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The Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie, WA

The lodge’s Asahel Curtis Library.

We arrive at the Salish Lodge & Spa, nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, just in time for afternoon tea in the Asahel Curtis Library. With its oak plank floor, overstuffed leather loveseats, games tables, and heap of logs next to the stone hearth, the library is a peaceful respite. Sipping tea and nibbling raspberry oat bars, we peruse the collection of books available for guests to enjoy while visiting: books of Ansel Adams photography, a complete set of leather-bound Encyclopedia Brittanica—including Brittanica’s Great Books, and others with titles like “Seattle, Then & Now” and “Washington, A Great Place to Live.”

Welcoming lobby at Salish Lodge & Spa.

The library is named after prominent Seattle photographer, Asahel Curtis. The noted outdoorsman and regional activist came with his family from Minnesota to Washington Territory in 1888. Curtis documented the Klondike Gold Rush, opened a Seattle studio, and became known for his images of Washington landscapes and particularly Mt. Rainier. The Washington State Historical Society holds 60,000 of his images in trust.

Salish Lodge & Spa, an employee tells me, is “a sacred place.” “Snoqualmie” is the English pronunciation of “Sdob-Kuahl-Bu,” from the ancient Puget Sound Salish Indian word “snoqualm” meaning “moon.” Early settlers here called the Indians the “moon people.”

Guestrooms have feather beds
with goose-down comforters.

There are 91 guest rooms in this romantic mountain retreat, each with a bedside wood-burning fireplace, two-person whirlpool bubble jet tub, balcony or window seat, and feather beds with goose-down comforters. The controls for the bubble jets have three levels and six pulse patterns: one controls lights, which fade from turquoise to purple to rose to orange to gold to green to turquoise—what fun!

My husband calls our room’s décor, “contemporary cabin”, with colors of olive, burgundy, and smoky golds. He loves the wicker rocker reminiscent of the 1920s with a magazine holder built into the arm. Next to a notepad by the bed lays a carpenter’s pencil. In the bathroom, shampoo, conditioner, and lotions nest among black river pebbles on a round black ceramic plate. Inside the closet we find iron, ironing board, room safe and spa slippers. A Pillow Menu offers eight different sleeping options, including a therapeutic Buckwheat Pillow, a Swedish Foam Pillow, a Pregnancy Pillow, and a Kenko Dream Pillow that incorporates magnets. Later we discovered that not only did they make up the room, but they lined up our shoes. It’s the little things that count!

Shoji doors lead to private
massage rooms in the spa.

After tea and settling in, I’m scheduled for Salish Spa’s signature Heated River Rock Massage—I’ve been looking forward to this all day. This Northwest-inspired Asian retreat is a quiet area where signage requests, “no voices above a whisper, please.” I’m welcomed into a room in Japanese garden design to have tea and wait for my practitioner, Bryce. Listening to melodic background music doesn’t overwhelm the peace of this sensory space. While waiting I peruse a book, The Art of the Japanese Postcard.

Bryce leads me into a hallway of natural inlaid slate and madrona wood floors with a peaked, aromatic cedar ceiling. White paper lanterns highlight sunlight filtering through high windows. In this Zen-like simplicity, she slides open handcrafted shoji doors to our private massage room. In the warm air I smell aromatic herbs.

“The stones heat the body, calming, grounding, warming up muscles,” Bryce says. “We all find our own stones, seeing which ones speak to us.” The stones she’s moving in her hands make a pleasant clicking sound. “Guests ask, can they have a stone? and I don’t mind sharing. They’re not really my stones.”

My Heated River Rock Massage begins with me lying on my back. Bryce places a bolster under the back of my knees and one under my ankles “to take pressure off the small of the back.” She places an eye pillow to calm my eyes, a hot rolled towel under the back of my neck, and a warm rock on my stomach, under my hands. I feel grounded to the earth plane, and my dry desert skin goes orgasmic, every cell crying, “Oh, yeah.”

Soak under an indoor
waterfall in this therapy pool.

“Sometimes stones are used for chakra work, placed on the chakras of the body,” Bryce explains. “If a guest is at all skeptical,” she adds, “it takes about ten seconds for them to decide they love it!”

I turn over onto my stomach, and Bryce places a warm rock in the palm of each hand and in the center of my back. She inserts warm “toe stones” between each toe, places a larger one on each arch and wraps my feel in a warm towel.

Aaaaah. These are minutes of pure bliss while I inhale the scent of fragrant oils, am vaguely aware of string music in the background, feel total peace; this is a headspace far away from reality.

Among skin care treatments and other massages, Bryce tells me the Heated River Rock Massage is the most requested treatment. “At the minimal we’re helping to reduce road rage,” she says, smiling. “Maybe contribute to world peace.”

The Japanese-influenced Spa offers a Eucalyptus Steam Room, Dry Sauna, two tiled, heated Therapy Soaking Pools (one with a waterfall) and a Hydrotherapy Rain Room. In addition to quiet Massage Rooms such as mine, there’s a premier Couples Fireside Treatment Room.

I can soak and steam afterwards as long as I want, and swimsuits are provided since the pools are in a co-ed area. Oils and scents may be purchased in the Tea Room, as well as 50 inspirational cards by Joseph Campbell called “Follow Your Bliss.”

Salish Lodge & Spa offers three dining experiences:

Event rooms feature terraces,
fireplaces, views of Snoqualmie Falls.

The Main Dining Room, Attic Bistro and the Kayak Café.

Dinner in The Main Dining room begins with a Chateau Ste. Michelle “Reserve” Syrah (Columbia Valley 2002) selected from the “Wine Loft Collection.” A 61-page padded leather wine menu contains 1,850 selections, including a non-alcoholic Gewervertzaminer and Pinot Noir. Two tiny black river stones sit atop a crisp white linen napkin and early jazz from the forties whispers in the background.

Travis Hedin prepares warm
baby spinach salad tableside.

Behind the bamboo blind the sun sets over the Snoqualmie forest, and I see a big bird. “Peregrine falcons dive for the swallows along the river,” explains Travis Hedin, server for our private dining alcove.

Travis recommends the Grand Tasting Menu featuring “the best of the season.” “What we thrive on is fresh ingredients,” says Travis, so the regular menu changes seasonally. Before the six courses, we enjoy an amuse bouche of Beef Tartare on a Walla Walla vinaigrette topped with filo and parmesan and spring tomato, dotted with basil and chive oil.

Then: Puree of Summer Asparagus poured tableside over a preserved lemon & asparagus salad topped with a soft truffle crème; Artisan Foie Gras “Float” on top of a truffle potato mousseline, hazelnut tuiles, truffle coulis, vanilla fleur de sel; Seared Wild King Salmon, fennel mousseline, heirloom tomatoes, English peas, red radish Parisian, fresh citrus salad and chive oil; Fig Glazed Sonoma Duck Breast, salsify “gratin” white figs, chanterelle mushrooms, sliced summer truffles and a port wine reduction; Foraged Mushrooms (five kinds indigenous to the Pacific Northwest) with shallots and herbs; and an array of Farmhouse Cheeses.

The Attic Bistro’s Wild
King Salmon Chowder.

Between the salmon and the duck Travis presents raspberry sorbet “martinis”, the martini glass upside down on a plate with the raspberry perched on top of the base of the glass!

My husband enjoys: a Dungeness Crab Citronée appetizer of marinated English cucumbers, creamy avocado, sliced French radishes in a lemon vinaigrette; Warm Baby Spinach Salad “Traditional” of smoked bacon, egg, sliced mushrooms, red onion, and toasted brioche croutons finished with Port wine and first-pressed olive oil (theatrically prepared tableside); Northwestern Pasture Raised Chicken with a celeriac puree, young leeks, garlic and morel mushrooms in natural jus scented with marjoram. Mmmmmm.

At 22, Travis already knows well his food and wine. After dinner he brings us tastes of Canadian Ice Wine. He explains how ice wine is made from the grapes of the last harvest which have the first frost. “Like a raisin that’s been frozen over,” Travis says. This makes them “sweet but preserves mineralities and structure.” The wine has an enjoyable, sharp, fruit flavor.

Dessert choices included chocolates, French Press coffees and teas from around the world, and-crafted ice creams and sorbets.

Built around the original 1916 fireplace, The Dining Room sports wood rafters and walls and cedar wainscoting. White china offsets the colors and textures of the food, with each serving becoming an individual work of art. This dining event, enjoyed at leisure, consumes our entire evening.

From 1916 to 1932 the original lodge was an eight-room bed and breakfast, a wayside inn for people traveling by car to and from Seattle over treacherous Snoqualmie Pass. A new owner operated it as a restaurant only until 1987—I often came with my family in the 1970s for the famous farm breakfast. Many structural changes transformed the old lodge into the Salish Lodge, which opened in 1988, and the Spa opened in 1996.

Flan for dessert and another
view of Snoqualmie Falls.

Snoqualmie Falls is the second most popular tourist attraction in Washington State; over 1.5 million visitors a year arrive to view the Falls. Water from the Snoqualmie River reaches a basalt rock shelf and plunges 268 feet into a 65-foot deep pool. In the 1800s, settlers turned the valley into a thriving hop-growing region. With the mining of coal and iron ore came railroad tracks, and Snoqualmie Falls became a popular tourist destination. Two power plants below the falls constructed in the early 1900s harnessed water power and the lumber industry thrived. Plant One is recognized by both the National Register of Historic Places & American Society of Civil Engineers as an historic landmark.

The Salish Lodge & Spa perches on a craggy promontory one hundred feet above the Falls; on the walls old black and white photos show Snoqualmie Falls, taken from every spectacular angle. The Weyerhaeuser Timber Company built the old mill town of Snoqualmie Falls where silver screen legend Ella Raines was born and the 1990’s TV mystery series “Twin Peaks” was filmed.

Cozy ambiance in the Attic Bistro.

The next day we lunch in the Attic Bistro, with its hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling slate fireplace and cozy cubbies with tables and window seats. Today’s “Mushroom Bisque” contains four kinds of mushrooms. Cork has the Wild King Salmon Chowder with Yukon Gold potatoes and fresh herbs, followed by Hand Made Linguini, with crushed tomatoes, fresh herbs, asparagus, shaved reggiano parmesan cheese. Today’s Attic Panini Sandwich is pulled rabbit mixed with carmelized onions, roasted red peppers and goat cheese, served with local organic greens under apricot tarragon vinaigrette. Our server, Margi, says the fall menu is “more rustic, heavier with creamier things.”

Watching swallows dip and dive above the falls gives new meaning to “bird’s-eye view.” People at the foot of the falls picnicking and exploring are tiny spots of color. A ball of mist forms a rainbow, and Margi says, “The Indians say those are the spirits of their ancestors.” Rainbows from the mists appear in different places all the time, so each one is different.

Trailing verbena, petunias and
coneflowers adorn the entrance.

Salish’s outdoor Kayak Café, open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer, serves gourmet sandwiches and salads accompanied by handcrafted Northwest brews. French-influenced Executive Chef Roy Breiman employs a world view of food to the rich bounty of the Pacific Northwest. He likes to slow things down, letting guests take time to appreciate what they’re eating. “It’s a journey,” Chef Roy explains.

Sam Johnson, general manager of Salish Lodge & Spa says, “One of the extraordinary beauties of the Pacific Northwest is our unparalleled access to wildlife.” The lodge’s Adventure Center arranges for outdoor adventures such as kayaking, fishing, and The Bald Eagle Float Trip on the Skagit River where you can see eagles fishing and soaring from treetops and ridgelines. The lodge provides an Adventure Guide and Trail Map for the Greater Snoqualmie Valley Area or you can explore nearby small towns of Duvall, Carnation, Fall City, and North Bend.


P.O. Box 1109
Snoqualmie, WA 98065-1109

800-2-SALISH or 425-888-2556
Fax 425-888-2533

The Salish Lodge & Spa consistently wins awards from Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Washington Wine Commission, Mobile Travel Guide, Sunset Magazine and the AAA Four Diamond Award. It’s just 28 miles east of Seattle in the Cascades on the edge of the Snoqualmie National Forest.

Feature and photos by Carolyn Proctor, Jetsetters Magazine Adventure Travel Editor.

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