A Northwest Autumn

Clients don’t have to go to New England to experience Fall’s beauty

By: Christopher Batin

At this time of year, many of your clients dream of one last weekend escape before the creeping chill of winter arrives. The simple pleasure of driving through oceans of golden yellow, mixed with reds and oranges, delight the eye and calm the soul.

To enjoy such delights, don’t send your clients to New England, but rather, its unheralded Western counterpart, Washington State’s Lewis County and northern Oregon.

In mid to late October, your clients can expect a multi-day adventure that is full of laughs, intrigue, challenge, old roadhouses and home-cooked meals. I discovered fruit orchards ripe for the picking, and quaint restaurants and resorts that you can pretty much have all to yourself.

Mayfield Lake, one of Washington’s largest freshwater lakes, covers 2,250 acres with an impressive 33½-mile shoreline. The lake offers year-round fishing for salmon, yellow perch, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout and largemouth bass.

Mayfield Resort & Marina provides comfortable accommodations at Aspen Lodge, located a stone’s throw from the lake. Modern, motel-style suites offer wide covered decks with sweeping views of the lake, full kitchens, baths with showers, heating and air conditioning. Book a stay in the fully furnished “Oar” cabins, each built for two people. Quaint and nostalgic with old-style wood furniture, it does not disappoint.

Resident managers George and Amy Penzenik are personable, extremely helpful and offer a wealth of information on the resort, boat rentals and lake and local tourism attractions. My advice is to base your clients here, for easy access to most attractions. Eagles, geese and blacktail deer were everyday sights for me at the lodge. During the off-season, clients can expect to have the run of the place.

“We’re crowded to capacity during the summer months,” said George. “But starting in September through November, we just percolate with a smattering of tourists.”

Guests at Mayfield Lake Resort can also boat, kayak, swim, fish and Jet Ski. In mid October, the fall colors were just starting to turn.

“It can continue like this into November,” George said.

The next day, I hung up the fishing rod and traveled to Raintree Orchards, near Morton. Raintree’s owner, Sam Benowitz, specializes in carrying some of the best fruit trees and shrubs for Pacific Northwest climates. We sampled various apples, pears and berries, and discussed realistic expectations of growing various species as far north as my home town of Fairbanks, Alaska.

After the walk in the hilly orchards, one works up an appetite, which brings me to another weekender tip have your clients make dinner reservations at Mary McCrank’s Restaurant. Owners Gerd and Jeri Schopp will indulge your clients in the Northwest’s finest home-cooked food. For 50 years, Mary’s hospitality and home-cooked, made-from-scratch meals and desserts bring people from as far away as Seattle and Portland.

The area’s sleeper attraction is the Veterans Memorial Museum. I went on the advice of a good friend, not expecting much. What I found was a destination that made me laugh, cry and contemplate on veterans of past and current wars without the TV newsroom sensationalism. Tell clients to request a personalized tour from museum director Lee Grimes, who has a passion for telling the stories of veterans, from the solider who threw himself on a grenade and saved his team, and survived, to the displays of items used in the various U.S. wars. Find it just off Interstate 5 in Chehalis.

For nightlife, McMenamins Olympic Club Hotel & Theater in Centralia is a must-experience destination. This historic building offers colorful reminders of countless gamblers’ jackpots, revenuer raids, dark secrets deeply buried and a famous bandit’s bravado.

The hotel’s 27 European-style rooms feature vintage furnishings, comfy chenille-covered beds and conveniently located common bathrooms. Packages include lodging for two, free billiards, a bottle of Edgefield wine and dinner and breakfast in the Olympic Club Pub.

I returned home with salmon, fruit, bottles of wine, seeds and most of all, recharged mental batteries from having had a few more days to enjoy the many treasures of a Pacific Northwest autumn.


Lake Mayfield Resort and Marina

Lewis Country
Convention and
Visitors Bureau

Mary McCranks
Olympic Club

Raintree Nursery

Veterans Memorial Museum