Get some fresh air into your lungs on your next vacation by exploring the mountains, forests and seashore of western Washington state, where Puget Sound, the Pacific, the Olympic Peninsula and the Cascade range are just part of the whole experience.
Before you start packing, look over a few Web sites that will help you make your plans.
Head north out of Seattle to Everett to pick up the Cascade Loop -- http://www.cascadeloop.com/ -- a scenic route that takes you from Puget Sound through the Cascades to Lake Chelan and Wenatchee, the heart of apple country, and back again. It's only 440 miles, but you might want to budget several days to give yourself time to see everything.
When you get back, head south through Seattle and drive down Interstate 5 into Southwest Washington -- http://welcome .tdn.com/ -- where you're surrounded by the Pacific, the Cascades, the Columbia River and Mount St. Helens.
The southwest also is the home of the Cascades Volcano observatory -- http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/ -- which can tell you about Mount St. Helens and the other volcanoes in the region. Or focus on St. Helens National Monument -- http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/MSH/NatMonument/framework.html -- for history, legends and directions for getting there. There's more about Mount St. Helens at a Web site maintained by Gifford Pinchot National Forest -- http://www.fs.fed.us./ gpnf/mshnvm/ -- including photos.
From Mount St. Helens, head back north up I-5 and swing east on U.S. 12 to Mount Rainier National Park -- http://www.nps.gov/mora/ -- the 14,000-foot volcano sitting in a 235,600-acre preserve of forest, snow and ice. Click on Recreation and Activities to learn about the park's more than 240 miles of trails.
Thinking of wetting a hook while you're in the area? The state Department of Fish and Wildlife -- http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/ -- will tell you about fishing and hunting regulations and sell you a license. And look for the link to EagleCam for live camera coverage of a nesting bald eagle. Next, visit NW Fishing -- http:// www.nwfishing.com/ -- for information on what's going on in rivers, lakes and salt water.
For more outdoor activities, go to the old reliable Great Outdoor Recreation Pages -- http://www .gorp.com/gorp/location/wa/wa.htm -- for hiking, camping, skiing and fishing information, plus parks, national forests and wilderness areas. And if you take a minute to sign in, you get access to a database of hundreds of hiking trails.
Be sure to save enough time to swing around west of Puget Sound to the scenic Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic Peninsula Travel Association -- http://www.waypoint.com/opta/ -- has suggestions for road trips around the area.
The National Park service can tell you about Olympic National Park -- http://www.nps.gov/olym/ -- and a privately run park Web site -- http://www.olympic.national-park.com/ -- can fill you in on anything the Park Service might have left out.
Don't want to drive all the way around Puget Sound to get back to Seattle? Let Washington State Ferries -- http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/index.cfm -- help you figure out an alternate route.
Relax and explore Seattle before you head back home. The Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau -- http://www.seeseattle.org/ -- can help you find a place to stay and show you around to the sights, including the Pike Place Market, which has its own Web site now -- http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/.
EDITOR'S NOTE: E-mail comments and tips to cybertrip(at)ap.org.
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