photos by mary preiser potts
A pioneer family feud may have separated these two towns back in the day, but in modern times Bingen and White Salmon go together like . . . gorge and bluff. Bingen is home to big employers such as SDS Lumber and Insitu, but recreation is an important economic focus for both towns. Located just 60 miles west of Vancouver, Bingen and White Salmon reside in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. A variety of winter mountain sports are nearby and the Columbia River abounds with opportunities for summer recreation as well.
White Salmon sits on the bluff above Bingen and the view in every direction is simply picturesque. The community is primarily a mix of multi-generational residents and professional newcomers seeking a different pace to life. It has the feel of a community growing towards self-sustainability in partnership with surrounding towns.
120 W. Steuben St., Bingen
Mugs Coffee opened in April 2012 and rivals many an urban coffee shop in terms of atmosphere, quality and service. The cafe is freshly painted in contemporary colors with hardwood flooring and wood furnishings, resulting in a clean, wide open feel with plenty of seating and natural light. Pastries, muffins and hand pies are made fresh daily by local bakers, but I couldn’t resist the tug of a slice of house made brie, prosciutto and fig quiche to go along with a decadent cinnamon swirl latte. Both were excellent. For lunch, panini sandwiches, soup and salad round out the menu. The service was friendly and the environment warm and inviting. The contemporary outdoor “Mugs” signage was created by local metal artist, Nick Miles (outrageousiron.com).
Alma Terra Tasting Room and Wine Bar
208 W. Steuben St., Bingen
All the reasons to visit the Gorge are found in Bingen and White Salmon, including local wine. The Alma Terra Tasting Room and Wine Bar opened less than two years ago and showcases the talents of geologist/viticulturist Alan Busacca and winemaker Robert Smasne. Alma Terra endeavors to create superb single-vineyard Syrah and Voignier wines from vineyards in three regional AVA’s. The result is wine that is deeply characteristic of the geography and climate where the grapes are grown, wine with a sense of place, or terroir. Alma Terra is open Thursday through Sunday with live music on Friday evenings.
177 W. Jewett Blvd., White Salmon
Located directly across from the Inn of the White Salmon, Yoga Samadhi is clearly a hub for yogic and meditation practices. I spotted a number of folks coming and going, yoga mats tucked under their arms. The street entrance is a stark and unassuming office building, but the studio is spacious with windows offering a spiritual view of the Gorge and Mt. Hood in the distance. Yoga Samadhi offers a variety of classes as well as a weekly meditation with Buddhist monks residing at the nearby Pacific Hermitage (pacifichermitage.org) and a monthly gathering called One River Dances of Universal Peace. Owner Kathy Kacena has been teaching yoga since 1999.
Feast Market & Delicatessen
320 E. Jewett Blvd., White Salmon
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Feast opened its doors on June 21, 2012, focusing on local, organic, sustainable foods and household goods. The deli case is full of artisan cheeses, charcuterie and house made whole foods. The coolers are stocked with fresh eggs and produce from nearby farms. Local beer and wine is available, as well as an assortment of dry goods, including a new bulk section. Earth friendly cleaners, detergents, baby diapers and handmade soaps round out the selection. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and in the summers, utilize a spacious outdoor patio with (at the risk of sounding repetitive) a fabulous view of the Gorge and Mt. Hood.
Solstice Wood Fire Cafe
415 W. Steuben St., Bingen
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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: No excursion to the heart of the Gorge would be complete without stopping in at Solstice. Best known for scrumptious pizzas baked in their Italian wood fire oven, Solstice also offers wood-fired chicken, Moroccan beef stew and hearty pasta dishes. They serve local wines, as well as a rotating selection of beer and kombucha on tap. Truly an artisan, family friendly space, Solstice now has a roving pizza oven for even more community gathering.
Inn of the White Salmon
172 W. Jewett Blvd., White Salmon
This regional landmark was built in 1937. When Dennice and David Dierck took over ownership in 2007, they brought it into the new millennium. Antique furnishings made way for contemporary décor utilizing reclaimed and sustainable hardwoods and eco-friendly carpeting. Each of the 15 private rooms and a hostel room feature inspiring quotes painted on the walls and the hallways are adorned with local art. Last spring they updated the landscaping around the imposing brick edifice, installing rain barrels and adding native plants. They offer vouchers to local restaurants, all within walking distance. Owner Dennice Dierck says that the comment she hears most often from her Vancouver guests is that they can’t believe how different it is here – the climate, the landscape, the pace of things, and yet it’s so close to home.