Monday, October 24, 2016

Oregon's Starvation Creek State Park: New Trail to Three Waterfalls

When the Columbia River Gorge gets crowded, you just open up some new waterfalls to public access, right? Well, after a visit to three falls, all easily walkable from the Starvation Creek State Park lot, I thought that Oregon State Parks had done just that.

The fall leaves brightened the grey day in the Gorge.
October is a great time to see waterfalls.
Historic Columbia River Highway Trail
This past year, the Historic Columbia River Highway celebrated its centennial. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been charged with working with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), the State Historic Preservation Office and Travel Oregon to preserve, enhance and reconnect the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Much of this work has been accomplished. 63 of the original 73 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway are now open to travel either by motor vehicle (Historic Highway or connecting county roads) or by foot and bicycle (State Trail). Only 10 miles are needed to complete the connection. We found we were to be walking on one of the new sections of the trail.

A new section of the trail.
Starvation Creek State Park
We had heard that it was just an easy walk on the Columbia River Highway State Trail to Hole in the Wall Falls now. Once you had to take a hike through the woods to see this pretty waterfall. Now the falls are accessed from Starvation Creek State Park, just off of Interstate 84, about halfway between Cascade Locks and Hood River.
Even from the parking lot, the fall leaves were stunning
The parking lot is not huge, so go early or go during the week. There is a new restroom and, to the east, the short paved route to Starvation Creek Falls. But first, we decided to head out to Hole in the Wall Falls along Mount Defiance Trail/Columbia River Highway State Trail.

The Falls
From the parking lot, follow the wide paved trail paralleling the freeway about a mile west. You’ll first come to Cabin Creek falls surrounded by stunning basalt cliffs and mossy woods. You can’t really see the bottom of the falls due to the huge boulders blocking the view. We found the moss on the boulders to be worth a photo.
Cabin Creek Falls
Next, viewable from a newly constructed picnic area, you’ll see beautiful Hole in the Wall Falls. Interesting name, right?  There is a story here. The original Columbia River Highway was constructed paralleling close to Warren Creek's major waterfall, Warren Falls. During high water, the creek would often wash out the road, so, rather than repairing or just moving the road, in 1938 someone decided to move the waterfall. A tunnel was blasted through the adjacent cliff, through which the creek was diverted, and Hole-in-the-Wall Falls was born. Continuing west, you’ll reach the end of the newly constructed trail and note that further construction for foot and bike traffic is in process.
Hole in the Wall Falls
Francesca the Coonhound wishing she could go wading
at Hole in the Wall Falls

Yes, you’ll hear freeway sounds for part of the walk, but the beauty of the woods, Warren Creek, and the falls is worth it.
Warren Creek
We retraced our steps enjoying the fall foliage and reached the trailhead once again. This time we took the paved trail east, up the hill to beautiful Starvation Creek and the falls. There’s a story or two here too. The origin of the name is not clear. Some say a group of pioneers reached the place and ran out of provisions. Others say that a train was stuck in the snow in this area and travelers had to wait for food to arrive. Still others say that the travelers had to help dig out the train to get it going along the track. No matter which story you believe, the place is worth a visit now. The beautiful cascading creek and falls is easily accessible year round.
Did someone place this leaf here for us to photograph?

Starvation Creek

We visited in October and the creek was running strong. It was tempting to stop for a meal at the picnic table. But, alas, the table had been taken by a group of photographers.
Starvation Creek Falls (Photo: Oregon State Parks)
There was lots to see at Starvation Creek
We enjoyed the falls, the surrounding trees and walked the short distance back to the car.

When You Go
Starvation Creek State Park is at exit 55 off I-84. When you approach exit 55 (from the west), don’t be whizzing along too fast.  You might miss your exit and have to drive further and turn around. The parking area is only accessible to eastbound traffic (if you are driving west, exit and turn around at Exit 51 (Wyeth), then to return to your westbound direction, do the same at Viento State Park at Exit 56).

There is no charge to park or bike and walk the trail from this point. Dogs must be on leash.

Allow about 1 to 1.5 hours to walk, photograph and enjoy the three falls.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Halloween, All Saints Day and Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a holiday that makes us think of Mexico. But how do All Saints Day and Halloween figure into the mix?

All these holidays deal with skulls, skeletons and death. But the holidays are not the same. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Catholic feast of All Saints Day (November 1st) was combined with the traditions and festivities that were long-time customs of the indigenous people. While traditions may have changed in different geographical locations, the religious (Catholic) fact is that November 1st is All Saints Day and November 2nd is All Souls Day.

The indigenous people already had a long tradition of honoring their ancestors and deceased loved ones with processions and festivals involving flowers, fruits and incense. Some say that the Spaniards found these rituals to be mocking death, and that they tried their best to eliminate the practices. Nowadays, we realize that the Day of the Dead is a day to honor the dead. Today, in homes, churches, cemeteries, and public places, traditional "ofrendas," altars with offerings to the dead, invite beloved souls to visit the living. At these altars you will see photographs of the dead and offerings of food, amulets and flowers.

Since the Spanish could not eradicate the native celebration, combining it with All Saints Day seemed an excellent compromise.

Often on the Day of the Dead, you will see Mexican families heading for the cemeteries to paint, decorate and otherwise tend the graves of their departed family members. In some towns this takes on a carnival atmosphere with sales of cotton candy and mariachi music.

Day of the Dead and Halloween
Day of the Dead celebrations are very close to Halloween time, October 31st. But as the customs have different origins, and their attitudes toward death are different. In the typical Halloween festivities, death is something to be feared. But in celebrating Dia de los Muertos death, or at least the memories of those who have died, is something to be celebrated.

You, Too Can Celebrate Day of the Dead
Anyone can celebrate the Day of the Dead, and increasing numbers of Anglos who live in the Southwest and in places where Mexican Americans have settled are taking notice of the customs of honoring those they love and revere. Any family can make an altar to the memory of a loved one and it doesn't necessarily have to be a religious observance. It is a time to pause and think of those who have died and to use creativity in putting together an altar or even a shelf with photos, favorite mementos and offerings of flowers or food.

This can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Here is an example of an altar made by a Mexican family. Some people have even developed altars for people outside their families that they wish to recognize such as the 9/ll victims or victims of child abuse and neglect.

Kathy Cano Murillo, the Crafty Chica, has some ideas for Dia de los Muertos crafts projects. I found amazing skull and skeleton art at Spanish Markets in Santa Fe and Phoenix.

Chelsie Kenyon, Mexican Cuisine writer, has a recipe for Pan de Muerto, a sweet bread used on Day of the Dead as an offering. The bread called Pan de Muerto or "bread of the dead," is usually sweet with decorations resembling bones. Even if you don’t celebrate Dias de los Muertos yourself, you can still enjoy this delicious sweet bread. A recipe for the sweet drink, Atole is also traditional for Day of the Dead. Atole is used on Dia de los Muertos altars and enjoyed throughout October to remember the dead.

My favorite food and craft idea for Day of the Dead is the making of Sugar Skulls. According to Chelsie Kenyon Mexican, the skulls are Mexican folk art used to honor the deceased during the Day of the Dead holiday and they also make unique Halloween decorations. Children love to help make and decorate the skulls so they make a great craft idea too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dining, Wine and Brews in Scenic Gig Harbor, Washington

The food scene is expanding in delicious ways in the picturesque waterfront city of Gig Harbor, Washington. A dynamic restaurant scene, walk-around food festivals, wine events, an award winning distillery, craft breweries, and a seasonal waterfront farmers market make it an easy choice for food lovers looking for a sweet and savory escape.
For breakfast and lunch, deck seating on a sunny day is only topped by the aroma of bacon cinnamon rolls hot from the oven at Netshed No. 9. The Maritime Pier is a great platform for photos before a weekend breakfast or a fish-and-chips lunch inside or out at Puget Sound landmark Tides Tavern. At the foot of the harbor, Devoted Kiss, with panoramic harbor views and a handful of tables on the deck, serves up classic and healthy options. With indoor and deck seating, Susanne’s Bakery is another neighborhood favorite, offering gluten-free morning glory (and other) muffins, pastries, sandwiches, fresh baked breads, espresso, and more.

Putting the finishing touches on their wood-fired ovens, Millville Pizza Co. is slated to open soon. It will be located on the corner of Harborview Drive and Dorotich Street, next to Susanne’s and adjacent to Ship to Shore’s new buildings at Arabella’s Landing. Millville Pizza will offer a simple menu of naturally leavened artisan pizza with fresh, seasonal and local toppings, salads and an appetizer or two, as well as distinctive Washington wines and brews.

Casual dinner options on the water include The Tides, a convivial hub for the over 21 crowd, and the seasonal, new JW @ The Boatyard Food Trolley with picnic-table seating adjacent to a working boatyard.  Harbor General Store offers a gourmet market, a cafe and gift boutique all in one space. The new outdoor patio at Anthony’s at Gig Harbor offers a spectacular view of the bay.

For intimate dining on or near the water look to at Brix 25° for Northwest-influenced hearty, flavorful, American cuisine, savor creative comfort cuisine at JW’s, enjoy classic, wild and organic fare at The Green Turtle, experience authentic Italian fare at Il Lucano Ristorante Italiano, and sample contemporary fusion fare at Morso. All offer extensive wine lists, many featuring Washington wines; some create and serve inspired, craft cocktails.

No food scene would be complete without a local brewery. Gig Harbor has two – 7 Seas Brewing and adjacent taproom and Wet Coast Brewing Co. The harbor also has a nationally recognized craft distillery, Heritage Distilling. With an inviting downtown tasting room as well as distillery tours and tastings uptown, Heritage is notable for 20-plus naturally flavored vodkas, “My Batch” distilling classes and the introduction of spirits growlers.

Olalla Vineyard & Winery, seven miles from the harbor, has energetic new owners who orchestrate winemaker dinners in the vineyard and welcome visitors on Thursday through Sunday afternoons to their tasting room or to purchase a bottle and pre-ordered picnic basket to enjoy on the idyllic grounds. Beyond the warm hospitality, notable are the expertise and artistry of winemaker, Matthew Loso, the use of handcrafted Italian amphorae in the wine making process and the Golubok grapes, one of the less-common red varietals grown.

Cutter’s Point Coffee originated in Gig Harbor and has a convivial new flagship coffee shop at the top of Soundview. Further up the road, MarKee opened next to Harbor Greens, with barista-made specialties as well as food and wine options. Java & Clay, a delightful coffee and pottery making shop, occupies an enviable downtown location.
Annual food events spotlight local talent and provide an entertaining introduction as well. Top choices include the Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival (July), twice annual Sip and Stroll, Food Truck Feast and special events at restaurants.

Dine the Couve: Three Courses for $23 through October 31st

So what are you waiting for. Get out there and dine in Vancouver, Washington. Enjoy discovering Vancouver's culinary scene. For $23 you can certainly try a new restaurant. There are so many delicious options we can't make all that we put on our list.

Last night the Dining Five headed out to the Hilton Hotel in downtown Vancouver for Happy Hour and Dine the Couve. We stopped just inside Gray's at the Park and enjoyed a Happy Hour Glass of wine and the view of the Salmon Run Bell Tower as the weather cleared.

View from Grays at the Park
Esther Short Park, Propstra Square
and the Salmon Run Bell Tower

We then were shown to our comfortable booth and were presented with our choices for the Dine the Couve $23 menu.

Most of our 5 went for the Salad and Top Sirloin. I opted for Salmon (after all, we were across the street from the Salmon Run Bell Tower! The Soup of the Day, chicken tortilla soup was ideal on a damp fall day.

Warming chicken tortilla soup.
Not spicy but warming

Others opted for the green salad

Salmon, asparagus, risotto and corn - Excellent!

What could be better than pie and vanilla ice cream?

We laughed and talked and were there a good two hours. No one rushed us. We had a wonderful time and highly recommend Gray's at the Park.

Dine the Couve runs through the end of the month. Ready, set... dine!

Here's the list of Breweries, Tasting Rooms and Restaurants.
More on Enjoying Downtown Vancouver

Monday, October 17, 2016

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park: Art Integrated into Nature

On a recent getaway to San Juan Island, Washington, I drove off the ferry, picked up The Discovery Map of San Juan Island and Friday Harbor (free) and planned my two-day stay.

In the back of my mind I remembered a friend saying… “don’t forget the sculpture garden… it’s amazing!” So I made sure I found it on the map. It was next to Roche Harbor, another must-do. I plotted out my first day and decided to head right for Roche Harbor at the northern tip of the island. The route was mapped out as part of the San Juan Island Scenic Byway North.

It looked like a 20-minute or so drive. What I found out is that there was so much to see, it could have easily taken my entire day. Fortunately I was greeted by a warm and sunny October morning and most of my plans were outdoor ones.  This was partially because of the weather and partially because I had my hound dog with me.

It was a beautiful drive along Roche Harbor Road. I passed the winery up on the hill, an interesting lake resort and even saw a camel grazing along with cows! No wonder people enjoy biking the road.

I spent some time at beautiful Roche Harbor exploring the history and walking the docks lined with shiny white yachts. Roche Harbor Resort is a picturesque, full-service resort with historic and contemporary accommodations, formal gardens, restaurants, stores, as well as a marina and spa.

Renovations are being done on this late 1880's historic hotel.
The Hotel de Haro is the state's oldest continually operating hotel, and its 20 rooms have hosted visitors since 1886. There is a fascinating display of resort history in the lobby.

After exploring Roche Harbor I headed back up the hill and found the entrance to the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. We entered through a small building where we picked up a trail map and made a donation. The park is free but wants you to consider a donation ($5 is suggested).  Most of the art in the park is for sale. You’ll have twenty acres to explore and over 150 pieces to see so plan to spend some time there, especially in beautiful weather like I encountered on that October day.

Dogs are allowed at the park.
Cinnamon loved exploring the meadow, woods and bay.
The art you’ll see during your visit may not be the same from month to month. Art is rotated as new pieces become available, as existing pieces are sold and as pieces rotate out of the park after a two-year display. Each year new pieces and new artists are given the opportunity to take their place adding a dynamic to subsequent visits. So my photos may not be the same as your photos when you visit.

I noticed a realistic young girl seated in a garden and then moved to an abstract sculpture. There is quite a variety offered. But it’s not like going to a gallery. The trails take you through the area…. from rolling meadow, to woods to the shore of the bay. There is a pond to explore where I found frog and bird sculptures looking quite at home.

There are places to relax and reflect. I sat by the bay and noticed that the tide was going out. In the distance I could see other islands of the San Juans.

That sunny day, it was easy to sit in the shade and just relax. As I walked back to the entrance I chose another route and saw even more sculptures. Figures were dancing in the meadow and a massive metal work sun loomed over us.

My friends were right. It’s a lovely place to relax and stroll. Who knows, you may find a sculpture for your garden to take home!

When You Go
The sculpture park is open dawn to dusk every day. Dogs are permitted. There is free parking.
Address: 9083 Roche Harbor Road, San Juan Island, WA 98250

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Vitaly Paley's Headwaters Restaurant to Open October 14th at Portland's Heathman Hotel

After a dramatic renovation, chef/owner Vitaly Paley, his longtime wife/partner Kimberly Paley and Garrett Peck will open Headwaters, the reimagined dining room at the Heathman Hotel on Friday, October 14.

Chef Vitaly Paley
Chef Vitaly Paley will be the third James Beard Best Chef Northwest winner to take the helm of the Portland institution, a long running dining destination in the Pacific Northwest. The property, which possesses a storied culinary history, was constructed in the early Twentieth Century and is a member of the National Historic Register. The vibrant and bustling space opens to SW Broadway, and centers around the open kitchen designed by Paley, boasting a large hearth and raw bar. The restaurant will be open daily, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as brunch on the weekends. 

Named for “the source,” Headwaters will showcase local ingredients from Oregon’s diverse bounty, from farm to sea. The menu at Headwaters will embrace the past, while building a brand new chapter for the grand restaurant with Paley’s renowned cooking style.

The menu is an expression and collaboration between Vitaly Paley and Executive Chef Ken Norris with Pacific Northwest flavors flowing throughout. The menu at Headwaters will emphasize classic French techniques in a modern manner, exploring the historic significance of the Heathman, the region and its past. Headwaters will boast a Sea Bar menu, and daily whole roasted fish served with simple accompaniments allowing the sustainably sourced fish to shine through. 

Other sections include the playful Seafood According to the French, which will include some of Paley and Norris’ favorite old school but modernized seafood preparations, served tableside in a grand yet unstuffy manner, like Papillote with black cod, fall ratatouille and a saffron vin blanc sauce and Bonne Femme with petrale sole, mushroom duxelles and sea urchin beurre fondue. Headwaters will also offer full breakfast, lunch, and brunch menus. Keeping in theme with Flatbreads According to the French selections offered at lunch, and Eggs According to the French offered during brunch service. The pastry program will be led by chef Jeff McCarthy, including dishes such as a Pistachio Financier with saffron cremeux, ginger milk crumbs, yogurt coulis, and Gingerbread Baba with rum glazed hasselback pear, and butter pecan ice cream.

The cocktail program at Headwaters will be led by Brandy Feit, a protege of lauded bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Feit has designed a cocktail menu with playful spins on the classics with a Headwaters twist. Cocktails will include the Late for Dinner with duck confit Dickel Rye whiskey, spiced orange tea syrup,bitters, served over a big cube, Sweater Puppies made with Starka, Calvados, Cardamaro, and apple butter, two classic cocktails on tap, and KVASS Punch, a non-alcoholic Russian beverage, a nod to the once popular Aloha Room cocktail lounge at the Heathman Hotel. The wine list accentuates Oregon’s brightest winemakers, was curated by general manager and wine director Thomas Hebenstreit, and designed and fabricated by Danny Essin.

Russian Tea in the Heathman Tea Court will begin in late November. The chefs will pay homage to the rich history of the location, reviving the iconic tea court, adding a Russian flare that speaks to Paley’s own heritage, with a bit of inspiration pulled from his notable pop-up DaNet illustrating pre-Soviet Russian cuisine. The Russian Tea menu will offer Vitaly’s creative interpretations from the classic pastime, adding a jolt of energy to tea time. The menu will comprise of both sweet and savory Russian dishes and will feature a traditional Russian samovar service option with teas from Smith Teamaker, plus wines, champagne, and vodka.

Headwaters will be open daily, for breakfast Monday through Friday 6:30 to 11 a.m., for lunch Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Sunday through Thursday 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m., brunch Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Happy hour will be Monday through Friday 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 3 to 6 p.m.

Headwaters is located at 1001 SW Broadway (The Heathman Hotel), Portland, Oregon 97205. Find more information at, by phone 503-790-7752, and for private dining information, call 503-790-7126. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram  @HeadwatersPDX.

Photos courtesy: Broussard Communications

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Don't Miss Dine the Couve: 3 Courses for $23 in Vancouver, WA

It's Dine the Couve Month all of October. And we've been out sampling the culinary goodness of Vancouver (The Couve) Washington.

This is the first time Vancouver restaurants and drink purveyors have collaborated on an event like Dine the Couve. And it's about time. “Vancouver’s restaurant and brewery scene continues to grow at a rapid pace,” said Kim Bennett, the CEO of Visit Vancouver USA. “Dine the Couve is a celebration of what makes our local culinary and brew scene stand out — quality, affordability and a collaborative spirit.”

So what's it like out there? First, Diner Nancy went to Niche Wine Bar and Bistro. Now, Nancy frequents Niche and often orders their special tarts. But during the month of October, Niche is offering something new. So she ordered it.

Diner Nancy reported back that she loved the pot pie and hopes that it will become a regular menu item at Niche. She highly recommends the special Dine the Couve menu.

Green Salad with Fresh Tomatoes

Chicken Pot Pie

And then, it was time for our Dining Foursome to go to La Bottega. It had been awhile. Dine the Couve Month gave us all a great excuse to get together to break bread, without breaking our budgets!

Couve Foodies Unite!

La Bottega offered two choices of salad, three choices of pasta
and topped it off with a light and fluffy Tiramisu dessert.
After just two foodie experiences we all agreed that we needed to continue meeting that way. So we have scheduled weekly Dine the Couve experiences through the end of October.

Tips for Dine the Couve:
 - Some restaurants take reservations and some do not. Make a reservation if they do.
 - You may need to request the special Dine the Couve Menu
 - Spread the word via social media. Post your photos and tweet your delight. Use #dinethecouve

Ready, set... get out there and dine! Here is the list of participating restaurants and brewpubs.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Phoenix in the Fall for Baseball: The Arizona Fall League

We all think of Spring Training as a reason to travel to Arizona. But did you know about fall baseball?  Baseball reporter Perry Van Hook lives in Surprise, Arizona and provides you with yet another reason to visit Arizona.

Courtesy: AFL
The Phoenix area is a great travel destination and in the fall has very nice (80’s day, 60’s night) weather for you to enjoy during your stay.

For six weeks in October and November the Phoenix area has the added benefit of having one of the best baseball leagues of the year.

The Arizona Fall League, AFL for short, is THE developmental league for major league baseball. Consider just a few of these numbers for the league’s 19-year history:
  • More than 59% of all players appearing in the AFL have reached the major leagues
  • 247 of those have been MLB All-Stars
  • Fifteen have been MLB MVPs
  • Six Cy Young Award winners
  • Four World Series MVPs
  • 26 MLB Rookies of the Year (not counting this years – both Corey Seager and Gary Sanchez the top candidates in their league played in the AFL

Here are the six AFL teams for 2016 with their home ballpark and the five MLB teams sending them players and some information about the areas near the stadium:

EAST Division
Mesa Solar Sox, Sloan Park – Cubs, Athletics, Blue Jays, Indians, and Marlins. Mesa is just East of Phoenix but very close. Plenty of hotels in the area from Days Inn and EconoLodge all the way up to the local Hyatt or Sheraton and the Westgate Painted Mountain Golf Resort. It is also a short easy drive to Talking Stick Resort in the East side of Scottsdale. Golf courses are plentiful in Mesa and surrounding area as they are in all of the Phoenix area. There are a lot of good restaurants in the area in all price ranges, but a couple of favorites would be D-vine Wine Bar & Bistro, and Dolce Vita Italian Grocer (save room for the gelatos)

Salt River Rafters, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick – Diamondbacks, Rockies, Braves, Brewers, and Tigers. Salt River Fields is in Scottsdale, west 101 (east) loop while Talking Stick Resort is just on the other side of the freeway and an excellent hotel with a top valley restaurant in Orange Sky. There are also plenty of hotels and restaurants in the Scottsdale area.

Scottsdale Scorpions, Scottsdale Stadium – Giants, Angels, Mets, Phillies, and Yankees. Scottsdale is a valley leader in golf resorts and destination hotels and restaurants. Scottsdale Stadium, spring training home of the San Francisco Giants is tucked into downtown and walking distance of many of those hotels and restaurants.

WEST Division
Glendale Desert Dogs, Camelback Ranch Stadium – Dodgers, White Sox, Astros, Cardinals, and Nationals. Camelback Ranch Stadium, the spring training home of the Dodgers and White Sox is just across the 101 (west) loop from Westgate Entertainment District which includes University of Phoenix Stadium home of the Arizona Cardinals (home games on 10/17, 10/23, and 11/13); Gila River Arena home of the Phoenix Coyotes; Westgate 20 theater complex; Tanger outlet stores; and several restaurants including an excellent Yard House.

Peoria Javelinas, Peoria Stadium – Mariners, Padres, Orioles, Rays, and Reds. Peoria Stadium is just off 83rd Avenue south of Bell Road and next to the 101 (west) loop. There are half a dozen restaurants and economy hotels just a block or two away off 83rd, and close to the Arrowhead Mall.

Surprise Saguaros, Surprise Stadium – Rangers, Royals, Pirates, Red Sox, and Twins. Surprise Stadium, the spring training home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals is fifteen minutes West of the 101 (west) loop off Bell Road (with construction for the Bell/Grand overpass visitors coming from Phoenix or Mesa might be better off using the 303 highway to the West of the Stadium). Surprise is a residential community but there are several economy hotels close to the stadium (two just a block away) and plenty of restaurants in the area, notably Amuse Bouche and Vogue Bistro.

The AFL plays Monday through Saturday with (most) afternoon games starting at 12:30 PM Mountain Standard Time, and night games starting at 6:30 PM MST.

Play will begin on Tuesday, October 11 and continue through Thursday, November 17 with the one game league championship between the division winners on Saturday, November 19 at Scottsdale Stadium. That game and the Rising Stars All Star game which will be played on Saturday, November 5 at Surprise Stadium will likely both be televised on the MLB Network as they were last year.

About the writer: Perry Van Hook
Perry retired to Arizona to watch baseball all year long and lives less than a mile from Surprise Stadium. Writes about baseball and football at

Saturday, October 1, 2016

5 Fall Foliage Favorites in the Western U.S.

Trail in the Sangre de Cristos
It’s fall foliage time. From the shimmering golden aspens of Colorado and northern New Mexico to the stunning displays of maples and oaks in Oregon, you’ll find that now is the time for fall foliage touring in the western United States and Canada.

Santa Fe, NM
When you visit Santa Fe it is easy to determine if the aspens have turned. Just look up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. What is amazing is that the drive up the mountain to the Ski Basin is only 15 miles from downtown Santa Fe. And along the way, you can explore the beauty of those golden hills.

While 15 miles seems like a mighty quick trip, it isn’t. The road is winding and full of pullouts where you can stop and look at the scenery and, if you’d like, take a hike too. I would allow at least two hours for your trip up and down the mountain to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. More on the Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway in fall.

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (New Mexico and Colorado)
Anyone in search of the rich and vibrant colors of autumn should hop aboard the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad for the best viewing of the fall foliage in the Rocky Mountains. The colors are bursting and peak foliage season is starting now. More on the Cumbres and Toltec fall excursions.

Northern New Mexico’s Cottonwoods
After the aspens have dropped their leaves, you can still enjoy the brilliance of the cottonwoods as you drive the High Road to Taos. Along the High Road to Taos, you’ll encounter majestic cottonwood trees decked out in their golden halos of light. Fall is the time when the riverbeds are easy to spot. Just follow the gold. More on the High Road to Taos.

Oregon Waterfalls and Fall Color
In northern Oregon you can combine trips to see the waterfalls with fall leaf peeping. Whether it is the majestic Columbia River Gorge or Silver Falls State Park where you can hike to 10 waterfalls, the combination of gushing waterfalls and brilliant fall color will amaze you.

Silver Falls State Park, just an hour and a half south of Portland, and XX from Salem, is a beautiful place to visit in any season, but especially right now to see the contrast of the bright yellow leaves against the dark evergreens. More on Silver Falls State Park.

Durango and Silverton Railway Fall Excursions
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway is located in Durango, Colorado in the beautiful Four Corners region. The railroad excursion winds through spectacular and breathtaking canyons in the remote wilderness of the two-million acre San Juan National Forest for an unforgettable year-round adventure. Experience the adventure of traveling by a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive on the same tracks miners, cowboys and settlers of the Old West took over a century ago. Relive history with the sights and sounds of yesteryear for a truly spectacular railroad journey.
Look to the left and you'll see the yellow train cars almost
hidden in the beauty of a fall day in Colorado.
We took our trip in the fall when the aspens were brilliant yellow and the rivers were running fast. We selected a first class observation car with windows on the roof. It was an amazing trip, made even more special by the fall scenery.  More on the Durango and Silverton.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Washington Wine Dinners at Lake Crescent Lodge Slated for October

I first experienced the beauty of Lake Crescent Lodge on a quick visit to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. You know, one of those weekend getaways where you try to fit it all in. The beauty of the lake and the historic lodge impressed me and I lingered for hours, sitting in one of the wooden dock chairs and exploring the trails around the lodge.

I wandered the lodge, looking at the details… the stone fireplace, antiques, the windows overlooking the lake and soon, the sun began to set. The winds were still and the Lake Crescent waters reflected the surrounding mountains and trees. Ducks quietly paddled over in search of treats. I had to leave, but was determined to return and stay longer some time.

Historic Lake Crescent Lodge was built in 1915 and is an ideal base camp for enjoying Olympic National Park, while experiencing the charm of a turn-of-the-century resort.

Fall is an ideal time to plan that overnight stay on the Olympic Peninsula. Three upcoming wine tasting dinners at Lake Crescent Lodge are scheduled for October.

Washington Wine Dinners at Lake Crescent Lodge:

October 8, 6-8 pm - Maryhill Winery
October 15, 6-8 pm- Camaraderie Cellars
October 22, 6-8 pm - Harbinger Winery
I do need to return to this special place!

The evenings are a fun opportunity to spend time with some of the top wine and cider producers on the Olympic Peninsula and in the state of Washington. Dinners are $95/person, plus tax and gratuity with a special menu to complement the featured wines for the evening.

Advance reservations are required. Book overnight room reservations online or directly at the front desk.

For more information visit or call 866-297-7367.