Tuesday, July 20, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Practical Traveler

Close To Home -- A Rich Crop Of Books On The Northwest

In the city, butterflies seem to appear only in ones or twos, in handfuls at best. One begins to feel that the only way to see them in profusion is somehow to return to childhood, to the meadows and fields they inhabit in an inaccessible past.

There are, however, more practical and tangible options close by, says Susan Ewing, whose "Going Wild in Washington and Oregon: Seasonal Excursions to Wildlife and Habitats" (Alaska Northwest Books, $14.95) deserves highest honors among recently published books about the Pacific Northwest.

During summer, Mima Mounds is one of the best places in Western Washington to see a display of some of the 200 species of butterflies native to the Northwest, she says. The unusual landscape of hillocks is found in a 470-acre prairie preserve near Olympia.

Sunlight, open space and wildflowers here create "an east-side habitat on the west side of the Cascade Range," Ewing writes. "This fact has not been lost on the . . . ochre ringlets, silvery blues, anise swallowtails and Sara's orange-tips . . . that levitate over Mima's buttercups, violets, camas lilies, shooting stars, dandelions, (and) oxeye daisies."

Ewing's book features informative and occasionally elegant essays on butterflies and other animals - from marine mammals to wild mustangs - along with suggestions on where to see them throughout the region. Organized seasonally, the book is a good year-round reference and trip-planner.

It's also a good companion volume to the ever-growing list of titles from The Mountaineers, a consistently excellent source of books about the natural environment and outdoor activities. A noteworthy new volume, especially for those who lose sight of state lands among the abundance of national parks and forests hereabouts, is "Washington State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide," by Marge and Ted Mueller (Mountaineers, $14.95).

Hiking, boating, swimming, camping, horseback riding, and other activities available in 200 state parks are covered, with good background information and clear, usable maps.

A good bet for city folks

But urban types have a good new source to savor, too. Even those who think they know everything about Seattle will find plenty of surprises scattered through the just-released "Seattle Access" guide (Harper Perennial, $18).

Written by J. Kingston Pierce, with contributions from nearly a dozen other local writers, the new Access guide frankly is a book best appreciated by local folks apt to be looking neighborhood-by-neighborhood for restaurants, entertainment, architectural sights, recreation, shopping and other activities.

Pay special attention to the lists of "Bests" offered by local writers and celebrities, and to Seattle trivia scattered throughout. (Seattle boasts more street clocks than any other city in the country, more Birkenstock sandals per capita, and the longest and steepest escalator west of the Mississippi - in the Seattle bus tunnel's Pioneer Square station.)

For locals, "Seattle Access" becomes a delightful and practical companion for perennial titles from one of the region's other top publishers, Sasquatch Books: "Seattle Best Places," "Seattle Cheap Eats," "Seattle Survival Guide," "Northwest Cheap Sleeps" and "Northwest Best Places."

On the road

Sasquatch has just published an unusual, whimsical guide for those who find weekends a good time to seek out the region's quirks and curiosities. "Atomic Marbles & Branding Irons," by Harriet Baskas and Adam Woog (Sasquatch, $12.95) lists more than 130 museums and public collections throughout the Northwest.

Join them at the vacuum cleaner museum in Portland; the chainsaw museum in Roseburg, Ore.; the House of Poverty Museum in Moses Lake; and the New Museum of Hysteria and Indecision in Seattle.

Car-trippers also will want to take a look at "Wandering in Washington: 640 Sites to Discover and Explore - a Guide for Motorists," by Sally J. Windom (Writings Unlimited, $12.95) and "Back Roads of Oregon: 82 Trips on Oregon's Scenic Byways," by Earl Thollander (Sasquatch, $12.95).

And five top local guide writers - Jim Poth, Roger Rapoport, Marilyn McFarlane, John Gottberg and Archie Satterfield - have authored the new "Ultimate Washington" (Ulysses Press, $11.95). The book makes good on its promise to present the "best" of the state with its careful, conscientious selection of natural and urban sights, activities, lodging and restaurants.

Traveling Smart / Close to Home focuses on local topics in the Pacific Northwest on the third Tuesday of the month.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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