Everyone knows Seattle as a high-tech hub of earth-loving entrepreneurs – but what lies across the snowcapped Cascade Mountain range just a couple of hours away? You probably wouldn’t guess “posh teepees and horse-whispering cowgirls.” But that’s exactly what you’ll find after gliding over the surreal Snoqualmie Pass, winding along rushing mountain rivers and sky-piercing evergreens.
After descending into a valley of lush vineyards, fertile farmlands and apple orchards galore, you’ll officially enter Washington Wine Country, home to 900-plus wineries and at least 350 growers nurturing nearly 70 grape varietals. People come by the thousands to sip and sample every year, but few know to take the nondescript Exit 52 off Highway 82 leading to the small town of Zillah and a hillside scattered with real-life, solid-white teepees stretching into the sky for 20 feet.
Known in the alternative lodging industry as “posh teepees,” these handmade structures are certainly not “roughing it.” Tucked inside are carved wooden artisan beds, stone floors and authentic western décor, accompanied by outdoor “twilight soaking tubs.” But don’t think for a minute that the Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn is a tourist trap designed to mimic an authentic experience. Pepper Fewel and her horse-wrangling daughter Tiffany run the homestead, which has been in the family for decades.
Surrounded by their own apple and cherry orchards, as well as acres of vineyards, the heart of this operation is the dozens of magnificent horses roaming the pasture land surrounding the homestead. It all began with a rescued horse or two, saved from the slaughterhouse and rehabilitated by the loving hands of the family matriarch. “Eventually, as their numbers grew, I decided they needed to start earning their keep,” explained Pepper, as she gently rubbed the mane of one of her favorites.
With daughter Tiffany back in the fold after returning home to Zillah, she and Pepper now offer horseback winery tours that depart from the property, often with their overnight teepee guests straddling the saddles. It’s a gentle ride through emerald green pastures and waving fields of wheat. The Blue Mountains roll in the distance, painting the background with deep royal blues from oil-bearing eucalyptus trees scattering rays of light.
You’re certainly in good hands along the ride. Tiffany is trained in the Feldenkrais Method, a sensory learning process she uses to create touch and movement exercises for horses and riders on “Natural Connections” weekends. You can join “Cowgirl Getaways” with riding, wine tasting, rope practice, campfire storytelling, and quiet starry nights sleeping in a teepee.
In the same family entrepreneurial spirit, Pepper’s son, Tad, and his wife Sarah are the owners and winemakers of nearby Cultura Winery, often providing lunches for those visiting on horseback. Even if you don’t have time for the whole experience, stop by for some wine tasting and a tour of the winery. Just look for the “fuel stop” antique gasoline pumps out front, a play on the” Fewel” family name.
While you’re there: Zillah is in the heart of the Yakima Valley, where you can join in the cherry harvest, u-picks and festivals in early summer, or angle for rainbow trout, largemouth bass, yellow perch, and pumpkinseed sunfish in nearby lakes and ponds. Fly-fishing, kayaking and river rafting on the Columbia River are a short drive away. If you’re an art aficionado, don’t miss the 70 spectacular outdoor murals in Toppenish depicting historical events and Westward expansion – with scenes such as The Prairie Chicken Dance, Blanket Traders, Stagecoach Races, and the Yakima Nation Treaty Signing of 1855.