Photo by Jake Knapp.

Photo by Jake Knapp.

    As big an advocate as I am for international travel, I also understand that leaving home for foreign lands isn’t always possible. This past summer I left my beloved Europe and headed back home to Washington State to get in some much needed family time. It was easy to lament the things I wouldn’t be doing that summer, but then I began rediscovering my own backyard. It may not have been the heart-racing kind of exploration that you want to regale to your grandchildren someday, but it is a kind of travel that is as important and fulfilling in its own way. One adventure in particular is one I recommend to any and all in this corner of the country, and hope to repeat myself in summers to come.

    About half an hour east of Seattle, Washington State begins to reveal its true self. The sky scrappers fall away, giving way to the epic mountain-scapes and lush forests that used to blanket the region from coastline to mountaintops.

    It is here that you’ll find the mighty Snoqualmie Falls, a huge waterfall that produces 44,000 kilowatts of electricity via hydropower. It’s a beautiful place to visit at any time of year: in the winter huge icicles form around the edges of the falls, creating the illusion of being frozen in a photograph; in the spring the falls are engorged, falling to the river below with exaggerated force.

    As much as you may want to tumble over the waterfall in a barrel it is definitely not advised. Travel just downriver, though, and you’ll find a launch point where rafters and floaters taking advantage of the gentle current and cool water in the summer season.

    Before you jump in with your raft and call yourself Huck Finn, you must first consider the logistics. Firstly, go with friends; it’s safer and more fun. Second, take two cars; this is a must because you’ll need a car where you get out of the river to go and fetch the car you took to the launch point. Third, take ample beer; the river will keep it nice and frosty as you tow it behind you. Fourth, wear shoes, as you’ll have to hike a bit down to the river in the first place, and get back up onto the bank at the end. Besides, you never know when you may capsize and need to finagle your way back onto your mode of transport by pushing off rocks or driftwood. And finally, be aware that if you go later in the day you will get very, very cold once the sun dips below the horizon. Hence, going with just a pool tube can be a bit uncomfortable depending on your body’s thermostat. I’ve seen all modes of float on the river, from water wings and pool noodles to survival rafts with deluxe coolers and above-water seats for dog co-pilots. The river is very tame except for the occasional bump and you’ll be perfectly safe as long as you steer a little bit in the event of logs, occasional boulders, and rogue rafters.

    The landing point is in downtown Fall City, about a three-hour float down river. It should be obvious to you that this is where you left your car but if you do miss it you can float down as long as you’d like, but I’d recommend getting out at Fall City on the left-hand side. Once some girls and I got in some trouble for getting out on a golf course on the right-hand side, but that’s another story.

    After you dry off, or maybe while you’re still dripping, you can check out what the illustrious City of Fall has to offer. The Last Frontier Tavern is said to be a hearty local dig. Another local legend is The Roadhouse, featured in that great 90’s show… Twin Peaks! Yes, this town is famous (Northern Exposure was filmed just east in Roslyn, WA).

    The dive bars, outdoor adventures, and Mark Twain activity definitely adds to the small town charm and backwoods Americana feeling. It may not be the Sagrada Família or Arc de Triomphe, but it is part of the USA culture. Just because something is familiar, doesn’t mean there aren’t new things to discover and appreciate.