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Travel the Backroads of Washington State

Updated on October 1, 2014

Here is a question for you: which state has mountains towering over 14,000 feet, the Pacific Ocean, abundant rivers and lakes, an inland sea, a rain forest, and moderate temperatures year round? If you answered Washington State then you are a winner. So, too, is anyone who visits Washington this year.

To say that Washington is for everybody would be a false statement. Those who dream during the winter months of a tropical beach and little umbrella drinks would be well-advised to bypass Washington in favor of California or Florida. However, if you dream about an outdoor paradise with lush scenery and abundant and beautiful vistas, then Washington is the place for you.

Washington is the place for the majority of folks who do not like extremes. The temperatures are never too hot in the summer, and in the winter they are never too cold. When it rains it is not of the gully-washer variety common in much of the United States, and concerns about hurricanes and tornadoes do not exist.

In truth, Washington is two states, separated by the Cascade Mountains that dissect the state north to south. To the west of the mountains is the greenbelt, moderated by the Pacific Ocean and home to most of the state’s residents. To the east is the Inland Empire, land of apple orchards, wheat farms and the starkly beautiful Columbia Basin. It is a land of contrasts and yet, east or west, a most beautiful land.

This is the second installment in our series highlighting some of the must-see sights of Washington State. For those visiting, July and August are without a doubt the best weather months. However, the spring and fall are beautiful with moderate rainfall and comfortable temperatures, and far fewer tourists.

Washingtonians know to dress in layers for the weather is rarely predictable. It is a rare native who does not have a sweatshirt or rain jacket in their vehicle, even during the summer months. Better to be over-prepared than sorry is pretty much the credo of this state’s residents.

Having said all that, here, then, are five must see sights in Washington State.


North Cascades Highway

This is arguably the most beautiful drive in the state of Washington. Most certainly, during the fall months when the leaves are changing colors, this is without a doubt the most beautiful drive. The actual North Cascade Highway is 140 miles long and begins, or ends, in the city of Burlington in northwestern Washington. From there you travel east, slowly rising as you enter North Cascades National Park. Once you pass over Washington Pass (elevation 5,477 ft) you begin your descent and eventually terminate your trip in the town of Winthrop in the beautiful Methow Valley.

As you drive through the heart of North Cascades National Park, the mountains rise up above you to the north and south, and leave little doubt in your mind why this is called the prettiest mountain drive in the Pacific Northwest. You will also pass by Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and hikers will be elated with the hundreds of miles of maintained trails within the Park.


Hurricane Ridge

This is definitely a hiker’s paradise, and for those who like to do their exploring with a camera, you would be hard-pressed to find a prettier spot in Washington. Incredible views of the Olympic Mountains can be found at Hurricane Ridge, the most easily-accessible spot in the Olympic National Park. Located eighteen miles south of the city of Port Angeles, this beautiful spot is an easy car ride to the visitor’s center.

From there put on your hiking boots and enjoy great trails that are easy to follow and traverse. The road to Hurricane Ridge is open year round. During the winter months there is a privately-owned ski center and snowshoe tours can be taken, or simply grab your sled and act like a kid again. No matter what you do, count on enjoying the magnificent vistas that rise up all around you.


Columbia River Gorge

In 1986 Congress designated this area as a National Scenic Area and the name is quite accurate. Stretching 80 miles east and west, the Columbia River Gorge is a canyon formed by the Columbia River and is the only navigable route through the Cascade Mountains. It begins roughly at the confluence of the Columbia River and Deschutes River, continues westward to the outskirts of Portland, and is as deep as 4,000 feet in places.

You can drive the Columbia River Scenic Highway through the entire gorge, and along the way stop and visit Bonneville Dam and 629 foot tall Multnomah Falls. For the adventurous at heart, windsurfing is spectacular in the Hood River area, as changes in atmospheric pressure from east to west creates winds up to 35 mph.

The Columbia River originally caused this gorge through the process of erosion, but a major contributor in the process was the Great Missoula Flood which occurred during the last Ice Age. Several visitor centers commemorating Lewis and Clark can also be visited along the way.

Lake Chelan

300 days of sunshine….pristine blue-green, glacier fed lake….outdoor activities abound….welcome to Lake Chelan, which at 1,486 feet of depth is the 3rd deepest natural lake in the United States. This 55-mile long lake is the jewel of eastern Washington and the largest natural lake in the state.

On one end is the city of Chelan, a tourist favorite during the summer months; on the other end is the town of Stehekin, accessible only by foot, boat or plane, and is a popular starting point for many hikers interested in exploring the North Cascade Mountains.

Gaze up at the 9.000 foot peaks that surround you as you enjoy this breathtaking desert oasis. If it is outdoor recreation that you seek then look no further than Lake Chelan!


Stevens Pass Highway

No matter what time of year you choose, this is one of the loveliest drives in Washington. The Stevens Pass Highway is one of only two highways that cross the state that is open year-round. US 2, as it is designated, begins in the city of Monroe in western Washington, and follows the Skykomish River Valley. The river valley narrows as you begin to ascend into the Cascade Mountains and you will drive through some beautiful forests of evergreen and deciduous trees.

The summit of Stevens Pass sits at 4,061 feet and there is a world-class ski resort there for winter sports enthusiasts. Then you begin the descent into eastern Washington, eventually driving into the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state so make sure you plan on spending some time walking around this quaint village. From there you can continue east for ten miles or so and you will enter the apple capitol of the Northwest, Wenatchee. If you choose you can continue on, crossing the Columbia River, and you will enter the Columbia Basin with its fascinating geological formations.


Have you ever visited Washington State?

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Washington State is a true gem for tourists and locals alike. The recreational opportunities are seemingly endless and the natural beauty will leave you breathless. As a life-long resident I can tell you that you never grow tired of the splendors that this state has to offer.

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Bill, I truly loved this look at your home state of Washington. Your 5 picks in this article are outstanding. I have never visited Washington state, but after reading your article I would love to visit. Thank for this current installment and of course and am voting and sharing too!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! I'm not a big evergreen hub writer, but I force myself to do one per week just to see what happens. I really appreciate you as a person; if you ever come to visit I'll be your guide.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Very informative and interesting hub, Bill~ I like how at the beginning you give a nature talk, which gives it a feel of an informative travel show with an eco-conscience. Hope you do more of these.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sweetie; I probably would do more because they get decent views, but I never think I write them well. I appreciate your comment and encouragement.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this is awesome pictures.. and an beautiful state. my husband loves it there. of course I love your hubs.

      Bill please visit this hub..

      https://hubpages.com/travel/mytriptomexicoagain...

      I think you would find it interesting

      hugs

      debbie

    • cactusbythesea profile image

      cactusbythesea 4 years ago from Seattle

      I haven't had a chance to explore much of Washington outside of Seattle, so I really appreciate this hub! I will definitely add these places to my list of things to explore. Thanks and great hub!

    • JakeFrost profile image

      Jake Frost 4 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      Some great pictures here and some very good information

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      What awesome pictures! Man, Washington is on my must-see list. Voted awesome!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

      I'm loving the video - listened while I read. The forest...ah, the forest. You know, I stayed up WAY too late watching "Avatar" last night. That has to be one of my favorite movies...and I'm surprised it wasn't "controversial" because it is a total testament to how we are witnessing the destruction of nature's forests in favor of mechanized things. *sigh* I definitely think that our actions are directly impacting our environment. How could they not? Alas, my dad and I go 'round and 'round about this. Alas, you gave me a couple things to think and possibly write about. You rock!

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 4 years ago from Virginia

      I will have to get out there at some point billybuy, you had me at mild temps. Here in Va, our tallest "mountain" is only 3000 ft. and summers are unbearable! Great hub, looks like a beautiful state!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      I miss the northwest especially after reading your hub. You covered just about everything to see--well almost. It is a good read and will tempt many to head up there. You are right though it is not for those who like to spend time under the sun rays. However, the beauty is unsurpassable. Voted UP.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Debbie, that was very sweet of you. What bothers me is that I missed that hub to begin with....sigh....I'm not nearly as "together" as some might think. :) Thank you so much...for being who you are!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cactus, I think you would love it if you came. There is so much beauty here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jake, glad you liked it and thank you for the visit.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Natasha, if you come out you have to let me buy you a coffee or lunch. It would be a thrill to meet you.

      Thank you my young friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cyndi, you rock too! We have quite the mutual fan club, you and I. LOL I have met people who simply refuse to believe we humans are doing damage to this planet...there is no winning those arguments and I don't even try any longer.

      Thanks buddy; now, get to work! :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Pete, i was back in D.C. and Virginia in July of 1997 and it was 100 degrees and the humidity damn near killed me off. I don't know how you guys do it! I'll stay here in 75 degrees and love every minute of it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol, it is beautiful for sure. Next time you visit you'll have to look me up; we'll have lunch and laugh as old friends.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love your description of Washington attractions, Bill. Since I live "next door" I'll be able to visit some of these places! Your video is important and thought provoking. Good luck with your farm - I hope it turns out to be everything that you want it to be.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alicia, thank you very much! The farm, or whatever other dream we follow, will be wonderful no matter what because we will be together.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Billy,

      Thanks for the link to my Leavenworth hub. When people read the part about the Columbia River Gorge, it forms much of the border between Washington and Oregon. Multnomah Falls is on the Oregon side as is Hood River. You can see the falls in my latest hub.

      When we were in Port Angeles, we were unable to make it to the top of Hurricane Ridge because the fog that had settled in was so thick we could hardly see the road. We had to turn around and go back down. Wish we could have seen the views from the top. Am sure it is spectacular if the weather cooperates. :)

      Up and interesting votes.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Peggy! I'm sorry you didn't get up to Hurricane Ridge. It is beautiful indeed!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 4 years ago

      Took my time eo read your work Billy. You have shown and taught a lot in a hub. No wonder people get confuse with DC. At one time Washington was the entrance for the colonies that came through Alaska. I love your accurate description and the time and research you did. Columbia River and Lake Chelan are my favorite destinations. You are becoming an honorary ambassador of your own State Bill! Sadly they don't teach Geography as before. Keep it green! Thanks for the nice read!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      I have been to Washington State once and absolutely loved it. This hub reminded me to put it back to the top of my bucket list. Stunning!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

      I have only seen some of the western part of Washington but I love the west and thought it was beautiful. Your hub certainly covered all the wonderful sites to visit and the pictures are awesome.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lord you are right! Seattle was the gateway to the Yukon Gold Rush and as such became known as a great harbor and shipping center. It grew quite large after the Gold Rush.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the hub; not my usual thing but still enjoyable to write.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      My husband and I camped in Olympic National Park and hiked to Hurricane Ridge. We also toured the wine country, and loved it. It's a wonderful state, and I'd love to go back. It has so much to offer. Great hub - voted up, interesting and useful!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Julie, it is stunning! I think most of us out here take it for granted. We see it daily and don't realize how beautiful it is until we go somewhere else and start to miss all of the scenery. Thank you as always and I hope you can visit again some day. I'll buy you lunch if you ever make it to Olympia.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Pamela, it really is spectacular here; so much to see, even for those of us who have lived here most of our lives.

      Thank you my dear; you are appreciated!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      mperrottet, it sounds like you had a great time! I'm so glad you stopped by; thanks for the visit.

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 4 years ago

      Ahhhh Bill how beautiful! You’ve gone and done it now because there is no way you’re going to keep me from visiting you after THIS hub! I love the pictures and Washington State sounds like my kind of place… it has all the best things life can offer… great views, great mountains, great lakes and most importantly, GREAT people… YOU! :) Loved this. It was so nice to get a peek at your home state. Thank you for sharing this with us my dear friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Trinity my dear, you will always have a place to stay if you visit Washington. That would be simply lovely if we met some day. Until then, thank you and know that you have made a friend for life.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, this trek and the terrain are beautiful! I lived in Tacoma when I was 2 1/2, but all I remember are going to the World's Fair and riding an elephant in a shopping center parking lot!

      I lived in PA for quite a time before moving to Philly as a young girl. Pennsylvania is beautiful, but it doesn't compare with the photos you've included in this hub!

      My son's father, my first husband, was from Montana (he unfortunately died in 2005). When Christopher, our son, was 18 months old, "Montana" took us to Montana to meet his family. We took a trek from Billings to Red Lodge. It was much like the photos above. It's such a different lifestyle! Montana wanted me to make my signature fried chicken, mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas meal for his family, which I did, but I had no idea you have to reconcile your recipes to accommodate elevation! Needless to say, I figured it out and my meal was a success. But that's not my point (I digress so often!)

      My point is, life out west is so different from Florida. I love my life, but I envy the beauty and diversity you experience "over yonder"!

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 4 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      Ah you got so close to my home.. ok, so it was 90 min, but Hurricane Ridge is amazing! The deer are fairly tame and will help you unpack your picnic lunch, the birds are fairly tame and will sit on your hat so you can feed them. The snow shoeing in the winter is fantastic and the majesty of the Olympic Mountains is without equal! This is a great hub Bill! Makes me glad I live here!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Candie, I'm glad you liked it. I'm kind of partial to Mt. Rainier myself, but the Olympics are a splendor for sure. Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment; it means a lot to me.

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 4 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      I'd still like to visit the Mt.. well maybe one of these days! Heck, I've been saying that for way too many years! Hahaha!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      We really need to get you out more! It's not like you live ten states away.....WTH???? LOL

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I have seen a lot of this great country, thanks to Arlene. I guess Washington didn't entice her. most of her travel ideas came from Cosmopolitan magazine... so we can blame it.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I have never seen Wahsington State. I did see Washington DC and enjoyed seeing the world war two history. You make your state interesting..Enjoyed..

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I traveled once through Washington state when I was a teen. I was impressed with the mountains. Very beautiful state and your photos show this well. I am puzzled at the Hurricane Ridge name -- wonder how this would apply way up there? Interesting. Your video was challenging. The stats on the forest cleared is amazing. I agree that we don't need such large homes, the resources used to make them is hurting the environment. We should have some concern about the water supply also. Great share on this topic.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Billy - How weird is this when my personal statement to you earlier talked of the beautiful vacation spot you have access to right out your back door. Then I come on here and read this!

      Ha Ha ! See , there is that psychic string from you again!

      I really enjoyed taking a walk through your "neck of the woods" and someday hope to literally do it!

      Blessing friend XO

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Bill,

      Excellent review my friend! With your evergreen hubs and Mary's vacation hubs, and Cyndi's hiking hubs, I am realizing that I need to go on vacation and explore! Thanks for taking the time to write this informative hub, although I know you are not really a fan of them. You write them well!

    • poojasd7 profile image

      poojasd7 4 years ago from India

      Interesting places to visit. I would love to visit US once and take the help from your travel hubs for enlisting the places to visit.

      Great hub Billy.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      My husband has always wanted to go to Washington ...state...it took me awhile (as a teenager) to realize there were two Washingtons, but that's another story.

      The state is beautiful and it looks like the summer weather is appealing. I think you need to contact the tourism department for a job cause you're really promoting this state so well!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, sorry, I'm suffering from burnout....so I'm just getting to this.....there is no doubt life is different here than in Florida....I can't even imagine living where you live. I need green....I need my mountain....I need the wild rivers.....but I understand why Florida holds an attraction for others....just not for me.

      Tacome in 1962...maybe we went to the World's Fair on the same day? Such a small world.

      Thank you my dear; I hope you are well and moving forward towards that dream.

      love always,

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mhatter, I don't believe Cosmopolitan covers the Pacific Northwest; all we wear is North Face up here. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Ruby...so much more than interesting. :) It is as beautiful a state as you are likely to see. Come visit us some day.

      Thank you dear friend!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, the winds at Hurricane Ridge are what earned it that name.

      I hope you come back soon to visit; we'll have lunch and chat as old friends do.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Beckie, the porch light will always be on awaiting your visit. I hope you make it soon my dear.

      love always,

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Josh, thank you! I guess I don't like to write them because they don't feed my passion....but that's my problem. I understand why people write them.

      Anyway, get out there and explore the world; you are young and now is the time to do it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Pooja! I hope some day that you do visit the U.S....you will not be disappointed.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary! You are not alone with that one Washington concept.....I knew many people who thought that way...I lived in Vermont for two years and I ran into that all the time...."you are from Washington D.C.?...what, there is another Washington?" LOL

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Your photos are breath taking. I haven't been further west than Colorado where I was born, but this is one state I would love to tour when I retire. You are quite the travel agent!

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 4 years ago from Idaho

      Hey, there, fellow Northwest resident! I love this hub and I love you pointing people to the stunning beauty that is Washington State. I'm happy you included "The Gorge". The scenery there is breathtaking. Have you ever attended a concert at the "Gorge at George"? I saw Harry Connick Jr there once (I know--I'm a nerd) and it was spectacular visually and the sound was amazing. A natural ampitheater. I can't believe, in all of the years, which I shall not admit to, that I have lived in Washington, Oregon and Idaho that I have not visited Leavenworth. You've lit a spark under me now and I'm going to arrange a visit soon! Great hub, billybuc!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tammy, you can rest assured that when you do make it out there that Bev and I will be your tour guides...we would love to meet you in person. Thank you my dear; now hurry up and retire. LOL

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hello Denise, and it's nice to see you here. Yes, I went to the Gorge in the 70's to see The Eagles and it is an amazing place to see a concert...a bit wild, but amazing. The sunsets there are breathtaking.

      If you are any kind of tourist who likes tourist traps then Leavenworth will be fun for you. Great food, lovely sites, great shopping...I actually like it in the winter more because the Christmas lights are so cool in the village.

      Anyway, I will be by to see your site soon, and thank you!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      This is indeed a must-see places. Very beautiful and naturific!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Spy, if you ever visit I will give you a personal tour! Thank you my dear!

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image

      Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Morning Billy... Thanks for taking us along on this journey. What beautiful pictures. Years back while I was digging through the family history I found I have some relatives in the Kent region. Our family was involved in getting the Cranberry Bogs up and running somewhere there.

      A trip is in order to see this great region. Thanks for sharing.

      Hugs from Canada

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rolly my friend, if you come we need to have lunch. That would be a thrill for me.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 4 years ago

      Great hub, you must really love your home ^_^

      I've only been to Washington once briefly. Living in Oregon I really aught to make it up there more often!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Kim! I taught school in Oregon for two years so I know how beautiful that state is too.

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      iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

      Bill, I have never been to Washington State, but would love too! Micah has and enjoyed it very much! I am intigued to learn more about and see HURRICANE RIDGE. We are hikers and that place would be fun to explore! A great read that I missed months ago :( Thanks for talking about it here!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Audra, you are only a week late on this one...that's not bad at all. :) All hikers should experience Washington; it really is a hiking heaven. Bev and I are going in a couple weeks as soon as all the snow is off of the higher trails. Thank you Audra; you are appreciated as always!

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