Independent Daze: Four Pillars of Northwest Adventure with Crai Bower
Crai S Bower contributes scores of stories and photographs to more than 30 online and print publications. He appears regularly on “Travel with Rick Steves,” 94.9 KUOW “Weekday” and the American Forces Network. A resident and explorer of the Pacific Northwest since 1986, Crai maintains two columns, “NW Destination of the Month” for AAAJourney.com and “BC Daytrippin’” for NW Travel Magazine. Below, find four ways to exhaust the four day holiday weekend in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Isn’t it wonderful that Independence Day falls on a Thursday, providing us with a ready excuse to mold the three-day weekend into a four-day kinetic sculpture in the city, the woods and the river? This is the Pacific Northwest, where adventures await from the tip of every compass. Pacific Northwesterners aren’t just city, lake or camp folks when traditional holidays call, we’re all of the above. Here are four ways to exhaust four days. Point your compass and go.
I thought I’d stumbled into a northern Quebec fishing camp when I opened the door to room 506 in Vancouver’s Loden Hotel last week. Hidden on tiny Melville Street in the heart of the Northwest’s most vibrant downtown, the “Lumberjack Suite,” bedecked in Hudson Bay blankets, antlered bedside lamps and moose carvings, offers views of Coal Harbour. It may be a little balmy for the fire engine red union suit this weekend, but it’s yours (and his or hers) to keep for cooler days. Guests also receive a special lumberjack breakfast (insert carbs and syrup here) before charging off to the Grouse Mountain Alpine Experience for the Lumberjack Show. With rustic digs in the heart of my favorite city, you bet I’m okay, eh.
Cool down in North Cascades National Park
Our region teems with more national parks than anywhere else in the continental United States, so where to explore? Consider North Cascades National Park, the 550,000-acre wilderness that receives less than 25% of the annual Mt. Rainier visitors. Start with the ferry to Ross Lake Resort where we can rent canoes and kayaks, then paddle away below two 7,000-foot peaks, Pyramid and Colonial, as well as the 8,374-foot Snowfield summit. Numerous trails slip into the woods from the Ross Lake shores, ideal habitat for an afternoon spent shooting images or identifying critters and plants. Grab a local field guide at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and you’re off.
Hit Bend’s rivers
Dry heat really is different, which is why heading to Bend, Oregon in July doesn’t intimidate this heat-averse traveler, especially if I can spend my evenings casting into the local rivers for trout and steelhead, followed by a sampling of this high desert town’s “best in the west” brewpub culture. Several local outfitters arrange floats and guides upon the 252-mile Deschutes fishery, or we can book half-day lessons on the Crooked River. Experienced anglers typically head to the Metolius River to toil for the two local stars, redside rainbow trout and bull trout. A hugely diverse region, I like to combine dawn fishing beneath the lava outcroppings on the Crooked River with sliding along the arboreal Fall River for a late afternoon hatch.
Weather forecast: (get) wet
My favorite adventure during sun-drenched summer days is getting soaked while whitewater rafting from the Rogue to the Elaho, Athabasca to the Salmon. I just can’t get enough, whether watching Jasper’s frigid glacial fed Athabasca saturate my family or spending six days sloshing through the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Rafting provides us the osprey’s perspective, bounces our daily cares downstream and encourages us to dive deeply into the watershed, source all that is evergreen. We emerge refreshed from bow dipping or jumping off a ledge, a well-deserved spin to our life history.