Discover something new

My husband and I, both Foreign Service types, met in Zagreb, Croatia. He was stationed there and I was on a temporary assignment from my post in Sofia, Bulgaria. As our relationship became serious he wanted just one promise from me that I would agree to move to Washington State as soon as he was eligible to take an early retirement. He had grown up in Washington State and spoke lovingly of the incredible beauty and diversity of the state, with everything from mountains to ocean, rain forest to shrub steppe. In less than four hours we can drive from the dry Kittitas Valley (10” of precipitation a year), through the lush forests of Snoqualmie Pass (>100” a year), past the vibrant urban centers of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia to the spectacular beauty of the Washington Coast. I cannot imagine living anywhere that offers so many different opportunities.

When I first visited the state in the summer of 1997, I could see why my husband had always longed to move back here. We made that transition in 2004, moving to Ellensburg with our two young kids. From our home, outdoor possibilities beacon in every direction but finding places to go with our kids, then 2 and 5, was not so easy. There are hundreds of great recreation opportunities within a half mile of our home – but finding out about them is hard. There wasn’t a single site that I could go to answer my questions, which were “where can I take my small children for a hike and what access pass do I need when I get there?” The answers, where they existed, were scattered among sites for the various recreation areas. Within a 30 minute drive of our house, we can visit a national forest, four wildlife areas, three state parks, city parks, BLM recreation areas, county facilities, the Suncadia Resort, and even sites owned by the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Washington State Department of Transportation. I finally took my kids out for their first hike, using recommendations from a book that a friend gave me. We got them in the car (never an easy process), drove up Manastash Canyon (whining all the way) and got to the trailhead described in the book to find a no trespassing sign. The author had failed to mention that the first ¼ mile of the trail was on private property and the owner was no longer allowing access.

Washington Hometown was created to help people navigate our amazing state. Over the last 10 years, I have gathered information about more than 15,000 recreation opportunities from National Parks to Pocket Parks, trailheads, campgrounds, wineries and museums. I collect information about each place (does it allow dogs, what pass is required, what sports are allowed) so I can use the data to create maps and apps tailored to specific interests. The information is available free through the Discover WA web maps and apps. We released our first app, Snowmobile WA, in January and are now working on our second generation of apps and web maps – these will have more options (such as the ability to filter the map to show just what you are looking for) and will target new groups (dog lovers, people with kids and food tourists).  Our data is also available by subscription for organizations that do their own map and through custom maps that we can create for you.

Check out our web maps, let us know what you would like to see on the new apps, and discover your next adventure.

I am launching this blog with the Umtanum Creek Trail, one of my favorite trails and less than half an hour from Ellensburg.

The Umtanum Trail in the Yakima Canyon makes a great hike for all ages and abilities. The trail winds gently through the shrub steppe landscape, following Umtanum Creek past several beaver dams. In addition. If you are looking for a more vigorous hike, you can follow the Umtanum Ridge trail to where it joins the Green Dot Road system. Although the land on the other side of the pedestrian bridge is part of WDFW’s Wenas Wildlife Area, The trailhead is at BLM recreation site, so you will need to pay a $5/day use fee if you do not have a federal access pass.

Jennifer Hackett