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Washington State

wash_loop_lighthouse.jpg Located in the northwest corner of the US, the 18th largest state in the union is made up of the massive Cascade Range, a portion of the Rockies, the intricate Puget Sound Lowlands, the precipitous Olympic Range, the powerful Columbia River and the gently-heaving dirt-covered Columbia Basin, perfect for producing those luscious grapes, fruit-bearing orchards and tons of wheat.

The mountain ranges that shape Washington evolved into some of the world's most compelling and towering scenery. The Cascade Range is the most important. It protrudes north and south almost through the middle of the state. Mount Rainier, at 14,411 feet, is the tallest peak in the chain.

North of Mt. Rainier, lie the boundaries of the North Cascade National Park. The highway cutting through the park travels past several spellbinding artificial lakes and dams--Ross, Skagit and Diablo-- and across the spectacular summit of Washington Pass. South of Mt. Rainier, the range encompasses two familiar mountains, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens, which blew its top, not that long ago.

West of the Cascades, the well-documented wet and mild Pacific Coast--where residents fish and sail, plant seas of tulips and hike through fern-shrouded rainforests--stretches for 157 miles. Another earth-shaping mountain chain, the Coast Range, lies beneath the sea at the Strait of Juan de Fuca along the misty Olympic Peninsula. It rises to become the beautiful snow-capped Olympic Mountains, ringed by over fifty miles of unbroken wild coastline.

Tips of the range become the San Juans, Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands and other lesser known islands of Puget Sound, where you can dig for clams and beachcomb, or simply lean back on a gnarled log and wait for the sun to set or the whales to migrate or the seals to surface or . . .

In complete contrast to the sky-reaching mountains, the sea arms of the Puget Sound waterway cradle the low-lying ports of Seattle, Washington's largest city, Tacoma and the state's capital, Olympia. The cities' friendly inhabitants enjoy a nature-loving leisurely lifestyle, with just a touch of sophistication. Internationally acclaimed opera, symphony and ballet, compete with the logging shows, country fairs and rodeos in the nearby countryside communities.

Seattle highlights are: the Woodlands Zoo, the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, Tilicum Village, Broadway Theatre shows (second to New York in yearly performances), and Pioneer Square--where the Klondike gold rush began.

Everett, just north of Seattle, has the Boeing Plant Tour. It's an opportunity to find out how those flying contraptions stay in the air.

Spokane, the only major city inland, has two worthy parks: the 50-acre Riverfront Park and the 240-acre Walk in the Wild Park.

Nearby Tacoma and Pierce County highlights are: Point Defiance Park--which includes Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Fort Nisqually and Never Never Land--McCord Air Force Base Museum, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, the Narrows Bridge--the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world, and the brand-new, $40.8-million Washington State History Museum, home of the largest collection of pioneer, Indian and Alaskan artifacts on the Pacific Coast.


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