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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Feb. 22, 2024

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Wondrous and weird Washington: Evergreen State offers unique places, hidden gems

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Hole-in-the-Wall, a popular destination at Olympic National Park&rsquo;s Rialto Beach, reflected in a tide pool in 2014.
Hole-in-the-Wall, a popular destination at Olympic National Park’s Rialto Beach, reflected in a tide pool in 2014. (Steve Ringman/ The Seattle Times files) Photo Gallery

Kennewick — The Evergreen State is full of quirky pockets of culture, experience and opportunity. No matter where you are in the state, you are likely only a drive’s distance from a one-of-a-kind destination. From the many ghost towns and purportedly haunted locales like the Eastern State Penitentiary, to whale watching and island living in San Juan County, from the many reservations and preserved Native land, to ski adventures in mountain towns, there is something unparalleled about the wonders in the state of Washington.

This year, the McClatchy Northwest Service Journalism team wrote about many of these unique places. Here are some of the gems across Washington state we featured this year.

Natural sights, phenomena

  • Gravity Hill — Prosser: Despite many similar occurrences around the world, no one has been able to determine a definite answer for how cars in the neutral position at the bottom of this hill (and others like it) get naturally pulled up the hill. Many likely theories exist, but of course, there are also supernatural theories posited that have kept locals entertained and spooked for decades.
  • Hidden beaches: A family travel publication ranked the top 100 “secret beaches” based on a mass survey. Two are in Washington, one south of La Push and one in the Olympic National Park. Hole-in-the-Wall Beach is named after the natural break in the rock formation that appears in low tide. It’s a great place to catch wildlife like sea lions and otters.

Additionally, Second Beach includes expansive views, including “a set of switch-back stairs leading down to a coastline dotted with seastacks and a hole in the mainland that wind whistles through,” according to the Washington Trails Association.

  • Palisades Viewpoint — near Packwood: This rest area along the White Pass Scenic Byway showcases the impact volcanic rock formations have on Evergreen State scenery. Observe a sea of trees that abruptly stops at the sharp edge of the rock. It’s free to get in, observe and learn. There are also recreation options and picnic tables for those stopping on long trips.

Washington’s interesting towns and counties

  • Bickleton: Near Washington’s southern border is the small town of Bickleton, referred to as the bluebird capital of the world. Thanks to local community effort over decades, thousands of bluebirds visit the town every year. When it’s warm out, the bluebird population laps the human population, by many.
  • George: The only city in the country with a former president’s full name, George, Washington is based in patriotism. The town was dedicated on July 4 in 1957, which was celebrated by residents with a giant cherry pie, weighing a half ton. This tradition has continued for decades, and now, the city makes the world’s largest cherry pie every year during its massive July 4 celebration.
  • Maryhill: There is a full-size replica of Stonehenge in a small town near the Washington-Oregon border, Maryhill, dedicated to Klickitat County servicemen who died in World War I. The nation’s first dedicated World War I memorial was built by Samuel Hill, a prominent figure and road executive from the Pacific Northwest’s early days. He also built the nearby Maryhill Museum.
  • Packwood: Situated south of Mount Rainier National Park, Packwood is a small census-designated area in an unincorporated community along U.S.-12. Twice a year, the town throws one of the largest flea markets in the Western United States.
  • Port Townsend: The only incorporated city in Jefferson County, Port Townsend sits along the water and is one of the few remaining Victorian-era seaports in the country. The historic community includes many large parks, recreation options and purportedly haunted buildings.
  • San Juan County’s work week: Earlier this year, a press release from San Juan County officials announced that the county would be switching to a 32-hour work week for most employees. Each department would make this happen differently, most choosing a Friday-off weekly plan. While the adjusted schedule is growing in popularity across the country, primarily in businesses, San Juan is one of the first counties in the nation to implement the plan.