Post originally appeared in The Observant Customer 4/28/2017
One of the joys of a good road trip is getting well away from the interstates and onto the blue highways of William Least-Heat Moon fame. It is on just such roads that my wife and I found ourselves on a recent trip to Death Valley.
As we drove through southern Oregon, the clock was approaching lunchtime and we were beginning to feel a bit hungry when we heard a radio ad for the Klamath Grill on Main Street in Klamath Falls. The ad made it sound like a great local place to stop for lunch. We were not disappointed.
This breakfast and lunch spot serves up a nice variety of diner favorites along with some chef specialities such as Swedish Pancakes, Dutch Babies and a Cranberry Club Sandwich.
Waiting for my Huevos con Chorizo to arrive, I picked up a table topper to read. Anyone who has eaten at a small town diner might recognize these simple booklets with local history, bad jokes, trivia and area advertisements to read while waiting for your food.
As I was reading through the booklet, I ran across a reference to the “only solar-powered outdoor store in the US”, The Ledge. Checking my phone, I discovered the store was only several blocks from the diner. So we decided we would walk over to the store and take a look around before heading on to Tule Lake and Susanville.
We were glad we did. The parking lot was empty as we approached the store on a overcast Friday afternoon. The unassuming store and climbing gym’s location is a former commercial laundry.
I was immediately won over as I entered the store. Not just because I have a history with outdoor stores, but also by what greeted me right inside the door. Canoes!!!
Being from Minnesota, most of my paddling experience involved lake and river canoeing. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest and the land of the touring kayaks nearly 20 years ago, I discovered I really missed the simple open canoe.
Just inside the door we were greeted by a beautifully hand-crafted wooden canoe produced by Sky Lakes Canoes. It was an amazing canoe beautifully constructed and finished. The wood work, the wood finish, the inlays and the brass hardware came together in a boat that looks almost to nice to paddle.
Displayed with the canoes were several wooden canoe paddles also branded by Sky Lake. We were told a one-man operation produces the canoes in Klamath Falls.
Along with the Sky Lakes, ta Wenonah canoe was also displayed. For those of you unacquainted with canoes, Wenonah is a company out of Winona, MN, that has been producing premium canoes since 1967. The founder and owner, Mike Cichanowski, still handcrafts canoes in Minnesota near the banks of the Mississippi River. Seeing all these canoes, it was like being back in Minnesota.
But any paddle shop in the northwest needs more than open boats to succeed, they stocked sit-on tops, paddle boards and kayaks along with paddles, PFDs, clothing and accessories.
As we continued around the store there was a solid assortment of essential backpacking and hiking gear. Sleeping bags, packs, food, sunglasses, knives, stoves, lanterns; everything you need for outdoor adventures. While the store may not have had the depth of inventory you might be accustomed to if you are from a large city; but it certainly had a great breadth of inventory to meet most anyone’s needs.
Located behind the camping gear section was a full array of fly tying supplies.
So, besides the paddling, backpacking and fishing products, what more did the store have to offer? The Ledge is the local outlet for Boy Scout and Girl Scout Supplies. Small arms ammunition and law enforcement tactical gear is also available. (Apparently the owner is a retired law enforcement agent.) You can also chose from a wide selection of private label, locally sourced soaps.
How about used or consignment gear? Check. Cross country or backcountry ski equipment? Check and check.
Everywhere you looked there were character pieces that just added to the atmosphere.
And of course for added ambiance, a wood burning stove was crackling away and sending the pleasant smell of wood smoke through the store.
The other half of the building is dedicated to the Yeti’s Lair climbing gym offering affordable rates for the local gym rats and fair weather climbers. The gym was very spacious with a wide variety of routes to challenge climbers at all levels.
Another “department” may also reflect some more of the personal taste of the owner and staff, the cigar department. This was the first outdoor store I have encountered with a walk-in cigar humidor featuring a fine selection of cigars ranging from the affordable to the premier.
Adjacent to the humidor was the solar power “command center.” It was The Ledge’s solar power notoriety that drew us to the store in the first place. Mark, our guide for our visit, explained that given the high plains environment of Klamath Falls, the store is able to generate more than enough power from the roof top solar panels. All of which is great for a small locally owned business and one in the outdoor industry.
While many of the cookie-cutter chain stores are struggling to maintain their relevance with today’s consumer while battling it out with the Amazon’s of the world, it was refreshing to find a store that reflects such a unique spirit.
My wife and I had a great time wandering around The Ledge & Yeti’s Lair and I would highly recommend a visit to the store if you enjoy hiking, camping, paddling, climbing, bouldering, cigar smoking, Scouting, backpacking, fly fishing, solar power, antiques, koi or hand-made and locally sourced soap!