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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spring forward

Get a jump on the nice weather by visiting the warmer climes of the Tri-Cities and YakimaThe calendar may say March is arriving, but the weather says winter is in no hurry to leave throughout much of

James P. Johnson I Special To The Spokesman-Review

With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, you have a good chance of starting your summer tan early in Yakima. The city of 80,000, in the shadow of the Cascades, is three hours by car from Spokane.

I’ve spent hours on the Greenway Trail, 10 miles of paved surface along the Yakima River. From couples walking hand-in-hand to groups of bicyclists, this appealing trail is shadowed by tall, broadleaf trees, home to a healthy population of birds. Bald eagles are spring residents.

Gentle enough for family hiking, Cowiche Canyon is a three-mile trail at the west end of town. Following an old rail bed with several bridges spanning Cowiche Creek, walls of sheer basalt frame the trail. There’s also a climbing rock outfitted for rock climbers.

To the north is Yakima Rim Skyline Trail, which climbs bare Umtanum Ridge. A two-mile hike to the top of the ridge gives magnificent views in every direction. On two separate hikes last spring, I encountered a herd of pronghorn antelope near the ridge top.

Float trips can be arranged on the Yakima in spring and early summer in the stunning Yakima River Canyon. The white water is docile, making it kid-friendly. This stretch of river is also a blue-ribbon trout fishery that hits its peak in spring and autumn.

May 17 is Your Canyon for a Day, a leisure bike ride along closed Highway 821, a designated state scenic route. With a relatively gentle grade and few hills, this ride is appropriate for the cyclist who’s not yet in shape for the Tour de France.

There are more than 50 wineries in and around Yakima and the biggest wine tasting event of the year is the Spring Barrel Tasting, April 24 through 26. A $30 premier pass purchased online before April 21 allows you to avoid most tasting fees.

Lodging specials and more information can be found at www.visityakima.com, or by calling (800) 221-0751.

Winery and premier pass information is available at wineyakimavalley.org or by calling (509) 965-5201.

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