With its scorched hills interspersed with geometrically laid-out vine plantations and apple orchards, the Yakima River Valley glimmers like an oasis in a desert. Arising from the snowy slopes of Snoqualmie Pass and flowing southeast (away from the Pacific) until it joins courses with the Columbia, the fast-flowing Yakima River supports an agricultural industry churning out cherries, vegetables, peaches, three-quarters of the US hop output, wine grapes and the world's largest apple yield.
Much of the valley survives on as little as 8in of rain annually (Seattle gets 37in) and summer temperatures can rise to over 100°F.
The demand for agricultural labor during fruit-picking season has brought a large Mexican population and, with 40% of Yakima County's population registered as Hispanic, you'll hear 'buenos dias' as often as 'good morning.' The vast Yakama Native American Reservation to the southwest adds a strong Native American element.