Here in the Pacific Northwest we enjoy almost year round foraging options, with dozens of varieties of edible plants, mushrooms, and my favorite- berries! Washington berry picking season is fun, educational, and tasty!

The first wild berry to come out in Washington is the Salmonberry. This berry gets its name from its salmon-egg resemblance. The taste is a sweet, a bit seedy, and has a mouthwatering effect on any hungry passers-by. The colors come in a variety of yellow, orange, red, and when unripe, lime green. They taste best in about mid-June.

Thimbleberries are pretty easy to spot as they tend to grow on edges of clearings or roadsides and look so much like raspberries, but are a little smaller and have a soft, velvety texture. They fall easily off the plant and have a lovely sweet and slightly tart taste.

One of the most common wild berries of Washington State is the Himalayan Wild Blackberries. Sadly, this is not a native plant; Luther Burbank introduced it in the 1890’s and although other experiments like the Russet Potato or Shasta Daisy worked out, this one turned out to be VERY invasive and destructive to our area. I think the sweet black fruits on each of the plants makes up for it! This plant has clusters of three leaves on a branch, with small sharp spikes on the underside of each leaf. The berries have no poisonous lookalikes, unlike many other fruits and berries in Washington State. These juicy fruits taste best in July and August, and can be consumed raw, made into jam, or any other sweet treats you want.

You might not know it, but Wild Huckleberries are everywhere! You have to keep a keen eye out though because there are so many different types. The most common are the Red Huckleberry, and the Blue Huckleberry, which tastes and looks just like a Wild Blueberry, but there are also the Evergreen Huckleberry, and High Bush Huckleberry. You can find them mostly in the shade on old growth stumps. These berries were a staple for natives and are high in vitamin C and minerals like manganese. The Red Huckleberry has a pinkish red tinge and they are smooth and round and is the easiest to spot. The fruit tends to ripen July to August and has a tart and lightly sweet flavor as the berries pop in your mouth.

The Oregon Grape is quite sour, and is a sort of baby-blue. They do not taste or look much like actual grapes. The leaves look a bit like holly leaves and are very sharp. This berry is slightly sour, and don’t eat too much as they can be toxic in high quantities. This is a very important plant for our area as the expansive root systems work well keeping the loose, humus soil together on slopes while trees try to establish.

Salal berries ripen August to September and are dark blue, slightly hairy, and are on low growing leathery leafed bushes. The taste is a bit mealy, but can make great jam or fruit leather.  Another edible berry is Black Nightshade, but you have to be EXTREMLY careful about eating this berry because the green, and unripe ones are highly toxic. Also, it had a deadly lookalike, the Deadly Nightshade. Deadly Nightshade is easily recognized by its dull, green leaves and bell shaped purple flowers. Just two to four berries can kill a child, and ten to fifteen to slaughter an adult.

It is pretty easy to learn about and identify the edible berries in the Pacific Northwest, so if you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to do a little research or pick up a book on our native edible plants. It is a great family activity and kids love learning about things they can eat! They won’t even know it’s educational and that they’re learning a skill that will last a lifetime.

In the past 20 years, we have seen the vacation rental industry change as no other industry in the history of the world. It has proven to be one of the fastest growing industries- EVER. The short-term vacation rental boom shot to new heights in 2020, but has enjoyed incredible success as it was conceived at the same time that gig economies, referral economies and consumer technology were taking hold. Then, exponential and simultaneous increases in guests and hosts have helped armor the vacation rental industry against the numerous challenges the world continues to face, with each new challenge simply creating another reason to rent a vacation home. When the 2008 economic crash hit, the higher echelon of travelers used to staying in hotels for their ski vacations in the Alps or shopping in Manhattan found it more economically sound to instead book an entire home with other friends and family. Wildfires displaced home owners and travelers to temporarily relocate to vacation homes. And then the pandemic roared onto the scene.

Many vacation rental owners and managers faced unprecedented challenges in 2020, with shut down orders prohibiting travel and guests cancelling trips in record numbers. However, here in Washington State’s Stevens Pass, we once again found our area to be a unique destination as city residents flocked away from the crowded, urban areas to the open spaces of the mountains where they could stay in single family homes, reducing the risk of exposure and contagion. Employees that were allowed to work remotely found that they could still be productive AND enjoy a scenic getaway. Families with children cooped up inside with screen time becoming the only activity were able to unplug and reconnect at a vacation rental cabin.

Now that we are (hopefully) moving out of the crisis, many are eager to return to “normal”- but what does that really mean for the vacation rental industry? I believe this industry has been changed forever as a result of COVID. The way property managers deal with homes and the guests who stay there has been altered. The travel habits and preferences of the population in general has changed too.

For travelers, an entire new population has been exposed and turned on to the benefits of staying at a vacation home, and it is doubtful many of them will be eager to return to expensive and cramped hotel rooms for their trips. They are also certain to share their experiences with friends and family that haven’t yet crossed over- and we know that first hand referrals are a sure way to create new clients. The collective experience of the pandemic has also led many of us to re-evaluate priorities where hiking or white water rafting together as a family becomes more valuable than a resort-style trip filled with consumption and lacking in togetherness. Add in the new population of remote workers, and clearly the number of guests looking to stay in vacation homes will, once again, increase exponentially.

Many of those remote workers are deciding to purchase their own vacation home, and as we all know, the best way to offset that expense is to offer it as a short-term rental in between their own stays. Mountain cabins are the perfect home office for our Pacific Northwesterners. We believe that an investment in a vacation rental is not only an investment in mental health – offering an escape to the peace and solitude of the mountains, but also a solid financial investment. The Cascades were recently identified as one place ripe for vacation rental investment.

As managers, we heard many heartbreaking stories over the past few years about financial losses due to non-refundable weddings, plane tickets, lost jobs and sadly, lost loved ones. Tree Line Rentals refunded 100% for all reservations cancelled, maintaining our ethos of ‘people before profits’. We were able to make personal connection with our guests and owners during a difficult time, reinforcing our belief that live, local hosts making human connections to create memorable experiences is the best way to operate in our rural communities, and the best way to move humanity forward to a better place for everyone. We have already seen the returns on this investment: we’ve had dozens of referrals from our guests that had to cancel, many rebooked for safer times to travel, and word spread that we truly care about our guests and community. Larger, multi-national management companies may find themselves facing a decline in demand for their impersonal, automated management services as people turn to finding that human connection we all realized we need so much.

For our area in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state, there is no going back. Spring of 2020 ended up being the busiest spring we have ever encountered, comparable even to summer vacation season. Home sales have sky-rocketed, owners looking to subsidize their new purchases have easily doubled, and as we head toward a so-called “slow” season, the inquiries from guests keep flooding in.

We look forward to welcoming new residents, guests, and partners to this wonderful adventure.

Soak the Day Away in the Warm Waters of Your Own Private Spa

Your feet are sore, muscles aching after a magical day exploring the Central Cascades. All you want is to relax with a cold beverage of your choosing against the backdrop of a nice view while the evening air turns crisp. It is for moments like these that hot tubs were invented. The Pacific Northwest is littered with secret hot springs – which aren’t so secret anymore thanks to Instagram. And while these hot springs are novel, there is nothing quite like a temperature controlled soak in the privacy of your own hot tub at the end of the day. Many of our cabins and vacation rentals have private tubs, but these are our favorite hot tub vacation rentals

Jaybird Retreat

Perched on an expansive deck just above the majestic Skykomish River, the hot tub at Jaybird Retreat offers up sweeping views of the Cascade Mountains. Both sightlines and nature sighting abound with past visitors observing black bears crossing the river, eagles building nests a few doors down, and hummingbirds zipping by.

Alpine A Frame

If the “cabin in the woods” vibe is more your style, then you will love the hot tub at Alpine A-Frame. Surrounded by dense woods of pine, birch, and maple, the stillness of the forest provides an uncomplicated and rustic return to the basics. Light the fire pit nearby and look up, watching the burning embers rise into the star filled nights.

Bonny Sky Lodge

Nestled in the woods on a pristine riverfront lot, the hot tub at Bonny Sky Lodge rewards bathers with both privacy and panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains. Nothing short of awe inspiring, the outdoor spaces at this home will invite you back again and again.

Diamond in the Sky

On the banks of the Skykomish River, you’ll discover a true gem. Diamond in the Sky Lodge is the stuff cabin porn is made from. Along with its river rock chimney, symmetrical architecture, and incredible outdoor space, the hot tub at this house is the perfect place to take it all in. Mountain views and wide open skies are a feast for the eyes while the nearby firepit crackles and pops, casting a long shadow into the night.

Money Creek Chalet

Inside, contemporary comforts abound at this mid century modern escape, but beyond its doors – a quiet deck with a hot tub, gas grill, and outside dining area tucked into the forest. Enjoy an evening BBQ with your family followed up by a soak and a glass of wine as the kids roast marshmallows. You may never want to leave.

Galena’s Getaway

Modern luxuries combine with outdoor amenities and lush surroundings at Galena’s Getaway. This riverfront home, set on 2 ½ acres of private land, is more like an oasis than simply a vacation rental serving up nature trails, fishing holes, and a private hot tub great for stargazing.

Cedarstone Riverhouse

Filled with a refined rustic charm, the Cedarstone Riverhouse hot tub provides sanctuary for all who seek it. And why wouldn’t you? With the sounds of the Skykomish River churning over rocks and branches feet away and the wind blowing through the trees that surround you, this spa is more like Sangri-La than hot tub.

Hearthstone Cottage

The Pacific Northwest is known for the moss that blankets the forest, lending a fairytale and ethereal quality to the outdoors here. Step into a magical world all of your own when you slip into the warm waters of the hot tub at Hearthstone Cottage flanked by towering trees and verdant foliage. An added bonus: this hot tub is brand new, so you can soak for hours without worry.

Mountain Play Chalet

Much like the rest of this cozy A frame cabin, the hot tub at Mountain Play Chalet is delightfully quirky and intimate. Perfect for a romantic night spent under the stars, this spa is just steps from your private deck and gas grill where you can enjoy a delicious al fresco meal before your evening soak.

Wherever you decide to lay your head, there is also a perfect option to soak your tired feet at the end of a long day.