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Most Viewed Things to Do in Washington State

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    The Dry East Side

    by glabah Updated Apr 30, 2016

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    When people think of the state of Washington, or Oregon for that matter, they usually think of the wet part of the state - Seattle, and Puget Sound and the coastal rainforest areas.

    However, the Cascade Mountains divide the state into a dry section and wet section. It isn't exactly a desert, it shares a lot with the Great Basin further south in terms of being sheltered from rain from the west. There are places with forests and scattered trees, but much of the area east of the Cascades is dry grasslands.

    Thanks to the Columbia River that runs through this dry grassland as well as a few other rivers plus the occasional thunderstorm, the area isn't entirely brown. As seen in the main photo for this tip, which shows a riverfront park in downtown Wenatchee, the hills surrounding the town are quite a bit drier than the area by the river. The landscape depends on where you are, and certainly eastern Washington is known as a prime place for growing apples and other crops. So, it is not completely dry all of the time.

    However, if you go exploring on east of the Cascades, be prepared for a much different look to the scenery. Also be prepared for a much different type of climate. There are more thunderstorms here when the rain does happen, and winters are colder than the wet west side of the state as well.

    For links to a few suggested cities on the east side of the state, please see my Suggested East Side Road Trips tip, where I mention several east side travel routes and a few of the places you can visit on your way through.

    Wenatchee is Green, Hills Around it Brown East Side is Dry Country Clouds do Happen on East Side Dry Country
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    Washington State Ferries: More than Crossing Water

    by glabah Updated Apr 30, 2016

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    Yes, the Washington State Ferries are transportation across the water. However, most of the routes are also a scenic trip in their own right. If you stay in your car for the entire trip, you typically miss quite a lot of nice scenery, depending on the weather, time of day, and where you are.

    The cost depends on the trip and the type of vehicle (if any) you are bringing, and the terminal facilities range from fairly simple (such as Lopez Island) to quite elaborate (Bremerton or Seattle). Sometimes the ferry passengers must walk on before or after the auto traffic, or sometimes there is an overhead walkway.

    All except one of the ferries (which is used as a reserve vessel anyway) has some sort of food service facility on board, though sometimes the full galley isn't open for business. Instead, at hours there isn't any full food service there are vending machines on board.

    Pretty much all of the routes, even as far north as Anacortes to the San Juan Islands, have the potential of viewing of Mount Rainier. Most of the routes provide views of the Olympic Mountains, and in most cases Mount Baker may be seen as well.

    If you are driving, you purchase a ticket at the fare vending booth when you arrive at the auto loading area. If you are walking on (which I highly recommend if you are not having to transport your car someplace as that way you don't have to worry about there being enough space on the boat for your car) you purchase your ticket from a ticket vending machine in the waiting room or from a ticket seller. Eastbound walk-on passengers do not pay, and therefore ticket vending windows are very limited on the west end of most routes.

    All of the ferries have a lower deck for cars (and sometimes two decks for cars) and upper passenger decks with heated passenger compartments, outdoor viewing areas, and indoor areas with windows and a variety of seating (tables with benches, or cushioned seats). The outdoor areas are mostly open decks, but there are usually some bench seats in various places. Most of the boats also have an outdoor seating area that is sheltered but not heated.

    The ferry schedule changes every season, with winter having the fewest ferry trips and summer having the most. This is mostly due to tourist traffic to the Olympic Peninsula and to the San Juan Islands.

    If you are bringing your car, it is possible to make a reservation for your vehicle but there are also a certain number of spots that are first-come first-served. Sometimes there can be a two hour wait to get your car onto a boat so be prepared for a long wait sometimes. Most ferry terminals have restrooms close to the auto traffic staging area but in some cases you need to walk to the passenger terminal area to get to the rest rooms. One or two terminals have none, and one or two terminals have restrooms only for the walk-on passengers.

    As there are a number of routes and ferry terminals, it is impossible to discuss them all in a single tip. Therefore, please see some of my other tips about various Washington State Ferries routes and terminals:

    Seattle

    has two routes operating out of it. These make Great Recreational Trips due to the scenery available from them. The Bainbridge Island Route and the Bremerton route both feature great views, and on a clear day you can see the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and north all the way to Mount Baker. See my Photos from the Bremerton Ferry on a Clear Day or a Ferry Trip to Bremerton on 29 May 2009.

    To and From the Olympic Peninsula

    Getting to and from the Olympic Peninsula on the ferry may involve either of the above two ferry routes, or it may also involve other routes.

    The ferry trip between Edmonds and Kingston is quite busy and experiences some long wait periods at peak periods.

    Mukilteo to Clinton gets you to Whidbey Island, and from there you would need to go north to the ferry to Port Townsend.

    Whidbey Island to the Olympic Peninsula involves using the Port Townsend to Keystone Ferry and this trip definitely gives very good views of the Olympic Mountains on a clear day. See my photos of a few trips on 27 October 2010 from the Fort Casey end of things, or a more cloudy view from 26 October 2015 or 27 October of 2010.

    San Juan Islands

    A General Ferry Tip on the islands, and travelogues from 3 May 2013 and 10 June 2013 and 19 June 2013

    Friday Harbor as Ferries as Transportation (including some Photos Around the Ferry Terminal).

    Vashon Island Routes

    There are several routes that connect Vashon Island to the outside world. At the north end of Vashon Island there is a triangle route that connects Southworth to Fauntleroy to the north end Vashon Ferry Terminal.

    At the south end of Vashon Island there is a ferry to Point Defiance that connects the south end of the island. This is the Tahlequah Ferry Terminal. It is a very short trip but there are decent views of Mount Rainier on this trip.

    Washington Ferry, Downtown Seattle, Space Needle Washington State Ferry near Mukilteo Lighthouse Washington State Ferries with Mount Rainier Washington State Ferry through San Juan Islands Even on Cloudy Days, View from Ferry is Scenic
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    East Side Trip - Some Suggested Routes

    by glabah Updated Apr 20, 2016

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    There are a fair number of people that come to the VirtualTourist forums looking for advice on traveling the western states, usually starting in a northern city (Seattle, Vancouver BC, etc.) and continuing south into California. This is part of a larger series of tips about various routes. For trips further west, please see my Road Trip Down the Washington Coast and its affiliated tips.

    This route covers the much drier east side of the Cascades.

    Basic Warnings:

    + Temperatures are quite hot in the summer months. Take the temperatures for The Dalles, Oregon and add about 10 degrees F or 5 degrees C and you get the idea.

    + Temperatures are quite cold in the winter. Expect snow in most places.

    + Be aware of the very long distances between services. When you see signs on the highway saying it is 50 miles to the next services such as gasoline, take them, seriously.

    + Watch for rattlesnakes and other wildlife hazards.
    + and some non-wildlife hazards too! This is open range country, meaning that in many places cattle are free to roam the land and roads. A collision with larger wildlife (elk) or a cow may be deadly.

    + Along with the higher temperatures, summer brings fast moving grass fires, or forest fires in those places where there are trees. Check road conditions if there are ongoing fires.

    + There are a number of places that offer white water rafting on a few of the rivers. Due to the high summer temperatures, you may wish to have one of these trips just to cool off. There are too many places to name specific ones, and the number of possible routes means that the best places to go for a trip will vary depending on your specific route.

    Some Basic Routes going Inland, from North to South:

    There are quite a number of possible routes and it is difficult to suggest and one particular one as it is going to depend on the amount of time available and interests. However, here are some basic ideas to consider, going from North to South:

    + Highway 20 going east out of Burlington: great scenery, and much less traveled. It is closed for many months of the year due to heavy snow. Gateway to such places as North Cascades National Park. Going south on Hwy 97 from Omak leads to famous Lake Chelan. Then, Wenatchee (see below):

    + Highway 2 over Stevens Pass from the suburbs north of Seattle: Nice route, and open for travel for a longer season than Hwy 20. Biggest tourist draw is Leavenworth, a once typical northwest town that rebuilt itself as a Bavarian village. Somewhat east of there is Peshastin Pinnacles (which isn't a huge attraction but at least it is something), and east of there is Wenatchee. Wenatchee has a few small attractions as well, including a pretty nice park and loop trail system leading in a circle around the Columbia River.

    + Interstate 90 going east out of Seattle: Snoqualmie Falls is perhaps the biggest attraction along this route. Eventually you will likely get to Yakima. This is famous for its fruit orchards and there are wineries in the area as well.

    Yakima and environs has a few attractions, such as the Yakima Trolley.

    + Any of several routes through Mount Rainier National Park. This requires the payment of the National Park Fee. This may be Interstate 5 to Highway 12, or highway 7 south from Tacoma, or several other routes. Keep in mind that for much of the winter the roads around Mount Rainier are closed, with the possible exception of highway 12 between Elbe and Paradise. Some of the roads have such heavy snow they are open only two or three months of the year.

    Once you get to the east side of the mountains, and then head south out of Yakima, you would then hit:

    + Toppenish, and its Watching the Paint Dry festival and the resulting murals.

    + Fort Simcoe State Park, with a small number of relics from the settlement of the area.

    + Goldendale, with its large telescope. East of there is the Klickitat River Canyon

    + Near the area where Highway 97 crosses the Columbia River, there is the Stonehenge War Memorial, and just slightly west the Maryhill Museum, and somewhat west of there Horsethief Lake State Park with its petroglyphs.

    + The little town of Lyle has a trailhead for the Klickitat River Trail and connecting trails.

    From here you can continue south into Oregon, or head west into the Columbia River Gorge and go to Portland. The Columbia River Gorge is filled with all sorts of attractions, but the route south to Bend has its own set of attractions as well. This trip to the south is continued in a tip about Central Oregon's route south

    Wind Swept Dry Hills, Ghost Towns of W. Washington East Side of Cascades has More Sun, Less Water Dry Forests and Old Homesteads of West Washington Dry Grasslands and Forests of Eastern Washington Klickitat River through Dry Forests and Hills
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    CHERRY BLOSSOMS AT UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

    by mtncorg Written Aug 4, 2015

    The University of Washington is one of Washington's two pre-eminent public universities. It is found just north of downtown Seattle to the east of I-5. It is a huge university and covers many acres, rambling down to Lake Washington and the channel linking to Lake Union. Just to the east of Kane Hall - housing the largest lecture hall auditoriums - is an older quadrangle of buildings within which lies a grove of cherry trees. Springtime brings out the blossoms and hundreds of viewers. A great way to introduce yourself to a very fine school. The trees are over 80 years old. They were transferred to the Quad here in 1962.

    Cherry blossoms at their peak Blossoms bring out weekend crowds Bridal grouping under the blossoms Strollers in the Quad
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    OLYMPIC RANGE

    by mtncorg Written Aug 4, 2015

    Most of the higher Olympic Range is locked up in the Olympic National Park. This is a magnificent natural preserve that is best discovered on foot. The casual visitor can touch some of the park's edges - most notably at Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh Rain Forest. For more on this area, see my Olympic pages.

    Looking over at Mt Ellinor from atop Mt Washington Mt Anderson from Anderson Glacier Atop Anderson with Olympus in the distance Mountain goats on Mt Ellinor climb Chute for Mt Ellinor straight ahead

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    GRAND COULEE DAM

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 4, 2015

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    This is one of the greatest dams in the World. It was built during the Depression and was one of Franklin Roosevelt's largest public works aimed at righting the American economy. The construction of the dam is memorialized in the songs of Woody Guthrie. The dam was also a death knell for the wild Columbia. Huge salmon migrations were annilhated by the construction of this and other dams.

    Water behind the dam provides electrical power, recreation and a huge irrigation program that has made the flat desert of the Columbia Basin bloom with wheat farms. Irrigation waters are pumped up from the Dam into ancient Columbia riverbeds that were altered permanently by ancient lava flows.

    The dam is a magnificent piece of engineering. If you are in the area, you should by all means visit the very informative museum. Tours are available, too.

    Grand Coulee Dam - Franklin Roosevelt's Legacy
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    MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 4, 2015

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    Mount Rainier is a few mere feet lower than California's Mt Whitney in the Highest mountain category for the lower 48 States. But what is truly amazing is that the mountain towers by itself in one gigantic glacially clad massif. Two dozen glaciers tumble off its top and sides. The mountain rises 10000 feet above the surrounding terrain and is visible for many miles in all directions. To see the mountain is to understand the mammoth scale, firsthand.

    Most people will drive up to the mountain on either the south side - Paradise Park - or on the NE side - Sunrise. Both areas host vast wildflower gardens, wonderous glacial views and lots of people.

    See my Mt Rainier pages for more.

    Among the outstanding outdoor activities available are the chance to climb the mountain itself. The two main routes: Disappointment Cleaver, out of Paradise and Emmons Glacier, out of White River (near Sunrise) are very busy. For many, the crux of the climb is to get a camping permit for high on the mountain. The climb can be a thrilling experience - it certainly is a physically demanding one. You need to know how to travel on glacial ground - ice axe, crampons, etc.. There are many other routes on Rainier that will provide you with more solitude. Be forewarned that Rainier, like many of the Cascade volcanoes, can be a bit of a slog - albiet much longer than most other slogs:-0

    Emmons Glacier, Mt Rainier from Sunrise Crevasses above Camp Muir Marmot in Berkeley Park on the north side Mt Rainier from Plummer Pk in the Tatoosh Nisqually Glacier rumbles off south side
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    NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 4, 2015

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    North Cascades National Park is a park for hardy hikers and climbers. There is no direct road access to the park; you are going to have to walk in. The park is split into a north and south section by politics and the Skagit River. Both secitons are made up of dramatic mountains, primeval forests and extensive glaciation. This is a rugged landscape that is not easily accessible (a harbringer of things to come if you venture north into the Coast Mountains of Britisch Columbia). Many of the trails stay low in the forests, but to properly 'experience' the park, you have to pick the few that go high.

    There are several hikes that go into the park from the Mt Baker area - off the Nooksack Highway - and several are off of the WA route 20 - the North Cascade Highway - the only road to traverse the North Cascades.The average tourist will see the park, or the edges of the park, from this road. It is a very scenic road travelling many miles. The road's highlight is the viewpoint at Washington Pass, where the imposing Liberty Bell rises steeply above the south side of the highway. Between Washington Pass and the Park's headquarters in Newhalem, lie three fine dayhike options of varying levels of strenuousness - all giving grand vistas: Maple Pass, Sourdough Mountain and Thornton Lakes/Trapper Peak. For people wanting to know more about the hiking options that exist in the Park and region, in general, you could either pick up on of the '101 Trails' Series books for the different sections of the WA Cascades (Alpine Lakes & Middle Cascades, Northern Cascades, etc) that are published by the Mountaineers Club/Publishing, but even better is the book, 'Dont Waste Your Time in the Northern Cascades' by Kathy and Craig Copeland (they also have a good book by a similar title for the Canadian Rockies).

    The picture is from just outside of the park near Mt Baker. The road comes up from the Nooksack Valley below and passes Picture Lake where Mt Shuksan will be mirrored in the water's surface. See my North Cascade for more.

    Mt Shuksan mirrored in Picture Lake Sea of peaks from atop Sahale Thornton Lakes with Despair and Triumph
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    NORWAY PASS

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 4, 2015

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    For many years, after the explosion of Mt St Helens, the first roads rebuilt into the devastation were on the east side of the mountain. Today, this side is much more accessible with a magnificent viewpoint at Windy Ridge, near the NE section of the mountain, high above Spirit Lake. Just off the road into Windy Ridge is the trailhead for Mt Margaret and Norway Pass. 2.2 miles will take you to a grand view into the caldera of Mt St Helens across Spirit Lake. Stumps remain baring witness to the explosive events of the 1980 eruption. Splash marks can be seen extending up the hillsides from the northern shores of the lake. The lake, itself, remains choked with downed trees.

    Tree-choked Spirit Lake and crater of Mt St Helens
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    MOUNT ADAMS

    by mtncorg Updated Aug 4, 2015

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    Mt Adams is Washington's second highest mountain. It is 12276 feet high and like Mt Rainier, Glacier Peak and Mt St Helens, it is a glacially encircled volcano rising high above the surrounding mountain landscape. Also, like the other volcanoes, it makes for a very popular climb. The south side is a relatively easy climb - there was a road up this side in earlier times that served packanimals which went to a short-lived sulfur mine atop the mountain.

    The picture is taken from the easterly approach from Bird Creek Meadows (within the Yakima Indian Reservation) and shows the route ahead on Mazama Glacier. There is red tape involved with climbing Adams. Fees are a great way to add on to people in the National Forests and here is no exception. See the Summitpost page for up-to-date figures on the costs in the Red Tape section. If you go up via Bird Creek Meadows - really, a much more scenic route than the normal South Spur used by 90% of climbers - then you will have to pay Tribal fees for access, as well as having a climbing permit.

    SE approach to Mt Adams; Maazama Glacier Mt Adams and the Tatoosh from Mt Rainier
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    Mount Rainer

    by Toughluck Written Aug 1, 2015

    Visit Mount Rainer National Park. Ascending to 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A., spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits.

    Sunrise
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    MOUNT ST HELENS

    by mtncorg Updated Jul 28, 2015

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    Roads will take you to fine observation points on the north side of the mountain - Coldwater Lake/Johnston Ridge - and the east side - Windy Gap. To see the mountain and to get a feel for the immense devastation of the mountain's north side exploding take a hike to Norway Pass or even better, to the top of Mt Margaret. If you are lucky enough to get one of the permits issued for the daily quota of 100 people, then climb the peak - normal route is up Monitor Ridge from the south (www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm is the website for the Mt St Helens Volcanic National Monument and climbing permits and information can be found more there). Another great hiking opportunity is to hike up to the Plains of Abraham at the eastern base of the mountain. The hike takes you up the lahars of the Muddy River, showing that destructiveness came not only from the direct blast, but from the instantaneous melting of glaciers and snows that rushed down valleys on the south, west and eastern slopes.

    For more see my Mt St Helens tips.

    Lahar landscape of Muddy River, SE side St Helens Muddy River lahar - start of hike to the Plains The volcano and Toutle Lake from atop Mt Margaret Lava dome, Spirit Lake, Mt Rainier beyond from top Toutle River lahar from north side road
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    Southwest Washington Coast

    by glabah Updated Jul 22, 2015

    As I have stated in a few other places, the southwest Washington coast doesn't have as much to attract people to it as elsewhere on the Washington coast. From Ocean Shores south the Olympic Peninsula ends, and the forests are managed as commercial logging operations. Additionally, the hills along the coast are fairly small, so the spectacular scenery seen further north, and as seen along many areas of the Oregon coast, just isn't available on this part of the Washington coast.

    However, this is not to say that there are not a few things to see here. It's just that for the most part what is available elsewhere is far more unique than what you will find through this part of Washington. Be that as it may, here are a few things on this southwest part of the Washington Coast from North to South. For further reading, click on the various links in the text:

    + Ocean Shores: This is a very touristy town designed by someone from California in the 1960s, when suburban sprawl based around the automobile was all the rage. There are some nice beaches and some great views of the Olympic Mountains (and even Mount Rainier can be seen on a few clear days) but it just isn't that great a location. There are many places where it is impossible to safely walk from one place to another due to the road design, for example. It's OK, but there are better places to spend time.

    + Hoquiam: A number of small attractions including a local museum, and a few parks.

    + Aberdeen: famous for being the home town of Kurt Cobain. Otherwise, it has some decent restaurants and a downtown area where it is actually safe to walk (unlike Ocean Shores). It is a smaller port city on Gray's Harbor, and pretty severe in the way industry dominates the community. As it mostly isn't touristy, you can find cheaper places to stay here than near the beach.

    + Bottle Beach State Park has an tiny beach facing the bay. Shore birds gather here on migration. Nearby, there is a seafood plant that offers tours. There's a great view of the Olympic Mountains under the right conditions.

    + Westport: A nice counterpoint to Ocean Shores, this town actually has a downtown with sidewalks and a more traditional layout so it is possible to walk between places in the downtown area. A marina is the home base of a fishing fleet as well as having some small tourist boats that are not for the faint of heart. There are beaches nearby but are fairly small.

    + Grayland and Grayland Beach State Park: other than the state park campground there isn't too much unique about this location, but it does allow for beach access. As it is somewhat further from population centers than Westport or Long Beach, the beach can sometimes be a bit less crowded than those places.

    + Tokeland is primarily a fishing village, with an Indian Casino just north of town. There aren't even beaches here, exactly, but mudflats are popular with birds and thus bird watchers do show up as well.

    + Raymond: sawmill community at the far reaches of Willapa Bay. An artistic effort has attempted to keep the community from becoming just another giant strip mall along highway 101. There are a couple of museums here, including a unique Horse Carriage museum.

    + South Bend: Literally stole the county government from nearby Bay Center. Has impressive courthouse and small waterfront.

    + Bruceport is mostly a memory now, and is the home to a small county park with camping, plus a small beach.

    + Bay Center: has a small park, a small beach, and a restaurant. Otherwise a fishing village with huge piles of clam and oyster shells surrounding the community.

    + Willapa National Wildlife Refuge has an unusual wildlife art trail that loops through a small section of forest near the refuge headquarters.

    + Long Beach: claims to have the longest beach in the world. Also has a very long running kite festival every year, and eventually formed a Kite Museum. Furthest point north on Pacific Ocean explored by Lewis and Clark / Corps of Discovery. Beach is drivable, which means it is very hazardous to walk on it for any length of time. One section of the beach is closed to highway traffic during the peak summer months.

    + The Long Beach Peninsula has a number of small communities including Nahcotta and Leadbetter Point State Park.

    + Cape Disappointment State Park: Home of the Lewis and Clark Museum of the west coast, and home to a few other unique displays. Has the most spectacular coastal hills (though they are quite small) of this part of the Washington coast. North of downtown there are a few small state parks and a cranberry museum.

    + Ilwaco: Small fishing village that is sort of turning into a suburb of Long Beach. Has the local history museum, and a summer outdoor market with some food and fish, and some unique local artwork.

    If you are continuing south into Oregon, please see my Pacific Wonderland tip and the North Coast Suggested Routes and Locations tip.

    Wind and Waves in Sheltered Waters of Grays Harbor Long Beach can be Nice, when No Auto Traffic Cape Disappointment State Pk is Highlight of Area Bay Center has Small Beach giving way to Tides Northwest Beaches are Sometimes Like This
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    DOG MOUNTAIN - NATURE'S FLORAL ARRANGEMENT

    by mtncorg Written May 12, 2015

    Dog Mt sits directly on the Columbia River, rising almost 3000 feet above. The Dog and its smaller companion, Wind Mountain, are very impressive riverside sentinels of the river. Even taller and directly across from the Dog on the Oregon side, is Mt Defiance, almost 5000 feet above the river. From the Washington side of the Columbia next to the Hood River Bridge, you can look downriver at this wondrous part of the Gorge, two glorious giants and one mighty canyon. While hiking up Mt Defiance lies in the realm of the masochist or budding mountaineer - one in the same? - the Dog falls back into a Joe Everyman category, as long as 'Joe' - or 'Mary' - have determination and a modicum of physical fitness. The Dog is a wildly popular place to hike because of its wide-ranging flower gardens covering the summit. At the peak of the floral extravaganza, the display almost seems artificial, so dramatic and vast the sea of yellow balsamroot flowers, interspersed with red Indian paintbrushes, lomatian whites, phlox pinks, delphinium blues and an assortment of others.

    The trail up is fairly steep. You wind first up through dry oak forests - careful of poison oak and the occasional tick. At about 1000 feet up, you enter an evergreen forest at a small and short plateau. Then it is up, up, up. Two branches -old and new - are encountered. The new has a couple of viewpoints and - on weekends - lots of people. The old is slightly steeper with no viewpoints but many fewer people. Both trails merge higher up, still in the forest. A couple more switchbacks and a few hundred feet from the top you emerge into the vast steep meadows of balsamroot. Heaven should look so nice. May is the month you want to visit. I see people climbing the Dog at other times and I ask myself why. There are better options during the heat of the summer. Come in May and behold the beauty.

    Balsamroot blooming atop the Dog Balsamroot flowers on the trail up Dog Mountain Flowers high above the Columbia River Balsamroot with a touch of Indian Paintbrush Magnificence of the Dog in season
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    WALLA WALLA WINERIES

    by mtncorg Written Oct 21, 2014

    Walla Walla has gone through several changes since the town’s inception in 1858. A military town and a supply center for miners reaching out into the mountains of central Idaho – the town was considered as a potential capital for Washington at one point. Whitman College and, later, the Washington State Penitentiary gave some economic stability to the town. But Walla Walla slumbered along for many years during the 20th century.

    In the middle 1980’s, locals began developing a wine industry which has since mushroomed into an over $100 million dollar affair. There are some 66 wineries listed in the Walla Walla Wine Guide but there are others closed to the public which are not included – including some of the area’s most exclusive.

    Many wineries have tasting rooms downtown and at the airport on the northeast side of town. Other wineries have tasting rooms on the west edge of town and in nearby Lowden – 12 miles to the west. Here, you will find Woodward Canyon, one of the wine pioneers in the area. To the south of Walla Walla, in an area overlapping into Oregon, is another group of wineries set out amongst the beautiful setting of the Blue Mountains to the east.

    Walla Walla wineries are known mostly for their red wines. Long hot summers – like the rest of eastern Washington and Oregon – along with not-too-severe winters and a desert-like rainfall combine to give the grapes solid structure for the red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot and syrah are at the top of the reds made here, but there are a host of other grapes grown and made into wine here, as well.

    The main grape-growing regions are south of town with large areas being planted in Oregon to the southwest. While acreage devoted to grape production is ever-increasing, there are more wineries here than grapes. Much of the fruit comes from vineyards further to the west on the Columbia Plateau.

    Amavi Winery and their great view deck Woodward Canyon Winery in nearby Lowden Nortstar Winery south of Walla Walla
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    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel
    • Wine Tasting

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Washington State Things to Do

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