You walk into the sun-drenched room, padding across alternating swathes of slate tile and plush carpet. In the kitchen, your friend slices veggies atop a gleaming granite countertop, which will later top the burgers cooking on the stainless-steel gas grill outside. A cushy sectional beckons for you to curl up and watch a DVD on the flatscreen TV, but instead you decide to head up to the roof, where a few companions are sprawled out on lounge chairs on the expansive sun deck.
Though it sounds like this scenario could only take place on the French Riviera's star-studded coasts, River Ranch Boat makes it possible with luxury-houseboat rentals in the Northwest. The 59-foot beauties are appointed with contemporary furnishings and fixtures, sleeping up to 12 adults and holding parties of up to 25 during the day. The vessels, which can be rented for weekend or mid-week sojourns, also have an on-deck waterslide that deposits riders right into the Columbia or Snake Rivers.
Those looking for single-day adventures can rent one of River Ranch's pontoons, which hold 12–16 people depending on the vessel. There is also a fleet of pleasure boats––speedboat-style watercraft that can be used for fishing, tubing, wakeboarding, or revving the engine to scare away lingering ghost ships.
Beamers Hells Canyon Tours ferries passengers through the vacillating rapids of one of the deepest river gorges in North America. Along nearly 200 miles of majestic landscapes and American history, certified tour captains delve into detailed narratives on geological landmarks, Native American history, and how U.S. mail delivery developed from horseback to the modern-day jetpack. Wine-tasting and brunch cruises complement degustation with stunning scenes of mountain ranges, rivers, and rare glimpses of local wildlife foraging for food or preparing their tax-return forms, and fishing charters let anglers test their mettles against the river’s crafty steelhead, sturgeon, and bass.
Nestled amid the Lewis-Clark Valley's rolling hills and serpentine Snake and Clearwater Rivers, Bryden Canyon's 6,359-yard, par 71 course poses an intermediate challenge for both golfers and cup-and-string phone conversationalists. Sparkling ponds lap at the banks of the course's bookending greens, ensnaring rogue balls in its watery depths, where they are used as game pieces by the course's hungry, hungry hippos. As the cleat-clad chip, drive, and putt their way through 18 holes dotted with devilish sand traps and howitzer-lined bunkers, cunning eyes might catch glimpses of deer, coyote, and mountain goats as they steal into the mist surrounding the grounds.
Snake River Adventures makes the scenic waterways of the Snake, Salmon, and Clearwater rivers accessible to outdoor enthusiasts and curious sightseers alike. Licensed jet-boat captains ferry groups through natural wonders, such as Hells Canyon—America's deepest and most inaccurately named river gorge—and manmade locales including the Kirkwood Historical Ranch and museum. Hunting and fishing expeditions may be chartered to snare the bass, trout, steelhead, and sturgeon swimming the waters as well as the big game roaming the shore. Comfortable camp may be made at Historic Sheep Creek Ranch—furnished with wood cook stoves and oil lamps—or the Kirby Creek Lodge bed and breakfast.
Feet and hooves treaded the steep peaks along the Columbian Plateau long before Anthony Lakes ever brought skis to the natural powder. Oregon Trail wagon trains and the railroad system braved the mountains' jagged spires, giving rise to buildings, towns, and, eventually, a community of winter enthusiasts. Families of Telemark skiers gradually made headway into the area and attracted fellow adventurers to what was then the North Powder Lakes. During the Great Depression, the Oregon Civilian Conservation Corps built the historical Nordic Center Lodge, which is now surrounded by 29 kilometers of groomed lanes and 11 kilometers of single-track and snowshoe trails. The construction of a rough road, a day lodge, and chairlift fueled the resort's snow-based fire in the postwar boom, and modern-day additions such as a new mountain road and triple chair attract athletes from far and wide. As detailed in a feature on OutdoorsNW.com, the ski area became county property in 2010 so that it could remain in the hands of the locals whose families helped develop it.
Today, skiers might opt for a quick lesson before hitting the slopes or they can refuel with a warm cinnamon roll or bowl of housemade chili in the lodge. Near the Nordic-area campground, overnight guests can rest their bones inside a 20-foot yurt that sleeps up to eight people at a time or a 16-foot yurt that sleeps up to five—each with prime views of Gunsight Peak. Here, campers pile split firewood into a wood stove and recall the days when pioneers had to slow-roast their TV dinners over an open flame.
Locati Cellars' 2009 sangiovese red infuses Rosebud Vineyard’s sangiovese—from Wahluke Slope—with fruit from Walla Walla’s Mission Hills Vineyards. The hybrid result earned silver medals in the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition and the 2012 Seattle Wine Awards, with its pomegranate and cranberry scents that complement blueberry, black tea, and chocolate flavors.
The sangiovese is just one of the vintages sommeliers pour for tasting at the Locati Cellars, helmed by the Locati family for the past century. The winery rounds out its selection with the bone-dry Estate rosé and whites, such as the 2012 pinot grigio, rather than the original white wine—fermented grapes mixed with paper. The winemaking team strives to blend Italian winemaking traditions with grapes from the winery’s vineyards, which occupy Walla Walla’s rolling, fertile hills. Locati Cellars has won a number of accolades for their wine, such as gold for their 2009 Locati Innovation from Seattle Wine Awards, and gold for their 2009 Estate Sangiovese from the Great Northwest Wine Competition.