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April 2007 Archives

April 6, 2007

Ancient Lakes

There is something mysterious and inspiring visiting the majestic coulees of Central Washington. One moment you are driving through the fields of the potato heartland of the Northwest. Green stretching to the horizon with pipes shaped as spiral dragons delivering the lifeblood water to the barren desert. The next moment columns of basalt rise high above your head and dust gathers at your feet where an ancient lake once existed.

Our destination; Ancient Lakes is a set of several small lakes ringing the base of a coulee rising up above the Columbia River near Babcock bench. They are one of many lakes in the Quincy NWR and just a few miles from the Cave B Inn where we stayed. The day was clear and bright with a slight chill in the air; perfect for a hike. It was probably possible to see the lake area from our room but to get there, we had to drive back out to the highway, skirt around Quincy NWR and approach the trailhead from the north.

The road headed west from Quincy through apple orchards. You could smell the sulfur from the dormant spray. None of the orchards were in bloom except a single apricot orchard. The white blossoms contrasting against the blue sky. A couple of apiaries boxes had been dropped off. The bees were busy at work pollinating the blossoms for future fruit.

The road turned south and paralleled the Columbia River. We were soon under a huge basalt cliff dotted with spots of yellow balsamroot and white phlox. We were shortly at the trail head. We stretched a bit and booted up. The sun felt warm and we left our vests in the car.

The trail was dusty. We walked among the sagebrush and headed away from the river. In the distance, we could see the lakes. Along the basalt cliffs, wispy ribbons of water fell from the fields above. In the distance, we could see a few parties of horse riders out for a morning ride.

The faint breeze whispered in our ears and the cries of the meadow lark broke the silence. We thought we heard cranes but never saw them. The lakes were dotted with a few ducks and other water fowl. But we saw no flowers. It didn't take long to reach the viewpoint between the lakes. We sat an a camp and rested while listening to the waterfall in the distance.

It was noon and time to return. By now the sun had moved and the river was a glimmer in the distance. The majestic vistas reminded us of the grandeur of the west as we made our way back to the car.

April 8, 2007

Cave B Inn

I just returned from a wonderful holiday in Central Washington. Yes, Central Washington! Central Washington is the northern edge of the Great Basin Desert but one would barely know it is a desert due to the Columbia Basin Project. The project run by the Bureau of Reclamation provides sustainable renewable energy and water which has transformed the sagebrush land into fertile farms. Hay, corn, and potato is grown along with wine. Wine was what led us to the Cave B Inn.

G was talking with a customer a couple of weeks ago and they got to talking about Walla Walla and wine. We had enjoyed our getaway in Walla Walla last year. They said "Have you been to Cave B near Quincy?" G did not know of it but thought I would heard of it. Well, I had not.

We checked out the website and it looked very nice. Fortunately, it is off season and the prices were reasonable. We quickly booked two nights and decided to do it on Thursday - Friday to take advantage of the lower mid-week rate. I noticed that the prices are over double come summer. The Inn is located next to the Gorge Amphitheater and the winery was originally Champs de Brionne. The Inn has been open for two years or so.

Driving through the vineyards, the main inn building raises above the horizon. It is stunning; curved dark gray roof and stone sides that make the building look like it was carved out the nearby basalt cliffs. The staff if very professional and the inn is run by the same company that manages the Willow Lodge in Woodinville and Freestone Inn in Mazama. We checked in and walked a short distance through the Sangiovese vineyard to our Cliffhouse. There are 16 Cliffhouses; each one is a separate bungalow with a full view of the river canyon below.

Cliffhouse at Cave B Inn
The interior is decorated in warm Mediterranean colors and wood floor. The room is separated by a fireplace and entertainment area. One side has a comfortable seating area with leather couch and chairs. The other side is a large comfy king size bed. The fireplace is open on both sides and the TV will swivel so you can enjoy both either in the sitting area or from the bed. It reminded me a lot of the cottage at Bushman's Kloof in South Africa.

The bathroom has a stone floor, large soaking tub and separate glass shower. Fluffy towels and bathrobes are provided.

The west wall is filled with windows overlooking the Columbia River. You can walk out to a nice terrace where you can enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sun set to the west.

Located in the main Inn building is a gourmet restaurant, Tendrils. The Chef is a Slow Food Award award winner and has written a James Beard award winning cookbook The menu focuses on local products and producers.

Sunset at Cave B Inn
For breakfast, we had the buffet which had a potato, apple and cheese frittata, fresh baked pastries, fruit, granola, yogurt and fresh coffee and juice. We also had dinner one night. The menu had a nice selection of locally produced organic meats such as Thundering Hooves Ranch and fresh fish. I started with a beet salad which had a nice wedge of Humboldt Fog goat cheese and blood oranges. G had the fresh green salad. I selected the NW lamb chops from Cattail Farms which was served with a corn cake and sauteed greens. G had the fresh wild salmon with wild rice and fiddleheads. For dessert, we had coffee and an apple compote with wild huckleberry frozen souffle.

We thoroughly enjoyed our getaway. It is only about 150 miles from Seattle but it feels a world away.

Is Quincy the new Bend?

April 15, 2007

Rhododendron Species Foundation

Rhododendron Species Foundation

We had a chance to visit the Rhododendron Species Foundation this weekend. We first started visiting the garden in the late '70s while G was at school. The history is very interesting. We were very interested in Rhododendrons after we returned to Seattle and learned a lot about the original plant explorers who collected the plants in the Himalaya mountains for gardens in England. The garden influenced a trip we made to England. We designed our 1985 trip around the gardens in Cornwall to see some of original Rhododendron collections.

But our interested wanned in Rhododendrons and we stopped visiting. It was only recently that I had a chance to visit the garden again. G was doing a plant sale and I stopped in. Gorgeous absolutely gorgeous.

I really enjoy the woodland plants that have been collected and added to the garden. Slowing down and looking closely at the beds - you can be amazed at the woodland wonders that can be found.

April 18, 2007

French school

I've decided to take French again. I've signed up for an intensive French school in Villefranche sur Mer - Institut de Français. I visited Nice and the Alpes Maritime area in 2000 for a hiking trip. I read about the school in the Delta in flight magazine on flight back to the US. It sounded so interesting.

I decided it was finally time to give it a try. I send off my application and I am in the September class. It is for four weeks. I'm going to get a studio apartment. I could stay with a family but I think I'd like to have the freedom of an apartment. I might get lonely but it might also be great fun.

G is interested in coming over at the end of my classes and we will visit the gardens of the Riviera. It is actually a good time since salvias and other Mediterranean plants bloom in the fall. We will probably spend a week or so touring the Riviera and maybe Piemonte.

April 27, 2007

FloraBundance Spring Plant Sale

It is time for the biggest plant sales in the Puget Sound region; FloraBundance Plant Sale for the Arboretum Foundation. SmartyPlants Nursery will be there.

We're busy setting up our tables with an outstanding selection of salvias and other interesting perennials. The sale is Saturday from 10-5 and Sunday from 10-3. Come by early for the best selection.

April 28, 2007

Tomatoes

My snap peas are coming along fine. A slug took the leaves off of a few but they survived the attack. I put out some Sluggo so hopefully that will protect them. I also re-planted a few. Otherwise they are about a foot high and starting to climb.

We are also going to grow tomatoes this summer. We haven't had a tomato patch in a while and we have missed it. I don't mind picking up the tomatoes at the farmer's markets but there is nothing like a warm tomato right off the vine.

This year we are going to put the empty greenhouse to work and grow them in the greenhouse. It is pretty empty now that Smartyplants sold out of salvias at FloraBundance Arboretum sale. We need to have early ripening tomatoes so I can have a few before I leave for my French school. We picked up a 'Celebrity' a couple of weeks ago and have it going already in the greenhouse. But I waited to get the rest from Langley Fine Gardens at the Arboretum sale. They grow the most and the best tomatoes for the Puget Sound region.

After a bit of consulting, I decided on 5 other tomatoes; French Carmello, Yellow Perfection, Black Prince, Sungold, and Green Grape. These will give us a variety of different colored tomatoes and most are early ripening. G potted them up into 2 gallon plants and now I wait. It is supposed to be 70-75 days between when they are set out and ripening. Maybe we'll have tomatoes by mid-July. I know... wishful thinking for Seattle.

April 29, 2007

Domaine Sorin Terra Amata Rosé

Domaine Sorin

The salmon pink color called out to me.

I had my first summer rosé today. Domaine Sorin is one of my favorite wines from Provence. They are an organic vineyard on the edge of Bandol. The grapes in this rosé are Grenache (40%), Cinsault (40%), Syrah (10%) and Mourvèdre (10%). It is capped with blue wax. The flavors are a dry fruit with hints of strawberry and raspberry. It has just enough alcohol to stand up to summer food flavors.

Rosé has such a bad reputation here in the US. Between 'Sparkling Rosie' and White Zinfandel most people think of a Rosé as koolaid. But a good dry French Rosé is the perfect summer wine. I remember sitting in Cours Saleya with a glass of Rosé, the sun setting to the west setting the ochre walls aflame. I hope to re-live the memory this September.

This page contains all entries posted to Postcards from the Trail in April 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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