Monthly Archives: February 2009

Tasting & Touring Washington Wineries

Washington State is a premium wine producing region with over 498 distinct wineries. Located in the northwest corner of the United States, it has excellent geography, soil, and weather conditions conducive for producing consistent grapes year after year. Even though it is considered a relatively young wine industry, it is now the nation’s second largest wine producer. Washington State is also proud to be ranked among the world’s top wine regions. Washington wines are now available in all 50 states and internationally in more than 40 countries.

With over 30,000 acres planted, there are over ten regions that are perfect for growing premium vinifera wine grapes which produce consistent quality, resulting in strong vintages year after year. Washington vineyards largely focus on Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah; however they also produce a wide range of other spectacular whites and reds.

TMI Tours & Cruises has several luxurious cruise and vacation packages available for wine aficionados. From luxury cruises to fancy teepees with amazing views of vineyards and rivers, we can arrange private tastings and tours of Washington’s leading wineries. Email us or feel free to call us at 1-800-975-7775 to explore the many options available for exploring and experiencing wine country in Washington.

American River Cruising-Part 3

Taste of the Pacific Northwest

Fall departures: September 13-October 18

This 8 day epicurean cruise on the Columbia River will feature the rich history and delicious flavors unique to this region.  When it comes to the art of wine, Washington State knows its “terroir”-the combination of soil, climate and geography that makes wine distinct.  You will be welcomed aboard in Portland with a taste of Willamette Valley’s signature flavors: a Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris.  To get a feel for the culture and industry of this area, we will visit the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center with a focus on Native foods and the agricultural history of the Columbia River Basin.  A jet boat tour to the Hanford Reach National Monument will evoke memories of WWII and the Cold War era. 

You will be treated to tours and tastings at two of Washington States AVA’s while exploring four of the Columbia Valley’s finest wineries: Coyote Canyon, Terra Blanca, Three Rivers and Beresan. The Fruit Company, where orchards have been hand picked for 65 years, will take you by tractor into the field for fresh picked fruit.   Before returning to Portland,  we’ll visit  the Seafood Consumer Center at Astoria, where you will help our Chef prepare lunch, fusing the freshest seafood with the unique local flavors of Oregon’s fresh fruits, vegetables and cheeses.    Join us and see for yourself why Washington State is ranked among the top wine regions of the world.

Apex Predators in Yellowstone National Park

Due to a controversial, yet very successful reintroduction program, wolves are now a fixture in Yellowstone National Park after an absence of over 70 years. Several dozen wolves were captured in Canada and then turned loose in Yellowstone during March of 1995. Since their reintroduction in the park, the animals have done remarkably well—reproducing at a rapid rate. Wolf packs are now located in various parts of the park. Wolves prey on a variety of species, notably elk in the Yellowstone area, but will also pursue moose, deer, sheep, and other animals.

Although these wolf packs have wandered outside of Yellowstone’s boundaries, the best place to see them is still inside the park primarily in the Lamar Valley between Mammoth and Cooke City. While it is still very early in the morning and it’s still dark, we will set up at our overlook to watch and listen very quietly and intently. Chances are we’ll hear them howling, and we may see them in this vast open sagebrush area as they hunt. Viewing wildlife in Yellowstone is an amazing experience not to be missed!

This exciting adventure, along with luxurious lodge accommodations where elk and bison can be observed from the front door await you as part of our Wildlife and Waterfalls Yellowstone Adventure. To learn more about this amazing trip, please contact Rhonda Sand or Linda Bruno today at 1-800-975-7775.

American River Cruising-Part 2

River Voyage of Discovery Cruise

Spring departures: April 3-May 1

Fall departures: September 18-October 16

This 8 day journey along the Columbia and Snake Rivers, combines scenic river history and unexpected cultural expeditions.  Learn about the proud Nez Perce Tribe and their way of life, past and present, along the Snake River.  Combine that with an exhilarating jet-boat ride deep into Hells Canyon, North Americas deepest river gorge.  Your small ship will navigate 8 sets of locks and dams, changing elevation a total of 738 feet within 470 miles.  Pioneer history will come alive as you visit the Ft. Walla Walla Museum which houses over 35,000 artifacts, dioramas and a real-life pioneer village.  See the personal effects of the Queen of Romania as well as European paintings and Native arts at the unusual Maryhill Museum.  Visit Ft. Clatsop and experience what life must have been like for the famous Lewis & Clark expedition during the winter of 1806.  Learn about this regions geographical and navigational history at the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center and the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  Cruise in the wake of history and enjoy stories of courage and discovery that await around every scenic bend.

Lewis & Clark, Ft. Clatsop

For availability and prices, contact Rhonda Sand or Linda Bruno at TMI Tours & Cruises.

The Mighty Columbia River

The Columbia River (known as Wimahl or Big River to the Chinook-speaking natives who live on its lowermost reaches) is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It is named after the Columbia Rediviva, the first ship from the western world known to have traveled up the river. It stretches from British Columbia through Washington state, forming much of the border between Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. The river is 1,243 miles long, and its drainage basin is 258,000 square miles. Source: Wikipedia

The mighty Columbia originates in two lakes that lie between the Continental Divide and Selkirk mountain ranges in British Columbia. The river takes a convoluted path as it flows north for 200 or more miles, then it turns south and runs across the US/Canada border. Within the United States, the river courses southwest and skirts across one of the Columbia Plateau’s massive lava flows where it turns to the southeast and cuts a dramatic gorge in the earth’s layers to its junction with the westward flowing Snake River. After its confluence with the Snake, the Columbia runs virtually due west all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Columbia River Gorge near George, Washington

Columbia River Gorge near George, Washington

The Columbia has ten major tributaries: the Kootenay, Okanagan, Wenatchee, Spokane, Yakima, Snake, Deschutes, Willamette, Cowlitz, and Lewis rivers. The most important tributary, the Snake, flows for over 1,100 miles across a semi-arid plain and runs through the deepest gorge in North America, Hell’s Canyon — 7,900 feet deep. The Deschutes and Willamette rivers drain south of the Columbia, while the Yakima, Lewis, and Cowlitz rivers drain to the north. Continue reading

American River Cruising-Part 1

Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge: A natural wind tunnel cutting it’s way through the Cascade Mountains to deliver the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.  This was the final destination of the famous Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1806, the discovery of the Northwest Passage.  Traversing the mighty Columbia today is quite a different experience with its engineering marvels of locks and dams, but the adventure is still the same.  Rich in Native American culture, quaint port towns, breathtaking waterfalls and exquisite scenery make cruising this American river a very rewarding vacation in so many ways.

First, lets explore the beautiful small ships that make this amazing journey!  With maximum occupancy of 84-96 guests, these ships offer a much more intimate experience with up close proximity to the wonder of the Columbia River and it’s canyon.  With floor to ceiling windows for inside veiwing and ample outside deck space to enjoy the fresh breezes, your comfort is a  top priority.  The onboard Exploration Leaders are distinguished experts eager to share their passion and insight for the history and culture of the Columbia River Gorge and it’s people. Continue reading

Flightseeing Glacier National Park

Winter can be a little long here in the Pacific Northwest with measurable snowfall still acumulating as late as May.  Last summer, the Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park wasn’t cleared until mid-July, so road trips over  Logan Pass were limited to visits late in the summer.   There is still a way to see the grandeur of Glacier National Park without having to worry about road conditions.  Helicopter tours of Glacier National Park provide a breathtaking view of the park and a special opportunity to experience the awesome terrain and beauty of the area.  From the air, you will view lakes and waterfalls rarely seen by most Glacier tourists, including the magnificent Beaver Cheif Falls which cascades over 1500 feet from Lake Ellen Wilson into Lincoln Lake.

The 1-hour flight takes you over the border into the Canadian portion of the park, flying low over  incredible Iceberg Lake, filled with floating ice-bergs all year round. Continue reading

Luxury Wilderness Getaways in the Canadian Rockies

Banff National Park

Banff National Park

Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Canadian Rockies. The park is located 70 miles west of Calgary, in the province of Alberta and encompasses 2,564 square miles of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes. In 1985, the United Nations declared Banff National Park, a World Heritage Site. It is a land full of stunning peaks and vistas.

The town of Banff itself was established in 1883 and is the main commercial center in Banff National Park, as well as a center for many cultural activities. Banff is home to several cultural institutions, including the Banff Centre, the Whyte Museum, the Luxton Museum, and several art galleries. The Bow River flows through the town of Banff, with the Bow Falls located on the outskirts of town. There are a number of popular mountains near the town. They include Mount Rundle, Cascade Mountain, and Mount Norquay—which has a ski slope as well as mountain biking trails. A ride on the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain is a fun adventure. A boardwalk from the gondola terminal takes visitors to Sanson Peak. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit to the top too…you’ll want to soak in the Upper Hot Springs located there!

If you are interested in exploring the Canadian Rockies, please take a look at our Castles in the Rockies package. This is a sample itinerary and may be customized upon request. If you are interested in receiving more information about this vacation package, please contact Rhonda Sand or Linda Bruno today at 1-800-975-7775 or by emailing them.

The Majestic Rocky Mountain Elk

One of the treasured wild animals here in the Inland Northwest is the Rocky Mountain Elk (also known as wapiti). There are still many large herds of these majestic animals roaming throughout Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Washington.

The name wapiti is from the Native American word waapiti, meaning white rump and is of Shawnee origin. Rocky Mountain Elk (C. canadensis nelsoni) are more than twice as heavy as mule deer and generally have a more reddish hue to their hair coloring, as well as large, buff colored rump patches and smaller tails. Elk cows average around 500 pounds and stand 4½ feet at the shoulder, and are 6½ feet from nose to tail. Bulls are some 25% larger than cows at maturity, weighing an average of 700 pounds, standing 5 feet at the shoulder and averaging 8 feet in length. Only the males have antlers, which start growing in the spring and are shed each winter. The largest antlers may be around 4 feet long and weigh 40 pounds! Their antlers are made of bone and may grow at a rate of 1 inch per day.

Learn more about these magnificent creatures and see them for yourself on one of TMI Tours’ Wildlife and Waterfalls in Yellowstone Vacations. Don’t forget to pack your camera too. You will definitely want to capture photographs of these beautiful animals!

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

One of the most amazing and well-known highlights of Glacier National Park is a cruise across the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This marvel of engineering (named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1985) covers 50 miles of the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the most breathtaking vistas in northwest Montana. The road passes through almost every type of terrain in the park: from large glacial lakes and cedar forests in the lower valleys, to windswept alpine tundra at the summit of Logan Pass (6,646 feet). Scenic viewpoints and pullouts come up frequently on the road allowing motorists plenty of stops for extended views and photo opportunities.

How did the Going-to-the-Sun Road get its name?

The road officially received its name, “The Going-to-the-Sun Road,” during the 1933 dedication at Logan Pass. The road borrowed its name from nearby Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. Local legend and a 1933 press release issued by the Department of the Interior, told the story of the deity, Sour Spirit, who came down from the sun to teach Blackfeet braves the rudiments of the hunt. On his way back to the sun, Sour Spirit had his image reproduced on the top of the mountain for inspiration to the Blackfeet. An alternate story suggests a white explorer in the 1880s concocted the name and the legend. No matter which version is accurate, the road named Going-to-the-Sun still inspires all who travel it.

(Courtesy of

Please feel free to email Rhonda Sand or Linda Bruno or call them at 1-800-975-7775 for information about creating your own customized trip to explore Glacier National Park.