Did the sheep heads see me before I saw them? It was hard to tell at that point—day four of a 1,200-mile blitz through Washington state for this issue’s cover story, which showcases the most scenic, majestic, and fireside-cozy lodges in the Northwest.
By then, I’d already gunned it through five of seven lodges: west from Portland to Willapa Bay, north on 101 deep into the Olympics. I’d doubled back through Humptulips, navigating backroads to Skokomish and driving up Hood Canal behind a semi doing 25 mph. A state trooper tailgated me on the switchbacks to Discovery Bay. Then I discovered, as the September sun dipped behind Mount Olympus, that the Whidbey Island ferry prioritizes reservations. (That feeling when you desperately need a pee break, as cars roll past you, so slowly, onto a boat.)
I’d hopscotched the San Juans, fueled by strange Canadian radio, then sped into the North Cascades—through Cokedale, Concrete, Corkindale, Marblemount. I’d arrived here, at Sun Mountain Lodge near Twisp, just minutes ago. Aside from the lodge’s surly receptionist, I hadn’t locked eyes with a soul since ordering last night’s vichyssoise at Rosario Resort on Orcas Island.
Seen in dizzying fast-forward, even the most character-rich lodges can blur together. Winsome flagstone pathways leading to boiler rooms. King salmon on planks. Somewhere, a foosball table. And ornamental shelves of books—Jack London to Pearl Buck—dignifying rec room flat-screens.
That’s where they found me, the four stuffed sheep heads mounted around Tucker Carlson’s flushed, expostulating face on Fox News (he’s still very mad about Obama, apparently) in a TV room off Sun Mountain’s grand arcade. As I stood there, strung out from a six-hour drive, two of the ovine faces seemed to tilt toward me, their puzzled gazes mirroring a feeling I’d had since a sprint through Lake Quinault Lodge days earlier: sometimes, this work gets pretty ridiculous.
And yet, I love it: the mandate to experience such destinations, on your behalf. As Portland Monthly’s travel editor, it’s my job to absorb enough of a place to be authoritative later, on the page. There are limits, of course, to how observant a sleep-deprived, undersocialized, possibly hallucinating journalist can be. Consider then: if the luxurious locales in this issue moved us, reporters in a rush, imagine what they might do for you, with time on your side to explore, escape, and rest easy—zero need to count sheep.