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Tuesday,  July 16 , 2024

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News / Clark County News

From the Newsroom: Try a loop trip this summer

By Craig Brown, Columbian Editor
Published: July 6, 2024, 6:10am

It’s a holiday weekend so I think I’ll take a break from writing gloomy stories about news and newspapers and write a happy story about summer vacations.

Much better, right?

My wife and I have fallen into the habit of taking loop trips, where we try to get out and see something new without retracing (too much of) our path. Our first loop trip, a few years ago, was a classic: down the Oregon Coast, across to Crater Lake and up through Central Oregon. We pull our travel trailer on these loops, but if camping isn’t your thing, you could easily find lodging.

Here are two of the loops we’ve enjoyed in recent years. Either of these loops took us about a week to complete, but of course, it’s your vacation, so you decide the schedule. The most important thing is to get out and discover the Pacific Northwest.

Olympic Peninsula: We started at the bottom, at under-appreciated Lake Sylvia State Park east of Aberdeen, then proceeded clockwise (north) to Pacific Beach State Park. This small park offers great beach camping and sunsets, and is very near the chi-chi new community of Seabrook, where Microsoft millionaires have summer homes. Our next stop was at the Sol Duc Hot Springs in the heart of Olympic National Park’s rain forest. It was so rainy, we cut out of there a day early and proceeded to Salt Creek, a stunning park right at the top of the peninsula, bordering the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We enjoyed the scenery, hiking and tidepools. Our final stop on the trip was Dosewallips State Park, along Highway 101 and Hood Canal. This grassy park is a good stopover and base for exploring the east side of the Olympics.

We could have made some other choices. Port Townsend offers a charming visit, with its quaint 19th century downtown, and Fort Worden, a former military post that is a state park. If you remember the 1980s, you might have seen “An Officer and a Gentleman,” a hit movie which was filmed there. Across the bay from Port Townsend lies Fort Flager State Park, with long beaches and beautiful views. Flager is probably my favorite spot on Puget Sound, but the idea on this trip was to try new places.

Wine loop and Mount Rainier: This loop starts along state Highway 14, where there are several worthwhile wineries to visit en route to Maryhill State Park. (Note: The food at the Maryhill Winery above the park is excellent, and the view of the dry end of the Columbia River Gorge is unparalleled.) Continuing east on Highway 14, there are more wineries, including Alexandria Nicole Cellars’ comfortable tasting room conveniently located near Crow Butte Park, a shady oasis on an island in the Columbia River. The campground at the park is lovely, and, if you are not camping, Alexandria Nicole has a collection of tiny houses where you can spend a night or two sipping wine and enjoying the quiet.

At Patterson, turn north to Prosser, which is where Washington’s wine industry got its start. The well-known Red Hill is dotted with wineries, or stay in Prosser, which must have at least a dozen tasting rooms, from big wineries such as 14 Hands to family operations clustered in Vintner’s Village.

Now give your liver a break and jump onto Interstate 82 to Yakima, then take state Highway 12 over White Pass to the back door of Mount Rainier National Park. The south and east sides of the park are much less congested than the sides facing Seattle and Tacoma. If you need a campground, try rustic La Wis Wis along Highway 12 or, for full hookups, Taidnapam Park is a great choice. From Taidnapam, you can access Windy Ridge and Mount St. Helens. (If you are going this year, though, there are some road closures, so check the Gifford Pinchot National Forest website.)

Don’t let the election cycle and the news consume you. Get out and enjoy a loop trip this summer.