I've never been able to figure out the fascination with downhill skiing. You strap your feet onto two boards, stand in line waiting for a ride to the top of the slope, push off, and hurtle yourself down a steep slope . . . then start the process all over again. But at least those people are mercifully easy to shop for—skis, hat, sweater. Check. On the other hand, there are those of us who would rather receive a gift certificate this holiday season for more civilized outdoor experiences. (Not that we're afraid of injury, no! Soft-impact hazards include stubbing a toe while nature walking; having a masseuse press too hard at the spa; getting splashed during winter beachcombing; and chapped lips while bird-watching.)
So how 'bout thinking of us this holiday season? Here are some gift certificate ideas to consider. (Prices are per person unless otherwise indicated.)
SPAS AND ROMANTIC GETAWAYS
Lake Quinault Lodge (Olympic Peninsula), 800-562-6672, www.visitlakequinault.com, $68-$130 per night. Twenty-five miles of easy hiking trails and saunas to recover from schlepping.
Lonesome Cove Resort (San Juan Island), 360-378-4477, $115 (minimum two-night stay). No ferry lines, beach walking, your own kitchen—enough said.
Rustic Kalaloch Lodge (Olympic Peninsula), www.visitkalaloch.com, 360-962-2271, $89 to $250. Close to ocean beachcombing and the Hoh rain forest; romantic cabins for when night falls. (Or, hey, whenever!)
Run of the River Bed and Breakfast (Leavenworth), 800-288-6491, www.runoftheriver.com, $205-$245. Weekday snowshoeing and cross-country skiing specials. Or just look at the snow from the safe indoors.
Salish Lodge (Snoqualmie Falls), 1-800-2-SALISH, www.salishlodge.com, $495, double occupancy. Indulge yourself at the spa with a night's stay, two heated-stone massages, and a continental breakfast or dinner
The Turtleback Farm Inn (Orcas Island), 360-376-4914, www.turtlebackinn.com, $70-$185. Usually jammed with tourists, Mount Constitution and other sight-seeing vistas are almost empty. And there's almost never any snow.
French Road Farm Cottage (Whidbey Island), 360-321-2964, www.homebytheseacottages.com, $146-$165. No packages, but this B&B is located so close to a little-known nine-hole golf course that the owners leave a set of clubs for their guests in the mud room.
Inn at Semiahmoo (Blaine), 800-770-7992, www.semiahmoo.com, $289-$339. Golf/accommodation packages run on the higher end of the scale. Plus posh spa stuff.
Ludlow Bay Resort (Olympic Peninsula), 877-805-0868, www.ludlowbayresort.com, $79-$200. More packages! More carts! More balls! And a warm bed to sleep in!
BIRDS, FISH, NATURE
Alpine Adventures, 800-RAFT-FUN, www.alpineadventures.com, $99 and up. Peak season for eagle watching along Washington's northern rivers is from November through mid-February. Two overnight packages for eagle rafting tours along the Skagit, with different lodging options.
Emerald Water Anglers, 206-545-2197, www.emeraldwateranglers.com, prices vary. Winter trips include two days of fly-fishing for steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula or a day of trout fishing on the Yakima River outside Ellensburg.
Chinook Expeditions, 800-241-3451, www.chinookexpeditions.com, $245 and up. Eagle watching and fishing packages include meals, gear, one night's accommodation, and two days on the river.
Home by the Sea Guest Cottages (Whidbey Island), 360-321-2964, www.homebytheseacottages.com, $146-$165. Located on a major flyway for birds heading south for the winter. Bird books and binoculars in cottages. Kayaks available.
Sol Duc River Lodge (Forks), 866- 868-0128, www.solducriverlodge.com, $380 and up. The rustic lodge offers a drift-boat fishing trip including lodging, bait and tackle, and full breakfast and lunch.