Columbia River Inn: Home Base for Adventure

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Nestled in an azure bay of the Columbia River

When the sign says “Best Western Plus” along the Oregon side of the Columbia River we have learned THAT’S where to stay in the Columbia Gorge Scenic area. We’ve shared many stories about Hood River Inn about 20 miles east of the  Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn. This trip we decided to soak up the culture, history, hiking, biking, paddling, wine or beer sampling and fishing by staying in Cascade Locks at the base of the incredible “Bridge of the Gods.”

Cascade Locks, Oregon, is located in the middle of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, approximately 40 minutes east of Portland International Airport and 20 minutes west of the windsurfing Mecca of Hood River.

On the drive to the Columbia River Inn we passed many scenic waterfalls available from the road or by short hikes. In fact we were surprised to learn how the beauty and diversity of hikes had survived what had been a tough fire season in 2017. Oregonians love their wilderness and are at work restoring trails and natural areas. We learned about so many hiking options which would be amazing in the Fall. William Sullivan’s book, 100 Hikes in Oregon is a great reference – also his website. Some hikes to explore are Gillette Lake, Trout Creek and Snag Creek, all putting you in the footprints of adventurers on the Pacific Crest Trail. Summer volunteers are at many trailheads, if you visit in Fall or Winter, you can check out ReadySetGorge.com for up to date information.

As paddlers, our focus is usually on planning our down wind paddles and fun on the Columbia River. Once we settled in to our spacious river view room at the Columbia River Inn and looked out at the Bridge of the Gods we got curious about what this area was all about. Over the next few days we were much better visitors after spending a few hours at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Museum (Stevenson, WA). Armed with an appreciation of the history and people who carved out amazing lives and industries we toasted their grit over local wines. The Columbia River Gorge wine region is known as “a world of wine in 40 miles.” bw-6

Recreational options nearby include world-class white water rafting, mountain biking, sail and kite boarding, and year round skiing on the slopes of Mt. Hood. Cascade Locks even has their own historic sternwheeler, the Columbia Gorge, departing daily from the nearby Marine Park for tours of the river.

bw-4We loved planning our day on the sheltered patio just outside of the pool area at the Columbia River Inn. Over coffee in the morning or a local wine in the evening (beer for me) we never tired of the view.

A warm, to-order breakfast that’s included with the room is always a bonus. We loved heading next-door to the Bridgeside Restaurant for local favorites prepared our way. I love crispy hashbrowns. All it took was a request and the golden brown goodness was all mine to enjoy with eggs my way and tasty sausage. There are choices for all tastes, including juice and beverage. Best of all, locals love to eat there, too. We met through hikers off the Pacific Crest Trail as well as other travelers.bs-1

It’s time to look forward to Fall and Winter is this wonderland. Enjoy your trip.

 

Class of ’67: Florida Reunion and Hood River Tradition

Fifty years ago when this Florida surf chick wannabe was graduating from high school in Hollywood Florida an icon of Pacific Northwest hospitality opened its doors in Hood River.  Last weekend my daughter and granddaughter and I enjoyed another wonderful “girl trip” experience at Best Western Plus Hood River Inn. With “new” properties vying for your vacation attention pop up all the time it is refreshing and grounding to enjoy the amenities and customer service 50 years in the making. The culture of Hood River Inn greet you from the first moment.

On April 29, 1967, the Eddie Mays Inn original hotel-restaurant complex opened as a 64-unit, two level motel, two level restaurant that incorporated a lounge, main dining room, 24-hour coffee shop, two banquet rooms, and fruit grower’s sales building. Its opening attracted thousands of people, for tours of what would be a premier destination for lodging, dining, business and social events in the Gorge.

This weekend under the sunny skies of Hood River, surrounded by the sparkling waters of the Columbia River just steps away from the newly renovated riverfront dining areas and deck, we enjoyed the first night’s sunset wine and dinner outdoors. Were we hungry for the fresh and local fare? Absolutely! We had sunned and splashed at the outdoor pool protected from the wind by clear glass that allowed a full view of the river and sweeping panorama views.

It’s an easy walk to the event center where you can rent SUP, windsurf or kiting equipment and lessons. A mile will take to downtown amenities and you are close to the fruit, berries and wineries Hood River is known for. World class fishing is literally a stone’s throw away.

Think modern, clean, attention to detail and comfort when thinking about the accommodations. In 50 years, the Hood River Inn has more than tripled in size by many measures, into a 194-unit hotel, vibrant restaurant and lounge, providing 12,000 square feet of meeting space. Some of the hotel’s mid-nineteenth century “modern” design character remains, but the operations are firmly planted in the hospitality standards of today. The Best Western Plus Hood River Inn currently ranks as one of the best hotels in Oregon*on top review site, TripAdvisor, for “Best Value + Top Rated.” It’s among the top five most-reviewed hotels in the state on the same site. Its many awards and honors are evidence that, in its 50-year history, the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn has become one of the best destination and convention hotels in Oregon.

It’s summer – make your reservation now. And plan ahead for Fall. That’s a season the Hood River Inn is stellar for water athletes and lovers of fruit, leaves and fine dining.

 

 

 

Hood River Inn: Your Winter Wonderful

You know how it feels when you walk in a place and “everybody knows your name!” Warm, welcoming, friendly and connected. That’s a feeling obvious from check-in to checkout at the  Best Western Plus Hood River Inn. The difference, no one actually knows your name, but every member of the team knows how to individualize the welcome and experience just for you. Hood River Inn is an exceptional “home base” for your Fall and Winter adventures.

hripoolAfter checking in and a car ride with a wiggly 2-year-old granddaughter we were ready for some outside play. A short walk along the river in view of incredible Fall colors we came to the shoreline pool. The sparkling blue water is heated year-round so you can swim with a view of Columbia River and Gorge. If that’s not enought there’s both an indoor and an outdoor hot tub. No worries about bare feet in winter, the pool deck is heated in the cooler months.

Fall and winter in Hood River is a perfect reason to book your stay at the Hood River Inn. We recently planned some fun in the area while sipping wine on our third floor deck as the sun set on the Columbia River, turning the Hood River/White Salmon Bridge a burnished gold. The Columbia River Gorge is an 80-mile marvel of moss and waterfall-laden basalt cliffs rising up to 4,000 feet above the mighty Columbia River and this was our day to explore waterfalls, hike and maybe give a try at fly-fishing for steelhead. The choices in Fall and Winter are endless.

hrihoodObviously, with Mt Hood rising magnificent on the horizon, winter thoughts turn to snow sports. XC ski, downhill skiing, a visit to the sledding park or cozying by the fire after watching some ski-racing.

Just as available are opportunities to explore via mountain bike or on the hiking trails. Just as much fun is strolling the diverse array of downtown Hood River with shops, restaurants, wine tasting niches seemingly carved from wood, stone and ambiance. hrisnowy

How do you decide? Weather plays into any decision in this outdoor haven of options. You can do what we did – ask at the front desk at the Hood River Inn.  We had scored a sunny, cool Fall day and it felt like an “apples and pears” sort of day. What orchards should we try and where should we have lunch? Once we posed the question the ideas came, with energy and smiles. Eventually Ben drew a sketch map, shared some ideas and we were on our way. Was that the end of it – absolutely not.

hrimoonThe next morning as we were heading into the Riverside for breakfast (more on that!) Ben called us over and asked which orchards we liked best and checked out some of our photos. It was a full circle of caring that makes all the difference in a vacation experience.

Even though we’ve stayed at Hood River Inn many times, we had never explored the nearby marina and the walking trail all the way to the Hood River Waterfront Park. Late afternoon one day we mentioned to a member of the staff that we didn’t want to get back in the car and wondered where we might walk, to maybe end up downtown. A few minutes later we walked through the marina, across a very cool walking-suspension bridge, around the event center and right to the heart of the windsurfing/kite-boarding mecca that is Hood River. Wetsuit clad brave souls were soaring and flitting across the water in a spectacle that had us mesmerized, just minutes from the Hood River Inn. We felt absolutely “local.”

Back to breakfast. When you stay at Hood River Inn your day begins with more breakfast choices than you can imagine, all fresh,  made to order and included with your stay. Heaters on the deck allowed us comfort and outdoor dining. When we came back for dinner, famished from so much walking and fun, everyone found a favorite thanks to the talent of  Chef Mark DeResta. As Hood River Oregon’s only waterfront restaurant, Riverside offers panoramic views of the mighty Columbia River from the dining room and the deck, a definite connection to the uniqueness of the area. hrideck

Remember the “everyone knows your name” feeling. It’s absolutely present in the cozy and well-appointed Cebu Lounge. We were lucky to be there on “prime rib night” and enjoyed more value for the yummy than you can imagine. Regular live music creates more of the fun and relaxing atmosphere we all love. hricebu2

Yes, the top quality attention to detail in every aspect of the fresh and renovated rooms at the Hood River Inn will please you. Even a stroll down any hallway  provides Pacific Northwest art as a feast for your eyes. It’s a very special experience.

hri1bedTake advantage of the uncrowded wonder that is Hood River in Fall and Winter. Immerse yourself in comfort, friendly ambiance and amazing value on so many levels. After all the fun, good night.

The Eye of the Beholder: Surf Stoke

dune3So it was on one of those gray, foggy days on the Pacific NW coast. Morning dawned semi-cloudy, then on and off the fog rolled in, reminding us  of the proverbial NE “pea soup,” but thicker. The ocean seemed to be taking a Fall reprieve, resting calmly, with glassy rolling waves, but no swell to speak of. With the air temp in the low 60’s and the water about 7 degrees cooler it seemed a good day to hike the dune at Cape Kiwanda and call it good.

But when you’re 67 and you live 4 hours from a coast and winter is breathing hard down your neck – well, you put on the wetsuit and hit the water.

It’s like almost everything else in life, half the win is simply showing up. So, while shivering on the beach I pulled on my 4/3 Rip Curl wetsuit (love its color and style, softness and ZIPPER) and put on my leash. Swell or no swell, I was going out to whatever the break at Pacific City had to give.

bestrighthay1I could not even see the HUGE haystack rock that sits like a crown jewel off the beach because the fog had gobbled it up. Because of that, it was difficult for me to determine my favorite spot to wait for a swell to roll in.

Over time I drifted further and further south. I don’t usually head in that direction but the fog had left me without the usual bearings.

So cool! Swells were rolling in over there. They were chest to head high and glassy beyond all hope.

While the wait between swells was seemingly long, the reward was worth it – also the chat among all of us (prone and SUP). There were dozens of prone longboard riders out in the lineup.

fogturnUsually I hunker over to a shoulder of the swell to keep my standup out of the way of the prone surfers, but on this day the stoke was warm – and that was cool! Very cool.We all bantered about the weird weather and the length between sets. There seemed to be room for all on the waves that came through. Share and respect made the day! fogcenter

As we close every day at Pacific City we wandered down to the beach for a beer and sunset. The  afternoon drizzle didn’t deliver a sunset, but the view was magical just the same. The magic at our favorite beach, our top ten break – all in the eye of the beholder.moon

Enjoy YOUR stoke!

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Cruz Local: Covewater Rules

We love to explore new surf spots when we visit the coast. Recently we got a bonus in Santa Cruz.  After grabbing some fun waves at Cowells and Indicators – skipping Steamer Lane – we spent a flat day in town.  Off on Water St we discovered Covewater Paddle Surf, a shop fully dedicated to SUP.

covepaddleWalls of the brands that innovate and lead SUP design line the walls, including the Kialoa GL Hulu paddle. Accessories and apparel are neatly displayed – with a vast array of choices.

We were fortunate to meet Olivier, the store owner – enthusiastic, knowledgable and eager to connect with the community – both locals and visitors.

When asked what’s the most fun about taking groups on SUP trips to local beaches, Olivier had this to share, “It’s all about sharing the passion of stand up paddling. The most fun is like when you have new paddlers who really get stoked. They realize that’s all they want to do now after taking a class with us . One by one they become part of the SUP community.”

coveshopdesignI spotted a great design on a sweet, vibrant colored hoodie and immediately inquired about the Polynesian inspired design.

Olivier filled me in, “We wanted to refresh the logo and the identity of Covewater. I have a lot of interest in Polynesian art and culture that is very oriented to the ocean.

From there I had a chance to start working with James de Leon at 57 Design. James aka JD was the perfect person to work with on this project. He has the same passion as I do about stand up surfing but also about the Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and art.

We both really enjoyed this  project that included a new logo and also a full new website featuringthe Covewater apparel. “olivier-design1

 

Take some time to learn about the history and culture of Covewater Paddle Surf, a history that brings the entire team pride in what they do.
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Ride – Glide and Starboard Innovation: Again!

I got a LOT more than bumps in last weekend’s Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. I got a BUMP in performance and outcomes during the annual down-winder from Viento to Hood River Waterfront Park. It started with a question.

(Photo Credit – featured photo: Gorge-US Photography)

I am a solid fan of the Starboard 12’6″ Deluxe Inflatable Touring board and wondered if it would perform as well on the Columbia River bumps as it does on all sorts of river, lake and ocean conditions we adventure into. I went to the Starboard booth and asked Dan Gavere, “Is my 12’6″ Touring board the best board for me to ride today?”

starboard_sup_12_2x32_free_ride_xl_nose_21The answer is – I would have a lot more fun on a board designed for waves, racing and downwind!  I was very fortunate to connect with Dan Gavere who was manning the Starboard booth at the event. In the midst of talking to tons of avid dealers and Starboard paddlers, he took the time to answer my question. (Much Mahalo!) Dan explained, “You need a specific board for specific conditions – [and the conditions were forecast to be epic- 30+ mph winds on the beautiful Columbia River down wind run].” Dan was kind enough to let me demo the 2017 12’2″ Freeride Hybrid Carbon. And so the story began.

This is the fifth year I have had the absolute joy of doing this event. The very first time was in 2012 (story here). I have done it on a stock surfboard (11’3″), an inflatable, a 12’6″ race board and a 14′ race board. Guess what – this year on the 12′ 2″ X 30″ Starboard Freeride – I not only had my fastest run in similar conditions and training – I am 67 years old.freeride3

This is not usually the year for a personal best with little training and zero down wind practice since last August.

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Pre-race stoke!

Am I stoked – oh YES I am!!! I did my fastest time ever with ZERO falls. Never even got my hair wet. This was not for lack of trying. I went after every bump – aggressively, and the wonderful Freeride graciously sped up, grabbed the glides, burried a nose now and then, but gracefully popped right out and zoomed me forward.

It was so cool to zoom past 12’6″ and 14′ race boards on this stable and agile “all-round” board with surf performance fun.

I am now 24 hours after the race and – no soreness anywhere. No soreness any day for a 67 year old woman is one thing, but after 1:42:23 of hard (fun) paddling is something else.

I am not trained  more than any other year but I noticed one thing. Because the Freeride is so stable (I never fell)  I was not fatiguing my legs and back by trying to stay on the board. I could use every paddle stroke efficiently, balanced and solid. And, when on a glide, I could easily step into surf stance and RIDE!!!!!

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Ready for the most fun I ever had during a Columbia River down wind from Viento to Hood River Waterfront Park

Little did I know as I slid onto the start line what an experience this Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge would be. Woohoo! Total fun all the way.

One of the best parts of the experience was the amazineg”group hug” at the finish from so many of the Starboard Ambassadors and riders. Mahalo to you all for running up, greeting me and making my day with stories and support – Kristin Thomas, Lisa Schell, Sarah Sandstrom, Hailey Driver, Leilani Gibson and Terri Plunkett.

So sure, I won the 60+ age group with no competition, but in going through the finish times among the Downwind Women – the Starboard Freeride delivered me 12th overall in a field of 25. Truly – and seriously – the equipment matters. I have never enjoyed so many glides, I counted them as 20+ seconds more time than once. the bumps connected in combinations of 3 glides, so often. My legs loved having the stability and my surfer-head loved the agility and absolute “go-get-the-bumps” fun-factor.

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Tons of fun being a board caddy for the course race – the Starboard race boards are light and so easy to carry (Photo: Leilani Gibson)

I am so grateful I ran into Dan Gavere at the Starboard booth – that changed my entire weekend. Check out this innovative and game-changing board for yourself.

“Ulitmate glide on an all-round board.”

The Starboard Freeride Hybrid Carbon:

This light weight hybrid layup, offers a good weight at great strength.
I was riding the 2017 Freeride: Thanks to Dan Gavere I learned more about the 2017 Freeride, “It has construction that is called Starlite which is new and costs much less than Carbon. It has Innegra rails that can’t be chipped and features Starboard’s sandwich full PVC wrap making it last a lifetime which is better for the environment because it outlasts other boards and won’t find itself in a landfill.”

Gnarly Buoy Turns = SUP Racing Friendship

The La Ventana Classic ended its race week with a 5.5 downwind race from the Hot Springs to Baja Joe’s. Overall rankings were announced at the end of the day with Bonnie Fromm, Terri Plunkett and Dianna Steven taking first, second and third respectively for the Wahine class. While by no surprise, Anthony Vela, who has dominated all of the week’s SUP races, took first followed by Jeremy Vaine and MacRae Wylde.

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New friends and winners – Bonnie Fromm and Terri Plunkett

Better than trophies, Terri and Bonnie met while inadvertantly crashing into each other at crazy, gnarly buoy turns in Race #1 – the course race – and being gracious about it all. They easily connected and became fast friends. Terri shares, “Race # 1 sucked. The course race was insane for me because paddling upwind on an inflatable is so hard.  My inflatable ULI board was incredible in the down wind events, it really took off in the wind! The best part of the course race is that it was when I met Bonnie Fromm. Good PEOPLE that Bonnie Girl and she is strong and fast!!”

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Terri’s KIALOA HUlu paddle and her Uli inflatable powered her through amazing down wind runs at La Ventana

Bonnie set the stage for our story, “Terri and I competed in 4 out of 5 events: a course race, a 4 mile downwind, La Cruces 10mile, and El Norte 5 mile downwind. We both skipped the island crossing as it was 11 miles of cross chop and would have made the final races too much. The final El Norte was my favorite as the wind was great and the waves coming  into Baja Joe’s were a hoot.”

The Downwinder Sprint is an 8 mile coastal Downwinder sprint from Rancho Las Cruces- paddlers race downwind breaking free in the La Ventana swells with the wind at their back. It was the most challenging race of the event. It was meant to be a down winder  but the waves and wind both were on shore with wave reflection from the cliffs. Bonnie gives us some insight, “We had the rare opportunity to start our downwind paddle race from Las Cruces, the private playground for Bing Crosby and the Ratpack! It was eight miles of pristine coastline in wild waves that challenged every balance muscle! Incredible experience with Awesome people! We paddled cross wind through huge washing machine waves for about 7 miles before rounding Puento Gordo and turning downwind. It was BEAUTIFUL but some of the most difficult water I have ever been on. I was thrilled to remain standing and dry with only a few tumbles to my tush.”

terripbonniegroupTerri told us that the drive to the start of the La Cruces race took 2 1/2 hours through dirt roads across a countryside that was surreal and spectacular. A key was needed to get in to the gate, a private access to the start. The start was in the middle of no where – and once the horn sounded the racers were split apart by wind and waves. Terri explained, “I felt very alone. Back on shore no one remained after the start. I paddled past incredible, pristine beaches but it was also a bit eerie, no buildings or support.

I was connected to my board, the only means of support, by a thin leg leash. Once we passed Puento Gordo the experience could not have been better.  Las Cruces. Baja Mexico. 10.5miles of paddling along this magical pristine coast line with winds blowing us furiously toward the finish line. What a rare and amazing experience. Another gift paddling a SUP has given me. Along with a new friend.”

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Anthony Vela had a great week with friends old and new – and winning La Ventana Classic

On Facebook, Anthony Vela posted, “This was the start of the Tres Cruces Downwind race in La Ventana. Such a beautiful place to see, thank you to everyone at the La Ventana Classicwho helped with the many logistics to make moments like these possible. Over 50 miles of paddling last week 

After the awards were announced, Tim took the mic to announce the final sum that was raised in support of the local school kids. All money, beyond costs of running the event, will go directly to the Amigos de Alumnos group, to contribute to high school scholarships and help local students in La Ventana/El Sargento continue their education. The grand total of $12,666 dollars will allow 42 kids to continue high school! 

Although the cost to attend high school is only $300 US annually per student, this cost is a roadblock for some Mexican families and stops many bright and motivated young people from attending high school.

Training Tips

Terri couldn’t say enough about winner of the Classic, Anthony Vela.  Back in CA, Anthony leads Performance Paddling (Dana Point, CA), for adult racers. Terri tells us, “The drills that we practice with Performance Paddling I used in every event, particularly the 11-mile side wind island crossing. ‘Bracing,’ ‘One sided paddling,’ ‘Step back & brace,’ ‘Lean turning,’ ‘Stop back brace and stall’ and the ‘Quick change drill.’ So many things we practice every day are applied to open ocean paddling.”

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KIALOA ‘Elele Terri Plinkett plays at training with a smile.

Bonnie had been in Baja for 4 weeks and had done numerous down wind paddles. She trains by doing,  trying to paddle a few times a week throughout the year. She’s stoked by the performance of her Amundson 12’6″ TR-X, “my saving grace in the wild seas.”

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Bonnie Fromm gliding fast in her “happy place.”

Cross training is part of Bonnie’s program, “I’m off to the Northwest to ski and hope to enter my first skate ski race! Paddlewise I will probably not compete again until  The Rose City Races (Portland).

 Big thanks to all the sponsors and volunteers at the event— without them it would not have been possible! The mayors of local towns, Los Planes and El Sargento, were both in attendance and were incredibly thankful for everybody’s support.

 

 

Some history ……… Las Cruces, Baja MX  – Rancho Las Cruces The exclusive property of Las Cruces is located approximately 30 road miles south east of La Paz, capital of the State of Baja California Sur, Mexico Rancho Las Cruces Baja Resort The start of the 11mile downwinder Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, was told about a great Island filled with gold and pearls of wonderful size and color. Determined to find the source of such impressive riches and to claim the fabled island of pearls for the Spanish crown Cortés sent various expeditions. On one of these Cortés himself set forth and landed on May 3rd, 1535 on what was thought to be an island. In commemoration of his landing he placed three crosses on the land he baptized as Santa Cruz. Stone replicas of these crosses still remain in the site where Rancho Las Cruces now stands. Part of the land known as Santa Cruz by the early Explorers would later be named Las Cruces. Although he found no gold, Cortés did find pearls of astonishing beauty.

Abelardo L. Rodriguez Montijo & Lucille Bremer Down the centuries the shores of Las Cruces and the islands of Cerralvoand Espirito Santo were renowned for their fabulous pearls but a decline in the pearl oyster started as early as 1900 and by 1929 the pearl industry of Baja belonged to the past. Standing where Cortés once stood more than 400 years earlier, Abelardo L. Rodriguez Montijo watched the rising sun cast its array of magnificent color on the tranquil sea. He saw the remains of thatched huts, water wells and aqueducts that once irrigated beautiful tropical orchards and native palms. He realized then, that although depleted of pearls, Las Cruces could still provide treasure. He believed that the enchantment of ten thousand acres with more than five miles of private sea coast would be gratifying to those who must face maddening crowds and churn through congested traffic. In 1948 he and his beautiful bride, Lucille Bremer decided to turn Las Cruces into a small luxury resort.