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Fun for Fido at Suncadia

Set on the sunny eastern slopes of the Cascades, alongside the sparkling waters of the Cle Elum River and surrounded by pristine pine forest, Suncadia offers the ultimate luxury mountain resort experience.
Written & photographed by J. Nichole Smith
All we really know about Suncadia as we exit I-90 at Roslyn late on a Friday afternoon, is that it is a resort community that sits on the edge of the Cle Elum River. We can’t help but notice, however, as we drive past acres of fairways and foot trails, that the landscape feels more like dry mountain pine forest than lush river valley.

When we finally reach the Lodge and step inside, we immediately understand why. Suncadia sits high over the river, on the edge of the Eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. It is dry mountain pine forest, and the lush river valley thrives serenely below.

As it turns out, late afternoon is the perfect time to arrive at the Lodge (which is convenient because check-in is 4 p.m.). We happen to arrive on a special day; the newly arrived sunny weather has brought with it strong westerly winds. The tall, amber grasses surrounding the property bend in waves as if auditioning for “America the Beautiful.”

The entrance to the Lodge, the lobby and the great room are teeming with action. Tiny children and large dogs, golf clubs and suitcases all swirl around the central circular table. Even with the hustle and bustle, nearly everyone who lays eyes on Olivia has to come say hello to her, pet her, and ask about her, and we can tell right away that Suncadia and its people are very pet friendly.

Our second-story room is actually a ground-floor suite, and faces out over the magnificent vastness of Suncadia’s 6,400 acres of pine-covered hills. The “grass patio” outside our sliding doors is the perfect sniffing ground for Olivia, and she gets right to the business of inhaling the traces left by every squirrel, hawk and canine that has recently traversed through her temporary backyard. At the base of the mountain below, the Cle Elum River sparkles beneath the red steel bridge that leads to Suncadia’s private community and golf course, “Tumble Creek.”

The wind whipping over the terrain outside whistles around the edges of our doors and windows, and I find myself loving the sound of it, as it enhances the coziness inside. Cozy isn’t hard to find in our guestroom, which in addition to our bedroom and bathroom includes a gas fireplace, a table for four, a desk, a sleeper-sofa and a full kitchen. Complete with all the comforts of home, the resort kitchen includes a full set of dishes, cookware, bake ware and knives, granite countertops, a stove, oven, microwave, fridge, freezer, and even a dishwasher. I should note, however, that thus far Suncadia doesn’t provide dog beds or bowls, so be sure to bring your own.

With nothing on the agenda until 7 p.m., we take the opportunity to relax on the couch and soak in the view. While opening the bottle of Chardonnay chilling in our room, snacking on the artisan cheese plate and snickering at Olivia sprawled on the sun-drenched carpet, we come to the realization that we could spend a lot longer than a weekend at this mountain retreat.

After browsing Suncadia’s epic list of recreational activities I find myself astounded by the sheer quantity of adventures that are available right on or right outside the property. In the warm weather months we can enjoy golf, mountain biking, fly-fishing, kayaking, all sorts of hiking, and even horseback rides through the adjacent Wenatchee National Forest. Just as appealing is the list of winter activities, which includes cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sledding and ice-skating—and these are just the outdoor activities.

Year-round, Suncadia offers several pools (including one that’s saline instead of chlorine) as well as waterslides, hot tubs and of course, the hot outdoor saunas and mineral baths at the Glade Spring Spa—not to mention a fitness room for cardio and weight training, as well as yoga and Pilates classes. I am exhausted after just reading the list.

Being particularly partial to horses, I can’t help but call to schedule a ride for the next day. I figure there are few better ways to see the landscape than on horseback. Lucky for Olivia, Bernard (Suncadia’s Director of Catering who happens to be a fan of Great Danes) has already offered to puppy-sit while we explore.

After a brisk, windy, evening walk around the lodge, we deposit Olivia back in our room for some more sunny snoozing, and we make our way over to Portals for our 7 p.m. dinner reservation.

When we walk through the lobby toward Portals, I can’t help but notice yet again how there is a seemingly constant hum of activity through the Lodge’s shared spaces. People chatting, children playing, staff bustling, and somehow it all seems to fit the place.

The Portals dining room is filled to the brim when we arrive, which makes me glad for our reservation. Obviously decorated with the scenic outdoors in mind, the stone oil lamps, artisan tree-limb chairs, wood menus and various iron accents all seem to convey the feel of an upscale yet still rustic mountain lodge. I half expect to see blankets of snow outside when I turn to take in the panoramic view pouring in through the wall of windows. Despite only having just celebrated its first birthday in April, the space feels comfortably lived in and refreshingly unpretentious.

When they arrive we eagerly devour our starters: Caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes, Tuna Poké Tower with ponzu sauce and Rosemary Grill Flatbread with whole roasted garlic. Based on the recommendations of our server, Brienne, and the wine steward, Brad, I have the Earth & Ocean entrée with B-Side Cabernet Sauvignon, and Colin decides on the Thai Chile Half Chicken and a Manny’s Pale Ale. We force ourselves to save room for dessert, package up the remainder of our dinners and share the delectable Mixed Berry Parfait and Banana Split.

At the end of our meal we receive a visit from Executive Chef Andrew Wilson, who is clearly very passionate about Suncadia. He crouches down near our table, smiles and chats with us about his menu.

“You can’t eat the view, no matter how hard you try, so the food has to be just as memorable,” he says. He also tells us about the dining room, which he helped plan. “We hand-picked the stemware, the flatware, the chairs… in fifteen years it will feel worn and comfortable—it will feel even more like a family cabin.”

Feeling like pampered, overstuffed grizzlies ready to hibernate in a cabin of our own, we say our goodbyes to Chef Andrew and meander back to our room to enjoy some tea by the fire and a soak in the tub.

Saturday morning brings with it the promise of lots to see and do. A quick bite of scone and sip of Chai from the coffee shop downstairs and we’re on our way. A walking tour of the property reveals a closer look at the amphitheatre, which in the summer hosts a series of concerts and in the winter becomes a skating rink; the intimate 18-room Inn, which is not pet friendly but is charmingly themed after Cle Elum’s mining history; and of course, the championship golf course. (I am sure Olivia must have pegged it as the most impressive back yard she’s ever seen; I suspect she’s just dying to run all over it, sniff it, and then dig it up.)

Once back at the Lodge, Colin, Olivia and I settle at a table near the windows in the great room. The bartender in the adjoining Fifty 6º Lounge is kind enough to serve us lunch here, where Olivia is welcome to stay with us.

We practically inhale our sandwiches, and sooner than we can blink it’s time to head off to the corrals to meet our horses and guide for our trail ride. We leave Olivia in the capable hands of Bernard and head out towards Cle Elum. We arrive just a few minutes later to the happy, houndy greetings of Buddy, the Three Peaks Outfitters official trail dog. Much to his delight, forms are quickly signed, water bottles are stowed, riders are mounted and off we go.

The two hours that follow are spectacularly relaxing: sparse conversation with our seasoned guide Michele, the sounds of horse hooves and breath, the sunlight filtering through the trees and the sight of Buddy, as he races in and out of sight, tracking elk and deer and other wildlife good for chasing.

By the time we arrive back at the Lodge, retrieve our hound from her generous sitter and hike back to the room, we are both exhausted. But what I had forgotten is that I have a spa appointment at 4:30. I leave the boy and the dog to nap, grab my swimsuit and wander towards the Glade Spring Spa.

The new “Built Green” Spa building is grand and lovely. Long, tall hallways and wall-size water features emphasize elegance; the floors near the treatment rooms are scattered with lounge chairs and giant cushions, and gourmet tea and cucumber water are available. Everything emphasizes relaxation and simple indulgence. After my Glade Spring Signature Vitamin Infusion facial, I take the opportunity to lounge in the sun over the babbling little creek and, of course, soak in the secluded outdoor mineral baths.

If facials aren’t your thing, there’s a long list of services the spa provides, including White Chocolate manicures and pedicures, a special Golfers Massage and much more. It’s worth booking a spa appointment just to access the decadent saunas, steam rooms and mineral baths.

By the time I finally pry myself away from the spa to find Colin, we have both become fairly hungry. Eager to explore a bit, we all pile into the car and head toward the little town of Cle Elum. Bernard had recommended an Italian place called “Lentine’s,” and we both like Italian, so we figure it’s worth a try.

When we arrive, we are pleasantly surprised by how full and funky this little place is. We are seated by a stout, friendly man who at times throughout the night was our server, busser and sommelier—his name is Mark, and he and his wife Kathy own the place. The food is delicious, from the homemade vinaigrette to the Dungeness crab penne, but what is even more memorable is watching Mark float around the dining room—answering questions, clearing tables, and preparing complimentary Bananas Foster Flambé for a couple celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary. Despite the temptation of flaming bananas, we hold out on dessert to save room for a special treat back at Suncadia.

“Back at the Ranch” we head straight for Portals to order “Campfire Delight,” a Suncadia specialty. This nostalgic dessert is a plate of marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey chocolate, served with a mini-fire for two. We roast marshmallows over an open flame right at our table, and enjoy perfect s’mores from the comfort of our dining room chairs. Fabulous!

Sunday morning, with checkout at 11 a.m., seems like the perfect day to order breakfast in bed. We fill out our order form the night before, leave it on the door, and sure enough, at 9 a.m. the next morning we have our piping hot pancakes, eggs and oatmeal delivered to our door.

Refreshed, stuffed and smiling, we pack up and check out at the last possible moment. During our 90-minute trip home, Colin drives while Olivia and I nap, dreaming of returning to Suncadia in the winter to play in the snow.

Gear up for Suncadia at the CityDog Shop.

Suncadia Lodge & Vacation Rental Homes
3600 Suncadia Trail, Cle Elum, Wash. 866.904.6301
Lodge rates starting at: $129 in the fall; $99 in the winter
Vacation Rental Home rates starting at: $399
Pet Fee: $50/per stay
Resort Fee: $20/per night

Three Peaks Outfitters
Horseback riding, reservations required. 509.649.6461

Lentine’s Italian Restaurant
212 W Railroad St.
Cle Elum, Wash. 509.674.9609
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