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Summer in Washington state

Local get-a-way destinations

It’s a 15-minute ferry ride to Anderson Island, a cyclist’s paradise. Photo courtesy of YouTube

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Around here, summer means getting outdoors, enjoying and doing.

And whether that means hiking up a steep, switch-back trail with a beautiful panoramic view waiting for you on the Olympics or the Cascades, or feeling the tug of a six-pound salmon hitting your bait while fishing on the Puget Sound, there's plenty to fill your days.

From a pole-bending good time at the old Boathouse at Tacoma's Point Defiance Park to postcard views from trails at Paradise on Mount Rainier, fun is waiting just around the corner.

An ideal family outing is Point Defiance, a place with a little something for everyone. If you like sunbathing and swimming - as I did as a kid when my mom brought us lunches and beach towels - Owens Beach at the Point is waiting for you. If swimming isn't for you, there are miles of hiking trails in the park, and just a short walk from Owens Beach is the Boathouse, where you can rent boats to fish or just tour the salty Sound. If you want a prepared meal, try Anthony's, a family restaurant with beautiful views.

After you've netted your last fish or taken your last bite, head for the park's zoo and aquarium. It's an exciting outing for kids and adults, giving visitors up-close looks at polar bears, sharks, elk and a wide variety of birds. I've experienced the zoo from two perspectives now - as a parent of three sons and as a kid with three siblings. The experience never gets old.

Before you go, you have to take a peek at Fort Nisqually. A visit to this old fort, that was  located on the Nisqually flats in the mid 1800s, gives you a walk back in time.

If you're looking for a get-away-from-it-all outing, try hiking. Among the hundreds of must-do hikes in the Northwest, there are three must-do walks through the woods: Mount Ellinor, Sunrise and Mount Si, all popular hikes with beautiful views.

Mount Ellinor, a 5,952-foot peak in the Olympics, is the ideal getaway and a place to hike away from the daily routine. The popular hike is short - 3.3 miles and 6.6 round trip - but steep - an elevation gain of 3,200 feet. The reward to the strenuous, huff-and-puff hike is a breathtaking view, providing a panoramic perspective of the Puget Sound and Cascade range.  

Panorama Point, which is above Paradise Park on Mount Rainier, is a trail that finishes at 6,800 feet. Just above the Paradise lodge, which was built in the 1920s, are mountain meadows filled with wildflowers. To avoid the summer crowds, visit the park on weekdays.

About 30 miles east of Seattle along Highway I-90 is Mount Si, a popular hike just outside of North Bend. The day hike is strenuous but rewarding. It's eight miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 3,200 feet, capping out at 4,167 feet at the peak of Mount Si, which was named after homesteader Joshiah "Uncle Si" Merritt.

In the South Puget Sound area in Lacey and Olympia, there are three beautiful settings for picnics at Tolmie, Priest Point Park and Burfurt. Each park is in a wooded area next to the Puget Sound, making it perfect for a swim, a hike and, of course, a picnic. Tolmie, a 105-acre state park, is a perfect place for snorkeling because of a long, shallow beach when the tide is in. There are lots of tiny fish, crabs and, on occasion, a curious seal that might swim up to you.

Another fun getaway that's unique to the Puget Sound are ferry rides. There's a fun 15-minute ride from Steilacoom to Anderson Island. The island, with it's country-like quiet, is perfect for biking. It's only an eight-mile ride from end to end, giving riders glimpses of the Puget Sound. As you pedal south along Johnson Road, just after passing the old school house that was built in the 1800s, take a right onto Sandberg Road.

Riding through a stretch of wooded meadows, just follow the signs to Andy Park. It's named after Andrew Anderson, one of the island's original settlers who was also a friend of my great grandfather, Peter Peterson. Returning to Johnson Road, continue south, and at the end of the island there's a beautiful view of the Nisqually Delta and the rolling Black Hills.

A must-see on the island is the Riviera Marina, which is located on the east side of the island. To get there requires a ride down a paved cliff, which is called a road. The descent isn't the challenge. Getting up that hill in first gear is like riding up a telephone. But a walk along the rocky beach makes the leg-weary climb worth it.

So, the arrival of summer opens the door to lots of fun adventures in the South Puget Sound.

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