Resources to help you savor the summer
For more information:
Rivers and sea
For whale watching, consider a trip to the San Juan Islands, where the season peaks this month.
• For tidepooling, nearby opportunities abound at Mee-kwa-mooks Park in West Seattle. Camp Long is hosting a low-tide adventure at the park on Saturday from 9-10:30 a.m. There is a $4 per person fee.
• If you are feeling more ambitious, try the loop trail to Cape Alava, through the forests of Olympic National Park. The 3.5-mile hike ends at a rugged sea-swept beach. It's a great spot to tidepool and watch for Pacific seabirds, including black oyster catchers, cruising the offshore rocks.
Plan on an overnight trip; it's a four-hour, rugged drive from Seattle, and the hike, over a boardwalk trail, takes at least an hour.
• For a mid-range option between near home and far away, how about the Port Townsend Low Tide Festival, held this year on July 7. The festival features a sand-sculpture contest and fish printing. For details: 888-365-6978.
• Consider a boat charter from Westport, another great way to view seabirds. Contact Westport Seabirds at 360-268-5222.
• For current fishing seasons and regulations, see the Web site for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The site has the department's comprehensive Weekender report, with tips every other week on what to see in the natural world and where to see it. This is also the home of the department's Watchable Wildlife site, which includes tips on where to see animals on the move all over the state.
You can even watch without leaving your desk by checking out the Web-cams posted at the site, including one on an eagle's nest. See www.wa.gov/wdfw/.
• Viewing the silvery shad run is easy at the fish windows at Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River Gorge. Once there, check out the gift shop, probably the only place you'll be able to buy boxes of toy salmon eggs. For more information: www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/b/.
Cities and farms
• What solstice is complete without nude cyclists? To get your annual fix, see the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade and Fair on Saturday and Sunday. The parade begins along the ship canal and North 34th Street, at the Adobe building and various other locations (this is Fremont, after all), starting at noon.
• Farmers markets are bursting with beautiful produce. For location of a market near you and hours of operation go online to the Web site of the Washington Farmers Market Association at www.wafarmersmarkets.com.
Also check out the Puget Sound Fresh program at dnr.metrokc.gov/wlr/farms.
• For public gardens, try the Bellevue Botanical Garden and Wilburton Hill Park. The park features both a botanical and a Japanese garden, and three miles of easy trails. Call 425-451-3755 for more information.
There is also a world-class rose garden at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, a Japanese garden, native plant and rhododendron garden. For more information, call the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma at 253-305-1000.
Lowland meadows and shrub steppe
Options abound for good butterfly viewing on both sides of the mountains.
• Try the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, south of Olympia. Contact the Washington Department of Natural Resources or go online to www.wa.gov/dnr. In Central Washington, try the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, south of Ellensburg. Contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional office in Yakima for more information: 509-575-2740.
Also try watching for butterflies at the wildflower meadows of Mount Rainier National Park at Paradise. Information: Jackson Visitor Center, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, 360-569-2211, Ext. 2328.
• To get an earful of meadowlarks and watch the nighthawks and the stars come out, try the Table Mountain Star Party, just outside Ellensburg. Held July 11-13 this year, it's a relaxed way to enjoy the night sky. For more information, see www.tmspa.com.
• The Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is an easy drive through the orchard country east of Vantage and just outside Othello. If you have a yen to find a rattlesnake snoozing on baking basalt, this is a good place to look. It's also a fine place to enjoy the sagelands and wildflowers that will just be hanging on at the end of their bloom at the start of summer, and to hear meadowlarks and coyotes.
For more information go to www.recreation.gov and search for Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. Or phone 509-488-2668.
• Try the North Cascades Institute at Sedro-Woolley, which offers educational programs and field seminars on bird watching. Contact the institute at 360-856-5700, Ext. 209, or go online at www.ncascades.org.
• Great places to see amphibians include the Mount Baker National Recreation Area, especially the Heather Meadows area at the final stretch of the Mount Baker Highway. Look here for frogs and salamanders, including rough-skinned newts, that will still be breeding at this time of year.
• Also try the wet meadow areas off the Ricksecker Loop road and areas around Mount Rainier National Park lakes and streams. To get to the Ricksecker Loop, use the Nisqually entrance, and follow the road through Longmire. For more information contact the park at 206-569-2211.
• Amphibians can also be spied all summer in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, but they will be at their most vocal through June. Try the South Prairie marsh area of the forest.
• Due to heavy snow, this year wildflowers will be later than usual. For a first look, try the Darrington Wildflower Festival on June 29 and 30. Put on by the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Washington Native Plant Society and the town of Darrington in the spectacular foothills of the Cascades, it's free.
For more information, call the Darrington Ranger District at 360-436-1155, or go online at www.awhitehorse.com/wildflower.
• Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park offers superb wildflower viewing. Blooming begins in late June, peaks in early to mid-July and continues through August.
Olympic National Park's Deer Park also offers wildlife, wildflowers, mountain views, killer sunsets and camping. It is a good alternative when Hurricane Ridge is likely to be crowded.
Deer Park Road begins at Milepost 253 along Highway 101, east of Port Angeles. Take the 2-mile Green Mountain Trail to enjoy wildflowers and views, or follow the Slab Camp Trail a mile along a ridge to see deer, perhaps with fawns and wildflowers. Hike up to the top of Blue Mountain and explore the paths to see the view and check out the sunset. To check on trail conditions, call the park at 360-565-3130.
Woods and ponds
• Camp Long in West Seattle offers a wide range of programs to enjoy and learn about the natural world, including hikes and family events in the Seattle area and around the state. Some programs offer overnight stays at the center's cabins for a nominal fee. To see the nature center's summer program go online at www.ci.seattle.wa.us/parks/environment/camplong.htm or phone at 206-684-7434.
• Seattle's Discovery Park also has frequent naturalist programs that offer an easy, family-friendly way to explore the woods close to home. Tomorrow night, join the Summer Solstice Celebration from 8-10 p.m. Preregister at 206-386-4236.
• "The Seasonal Guide to the Natural Year" by James Luther Davis brings together a wide range of natural history information and the best places and times to see wildlife of all kinds in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. It's widely available in libraries or bookstores. Fulcrum Publishing, 1996.
• "Washington Nature Weekends" by Sunny Walter and Janet O'Mara is fun to read and packed with suggestions for outdoor activities every weekend of the year. It is a good, one-source guide, with tips on everything from where to go to what to bring and directions. Globe Pequot Press, 2001.
• For a lovely book of natural history essays on some of the denizens of our region try "Wintergreen" by Robert Michael Pyle.
Helpful Web sites
The state tourism division has an excellent calendar of events, with everything from sturgeon derbies to garlic festivals and outdoor concerts. It's light on nature, but long on things to do all over the state: www.tourism.wa.gov.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife offers the best one-stop on the Web for an overview of what's doing in the natural world and where to see, hunt, or fish for it: www.wa.gov/wdfw.