Recently, I embarked on a true Pacific Northwest adventure. Bringing along my husband and eight friends, we drove a couple hours east of Seattle to the beautiful Wenatchee area for River Recreation’s white water rafting, wine tasting and camping weekend.
We arrived on Saturday morning to River Recreation’s base camp in Monitor, WA. The friendly staff immediately helped us get ready for our experience. We signed waivers that explained the inherent risks that could be encountered in the course of white water rafting (including drowning and hypothermia – how fun!) and we were fitted for our wetsuits, booties and life jackets. Since we would also be camping at the base camp that night, my husband and I set up our tent prior to rafting. The River Recreation staff also camp on the weekends and had all of their tents set up as well.
Just after 9 a.m., the morning rafters boarded the River Recreation bus to the drop off location on the Wenatchee River, just outside of Leavenworth. Our rafting guides divided us all into separate groups with approximately eight people on each raft. My raft’s guide, Brian, was a student in Bellingham, Monday through Friday, and a white water guide on the weekends. Four of my friends ended up on a different raft (also known as “the rival raft”) and their guide, Luther, has a PhD and teaches Radiochemistry at Washington State University during the week! We were all quite impressed by the guides, not only did they know how to have fun on the weekends, all of them were incredibly intelligent and very confident in keeping all of us safe. Our guide, Brian, spent a lot of time going over safety procedures and what to do during different scenarios, and, in the end, our raft was ready to tackle the white water!
The next three hours on the water were unbelievable. Multiple times we hit some decent rapids that soaked almost all of us. I bravely volunteered to sit up on the front of the raft during calm waters, only to hit some huge waves that pushed me to the floor as water poured into the raft. I came back up to my perch on the front of the raft and I couldn’t stop smiling. With the air temperature over 90 degrees and the water temperature at 45 degrees, it was incredibly refreshing to have the waves hit you. During calm moments on the river, we would quietly paddle up to the rival raft and douse them with water, and on occasion, they would manage to sneak up behind us. There were many water fights that morning! We also played river games trying to knock our fellow rafters into the water (which my husband did successfully to me twice, both times pushing me into the river). While none of us wanted the river adventure to end, we finally had to get out of the water at base camp. But the weekend wasn’t over yet!
River Recreation served lunch to all those who just returned from rafting and for all who were going on an afternoon rafting trip. Barbecued flank steak, chicken legs, and bean salad were on the menu and left us all feeling satisfied and stuffed! After washing up and relaxing on one of the many hammocks available, the party bus took 16 of us to Wenatchee for an afternoon of wine tasting! With River Recreation guide Kristin, at the helm, we traveled to Chateau Faire Le Pont, Jones of Washington and ended the tour at Stemilt Creek Winery. Kristin works at Stemilt Creek Winery during the week – not only was she an expert on the river, but she was also a wine expert! I must say, I’m pretty jealous of her life!
Deb, the owner of Chateau Faire Le Pont (along with her husband, a former Navy helicopter pilot turned wine maker), took us on a tour of the winery. We learned about the history of the beautiful building itself and all about the wine process, which is not only complicated, but fascinating. After the tour, we tasted five of their wines, including a 2012 Riesling, a 2012 Pinot Gris, a 2009 Tre Amori, a 2009 Confluence and finally a 2011 Apple Ice Wine. As someone who enjoys sweet wines, I fell in love with the Apple Ice Wine and ended up purchasing a bottle of it!
Jones of Washington is located at Pybus Public Market in Wenatchee. Pybus Market opened its doors to the public in May 2013 as the Wenatchee version of Pike’s Place Market in Seattle. The large two story building was very open and airy, filled with cute shops and restaurants. It is definitely a place I would like to explore next time I am in Wenatchee. The two ladies at Jones of Washington were incredibly helpful and let us taste six different wines. I tried the Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Rosé, Reserve Malbec and Reserve Petite Sirah. The Rosé of Syrah was my favorite and I could definitely taste the light strawberry flavors. I purchased a bottle of that as well.
The final stop on our tour was Stemilt Creek Winery, at their adorable tasting shop shop in downtown Wentachee. Our guide Kristin handed out chocolate to pair with the tasting. I love chocolate and chocolate paired with a red wine makes even the bitterest of chocolate taste delightful. We tried their Rosé, Merlot and their Cabernet Franc. Kristin took us through Stemilt’s different wines, some with fun names such as “Boss Lady” and “Days’ Work.” I ended up buying the Rosé and the Merlot. I can’t wait to have my own chocolate pairings.
While most of us enjoyed the wine tasting, some of the men in our group were not as enthused (including my husband). Kristin dropped them off at local beer pubs while we sampled the delectable wines. The men came up with a great idea over their beers. “Paddles and Pints” – white water rafting, beer tasting and a camping weekend! Perfect for Father’s Day and for those who enjoy a pint over a stemmed glass.
Dinner was waiting for us back at base camp. Grilled salmon, salad and green beans were on the menu and all of it was absolutely delicious. The River Recreation staff knew their way around the outdoor barbeque! After dinner, we all settled in for the evening. Some relaxed on the hammocks, others played bocce ball; a fire was started and we made smores. Conversations between the campers and the staff kept the evening going. Sleep didn’t come until late in the evening and the sun rose too quickly the next morning.
I highly recommend your summer 2014 plans to include a weekend with River Recreation. The whole weekend made for an unforgettable experience that I would love to do again and again. You can plan your own River Recreation outing and read more about their various rafting trip options here.