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Posted by on Jul 25, 2009 in Travel The Great States |

Western Region: Washington: USA

WashingtonIn the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington, there is a 607- foot tower called the Space Needle. You can take its elevator to the top in just 40 seconds. From up there you can see almost the whole city of Seattle! Washington is the only state named for a president. It is named for George Washington, the first president.

Orcas Island Orcas_Island
The largest of the San Juan Islands off Washington’s west coast is a place for relaxation and ocean viewing or outdoor adventure. Orcas has it all.

Looking for grand scenery, rustic adventure, and places to shop and dine in style? Orcas could be your island paradise. Eastsound, the main township, is brimming with boutique shopping, galleries, eateries, entertainment, and welcoming folks.

For island history visit the local museum, a unique facility constructed of original homestead cabins from the late 1800’s. The 5,000-plus-acre Moran State Park offers a full menu for outdoors lovers: five freshwater lakes for fishing, swimming, and boating; hiking, biking, and horse trails; picnicking, camping, and a wealth of wildlife to observe.

Head up Mount Constitution for breathtaking panoramic views of land and sea. Orcas, the largest of the San Juan Islands off Washington’s west coast, is accessible by ferry and boat or seaplane and airplane, but day trips are a realistic option. Moran State Park open year-round. (888) 468-3701 San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

Baker Lake Baker_Lake
Here is the essence of the Pacific Northwest: a land of dense, dark green aromatic forests, snowcapped mountains, large lakes lying in wooded valleys, and highland lakes fed by glacial streams.

Although Baker Lake and Lake Shannon are man-made (created by power-company dams), they sit beautifully and naturally at the base of majestic Mount Baker.

At nine-mile-long Baker Lake, which is the more accessible, boating and fishing are the main activities; prior to July 5 each year it is plentifully stocked with rainbow trout. Baker Lake is also one of the state’s best sources of sockeye salmon.

Hikes range from short strolls to treks requiring several days into rugged backcountry and up the slopes of Mount Baker. Along the area’s eastern edge you can reach vast wilderness areas of North Cascades National Park.

For an introduction to the region’s plant life, take the Shadow of the Sentinels nature trail (near the main entrance highway), which has interpretive signs along the way. Some of the Douglas firs you will see along the trail are more than 600 years old.

At the mouth of Swift Creek, near the north end of Baker Lake, agates and jaspers can be found. Several campgrounds are maintained along the access road. The area is heavily visited on summer weekends. Access road open year-round, but check in winter for snow closings. (360) 856-5700 Ext. 515

Stehekin Valley and Rainbow FallsStehekin_Valley_and_Rainbow_Falls
Stehekin is a Native American term for “the way through,” and it aptly describes the narrow fjord-like valley in which 50-mile-long Lake Chelan lies, providing a way through the almost impenetrable mountain barrier of the North Cascades.

At the upper end of the lake is the quiet, isolated village of Stehekin; settled in 1885, it has fewer than 100 residents. Even today there are no roads to Stehekin, but it can be reached by a delightful four-hour cruise from Chelan on a diesel-powered boat.

Floatplane trips are also available. A shuttle bus runs up the valley from the village to campsites, trailheads, and Rainbow Falls, which plunge 312 feet. Stehekin is a popular starting point for backpacking into the North Cascades; horses and bikes can be rented here, and there are numerous trails to explore.

Spring and fall are the best times to visit; summers are often crowded. Lodging is limited, and reservations are recommended. Boat operates year-round. Daily mid-Mar.–mid-Oct.; Mon., Wed., Fri. mid – Oct. – mid-Mar. Cruise fee charged. (for cruise info) (800) 536-0745

Steilacoom Steilacoom
Founded by a sea captain and officially established in 1854, Steilacoom has the distinction of being the oldest incorporated town in the state of Washington. Just strolling its streets is a trip back to the past; the small town has 32 buildings and landmarks named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Lovely historic homes abound, including the Nathaniel Orr Home and Pioneer Orchard, decorated with original furnishings and artifacts. Now under renovation is the Bair Drug & Hardware Store, established in 1895.

It will display patent medicines, hardware relics, and an early town post office, along with a 1906-vintage soda fountain to serve up old-fashioned milkshakes and sundaes in style.

Steilacoom Historical Museum focuses on the years from 1860 to 1900, with fascinating artifacts of local pioneer life. Features include original volumes from Washington Territory’s first library, a blacksmith shop, a Victorian parlor, and a barbershop with a unique collection of shaving mugs. A few blocks away, in a former church on Main St., the Steilacoom Tribal Cultural Center and Museum celebrates the area’s Native American legacy.

Exhibits trace the history of the Steilacoom tribe, with a collection of items ranging from hunting tools to clothing made from cedar bark. Open year-round. Admission charged. (253) 584-4133 Historical Museum (253) 584-6308 Tribal Cultural Center & Museum

Cashmere Pioneer Village and Museum Cashmere_Pioneer_Village_and_Museum
This museum and pioneer village traces life as it has been lived in this area for more than 9,000 years. Touring the museum, one marvels at the ingenuity of the Native Americans.

Visitors learn, for example, that 5,000 years ago they practiced a form of brain surgery using fermented herbs similar to penicillin. No less impressive are the tiny beads carefully drilled with primitive stone tools, the basketry, and the fine leather and feather work.

The Hudson’s Bay Company display gives a vivid view of what went on in the fur business here in the early 1800’s. You not only see an assortment of trade goods but also learn the rates of exchange: a one-foot-high metal bucket, for instance, bought a one-foot-high stack of fur pelts.

There are 20 authentic log cabins, all over 120 years old, in the village. Each is amazingly complete, down to the stacks of period-labeled canned goods on the shelves of the general store and the books and inkwells in the schoolhouse. Many buildings have fascinating stories.

The jailhouse was originally designed as a home by an escaped convict. The waterwheel used for irrigation, incorporating the drive shaft of an old Columbia River paddle steamer, is a nationally recognized symbol of the pioneers’ ingenuity.

There is so much to see here that you may wish to bring a lunch; a picnic area overlooks the village and a river. To avoid crowds, visit in Apr., May, or Oct. Open daily Mar. – mid-Oct.; Fri. – Sun. Nov. – mid-Dec. Admission charged. (509) 782-3230

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State ParkGinkgo_Petrified_Forest_State_Park
Specimens from one of the world’s most spectacularly varied fossil forests can be seen here on a 7,470-acre site that encompasses prehistoric swamp and lake beds repeatedly inundated by lava.

Felled trees from the dense forests of the Miocene Epoch—not just the ginkgo for which the park is named, but some 200 other species—were preserved beneath the solidified basalt, gradually turning to brilliantly colored stone as mineral deposits replaced their cell structure. Ice Age erosion brought them to light again.

Now cross-sections of the fossilized logs can be seen in the park’s Heritage Area Interpretive Center, along with an array of intelligently planned explanatory exhibits. The area also contains a number of delicate Native American carvings incised in black basalt. You can see logs in their original setting by taking either of the hikes through the Natural Area, the first a three-quarter-mile interpretive trail, the second a 21/2-mile trek.

It’s a good idea to make your camping headquarters at Wana-pum Recreation Area, which is located within the park three miles south of Vantage on the shore of the Columbia River. Park open daily Apr. – Oct.; weekends and holidays only Nov. – Mar. Camping fee. Interpretive center open daily, Memorial Day–Labor Day. (509) 856-2700