthplace of contemporary ceramics. Residencies are highly sought after, and former residents include Beth Cavener Stichter, Jinsoo Song, Robert Harrison and Chris Antemann.
While there are no visitor accommodations at the Bray, you can take a self-guided tour of the grounds. Everywhere you go, there is evidence of the artists who have been there before. From the garden of vessels outside the visitor's center to Robert Harrison's astonishing, quasi-Classical architectural pieces, the Bray is a vital and beautiful place dedicated to making, as Bray himself put it, "available for all who are seriously interested in the ceramic arts, a fine place to work."
Even for those mildly interested in the ceramic arts (with no artistic talent of their own) it's a fine place to visit. And while you're there, nearby Helena -- Montana's capital city -- has a collection of turn-of-the-century buildings that make for a good architectural walking tour. --Sheri Boggs
The Bard on Boise
After an eight-hour, high-decibel road trip down to southern Idaho, first a guy wants to gather up all the empties in the backseat and then he's just gotta have some ... highbrow culture.
Why not hop in the car and commune with the Bard in Boise? The Idaho Shakespeare Festival offers several opportunities for earning your merit badge in Melodramatics.
The Taming of the Shrew, for example, runs through Sept. 3 in ISF's hillside amphitheater alongside the Boise River. Can Petruchio get Kate to behave? Can she get him to see past surface appearances? It's knockabout comedy with an anti-patriarchal but not-quite-feminist twist.
She Stoops To Conquer (June 10-July 27), Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 comedy in which Kate Hardcastle pretends to be a servant girl just to scope out the aristocratic chap who's new in town.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, with the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, tells the story of how the clever slave Pseudolus outwits every soldier, senator and prostitute in ancient Rome, resulting in "Comedy Tonight" (July 8-Sept. 2)
King Lear (Aug. 5-31) is Shakespeare's double tragedy of two old men, Lear and the Earl of Gloucester, neither of whom understands his children or himself.
Even for the heavy stuff like Lear, you can enjoy the plays at ISF outdoors in box seats, chairs or on the grass. So bring a picnic -- most of the playgoers in the 700-capacity space will.
The season closes with the Sept. 8-Oct. 1 run of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) -- that's right, the same 37-plays-in-one-night romp that played in Spokane last August and will play in Moscow this July. (It's wacky, it's zany, it's popular.)
Tickets run $25-$32 on weekends and $18-$26 during the week; kids can get in for as little as $10 on selected nights. There's a variety of multi-play and season-ticket plans to choose from. Visit www.idahoshakespeare.org or call (208) 429-9908 for information or (208) 336-9221 for tickets.
But even a culture-vulture can't live on Elizabethan histrionics alone. How to fill one's spare time in Idaho's capital?
Kristen De Angeli, marketing director for the ISF, offers some guidance to downtown Boise's restaurant scene.
"The Cottonwood Grill has a great outdoor riverside dining area," she says, "and it's only a block and a half from our office. The Milky Way is very chic, with a great bar." To continue with fine dining opportunities, Bardenay is that rare restaurant that has its own distillery -- sure, you can sample their gin and vodka, but, adds De Angeli, "the grilled tuna melts there are great."
Bar Gernika is another trendy spot near the Basque Block and the Basque Museum downtown, she says, adding that "Bittercreek is another brew pub, and then there's the Red Feather on Eighth Street, which is a major retail and restaurant corridor."
Then, after having a culinary experience, you can enjoy your evenings with Shakespeare under the stars.
"Have a picnic and a glass of wine, or bring your kids," says De Angeli. "It's classical theater with a twist, set against the backdrop of the Boise hills."
And a great way to combine travel, fine dining, theater -- and a merit badge. -- Michael Bowen
Kootenay Lake, B.C.
Pend Oreille and Coeur d'Alene are some pretty big lakes, but they've got some big ones up in Canada, too. And everything about Kootenay Lake is big -- big scenery, big coastline (88 miles) and big fun. You can ride the ferry (the world's longest free ride), visit the glaciers that overlook the lake and fish for the elusive Gerard trout, which can grow to 35 pounds. You can get a five-star dinner in Nelson (on the west arm), camp out for a week in a tepee on a roadless peninsula and scan the hillsides for bighorn sheep or evidence of a 600-million-year-old seabed. You can stay at the Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort (complete with three pools warmed by the earth's core), golf at any of the 13 courses that span the lake's shores and even take a guided boat tour that features the history of the region.
"Kootenay is wilder and far less populated than what you're used to down there," says Peter Duryea, who runs Kootenay Lake Heritage Boat Tours. "We have miles and miles of shoreline with nobody even thinking about settling on it. The most awesome thing is the scenery -- the beauty. Especially when you're out in the middle of the water, with mountains rising 6,000 to 9,000 feet out of the lake."
Duryea, who moved to the shores of Kootenay Lake from Los Angeles in 1973, says that as your guide he will share tidbits about the geological history of the region and about the native American presence there, which dates back 2,500 years. In fact, just around the town of Balfour was a major trading center, says Duryea. Call (250) 227-9555 or check out www.tipicamp.bc.ca/laketours.htm to book a tour or for more information about the tepee camp.
After living in back eastern as a teacher, Alistair Fraser has retired to the shores of Kootenay Lake, near the place he grew up. "I can get to a glacier by 10 am and be back in time for an afternoon swim," says Fraser. "It's spectacular country; it's known as the interior wet belt, and we have quite a verdant countryside."
Fraser says if it's peace and beauty you're after this summer, Kootenay Lake is a great place to find it. But Nelson, one of eastern British Columbia's more bustling towns, is the clincher if trees and mountains aren't enough for you. The building boom that has hit Vancouver seems to be spilling over the mountains into Nelson, says Duryea. The boom has brought the Kootenay Lake region a dose of big-city culture; in fact, it's been called the No. 1 small arts town in Canada.
Just north of Nelson is the town of Kaslo, which comes alive every July to the sounds of jazz imported from all over the world. This summer, the Kaslo Jazz Festival runs July 29-31, making that a great weekend to build your getaway around.
And unlike Europe, Canada remains a destination where your U.S. dollars will still stretch. Currently $1 American buys you $1.25 in Canadian bills. What are you waiting for, eh? -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
The Methow Valley
Imagine mountain meadows ringing with the sounds of jazz, blues and classical music. Imagine an icy stream tumbling from the craggy heights of the North
Cascades to the verdant valley below. Imagine small-town Main Streets lined with galleries, eateries and shops to suit every need. Now imagine that such a place exists within a four-hour drive of Spokane. No need to imagine further -- just take yourself to the Methow Valley of north-central Washington and start living out everything you've imagined.
The Methow's two main communities, Winthrop and Twisp, offer differing but complementary experiences. Founded on a gold boom and once a center for ranching and logging, Winthrop remade itself into an Old West theme town in 1972 with the opening of the North Cascades Highway and has been pulling in tourists from across the state ever since. Twisp, eight miles to the south, has been the Valley's commercial center, but a growing arts community now draws people interested in pursuing both visual and performing arts in a strikingly scenic setting. Both towns serve as a gateway to the North Cascades Highway and surrounding recreation areas, making for a destination with something for virtually everyone.
The Confluence Gallery in Twisp plans two exhibits over the summer months to complement the work of local and regional artisans for sale in the gift shop. "Natural Exuberance: Botany on Display" opens with an artist's reception on Saturday, June 11, and runs through July 30; on Aug. 6, a new show, "Mountain to Steppe: the Methow Outdoors," opens and runs through Sept. 17. In addition, the gallery is the starting point for the Methow Valley Tour of Homes on June 25.
If performing arts are more your style, then check out the doings at the Merc Playhouse, formerly the Twisp Mercantile and now an intimate, fully air-conditioned center for professional theater and music in the valley. Joan MacLeod's play, Toronto, Mississippi, described as a "tender family story," runs July 1-17 and features actor Tony Caprile, who has appeared often on the Spokane stage. The farcical romp Fully Committed opens on Aug. 19 and runs through Sept. 4.
Both the Confluence and the Merc are located on Glover Street, Twisp's downtown thoroughfare, one block east of Highway 20. Also on Glover, you'll find the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery, the place to go for treats and snacks throughout the day. Walk in the door and inhale -- and suddenly the world will seem a brighter place. Cookies, scones, sweet rolls, and all manner of artisan breads beckon from the display case and the cooling racks. Space is tight, but that's all the better to concentrate the glorious aromas. And if you're feeling guilty about indulging, remember: There are plenty of opportunities to work off the excess in the great outdoors.
Summer in the Methow is an endless feast of places to visit and things to do --like the Methow Music Festival and the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival, plus hiking, biking and fishing. But the best part is the peace. Weekends are busy, but during the week, there's ample opportunity to just kick back and be. Silence and quiet are commodities that can't be bought in the urban maelstrom, but they're free for the asking in the Methow. Enjoy. -- Ann M. Colford
It's hard to be in Portland for a day and not hear or read the name "McMenamin's." If you're an outsider, however, the name might sound like just a bunch of m's and n's.
Since 1974, the McMenamin brothers have had one of those jobs that everyone wishes they could have: They have fun. Aiming to create community hubs in the vein of English pubs and Italian piazzas, their pubs allow people of all ages and walks of life to sit, relax and do the one thing that unites all Oregonians -- drink beer. The McMenamins slowly built their empire (what they now call their "kingdom of fun") by renovating old buildings, retaining their historical charm and transforming them into fun, cozy, welcoming places to eat and drink. Creating neighborhood pubs turned to renovating old movie theaters, restoring closed war-era schools and, finally, creating a series of hotels. They wanted the fun to carry to the hotels, allowing them to be resorts for the working man - affordable and full of things to do. Perhaps their best effort is Edgefield, a resort that sits on the outskirts of Portland and on the edge of the picturesque Columbia Gorge.
Edgefield was built in 1911 as the Multnomah County Poor Farm, where residents worked fields, raised livestock and worked in laundries and meat-packing warehouses. The building was renamed Edgefield Manor in 1962, and served as a nursing home for the next twenty years.
The McMenamin brothers snatched it up, renovating the building into a Georgian-style hotel and the nearby buildings into a village for visitors to roam. Today, the building itself feels like an old lodge. The floors still creak when you walk through the front doors, the aroma of home cooking wafts from the kitchens, and cartoonish portraits cover the walls, pipes and every nook, cranny and corner in the building.
The 25-acre property is filled to the brim with entertainment options. A brewery sits behind the building among raised gardens and walkways. A distillery produces small batches of homemade brandy, whiskey and gin, and visitors sample the final products in the adjacent Distillery Bar. Ponds, gardens, groves and meadows surround the main lodge with blinding green. The Pub Course, a par-3, 18-hole golf layout, blankets the back of the grounds. The Power Station Theater shows feature films - and, of course, you can drink special McMenamin's brews during the show. There's a winery, a glass blower, an espresso bar (of course they roast their own coffee) and massage therapists. There are single-room bars and pubs around every corner. It's the resort for everyone else - for beer drinkers, for winos, for everybody who just wants to get away.
And it couldn't be more conveniently located. Edgefield is only thirty minutes from downtown Portland if you're looking to go shopping or dine on something other than McMenamin's fare. And to the east there is the entire stretch of the Columbia River Gorge - great for hiking, biking, checking out waterfalls, tiny towns and the world's best windsurfing. It's a vacationing oasis - especially for a true Northwesterner. -- Leah Sottile
Waterton Lakes National Park
Want 24 percent more rustic for your wilderness vacation dollar? Head north of the border to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.
Waterton is the Canadian side of Glacier National Park in Montana. In fact, the two parks have joined to create the world's first International Peace Park.
Waterton, in southwestern Alberta, is an easy drive from Spokane, especially by heading across the border in North Idaho, either Porthill or Eastport, and heading east Canadian Highway 1. The scenery is stunning as the Rocky Mountains rise suddenly out of the Alberta prairies.
At Waterton, as at Glacier, there are opportunities ranging from the strenuous to the sybaritic.
There is a wide variety of lodging in Waterton Village, including the funky, many towered Prince of Wales Lodge, which has spectacular lake and mountain views.
There are also miles of hiking trails on the surrounding slopes, zig-zagging past waterfalls to alpine lakes. The park is home to bison, bears, bighorn sheep, deer and antelope.
Contact the park at (403) 859-2224 or search online for Waterton Lakes National Park.
With the exchange rate at just more than 24 percent, Waterton is an attractive alternative to Glacier. But if you want to experience both, you're at the right place. -- Kevin Taylor
Every red-blooded Northwest family has its favorite summer getaway spot, that glittering Mecca that beckons them on sweaty and hostile family car trips. If you grew up around here, you probably packed the car and made for Priest Lake or the Montana wilderness. Because my family lived in western Washington, my father would trundle us into the Subaru station wagon every summer and head for Sol Duc Hot Springs on the Olympic Peninsula. We griped on the way -- as all kids do -- but by the time we pulled off the ferry and onto the peninsula, and careened around the seemingly endless Lake Crescent, our hearts were in our throats. I remember the ritual tension of approaching the entrance gate, crossing our fingers and praying that there was room left in the campground (somehow one space always opened up for us) and rejoicing when the park ranger waved us in.
There's nothing spectacular about Sol Duc. It's no Glacier or Yellowstone. And it's hardly roughing it, with row after row of close-knit campsites with driveways and fireplaces and picnic benches. But for us, it was perfect. Our campsite was just a home base, as every morning we'd rush to the swimming pools down the road, alternating all day between the cold Olympic-sized pool and the small, round, hot springs-fed pools - the ones that gave the whole place the smell of rotten eggs, of sulfur. Sometimes we were too eager to get swimming after breakfast; I distinctly remember hauling myself out of the water one morning to throw up a stomachful of Cocoa Puffs.
Lunchtime meant deli-meat sandwiches back at the camp. Then the afternoon was given to exploration, dashing through the cool, moss-heavy rain forest, scrambling over fallen logs, collecting rocks from stream beds as protection from marauding bears. Only once did we ever make the miles-long hike up to Sol Duc Falls, but the sight of the pounding river was powerful enough to strike us chatterboxes dumb.
Back to camp for a quick snack, followed by a couple more hours of thrashing around in the swimming pool, trying to figure out how to play Marco Polo, while Dad read Tom Clancy in the hot pool. Then back to camp again, for burgers and S'mores and creepy fireside stories about dogs hanging from nooses in barns.
That's all there was to life at Sol Duc, really. But it was all we needed.