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The black bears that wander into the backyard can be pretty exciting. But visitors to the eminently cozy Mount Juneau Inn in Juneau, Alaska, tend to save their best reviews for Leo, the bed-and-breakfast's low-key resident MacKenzie River husky. "He's the world's greatest dog," raves New Jerseyite Christine de Vries.
The seven-bedroom house, decorated with the work of indigenous Tlingit and Haida artists, is a warm home base from which to explore considerably icier surroundings. Homemade breakfasts include local delicacies like fireweed honey and salmonberry jam. The inconvenience of shared baths with most bedrooms fades with a scan of the water and mountain views from each.
Alaska is home to some of the country's most spectacular expanses of wilderness. Its capital, known as the Gateway to the Glaciers, boasts such nearby attractions as Admiralty Island National Monuments, home to the world's largest concentration of brown bears, and the Juneau Ice Fields. Dogsledding--courtesy of Leo's brethren--is one way to see the sights www.mtjuneauinn.com; 907-463-5855). --D.E.B.
BLACKTHORNE INN, INVERNESS, CALIF.
A Treetop Fantasy
If the hugely popular Blackthorne Inn on Point Reyes Peninsula in Inverness, Calif., were featured in, say, Architectural Digest, its style might be characterized as Tree-House Chic. Built four stories up a hillside teeming with 180-ft. Douglas firs, the Blackthorne is a combination of rustic and posh (read: a hot tub set amid the clouds) that has led fans to dub it a "treetop fantasy."
It wasn't planned to look this way. When Susan and Bill Wigert bought the acre of property in 1975, they were looking for a modest vacation cabin. But as builders added rooms and bits of local history--beams from a San Francisco pier, hearthstones from Donner Pass--the place grew with an eccentric life of its own. Since 1982, when the Wigerts converted it to a bed-and-breakfast, the inn has developed something of a cult following.
Cool details abound. There's the spiral staircase, the skybridge, a stone hearth for fireside evenings, and the Spiderman-esque fire pole and ladders. But the inn's literal topper is the Eagle's Nest, a glass-enclosed octagon that offers a 360[degree] view of ocean, trees and sky.
Nearby Point Reyes National Seashore--a vast patch of ocean cliffs and beaches, bird sanctuaries, farms and forests--is great for exploring, and there's kayaking in Tomales Bay. In early winter the famous Point Reyes Lighthouse, 308 steps down a cliff, provides a dramatic whale-watching vista.
The Wigerts are at the Blackthorne only sporadically, but the four part-time innkeepers receive kudos from guests. Says Coloradan Kent Widmar: "It's like your own house" www.blackthorneinn.com 415-663-8621). --H.B.