Ten tons of river rock, plus ten marbles, are in the 20-foot-high fireplace at River Rock Inn. Now you know the answers to two of four questions Bob Watkins will ask when you’re a guest at his B&B, and if you get them right, you’ll win a prize. No, I didn’t win, but do I care? I’m far too relaxed, here in the peace and quiet of the North Cascades foothills, to fret over such things. River Rock Inn Bed and Breakfast and Retreat Center gives new meaning to “getting away from it all.” It’s only a few miles from the traffic rush of I-5, north of Everett, Washington, but after a few twists and turns through forest and countryside, at the end of a gravel road I find silence and a lovely hideaway.
Bob and Lisa Watkins began it several years ago by demolishing their existing home. Then, with the help of friends, they built their dream B&B. They used fir log posts, high beams, walls of windows, and the aforementioned ten tons of rock. The massive fireplace stands in the 1,300-square-foot Great Room, which overlooks a sloping lawn, trees, a pond, and the forest beyond. It’s a popular spot for weddings and group retreats. I’m staying in the Stilly Room, named for the Stillaguamish River and decorated with old-time fishing creels and rods, nicely combining rustic style with up-to-date luxury. My king-size bed is made from hand-hewn logs, but I have a TV, lots of DVD choices, wi-fi, a gas fireplace, and a deep whirlpool tub. Also, the sheets on the bed are silky smooth and incredibly comfortable. The other four suites are similar, each with a Pacific Northwest theme: Cedar, Woodland, Fern, and Homestead.
Out on the 5-acre woodsy property, Bob leads the way over winding, ferny paths to an enchanting surprise. Some call it the stump house, because it’s in the remains of an enormous tree that burned, but of course it’s really a fairytale cottage carved by elves. A light mist falls onto the mossy roof, lace curtains hang at little paned windows. I stoop and enter the hollow stump, and I’m in a tiny room where chunks of logs serve as a table and chair covered by checked cloths. Those elves must have had fun.
Every afternoon the hospitable innkeepers put out coffee, tea, and home-baked cookies. In the morning, they serve a multi-course breakfast. Here’s what Lisa, a terrific cook, serves today: fresh coffee cake, mixed fruit, locally made apple juice, and a light frittata with Swiss chard, basil, garlic, oven-roasted tomatoes, and cream. This is a fine start to a day of exploring an interesting area. Dinner is at Bistro San Martin, 7 miles away in the small town of Arlington, and that’s a special place that gets a post of its own.
By the way, that wolf skin hanging from the fireplace mantel came from a garage sale. The Watkins’ aren’t into killing wolves.