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Medium 9781907099526

Nature

Michelin Michelin ePub

Nature

TOPOGRAPHY

France has a fortunate location in the European continent – not detached from it like the British Isles, nor projecting away like Iberia or Greece, nor set deep in its interior like the countries of Central Europe, yet in touch with the resources and the life of the whole of Western Europe and the seas around it, Atlantic, Channel, Mediterranean and North Sea.

There are four main river systems: in the east is the valley of the Rhône, (813km/505mi), which together with its tributary the Saône (480km/298mi) links the Paris basin with the Mediterranean; in the north, the Seine (776km/482mi) drains into the English Channel; in the west, the longest of all, the Loire (1010km/630mi), rises in central France and flows into the Atlantic, as does its southern cousin the Garonne (575km/357mi) which rises in the Pyrénées and drains into the Gironde estuary. Within this unified and robust framework there flourishes a geographical identity which is unmistakably French yet of an unrivalled local richness and variety.

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Historical Sites

Michelin Michelin ePub

Open year-round daily. Visitor center at 3029 Spirit Lake Hwy., Toutle; t 360-274-0962; www.parks.wa.gov/stewardship/mountsthelens; open May–mid-Sept daily 9am–5pm, rest of the year 4pm; closed major holidays. t 360-449-7800. www.fs.usda.gov/mountsthelens. $5.

One of the world’s most famous volcanoes, Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 with the intensity of 500 atomic bombs, destroying its northern flank and blasting away more than 1,300ft of elevation. In 1982 the US Congress declared Mount St. Helens a National Volcanic Monument. Today the eviscerated mountain, surrounded by a 172sq-mi preserve, is a leading visitor attraction.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
©MountStHelens.com

Practical Information

When to Go

July is the best time to see flower-filled alpine meadows at Mt. Rainier, but any summer day through September offers the best opportunity for clear weather and great views at both Rainier and Mount St. Helens. Summertime frequently brings fog to the Washington coast, so the best times to visit are the shoulder seasons or winter-storm season.

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Portland

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Lake Chelan aa

Hwy. 97, 103mi north of Ellensburg. t 509-682-3503. www.lakechelan.com.

This narrow, 50mi-long lake is a recreational haven at its southern end, anchored by the tiny town of Chelan. At its northern end, wilderness terminates at the deeply forested community of Stehekin, a backpackers’ launch pad into the rugged North Cascades National Forest. The Lady of the Lake passenger ferry and float planes carry travelers between the two points. In and near Chelan are pleasant beaches, including Lake Chelan State Park, with 6,000ft of shoreline. Slidewaters waterpark, in Chelan, offers another water-play option.

Dry Fallsa

On Rte. 17, 17mi north of Soap Lake. www.parks.wa.gov. Open summer daily 6:30am–dusk. Winter 8am–dusk.

Few places offer as raw and memorable a look at geological forces as Dry Falls. The “falls” are a bowl-shaped 400ft chasm, 3.5mi wide, carved into volcanic bedrock in the Columbia Basin desert. Thousands of years ago, catastrophic Ice Age floods surged through here as prehistoric Lake Missoula in Montana periodically broke though its ice dam and sent billions of gallons of water west to the Pacific, carving the Columbia Basin landscape.

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Sequim

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Point Defiance Park a

5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma. t 253-305-1000. www.metroparkstacoma.org. Open daily half hour before dawn–half hour after dusk.

At 702 acres, Point Defiance Park is one of the largest city parks in the nation. It has plenty of places to enjoy the out-of-doors, whether hiking through the park’s dense stands of old-growth Douglas-fir forest; watching bald eagles dive for salmon in the tidal rapids below 250ft cliffs; beachcombing at Owen’s Beach or strolling through the rose, dahlia or Japanese gardens. The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquariuma sits near the park’s entrance, and the Fort Nisqually Living History Museumaa is located on a 5mi forested loop drive that offers viewing opportunities of raccoons as they scamper along the road shoulder, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and waterway. Outside the park’s entrance is a Washington State Ferries dock for ferries bound for nearby, rural Vashon Island.

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Parks and Gardens

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The Willamette’s loamy soil gives rise to a feast of foods that enrich the plates of the finest restaurants in Portland. The climate and soil are ideal for vineyards, and more than 500 wineries, mostly west of Interstate 5, draw visitors from around the world to wine-country tasting rooms. Charming small towns, bucolic countryside and farm stands provide additional reasons to stop and savor Oregon’s wine country.

A string of cities, including the state capital of Salem and the free-spirited town of Eugene, are situated along I-5, which runs north to south through the center of the valley. To the west, the forested Coast Range cradles the valley, and 30mi to the east, waterfalls plummet down mossy Cascade Range hillsides alongside wooded hiking trails whose vine maple trees turn crimson and orange in the fall.

SALEMa

The capital of Oregon is the state’s third-largest city (pop. 156,000). Salem traces its founding to 1840, when Jason Lee moved the headquarters of his Methodist mission to this mid-Willamette Valley location. Lee’s house and other early buildings still stand at the Willamette Heritage Center at the Millaa (1313 Mill St.; t 503-585-7012; www.willametteheritage.org; open year-round Mon–Sat 10am–5pm ;$6), a five-acre historical park that includes the 1889 Thomas Kay Woolen Mill. A millstream courses beneath the main mill building, and inside, massive looms operate with water-powered turbines. Four buildings, filled with period furnishings, were moved to this site, and are considered the oldest in the Northwest, dating to the 1840s.

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