The Pig War? Well, it almost was! In the days of westward expansion, the boundary between the northern United States and the still-British colony of British Columbia was disputed as the line turned south and ran through the water adjacent to the rich and fertile San Juan Islands. Both sides were adamant about who the islands belonged to.
A pig strayed onto a sheep farm and was shot. That was reason enough to fight, and both sides took up arms. British warships stood ready to fire. On land, American reinforcements arrived. Over the next 12 years -- yes, 12 -- the Brits and Americans existed in a friendly state of readiness for war. The situation was laughable, but the border was undecided until the dispute was submitted to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany for arbitration. He decided in favor of the Americans, and the San Juan Islands have been on the U.S. side of the border since 1872. It was a long war, but the pig was the only casualty.
Living in Washington State allows to you get to the water almost whenever you want to, and to both the American and Canadian islands as well. You can ski, enjoy world-class salmon and trout fishing in rivers and streams, hike through a rain forest, operate a farm or an apple orchard, or work in high-tech business. For the adventurous, you can even cross in to British Columbia and enjoy many pursuits in another country.
Two mountain ranges, pristine lakes, a protected salt-water sound that leads to the wider Pacific as well as North to Alaska, a generally mild climate -- there's a lot to love about this state. You'll hear a lot of talk about the constant rain in the winter (especially in Seattle) but most of it is good-natured complaining. Residents know the rain makes the flowers grow!
Seattle, Spokane and Olympia are perhaps the best known names in Washington, but they are not the only cities of note, by any means.
Seattle: Seattle, with its iconic Space Needle still reigning from the 1962 World's Fair, is the grande dame of the Pacific Northwest, perhaps only surpassed on the "appeal" scale by Victoria, British Columbia. Seattle's busy port and important international airport, as well as Boeing headquarters, assure its place as a world capital.
Olympia: The capital of Washington State is Olympia, a bit further south and smaller in population than Seattle. It actually does not even make the list of 10 largest cities in the state, but it has its own appeal.
Spokane: Spokane is known as the capital of the Inland Empire, located near Idaho. Its vibe is a bit more free-wheeling and down-to-earth than the other cities.
Other cities to check out include Yakima, Tacoma, Vancouver (yes, there's one in Canada, too; the Vancouver in Washington, however, is close to the Oregon border), Bellingham and Pullman. Friday Harbor is a great little town. It is situated on San Juan Island, where the pig was shot. Bellevue, Renton and Kent used to be bedroom communities to Seattle, but they have now made the top 10 population list and developed their own unique personalities.
In every major city, you will find a variety of home rentals and rental apartments, some with all bills paid. Duplexes for rent can be located in Olympia during legislative sessions, and you can find one-bedroom apartments for long-term lease, or one-bedroom units in historic buildings and renovated older homes. In Seattle and many other cities, modern lofts are popular and new apartment complexes offer a host of amenities.
In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a modest growth rate in population, a steady representation of the budding economy and surrounding prosperity. Home rentals in Washington are a great alternative to ownership, allowing new residents to get the feel of a community before putting down roots.
The state has two distinct zones -- three if you count the Olympic Peninsula. The peninsula is a relatively pristine and sparsely inhabited spit that stretches between the Pacific Ocean and Hood Canal at the bottom of Puget Sound. Boasting a wild coastline and the Olympic Mountain Range, much of the land mass is part of Olympic National Park. With some national forest as well, it is much like visiting a unique world. Weather, terrain, wildlife, and "life itself" on the peninsula is extremely varied. It is a favorite vacation destination.
Coastal cities are beloved because of the mountains and the water. There are only a few places on earth where you can ski in the morning and enjoy a beachside barbecue in the afternoon, and this is one of them. You can also go boating in November; you might need a sweater in June, and you can be in another country within an hour. Craft breweries, local wineries, organic farms, green businesses and local commerce thrive statewide.