Q&A: EverGreen Escapes in the Pacific Northwest

Opening photo: Mount Rainier – Seattle, Washington


Based in Seattle, Wash., EverGreen Escapes was launched five years ago and has grown aggressively since then, building its reputation on half- and full-day adventure nature tours in Seattle and Portland, Ore., led by local “escape artist” naturalist guides.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest area, Jake Haupert, founder and “chief escape officer,” started his adventure travel career in far-flung locales, but returned to his old stomping grounds when he recognized the opportunities as he established his own business. The tour operator blends activity, adventure and luxury with locally sourced meals and wine – all backed by an eco message.

Two of EverGreen’s most popular itineraries are the full-day “Mount Rainier Glaciers, Waterfalls & Wildlife” tour outside of Seattle and the half-day “Columbia Gorge Wine & Waterfalls” tour in the Portland area. They attract people, usually between the ages of 35 to 65, visiting the area from other parts of the country and internationally, and interested in spending their money on experiences.

On the Mount Rainier trip, escapists participate in an interpretative nature hike or snowshoe walk along trails, where they view waterfalls and glaciers, spot wildlife and birds, and identify flora and fauna. Guides provide an explanation of how these elements connect to the surrounding eco system.

The Columbia Gorge tour is similar, although with a focus on the burgeoning wine region. Escapists travel the Columbia Gorge historic highway, walk to various waterfalls and learn about sections of the Lewis & Clark trail, before heading on to the wineries.

There’s more on the horizon for the company as it expands its multi-day tour program in the Pacific Northwest in 2012 and adds international destinations in 2013, including Namibia in Africa.

“Previously, we’ve been doing custom trips for families and private groups on our multi-day trips. We had a set of tour departures that we ran in 2011 and we have more in 2012,” Haupert tells us.

Tours in its Cascadian series emphasize two different experiences combined into one: a luxury tour with stays in high-end lodges, enjoying food and wine, bookending a two- to three-night backpacking trip in Olympic National Park or North Cascades National Park.

“It’s taking two of the best parts of traveling and combining them into one multi-day experience,” Haupert says.

The Adventure Post queried Haupert to learn more about EverGreen Escapes, its travel and sustainability philosophy, and find out what the heck “gourmet Cascadian safari lunches” are all about…

Tell me about your company and how it got started.

I was running outbound trips at the time and felt like there was an opportunity in the Pacific Northwest to take advantage of getting people out into the wilderness in this region. I picked up ideas from selling similar trips in New Zealand and Australia, specifically, so I built that concept around some of the tour experiences I had while I was down there. It’s a nature-based tour experience focused on nature, adventure, great local food and wine, and keeping the group small. No one else was doing it in the Pacific Northwest, so it made sense to jump into it.

What is unique about touring in the Pacific Northwest region compared to other places?

I think there are few places in the world that have the reputation for being adventure destinations – places like New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos, a lot of South and Central America, Alaska and Iceland. This region here in the Pacific Northwest we call Cascadia, between San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C. We feel like it’s on par with those other destinations that I mentioned. It’s kind of a hidden gem because not a lot of people look at us as a destination like that. But once you get out and explore, it doesn’t take long before you realize we’re living in a pretty incredible place as far as scenery goes, the local food and wine scene, and the wildlife opportunities.

What is sustainable tourism, and how do you build that into a tour?

The first thing to understand about sustainable tourism is it’s constantly changing. There’s always more we can do and different ideas we can try to implement. A lot of it is coming up with different ways we feel we can improve upon what we’re already doing. From the beginning, we have tried to be “zero waste” on our tours. We set up a local gourmet Cascadian safari lunch in the field on our full-day tours. We highlight local caterers that source organic and local foods within a couple hundred of miles of where the tour departs. We use all reusable linens, plates and utensils, and carry all of our catered food in glass containers. We use stainless-steel water bottles for water, so we’re not handing out plastic bottles. We all travel by luxury Mercedes vans or SUVs that run a blend of bio diesel. Those were some big things that set us apart from others pretty early on.

Why is the concept of sustainability important to you and your company?

Travel is inherently non-sustainable, but we believe in the power of travel and the impact it can have on the individual. We want to make it where travel can continue to be an option for everyone, and the best way to do that is not to preach it, but practice it. Show people in the field how you can still have an incredible travel experience while still being sustainable at the same time.

Tell me more about the gourmet Cascadia safari meals.

Getting back to the destination being called Cascadia, you’re out on safari and the lunch we provide on our full-day tours is going to be served family style to allow people to connect over their meal and share in that experience. Everything we put out – from the food to the wine – has a story behind it. [We emphasize concepts like] where does it fit in and why is it there, and how is it connected to the experience escapists are having that day.

What do you hope your clients come away with after a trip with your company?

We talk about it a lot around here. We try to provide each escapist with a transformational experience. They’re simply blown away by the attention to detail, the amenities, the service, the experience as a whole including the natural scenery, and getting out and trying new activities and challenging themselves a little bit. They also learn along the way how you can travel more sustainably. They walk away with that feeling that they want to do it again – and travel more often and travel responsibly.

Traveler’s Notebook

To contact EverGreen Escapes, call 866-203-7603, 206-650-5795 (local Seattle), 503-252-1931 (local Portland); or email [email protected]


Photos courtesy of EverGreen Escapes

 

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