Yakima Valley

A Must stop was Chucker Cherries

Sandy and I planned a vacation for the last week of June. The idea was to take a week off and go to the Cascades before Shannon arrived for her summer visit after the fourth of July holiday. I designed an itinerary where we started off in the Southern Cascades. We would spend a couple of days exploring the area around Mt. Adams, which would be mostly new territory for me. From there we would work our way north to Mt. Rainier National Park. For my birthday we would stay at Paradise Lodge, a historic hotel inside the park. Finally we would see the Rush concert at The Gorge Ampitheatre before heading home. I found places to stay and booked them online (Sandy doesn't like to take chances on not finding a motel with a vacancy). I researched a list of possible hikes for early season. There can still be a lot of snow in the Cascades in early summer.

But when we got home from our visit to Madison the weather didn't look good. The forecast for the beginning of the week was rain or snow in the mountains. A day of bad weather is to be expected and you just bring along a good book so you can wait it out. Several days of bad weather though makes you wonder why you are there instead of at home. So we adjusted our plans. We decided to delay our departure several days. Then we would spend the first day or two in the Yakima Valley. In the rain shadow of the Cascades, it is usually sunny there even when the mountains are getting dumped on. Flexibility is key when planning trips to the Cascades, even in the summer.

I dropped Laney off at the dogsitter on a Tuesday morning and then we were off. After a lunch stop in Pendleton we reached Prosser, Washington about 3 pm. It's the first town that you hit along I82 when travelling through the Yakima Valley from the TriCities. There are quite a few wineries there, with a cluster of tasting rooms near the freeway offramp. We have done wine tours through this area several times so we have some favorites. There is Airfield Estates, a winery built on an old WWII airfield. All of their wines have aviation-themed names. Fun for an airplane nut like me. There is Thurston Wolfe, which we nicknamed "Thirsty Wolf". They make a wine we like called PGV, a blend of Pinot Grigio and Viognier.

My BSU tshirt was a hit in Prosser

Airfield was our first stop. We got to meet the winery dog. We learned that there is even a book of Winery Dogs of Washington. Just like in Australia. We came away with our first case of wine.

Next we had a bit of a disappointment. It turned out that Thurston Wolfe was only open on weekends. Bummer. But with about a dozen wineries to choose from, we consoled ourselves with visits to Willow Crest Winery and Desert Wind Winery.

Our next stop was Chuckar Cherries. I absolutely love anything with cherries: cherry pie, cherry ice cream, cherry preserves, dried cherries, even fresh cherries! The Yakima Valley is a major agricultural region and one of the main things it is known for is cherries. So Chuckar Cherries is a store that carries every imaginable thing that you can make with cherries. I bought jars and jars of cherry preserves and cherry pie filling. They also had all kinds of delicious candies made with dried cherries. On a trip to this area two years ago we had bought a bunch of stuff from Chuckar Cherries to take home. Later when Sandy's parents came to visit us they had a chance to try it. They liked it so much that they have been ordering from their website to ship to Wisconsin. My father-in-law's favorite is cherry salsa. We picked up an official Chuckar Cherries baseball cap for him at the store. By the time we were done, between the cases of wine and all the cherry products, we were wondering if we were going to have to toss out our golf clubs to make room in the car.

I did do one thing right though. I wore a BSU tshirt. Kellen Moore, the BSU quarterback who was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year, is from Prosser. (I only explain this in case someone reading this has been living in a cave for the past three years). His brother Kirby is also on the team and plays receiver. So the entire town is a huge BSU fan club. On game days they have a large screen tv set up at the local movie theatre and most of the town goes down to watch the game. My tshirt was a conversation starter wherever we went and we definitely got a good reception from everyone when they learned that we were from Boise.

Sandy has a spiffy new golf outfit for our round in Yakima

And we weren't done yet. After getting back on the highway we hit two more wineries in Zillah, Washington. Two Mountain Winery had not one, but four winery dogs, all very friendly. Then we went to Bonair Winery, which we had visited once about ten years before. We were intrigued by the name since the island of Bonaire is our all time favorite place to go scuba diving. If I count correctly I have been there five times. I asked if they had named their winery after the island, even though the spelling was different. "No, it's named after the road." Well, sure enough their address is on Bonair Road. Disappointing though.

Along with the usual wine souvenirs in the the gift shop I noticed a guidebook on climbing in Alaska. Curious. Thumbing though it, there were some really serious routes covered in the book. Chatting with the lady in the tasting room, I learned that the author of the book, Joe Puryear, was the son of the owners of the winery. He was a world class mountaineer. Sadly, he was killed about six months earlier in a fall on Labuche Kang, a remote 7000 meter peak in the Himalayas.

Bonair Winery was our last stop for the day. We ended up with almost three full cases of wine and two boxes of cherry products. Not a bad haul for the first day of our trip. We finished the drive to Yakima and stayed at a Holiday Express downtown. Our plan was to play a round of golf the next day. Sandy called to get a tee time and found out we could play "anytime we wanted". Ok - doesn't sound too busy. Next morning we decided to hit the exercise room first (we had it all to ourselves) and then have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. It was just a short drive to River Ridge Golf Course. It was an executive course, nothing fancy. But it was in pretty good shape, didn't cost much, and we had the course almost to ourselves. Very low key. You know a golf course is low key when they don't even have their own website. Maybe I should have left them my business card. Anyway it was just the course for us, especially since this week was only the second time we had played golf in the past five years.

Not nearly as fashionable but I'm having a good time

Our play may not have made the news but Sandy had an awesome new golf outfit that she had just bought. She certainly looked like a top golfer. Our scores actually weren't too bad. And it was a sunny day, warm but with a breeze to keep it from getting too hot. We had an enjoyable nine holes. Afterwards we had an excellent lunch on the patio at the clubhouse overlooking the course.

After lunch we took a short drive to a fruit stand. Cherries and apricots were in season so we bought big bags of both to take with us. We also got some local honey and jams flavored with lavender to take home. Then we hit the road. The forecast was for clouds the next day, then clear, sunny skies for the remainder of our trip. We had reservations for the next two nights at Crystal Mountain, a ski resort just outside of Mt. Rainier National Park. It was time to head into the mountains.