Stevenson, in neighboring Skamania County, is a real “come as you are” sort of place with an easygoing vibe and more to do, see, taste and buy than can be covered in one article.
There’s so much to explore, in fact, that our family has been visiting Stevenson three or four times a year for the past 12 years, trekking east on state Highway 14 along the Columbia River Gorge and usually arriving in time for lunch.
Stevenson boasts an array of great places to eat and drink craft beer, like Walking Man Brewing, Red Bluff Tap House, La Casa de Sabor, Big River Grill and Clark & Lewie’s, but we always make a beeline for Corona’s Mexican Food, served out of a truck at 160 Second St.
I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been there, but it’s enough to sample enchiladas, fajitas, chile rellenos, quesadillas and tamales and all the tacos a few times over.
Last month we met a lady standing in line who said she’d driven in from Carson to pick up “breakfast, lunch and dinner and possibly breakfast the next day” from Corona’s.
I agreed that would be a good idea but, alas, we planned to be in Stevenson all day and knew the food wouldn’t keep in a hot car, so we got our fajitas (I recommend adding mushrooms) and tacos (I recommend the pastor) and took our bounty down to Teo Park at Stevenson Landing. We unfurled our picnic blanket across the clover-strewn grass with an excellent view of windsurfers and kiteboarders and found that the pico de gallo was so good we could eat it straight out of the container without any chips.
“This is my favorite restaurant in the world,” I joked.
Live music was provided by children noodling around on the many play-instruments installed in the park — xylophone-type chimes and large, reverberating chimes, so that we heard angelic chords drifting on the wind as we strolled down to the riverfront.
Most visitors want to walk out on the long cement pier that juts into the Columbia where the mighty stern-wheelers dock, carrying pleasure-cruisers up and down the river. You’ve got to keep your wits about you because the wind can be powerful enough to snatch the glasses right off your face.
At the end of the pier, you’re likely to see windsurfers coming and going from Bob’s Beach, a sheltered, gravelly inlet steps away from the cabins of Riverside Lodge.
We stayed at this lodge a number of years ago and enjoyed the rustic but comfortable cabins, each decorated according to a different theme, like “Northwest Passage” or “Dream Catcher.”
I was pleased to see the lodge is still going strong after the pandemic and charging very reasonable prices — especially considering its proximity to the water, affording spectacular views. Some rooms have private decks with hot tubs. In the autumn, when we were guests, the warm bubbly water was a luxury in the cool fall air.
Light sleepers take note: The lodge is quite close to the railroad tracks, and though trains have agreed not to blow their whistles, you’ll hear their rumbling passage several times a night.
On our most recent visit, the Stevenson Waterfront Farmers Market was about to close, but we arrived in time to purchase a bag of plump, pink-and-yellow Rainier cherries and chat with some of the vendors. We looked at mushroom grow kits from Columbia Mushroom Company, smelled the fragrant soaps from Cascade Bath and Body and I nearly bought a bottle of Melchemy Craft Mead fermented with local wildflower honey, but I had another grown-up treat in mind: Sweet Apple Pie Brandy from Skunk Brothers Spirits.
In the distillery’s dark, clubby tasting room, you’ll find chocolate, peach and blueberry-cinnamon cordial, Smoke Jumper bourbon, Viking Lightning honey whiskey and cinnamon whiskey, among other award-winning delights made with Washington ingredients. If you’re over 21, you’re welcome to taste anything for free, which in my opinion is a most effective sales technique.
Brandy in hand, we walked across the train tracks and up the hill for a big dose of retail therapy.
Bloomsbury at Kanaka Creek is at the top of my list. It’s a florist, card shop, clothier and purveyor of fine home goods. The colorful wares and sweet smell of flowers never fails to cheer me up and I usually leave a mite poorer but clutching some new treasure.
I also like to visit Out on a Limb, an upscale clothing boutique with artful displays where I lingered over silver-and-stone rings.
If you’re a reader, you can’t miss the charming North Bank Books, a tidy, well-arranged shop with a thoughtful selection of new volumes and an excellent children’s section.
Moon River Home and Living is right on Highway 14 as you drive into town, recognizable by its outdoor display of vintage patio furniture. The shop sells an eclectic mix of new home décor and antiques. Shoppers can usually refresh themselves at the coffee counter in back, which closed during the pandemic but according to the owner will reopen next spring.
After all that walking, we needed fortification in the form of frozen custard from The Cabin Drive-Thru. You can’t miss it. It’s an actual log cabin just off state Highway 14 at the far east end of town, complete with a giant wooden Bigfoot out front, slurping up a swirled vanilla cone.
Alas, we were disappointed. Due to supply chain problems, The Cabin hadn’t been able to serve custard for many weeks, though the shop hopes to offer it again soon. We contented ourselves with soft-serve on the shaded deck, relishing the view of the Columbia across Highway 14. (Staff are taking a weekend off, so don’t head out there today. The Cabin will reopen Tuesday.)
We couldn’t leave Stevenson without at least getting our feet wet, so we drove down to the Cascade Boat Launch, a cement boat launch and L-shaped dock on a rocky beach at the east end of Stevenson’s waterfront.
We rolled up our pants and sat on the rocks, letting the waves tickle our feet. We watched a couple of speed boats slip into the water and jet away while a bevy of boys did flips off the end of the dock, daring each other to leap higher. The sun sank lower in the sky, signaling that our Stevenson adventure was over. We’ll be back in a few weeks for more tacos with extra pico de gallo.
If you’re thinking of visiting Stevenson soon, consider attending the Stevenson Waterfront Music Festival, Aug. 6 and 7 on the waterfront at 130 Southwest Cascade Ave., or the Skamania County Fair and Timber Carnival, Aug. 18-21 at the Skamania County Fairgrounds, 710 Southwest Rock Creek Drive, Stevenson, on the grassy banks of Rock Creek Cove.