Fall dreaming

Five western Washington autumn destinations

By Whitney Rhodes on September 23, 2016

Oh Pacific Northwest, why do you make me love you so? Everyone always talks about how our summers are the best kept secret, and don’t tell anyone how fantastic they are because more of those dang Californians will move up here (hint: they don’t usually last through the winter), but I think the fall season is really where it’s at. I mean seriously people. The glorious sunshine we’ve been having! It doesn’t get much better than this.

Sure we had that little rainy bit last week. Eventually. It was just enough rain to make everything green again. And now the leaves are turning, the mornings are crisp, the afternoons sunny ... all we need is Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams and this would be the set of another Nicholas Sparks romantic movie. And then everyone would know our secret!

So, dear reader, before Hollywood comes and makes a movie or the rains REALLY come for the year, get out and enjoy the color. I recommend the following ways:

Naches Peak Loop: This gentle 3.75-mile hike can be done by almost anyone. A great choice for families or out of town guests. Additional bonus? It’s not actually inside Mt. Rainier National Park, which means squabbling politicians won’t keep you from the beauty.

North Cascades anything: Any East Coast or Mid West transplant will scoff at our fall colors because, well, they really can’t compare. But for the best example of our rainbow mix of maples, evergreens and changing brush, head to the North Cascades. Take a drive or try the hike to Blue Lake. It’s a short hike that’s perfect for our shorter days.

Granite Mountain: If you are lucky enough to have spent this summer doing crazy fun outdoor adventures, tackle this mountain. The summit view is spectacular on a clear fall afternoon. But be prepared to earn it. The elevation gain is punishing.

There is also the classic pumpkin patch visit. Head out to one of the many farms near Orting and you can also sneak in a bike ride or jog on the Foothills trail, which has an after run reward at the Orting Bakery. I’m starting to salivate just thinking about the ginormous chocolate chip cookies. Oh so good.

Lastly, I have to make a pitch for my favorite destination of all time -- Mount Rainier National Park. Be prepared though. Roadside snowball fights are easily arranged once the first layer of snow has fallen. I’m always a fan of the cream pie approach -- a nice handful of snow to the unsuspecting victims face. It’s all fun and games until someone gets snow down their shirt. Then it’s war.

So there you have it, dear reader. My favorite ways to enjoy fall. I even managed to sneak in some baked goods and have a terrible daydream about sappy romantic movies. I may need to run a few trails to get that out of my head.