Like many middle-age couples in the late 1950s, my parents didn’t devote much energy on public displays of affection. They were too busy holding down careers and keeping track of four errant children under 10.
But they did treat themselves to one extravagance that struck even their clueless 5-year-old as romantic: Every few years they would make a pilgrimage back to the remote lodge in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains where they had honeymooned soon after the end of World War II.
For decades I knew nothing about the place except its name. But, then, with a name like Skytop, what more do you need to know?
Recently, my wife, Carla, and I discovered our own “Skytop.” Less than four hours west of Spokane, perched on a cliff overlooking 270-foot-high Snoqualmie Falls, sits a retreat worth starting a romantic tradition around: The Salish Lodge & Spa.
Built in 1916 as a wayside inn for automobile travelers making the then-treacherous journey over Snoqualmie Pass, the lodge has been expanded three times since 1988.
What’s left of the original structure - the main dining room - is still a focal point of any visit, offering one of the best views of the falls.
But now there’s also a new, $1.4 million spa. One wing of Japanese-style rooms caters to beauty treatments and massage. The other wing houses a fitness room, saunas and two large “hydrotherapy pools,” one cascading into the other.
When we arrived late one recent night, we must have resembled those travelers from bygone days. Exhausted by the icy, foggy mountain pass we had just crossed en route from the Methow Valley, we quickly checked in and trudged off to our room.
There we were greeted by the unexpected aroma of two freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies on the night stand. Logs and kindling sat patiently by the fireplace. From just beyond the balcony door came the soothing rumble of Snoqualmie Falls.
Exhausted? Who’s exhausted?
Carla began filling the large, jetted tub while I ducked out to fill an ice bucket cradling the bottle of Mountain Dome brut I smuggled cross-state… .
Breakfast the next morning was like a page from a gothic novel. Seated at an elegantly set table overlooking the falls, we watched an all-obscuring mist move back and forth in the gorge below. Any moment we expected Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn - or perhaps Sherlock Holmes and Prof. Moriarty - to wander in.
Coffee arrived, accompanied by whipped cream and shaved chocolate. The orange juice was freshly squeezed.
I ordered the local specialty, a bowl of old-fashioned oats; my date chose the venison sausage sampler. We took turns dunking fresh strawberries in the whipped cream.
After breakfast, Carla indulged in a therapy massage. Afterward, we had the spa’s two 12-person soaking pools to ourselves.
Relaxed to the point of melting, we dressed and set off down the half-mile trail to the base of the falls - and into another world, where decades of unrelenting moisture from the falls have nurtured a jungle-like profusion of moss on tree branches.
The trail dead-ended 25 stories below the top of Snoqualmie Falls, revealing a spectacular view said to attract more than 1 million visitors a year. (Snoqualmie’s falls tower 100 feet higher than Niagara’s.)
Despite a polite warning from a lodge employee, we didn’t require a taxi or CPR to make it back up the trail. But the 300-foot climb isn’t for everyone.
Later that day, we swung through the town of Snoqualmie (pop. 1,500) to dutifully inspect the local tourist novelties: a rusty collection of old train cars, and a Paul Bunyan-size log.
That evening, we decided to take dinner in the cozy Attic Lounge above the lodge’s main restaurant. Window seats overlooking the falls were occupied, so we laid claim to a leather-upholstered booth by the fireplace. After checking in with the kids back home via phone, we settled back to leisurely enjoy our entrees: cashew-crusted sea bass for her, penne pasta with rock shrimp for me.
River gorges can sometimes act like wind tunnels, as we discovered later that night, when the glass fireplace doors in our bedroom - buffeted by a downdraft - rattled loud enough to wake us. All the more reason to burrow deeper beneath our down comforter.
Like most holidays, this one ended too soon. With commitments in Spokane, we rose early the next morning. After stopping by the lodge’s library for complimentary coffee and tea, we were on the road east, glad to be returning home - but also eager for another excuse to visit The Salish Lodge & Spa.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: If you go Salish Lodge & Spa, winner of AAA’s Four Diamond Award and Mobile’s Four Star Award, is located 250 miles west of Spokane, 30 miles shy of Seattle. Take Interstate 90 to North Bend, then state Highway 202 past Snoqualmie to the crest of Snoqualmie Falls. All 91 guest rooms feature wood-burning fireplaces, double-size jetted tubs, goose-down comforters, robes and original artwork. All but eight face the river gorge, and many have balconies and/or window seats. Lodge facilities include a gourmet restaurant, lounge, full-service spa and fitness center, gift shop, library and meeting rooms. Prices start at $269 a night, but low-season and midweek specials abound. Some include credit toward dining-room or in-room meals, and spa treatments. Dinner entrees start $20.50; soups, salads and appetizers are extra. Breakfasts start at $6.25 and range up to $22.95 for the “internationally famous” four-course Salish Country Breakfast. Lunches are $11-$20. For information or reservations, call (800) 826-6124.