This half-day outing combines a visit to the Cedar River Watershed Education Center in the Cascade foothills and a hike to Rattlesnake...

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The outing:
This half-day outing combines a visit to the Cedar River Watershed Education Center in the Cascade foothills and a hike to Rattlesnake Ledge with scenic forest and mountain views.

This can be thirsty work, but a reward awaits at the end: a post-hike wine-tasting in nearby Snoqualmie.

Spend the morning doing Saturday chores or hitting the garage sales. Head out around noon or 1 p.m. to time the active part of this outing to end about 5 p.m.

Your destination is the Cedar River Watershed, 90,000 acres of protected wilderness, less than an hour’s drive from downtown Seattle. First stop: The Cedar River Watershed Education Center, an indoor/outdoor complex funded by Seattle Public Utilities and Friends of the Cedar River Watershed.

Listen for the sounds of drums beating as you approach what once was the site of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroad camp.

Seattle artist Dan Corson designed the outdoor Rain Drum Courtyard, a musical creation where computer-activated drippers spew simulated rain on 21 drums fitted with plastic heads. The water hits the drums in programmed rhythms that transport visitors to Africa, Japan or Bali.

Droplets of water fall and dance off the skins of a drum used in artist Dan Corson’s Rain Drum Courtyard at the Cedar River Watershed’s Education Center. Twenty-one drums are used in the exhibit.

More of Corson’s work is on display in the visitors building where tree roots suspended from the ceiling are intertwined with colored neon coils to mimic the flow of water and energy.

The watershed is the source of drinking water for 70 percent of people living in the Greater Seattle area, and the interpretive exhibits here explain the watershed’s history and the technology that delivers water to homes and businesses.

Jump on a giant scale to find out how many gallons of water your body holds, or browse the exhibits and learn about how after the Great Fire of 1889, Seattle residents voted to create a municipal system that turned the Cedar River into the source of water and electricity it is today.

Most of the watershed is off-limits to the public (one way to see more is to take a summer weekend tour led by a naturalist), but hikers and walkers are welcome in the nearby Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area.

Take it easy on the 1.5-mile paved Lake Trail Loop near the education center’s parking lot or give your calves and shins a workout on the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail.

Allow about two hours for this four-mile (round-trip) hike and pack a snack and some water. The elevation gain is 1,175 feet. At the top are rocky cliffs and views over upper Snoqualmie Valley, the town of North Bend and Chester Morse Lake, the reservoir for billions of gallons of drinking water.

Shopping op:
The education center’s gift shop stocks a selection of books on Northwest flora and fauna. Handy for hikes is a series of pocket-size picture books for identifying native berries, trees, ferns and birds ($3.50-$3.75). For junior scientists, there’s a $4.95 kit on “How Insects See,” with a viewer and three lenses.

Good eats:
Pass on the fast-food restaurants near the outlet mall in North Bend and detour to the town of Snoqualmie and La Cascina Italian restaurant at the Snoqualmie Inn. The restaurant opens at 5 p.m. (closed Mondays).

If you’re not hungry for a full meal, reserve ahead for the wine- and cheese-tasting. Ask for a window table with a view of Mount Si, and relax with a plate of meats, cheeses and fruit and a trio of wines from the owner’s Woods Lake Winery.

Cost:
Admission to the education center is free. Donations are appreciated. Wine-and-cheese at La Cascina is $10 per person with a two-person minimum. Call 425-888-9399 for reservations.

Getting there:
The Cedar River Watershed and Rattlesnake Lake are 35 miles east of downtown Seattle.

Take Interstate 90 to Exit 32. Turn south at the end of the off-ramp. Follow 436th Avenue Southeast (Cedar Falls Road) for about 3.5 miles. The parking lot for the trailhead is on the right side of the lake. The education center is just past there on the right.

Hours are 10 a.m-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. Starting Saturday, May 14, the center will be open 10 a.m-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. Phone 206-233-1515 for information or reservations for watershed tours starting Saturday, June 25 ($7 for adults, $5 for youth and seniors).

To get to the Snoqualmie Inn and La Cascina, return to I-90 and go west to Exit 31 (Snoqualmie-North Bend). Turn right at the off-ramp and follow the signs to Snoqualmie. Go left on River Street and left on 384th Avenue Southeast. La Cascina is on the left at 9050 384th Ave. S.E.

Carol Pucci: 206-464-3701 or cpucci@seattletimes.com