FAVORED by its size and natural setting, Washington offers almost unlimited opportunities to the sports lover and to those who seek recreation. Mountains, forests, lakes, streams, and ocean coastline, vast primitive areas, in some cases unexplored, appeal to the most hardy seeker of wilderness trails and offer opportunity for every form of outdoor activity.
On the other hand, the sports enthusiast who does not care for untamed country, and the possible attendant discomforts, can find modern recreational facilities in attractive settings. While comparatively new as a State, Washington has golf courses, tennis courts, and athletic clubs, particularly in the larger urban centers, that vie with the finest anywhere. The first golf club in the Pacific Coast States is said to be the one organized at Tacoma in 1894. Now there are 65 wellmaintained courses in the State: 15 private, and 50 open to the public.
Those who prefer a spectator's role may witness the unusual sight of Indians paddling war canoes in intertribal competition (see Tour 2C), lumberjacks in log-rolling contests, and hard-riding stalwarts "fanning" pitching mounts or roping steers at Old West rodeos. Football, basketball, hockey, soccer, crew, and automobile and motorboat racing are enjoyed in season. Professional boxing and wrestling bouts, frequently of championship caliber, are staged in Seattle and other cities; two of organized baseball's minor leagues -- the Pacific Coast and the Western International -- offer both day and night games; and there are several city leagues.
Horse racing is perhaps the oldest known sport in the State. Long before the arrival of white pioneers, the Yakima Indians of eastern Washington ran their ponies. In Snowden History of Washington is a reference to early horse racing: "During treaty negotiations ( 1855) by Governor Isaac Stevens a holiday was suggested by Young Chief, one of the Cayuses' main men and a day was set aside for horse racing . . . in which the delighted and the utmost good feeling prevailed." The typical Indian track was a straightaway, with a post at one end, around which the racers turned and headed back for the starting point. As they neared the finish, the mounts were occasionally "helped in" by frenzied backers, who rode alongside and plied whips. The sport continues today on the Yakima Reservation. Blankets, shawls, clothing, saddles, feed, money, and mounts are staked on the results.
Washington's mountain ranges and high peaks have lured venturesome climbers and explorers since early Territorial days. The first organized group of mountaineers were the Mazamas, of Portland, formed in 1894. Under the sponsorship of the Mazamas, the Mountaineers came into being in 1906. During the initial decade of organization, the Mountaineers climbed the State's principal peaks and constructed two rustic lodges; in 1921, after repeated efforts had failed, they obtained legislation for State parks.
The Cascade Crest Trail, beginning at the Canadian Border and extending to the Columbia River without leaving the confines of a national forest, has been well marked by the Forest Service; it follows the hump of the Cascades the entire length of the State. Information on sports and recreation centers is furnished by sportinggoods stores, chambers of commerce, and outdoor associations (see General Information). For the visitor to recreation areas, Washington has one admonition: "Remember the fire hazard." Regulations concerning entry to national parks and forests should be observed carefully and fire permits obtained where necessary.
In winter and spring, when the snow is deepest, Washington's mountains are thronged with skiing devotees. Countless lakes, streams, and extensive reaches of salt water have made Washington a mecca for fishermen; rugged heights, sagebrush plains, broad wildernesses, and logged-off territory attract the hunters of big and small game. Before 1932, however, the control and regulation of game by counties resulted in laws so inconsistent and confusing that depletion of game through lack of conservation measures was imminent. Uniform game laws and enforcement have given protection to wild life without necessarily curbing the sportsman. Virtually every city and town has its sportsmen's group, affiliated with a State or national organization, which aids the State game commission in determining the opening and closing of seasons so as to give the maximum of protection to game.