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Five Must See Places In Washington State
Great sites during the Fall
- Fall Foliage In Washington State: Five Great Day Trips
A guide to some great sites that will give you wonderful vistas for fall foliage viewing in Washington State.
Would you like to visit Washington State (but please, don't move here)?
I am the first to admit that I am a bit hard on Washington State because of its weather. When it takes a couple months to get the mildew out of your clothes one tends to lose proper perspective. However, since I have lived here for fifty-eight of my sixty-three years I think we can state with certainty that I must love it here.
Living in Western Washington is to be spoiled on a daily basis. Temperatures for the most part are mild and extreme weather is highly unusual. We are surrounded by scenery that could easily seem like Nirvana to people from other parts of the world. Lush evergreen forests, abundant lakes and rivers, the Pacific Ocean and mountains seemingly everywhere, all add up to an abundance of riches that we natives tend to take for granted.
With summer approaching I thought I would take a few minutes and point out some of the magnificent sights that are found in our state, places that really should be included on any itinerary if vacationing here. Each one listed has been seen by this author. This is not an article written by a casual observer nor is it written by a paid-for-hire travel writer who has never been to our state. Rather it is written by someone who has traveled the back roads of Washington since he was a teen many years ago.
If you are coming to our fair state this summer I will tell you what I tell all visitors: make sure you visit after July 5th. People tend to think I am joking about this but please believe me that I am dead serious. Summer weather really does not arrive until after the 4th of July. Once it does arrive it is usually magnificent for the most part through July and August, but those who come before July 5th may be in for some of our traditional summer rain.
With that warning out of the way I give you five must-see sights in Washington State.
We have other mountains in this state; in fact, we have quite a few, but none compares to the ever-present sentinel that has become the most recognized symbol of our state. There are those who live in parts of Eastern Washington who do not have the opportunity to see Mt. Rainier daily but for those of us close to the Cascade Mountain Range, Mt. Rainier IS the defining feature of our landscape.
At 14,410 feet it is the highest point in Washington State and on a clear day it dominates the horizon, a beautiful dormant volcano that still brings a smile to the face of this author even after all these years. Two visitor centers are available for tourists and locals. Sunrise Visitor Center is accessible from July 1st through the end of September and can be reached using I-90 and Highway 12. The most popular access to the Park is through the Nisqually Entrance along Highway 706 and then following the road to Longmire and Paradise. This center is open year round and roads are maintained making winter access quite easy.
The Park has hundreds of miles of maintained trails and during July and August even the higher trails have lost most of their snow cover. Choose a trail that suits your level of experience and go for a walk among towering firs and pines or drive up to Paradise and enjoy a great meal while looking at one of the prettiest mountains you will ever see. Whatever you choose to do it Mt. Rainier is a must for any visitor to Washington State.
SAN JUAN ISLANDS
Nestled in the northwest corner of our state is an archipelago of 172 islands called the San Juan Islands and it is a wonder to behold. Home to the largest population of bald eagles in the contiguous United States and also home to three pods of Killer Whales (Orcas) this area is a Nature-lovers paradise.
Ferries leave daily for a delightful trip to the islands and six of the islands are accessible by ferry. Once on the islands you will find quaint little towns and villages where you can relax over a fine meal. Kayaks are also available for rent for the more adventuresome among you and the fishing is excellent. If one is truly brave there are a number of places to swim but be forewarned, the waters of Puget Sound are always chilly and only the truly brave-of-heart go for a dip to cool off.
GRAND COULEE DAM
Built in 1933 this gravity dam on the Columbia River is 550 feet tall and the largest hydroelectricity producer in the United States. Located in north central Washington State this monument to man’s engineering prowess is truly spectacular. Its location is a bit off the beaten path and as such is never overflowing with tourists, and the barren lands of Eastern Washington are in stark contrast to the lush forests found in the western part of the state. Still, it is a sight well-worth seeing.
This is a recreational haven for those who love to fish, boat, camp and swim. The temperatures of Eastern Washington are consistently higher than on the west side so plan on enjoying all of the outdoor activities that are available near the dam. Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir created by the dam, is 130 miles long and has been designated as a National Recreation Area.
Considering the amount of rain we receive in Washington it might not come as any surprise that we are home to the Hoh Rainforest. Located on the Olympic Peninsula, the Hoh is one of the few temperate rainforests in the contiguous United States.
Do you want rain? How about over twelve feet of rain during a normal year! This area is dominated by the Sitka Spruce and Western Red Cedar, some of which stand over 300 feet tall. If you are interested in vegetation seen nowhere else in the United States and enough birds to make any birdwatcher delirious with happiness, then the Hoh is the place for you.
MT. ST. HELENS
On May 18, 1980, the deadliest volcanic eruption in the history of the United States occurred on Mt. St. Helens in Southwest Washington State. When all the rockin’ and rollin’ had stopped the mountain had shrunk from 9,677 feet in elevation to 8,365 feet. Entire old-growth forests were leveled and the surrounding landscape looked very much like the moon.
Today, thirty-two years later, the area is recovering nicely and it is a remarkable place to spend the day. Visit the above-ground Ape Cave or stroll along the Lava Canyon where mud once flowed from the eruption destroying everything in its path. For the more adventurous why not climb to the summit of the mountain, certainly doable for anyone in good physical condition and it does not require technical climbing skills. Round trip to the summit and back takes about ten hours.
SO MUCH MORE
Washington truly is a beautiful state if I do say so myself. I may be a bit prejudiced but not by much; I have visited thirty-five states over the years and few can hold a candle to my home state.
I restrained myself from listing more than five sites. I easily could have added the North Cascades Highway, Deception Pass, the Columbia River Gorge and many, many more, but those will have to wait for another day.
I hope you get the chance to visit us one day but please, just visit. We really don’t want our population increasing. We will be polite, courteous and helpful during your visit but if you mention that you might move here we can quickly become a rather surly group. If you lived where we live you would be just as protective of Washington as we are.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)