On Sunday, October 16, 2011, I drove the length of Washington State Route 161, up the meridian... the meridan in the middle of Range 4 East of the Willamette Meridian, that is.
State route No. 161:
A state highway to be known as state route number 161 is established as follows:
Beginning at a junction with state route number 7 in the vicinity of La Grande, thence northeasterly via Eatonville to Puyallup, thence northerly to a junction with state route number 18.
That portion of state route 161 within King county shall be designated Enchanted Parkway.
In the forest just north of La Grande along SR 7, with my car's odometer exactly at 140000, we began Highway 161.
The highway heads northeast for a couple miles to Eatonville, curves west across the Ohop Valley, and then a mile later, is heading due north upon the aforementioned meridian. After a short curvy section to visit Clear Lake and cross Tanwax Creek, we're back on track. Clear Lake should have a nice view of Mt Rainier, but the clouds obscured it for us. About ten miles further along the meridian, we enter the South Hill community. We're on Meridian Avenue, stopping at every red light. Four miles later, SR 161 turns west to quickly meet SR 512. Here, SR 161 joins SR 512 on a rare state-route coinciding.
We cruise down the hill to Puyallup on the freeway. After crossing the Puyallup River, we come to this junction with SR 167. SR 512 ends here. SR 410 is mentioned on the sign, but doesn't officially start till another mile east. SR 161 northbound joins SR 167 southbound, heading west (naturally).
A mile later, the freeway ends. SR 161 and SR 167 part ways. SR 167 turns south, then northwest toward Tacoma. SR 161 turns north, magically back on Meridan Avenue.
We leave the meridian briefly to climb up the hill to Edgewood. At first, we weren't sure which city we were in. We didn't see any "Welcome to Edgewood" signs at the city limits, but we figured it out anyway. After a bit, we passed the town of Milton and the old state route 514, without really noticing either. It all blends together so well. SR 161 bends west a bit, leaving the meridian. We enter King County, where SR 161 becomes Enchanted Parkway, enter Federal Way, cross I-5 without access, and come to a slew of stop lights, the above portrait being that of the junction with SR 18. Highway 161 is at an end, exactly a mile west of most of the route and less than a quarter mile west of where it began.
Forests, farmlands, suburban retail. Rural road, expressway, city arterial. Highway 161 has it all...