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Beyond Kitsap | Spend Memorial Day weekend in the great outdoors

Memorial Day weekend is ripe for travel, and it’s just days away. Beyond Kitsap takes you to Washington’s mountains, desert, ocean and rain forest — and one highwayside oddity. - Dan McDougall/Staff photo
Memorial Day weekend is ripe for travel, and it’s just days away. Beyond Kitsap takes you to Washington’s mountains, desert, ocean and rain forest — and one highwayside oddity.
— image credit: Dan McDougall/Staff photo

Memorial Day fast approaches, and getting out of town for the three-day weekend can be sweet relief. Here are five reasons to pack up the car and hit the road, each one a destination of a different landscape. Take your pick from the mountains, desert, ocean shores or rain forest — or take a gander at the highway-side weird.

1. Among the trees: Hoh Rain Forest

Get up-close and personal with Sitka Spruces and Western Hemlocks (and the moss that dangles from their mammoth branches) in the Olympic Peninsula’s temperate Hoh Rain Forest. South of Forks on Highway 101, the 24 miles of low-elevation forest contain 500-year-old trees and plenty of wildlife. Near the forest visitor center is the Hall of Mosses, an easy trail with views of the mythic, capturing woods. Find lots of hiking, camping and the Hoh River nearby. Round trip: 314 miles.

2. At the ocean: Rialto Beach

See the waves slam against the shores of Rialto Beach, an Olympic Peninsula destination near the Hoh Rain Forest. The thing to see here: Hole-in-the-Wall, a giant natural sea tunnel bored by the surf and wind three miles in. The hike to it is punctuated by sea stacks and strewn logs, which litter the shore like Pick Up Sticks. Be sure to catch Hole-in-the-Wall at low tide, and stop by the nearby beaches of La Push, which offer their own windswept, natural beauty. And please, no vampire jokes. Round trip: 274 miles.

3. In the desert: Spring Canyon

Camp amongst the sage brush at Spring Canyon Campground in the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. Near the Upper Columbia River, the recreation area is home to a man-made 130-mile long lake, created when the river was dammed in the early 1940s. Go fishing for Walleye here; its said to be extra tasty. And while you’re in the area, pay a visit to the Grand Coulee Dam and its World Famous laser light show, or hike to the top of nearby Steamboat Rock and take in wildlife sightings. Round trip: 576 miles.

4. On the mountain: Harts Pass

It’s been called the state’s most terrifying roadway, and at 6,197 feet, it’s also one of its highest: Hart’s Pass is a wild flower mecca later in the summer, but even now it offers stunning panoramic views along the crest of the Cascade Range, just south of the Canadian border. Drive the perilous one-laned, white-knuckler road to its top, and take a walk down a portion of the famed Pacific Crest Trail. There are tall trees, spanning meadows, rocky vistas and plenty of hiking. And you may want to bring your camera. Round trip: 426 miles.

5. Around the odd: Stonehenge

If a full-size Stonehenge replica in Maryhill doesn’t scratch your oddity itch, what will? Overlooking the Columbia River is Sam Hill’s Stonehenge, a near-exact replica of the prehistoric monument — and one of the most famous sites in the world — in England’s Wiltshire County. Was it giants who lifted the massive stones? Druids? Aliens? Merlin himself? The archeology world has batted its theories, but Washington’s Stonehenge, which remains intact unlike its European predecessor, was built by Hill (also Maryhill’s founder) as a World War I memorial between 1918 and 1930. It took more than a decade to complete, and can now be seen from Highway 97. (It’s easily accessible from there.) Other things of a weird nature in the Evergreen State include giant coffee pot establishment Bob’s Java Jive, a 25-foot-high, 30-foot-wide coffee pot restaurant in Tacoma, and Granger’s Dinosaur herd — there are nearly 30 prehistoric figures in all — and volcano-shaped public lavatories. Round trip: 558 miles. WU

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