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Your Guide to Washington Berry Picking Season

Picking Berries In Washington

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.

washington state vacation rental

Why the Vacation Rental Industry Boom isn’t Slowing Down Anytime Soon

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.

Our Favorite Hot Tubs

Washington State’s Best Hot Tubs

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

Tree Line Washington Vacation Rentals Jaybird Retreat Hot Tub

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

Tree Line Washington Vacation Rentals Alpine A Fram Hot Tub

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

Tree Line Washington Vacation Rentals - Bonny Lodge Hot Tub

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

Tree Line Washington Vacation Rentals - 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

Tree Line Washington Vacation Rentals - 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

Tree Line Washington Vacation Rentals - 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

Tree Line Washington Vacation Rentals - 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

Tree Line Washington Vacation Rentals - 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.

10 Ways to Stay Safe in the Mountains

10 Ways to Stay Safe in the Mountains

How to have fun and stay healthy in the wilderness

Sure, it may only seem like a “walk in the woods” or a quick “jump in the lake,” but when Mother Nature is involved, you can never take anything for granted and a knowledge of mountain safety is priceless. Staying safe in the mountains is important not only for the success of your adventure – think incredible memories and stunning photos – but for your health and wellbeing too.

Weather can quickly change in the alpine, cell phone service is spotty at best, and there’s always the possibility of something lurking just below the surface…or just around the bend. As the old adage goes, “Better safe than sorry!” so here are our top 10 tips for mountain safety this summer.

Staying safe in the mountains - know your route

1. Know your route

“But what about having a spirit of adventure? Following where my heart leads me? Taking the road less traveled? Being a trailblazer?” Unless your name is Lewis and your hiking partner’s name is Clark…don’t do it. Sorry, bad joke. But seriously, leave the trailblazing to the professional mountaineering set. Having a plan and sticking to it is one of the most important keys of mountain safety. Make sure you understand what shape the trail is in and adapt accordingly. Trails.com is a great resource for feedback from other outdoor enthusiasts who have recently been in the area regarding current conditions. Do not overestimate your fitness, and be realistic about the time commitment involved.

Man with backpack hiking in the mountains

2. Always be prepared

Nature is unpredictable. Sometimes, warm days and temperate climates greet us in the backcountry. Sometimes, the heavens open up, lightning rains down from thundering clouds, and we find ourselves shivering in our ponchos, seeking shelter in a cavern with a family of rabid foxes. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but wouldn’t it be better to avoid any scenario on the “worst case” end of the spectrum? If you don’t know something about where you are going: the weather patterns, whether or not the trail experiences seasonal flooding, the exposure, poisonous plants to avoid – ask. Most state and national parks and forests have ranger stations, information centers, or a website at minimum. Here you will find useful and current information regarding area usage and conditions. 

Staying safe in the mountains hiker carrying backing

3. Gear up!

It may seem counterintuitive to bring a rain jacket and light winter coat when you start your day off without a cloud in the sky. Don’t be fooled! As previously mentioned, weather changes quickly so make sure you can change quickly too. Extra socks are an excellent way to prevent blisters in the event of a rainstorm or unexpected water crossing. Layering is key to adapting to variable temperatures. Pack a light white long sleeved layer as well as something more substantial to put on and shed as needed. Avoid anything cotton – it is a disaster when it gets wet, not to mention COLD. Stick to moisture wicking fabrics for when it is warm and water resistant and insulated clothes for when it is cold and rainy. Take a pair of gloves and warm knit hat just in case something happens and you have to spend the night outside. Always carry a first aid kit.

staying safe in the mountains wear sunscreen

4. Wear your sunscreen

With that cool mountain air on your skin, it must be impossible to get sunburned…you aren’t even warm! Despite the fact the air is cooler in the mountains, you are also higher in elevation which means the atmosphere is thinner. Breathing gets harder and the sun gets stronger. Lather up in a 50+ spf everyday before setting out. Oh…bug spray is a great idea too!

Staying safe in the mountains wear good shoes or hiking boots

5. Whatever you do, take care of your shoes

Mountain trails are steep, muddy, rocky, unstable, and sometimes snowy late into the summer. This is not a time for you to try out your new ergonomic minimal tennis shoes. Choose a shoe or hiking boot that stabilizes your foot and protects your toe from romancing a stone. Tread should be substantial or “toothy” to keep you secure on mud or loose rock. If you choose a boot over a trail runner shoe, always break them in before your trip. Nothing is worse than a blister two miles into a five mile hike. Make sure you wear socks that cover your skin where your shoes or boots make contact.

Staying safe in the mountains drink water

6. Drink water…just not THAT water

Bring water – LOTS of water. You will always want more than you have, and just in case something happens and you get stuck, having extra never hurts. However, if you do run out of water without a water filtration system in your pack, please don’t drink the water from a river, lake or even worse…a puddle. Don’t eat snow. Just don’t. This seems like a refreshing, back to nature ritual, but in reality, it can give you giardia or a number of other nasty gastrointestinal issues. Mountain safety is more than just what happens externally, but also what you put into your body.

Staying safe in the mountain hike with a buddy

7. Use the buddy system

Having an adventure buddy is always safer than going alone. There is someone to help make tricky decisions, help out if you get hurt, and adventure always seems more fun when shared. However, if you find yourself seeking solitude, make sure to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

Staying safe in the mountains stay on marked hiking trails

8. Stay on marked trails

Again, let’s leave the bushwacking to the pro’s and stay on marked trails. You will be happier that you didn’t get lost, the local Search and Rescue will be happier they didn’t have to find you, and the ground will be happy because you didn’t encourage erosion or damage delicate tundra. Everybody wins!

9. Careful when chasing waterfalls…

Jumping off waterfalls, paddleboarding in lakes, and tubing down rivers are all some of life’s greatest pleasures. Keep it fun instead of dangerous. Make sure you understand how deep the water is you are jumping into, and make sure to clear the area of any obstacles or debris below the surface. If you are paddleboarding, you are legally required to wear a life vest since they are designated “vessels” by the US Coast Guard. Currents in moving water can also be deceiving, pulling much harder below the surface than they appear to. If you are rafting, paddleboarding, kayaking, or tubing, taking a basic water safety course is useful in avoiding any dangerous situations. 

staying safe in the mountains compass and map

10. Don’t depend on your phone

We no longer own dictionaries because we can look up words on our phones. We no longer own calculators because we can do math on our phones. And for many of us, we no longer use maps because of apps on our phones. Fortunately, the wilderness doesn’t have wifi, so being dependent on a navigation app on your phone is just plain silly. Learn a new skill and impress your friends! Orienteering requires navigating the old fashioned way – with a compass and a map. Hopefully, you don’t have to use this skill in real life, but it is always a good one to keep in the tool box.

Wherever you venture out to, Tree Line Vacation Rentals has your perfect basecamp. Check out some of our Central Cascade region rentals in Washington state here.