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Welcome to Skamania

A short drive from Lake Oswego and West Linn can land you in a place where your every whim is catered to
by: Martin Forbes, The front of the lodge is popular for sun worshippers, coffee and wine sippers, and, closer to the river, weddings.

My mother was the first one to tell me that if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.

I've spent a lifetime adding to that personal belief system, which blends nicely with my journalistic background of always being something of a skeptic.

That's why I looked with doubting eye when an e-mail arrived in mid-July from the Skamania Lodge at Stevenson on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. It read in part:

'Greetings Martin,

You are invited to experience Skamania Lodge this summer, located in the scenic Columbia River Gorge in Stevenson, Washington, at a date of your choice … Surrounded by the waterfalls, peaks, forests, and canyons of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Skamania Lodge is a mountain resort and conference center, situated on 175 acres, 45 miles east of Portland ...'

Now I've been around here long enough to know a little bit about the lodge and I was intrigued. But still, a free offer like this clashed in my mind right along with my mother's early admonition.

I kept opening the e-mail, then closing it. Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I responded:

'I am intrigued by your offer. Can you provide me with more details? … This is very nice of you to offer; I am wondering why you are doing it?'

The response:

'Thanks for your e-mail. As Skamania Lodge's public relations firm, we like to invite key writers to the property on an ongoing basis and of course, summer in the Gorge is an ideal time. The idea is to introduce Skamania to local and regional, executive and travel editors. I know Lake Oswego is a key audience for Skamania's business, so we want to keep the property on your radar.'

On my radar?

Sure.

Key writer?

Hopefully.

Interested?

You bet.

After a little discussion on the phone, I was hooked and we made reservations for my wife Carolyn and I. We headed up the gorge a couple of weekends ago to enjoy Skamania Lodge on our 33rd anniversary.

Lake Oswego and West Linn residents should be advised: If you are looking to get out of town and be treated like kings and queens, Skamania may be the place for you. It's less than an hour away, but has an almost otherworld feeling to it.

The lodge, which has 254 guest rooms (including 11 suites), features a gorgeous view of the Columbia River and the gorge.

The lodge is reminiscent of the elegant lodges in the National Park system as it sits on the shoulder of a mountain looking down at the gorge. It features a beautifully maintained 18-hole, par-70 golf course, full-service Waterleaf Spa and Fitness Center (including indoor swimming pool and outdoor hydrotherapy pool with a faux waterfall cascading behind it) and several incredible dining opportunities.

The resort provides up to 23 conference rooms at its conference center, featuring space for both large and small meetings.

Skamania is a popular destination for weddings; indeed Carolyn and I watched five of them beneath our room window on the weekend we spent there.

Amazing art - much of it Native American and Northwest - graces the lodge and the guestrooms. The rooms feature the regular amenities like television and access to in-house movies but also include mission-style furniture, terrycloth robes, dataports and high-speed Internet connections. Opening the room windows to the cool, crisp, clean evening air is definitely a plus.

The lodge was constructed in 1991. Developer John Gray (who developed Sunriver Resort and Salishan Lodge) and his wife Betty viewed it as a perfect site for their extensive art collection. Additional art was purchased for the lodge and a minimum of two original pieces of art are placed in every room. Because the size of the collection is so impressive, the lodge offers a walking tour of artwork that starts in the lobby.

The resort grounds includes more than four miles of hiking trails, outdoor tennis courts, basketball court, sand volleyball court and bike rentals. Nearby are opportunities for whitewater rafting, windsurfing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, skiing, snowshowing and snowmobiling. Tours of the area also can be arranged.

In addition to super choices off the room-service menu, Skamania features the elegant Cascade Room restaurant, the River Rock and the Sand Trap for outdoor seasonal dining at the golf course.

The Cascade Room, which features a wood-fire oven, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, including a wonderful seafood buffet (with prime rib, pork loin and a dessert extravaganza) on Friday evenings and a great Sunday brunch. The River Rock offers lunch, appetizers and a light dinner menu and, when we were there, a lovely outdoor breakfast.

While we were guests, Carolyn and I enjoyed hour-long massages that proved to be the perfect way to relax from the stressful work week.

nnn

For more information, contact Skamania Lodge at 1131 S.W. Skamania Lodge Way, P.O. Box 189, Stevenson, Wash., 98648; phone 1-800-221-7117; or visit the Web site at www.skamania.com.