Family cabin nestles into its surroundings

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Things start to feel a little different as you meander your way toward Canyon River Ranch. Nature’s scenic color wheel clicks into muted earthtones. The topography bulks up into muscly ridges of ancient rock, desert-dry slopes rising and falling at random angles. The full-sky sun is more powerful than that heavyweight locomotive lumbering alongside the Yakima River, and — ohmygosh; what is that strange sensation between your shoulders and your neck? Is that … relaxation?

It is. It is deep-breath inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful here: the absolute opposite of big-city stressful.

And that’s exactly why the Kane family of Sammamish retreats to this special getaway (all the more special because it takes just two hours to get away) — and calls it “the 509 lifestyle.”

“‘509’ celebrates the 300 days of sunshine and the Eastern Washington vibe that we experience east of the mountains, where the pace of life is markedly different than what we experience in our working life,” says Mark Kane, the often-working COO of GLY Construction. “It’s definitely a different vibe.”

Mark and his wife, Vicci (along with daughters Sydney and Alena, doggies Toula and Tippet, and Fish the cat), are among the original owners in this burgeoning community, anchored by an upscale private lodge, the fly-fishing mecca Red’s and a crew of westside friends of the Kanes.

They call their spectacular three-level, three-bedroom home, snuggled amid stark basalt hills near a lush working vineyard, a “cabin” — but that’s more of a feeling, too.

“When he says ‘cabin,’ it’s a state of mind,” says Sydney. “He works all day and comes here, and it’s such a change of pace. He can sit with a drink and watch the canyon.”

That’s the relaxation part — and then there are the 509 (or so) kinds of recreation.

“I like to do stuff outdoors all weather, all seasons,” says Mark. “I make sure there’s something for everyone.”

Alena paddleboards down the river. The whole community heads to the rodeo most summers. The Gorge is a mere 45 minutes away; Walla Walla wine country just twice that. There’s mountain biking, cycling, clay-pigeon-shooting, river-rafting, hiking — and lots of fly-fishing.

“Everyone in the family does a little bit,” says Mark. (Adds Vicci: “The girls don’t necessarily love to fly-fish. Dad will say whoever catches the first fish wins a prize.”)

The whole family comes out two or three weekends a month, all year long, says Mark. Vicci comes during the summer with her cousins and girlfriends. Mark captains GLY employees on rafting trips.

It’s a cabin for the whole family — and for guests.

“Everything is definitely set up to entertain,” says Mark. “We have music systems in each room, and insulated every floor and wall cavity so the kids could have a bunch of kids over. We wanted to have the ability to have scalable events — have people find their own place, with little niches all over.”

Extra bonus: the way this special place niches into its special place.

“Because of the extremes of wind, temperature and direct summer sun, the interior and exterior spaces were designed so that regardless of weather conditions, the natural setting and views could be fully experienced,” says Mark. “The design is a metaphor: a basalt outcrop, to fit in the natural landscape. The weathered side of the basalt is one color, and the protected side is sandier. The exterior (of the home) matches the basalt on the hill: dark outside, with sandier, wood soffit material.”

Granite entry stairs open to a basalt floor on the lower level, where the girls’ rooms double as guest spaces. Up another level, reaching the soaring great room, says Mark, “The goal was to frame the mountaintop from the top step.”

Goodness. Yes. That worked.

Up another level: Mark’s wood-stove-warmed “Crow’s Nest” office/fly-tying space, and Vicci’s dance studio/yoga/exercise area, separated by 10-foot-tall barn doors from a media room, itself connected to one of several protected outdoor areas (“two flagstone patios, two elevated decks and a stone paver on-grade patio with a stone firepit and hot tub,” Mark says).

“We have zones,” says Vicci. “In the early morning on the back patio, we sit and have a cup of coffee. In the evening, wherever you go, there’s sun and shade. We’re always sheltered in some way.”

Here in their “state-of-mind cabin,” in a state of pure relaxation, the Kane family also is surrounded by positive vibes.

“My mom went around the house when we were framing and wrote sweet little things with a Sharpie,” says Alena. “I thought that was really sweet.”

Vicci elaborates: “ ‘Good food and health and peace and happiness and joy.’ ‘Good night’s sleep’ in the bedrooms. ‘Keep the workers safe.’ Some blessings. It’s in the house.”

You can feel that, too.

About the Author