Yakima - Central Washington's Desert Capital
"Not the popular view of Washington State"
Say you're going to Washington State and everyone will imagine Seattle, Puget Sound, and the forests of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. But there's another Washington State on the eastern side of the mountains. (Actually, there are several other Washingtons.) The central valley of Washington is a dry desert region, and yet it is also one of the United States most productive agricultural regions, thanks to the bounteous waters that flow through the Yakima and Columbia rivers. Yakima is the largest city in central Washington, and something of a hub for the entire region.
"Out in the Summer Sun"
I have friends in Yakima who I visit regularly when I am out in the Northwest. They are a married couple, both originally from the upper peninsula of Michigan, but they moved out west for employment opportunities. Yakima is a far cry from the great North Woods, but they tell me that the area grows on you after a while. It's also a very interesting region culturally - large Hispanic and native American communities.
"The many regions of Washington State"
Driving from Seattle to Yakima is a crash course in the effects of geography on climate and vegetation. You leave the lush, damp Puget Sound region to climb into the foothills of the Northern Cascades. Snoqualmie Pass, at 3022, is a mountain pass that would not be out of place in the Colorado Rockies. But then driving down I-90 you enter into the "precipiation shadow" caused by the mountain chain, and the land become steadily dryer and more barren. I-90 continues eastward across more desert terrain toward Spokane; in order to reach Yakima you take I-82 up and over the scenic Saddle Mountains. There are attractive views from roadside pull-offs on either side of the interstate. I took this photo in the winter of 2004, after the valley had been blanketed by a dusting of light snow.)