Getting High With Pacific Parasail

No, not that kind of high, you heathens. Weed may be legal in Washington state for the time being, but that’s not the Northwest Nomad’s thing. The kind of high I’m talking is 1,000 feet above the Puget Sound with the excellent folks at Pacific Parasail.

On a beautiful September day we boated out from the Ruston Way Ram and onto the open water of the Puget Sound. Half the fun of the Pacific Parasail trip, by the way, is the boat ride. You get fantastic views of the Ruston waterfront (I was unable to spot the terrible, mysterious bike, however), Point Defiance, and the area about Thea’s Park.

Parasail lifting up behind a boat on the Puget Sound.

There were six of us in the boat, which I believe is maximum capacity for each trip. Going up by ones or by twos, we took turns spending about 10–15 minutes in the parasail.

You can opt for 600 (roughly as high up as the Seattle Space Needle) or 1,000 feet high. I opted for 1,000. It’s only ten dollars more, and I figured if I’m going to do it then I might as well do it all the way.

The boat moves fast, but you feel almost stationary up in the parachute. Only when we were first going out from the boat and then when we were nearly back on it did I  feel like we were moving quickly.

Tacoma Budget Trip: Point Defiance Park

The views from up high are incredible. I also enjoyed just chilling out in the boat while the others went up. All in all, it’s about an hour on the water, though I assume that’s dependent on how many people are in the boat.

The two guys running the boat were funny and entertaining.

I’m not sure if the experience was the sort of thing I’d want to do again, but I’m glad I did it once. It’s a chance to see Tacoma in a whole new light, and it’s invigorating.

I’ve parachuted many times, and while I wouldn’t say this experience was anywhere that much of a thrill, it definitely gets the blood going. The adrenaline rush is almost certainly dependent on the previous life experiences of each person. One of the women on the boat had never done anything of this sort and was ecstatic when she came down.

If you’re looking for a new experience in Tacoma, give Pacific Parasail a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.

(All Northwest Nomad posts are honest accounts of the Northwest Nomad’s experiences. I’m not affiliated with Pacific Parasail in any way. I paid for my trip like any other customer.)

 

Hidden Treasures of Tumwater Historical Park

On any nice day (and even on many not-so-nice days), you’ll find crowds of people hanging out at Olympia’s Heritage Park and walking around Capitol Lake. It’s with good reason, of course, as both are excellent places to enjoy the outdoors. Not far at all from those spots, though, is the much quieter, secret gem of Tumwater Historical Park.

You can actually walk the whole way from Heritage Park to Tumwater Historical Park without having to cross any streets (the park’s location is pinned to the map at the end of this article). You can follow the paved walk that goes around the lake and then dip down the trails leading through the Interpretive Park and walk the whole way without having to worry about traffic.

Olympia, Washington—An Endless Procession of the Species

Or, you can just drive there. It’s simple enough to find.

Either way, you’ll find a spot much quieter and more private than Heritage Park. Even on sunny days, the number of visitors never strains the park’s capacity. I don’t know why this is. I only know that the huge grassy space and trails there rarely have more than a handful of people.

I’ve had many days where I bummed around Heritage Park and found it crammed with people, then skipped over the the Historical Park and found it nearly empty.

Even those who know of the park, I think, largely don’t realize all the hidden historical gems there. I assume this is the case, anyway, because I’ve been going to this park for years and only recently learned that it’s named Tumwater Historical Park and that it’s full of neat stuff.

I usually go there to relax in the lawn and get some sun or read a book in peace and quiet.

For starters, the park is an official Blue Star Memorial Highway point. I’d never heard of this organization until stumbling upon this marker (which is in the parking lot and concealed by bushes), but it’s a project of the National Garden Clubs.

The markers are placed in honor of the United States Armed Forces. I have to say that I found it somewhat disrespectful that park maintenance has allowed this sign to be partially swallowed up by vegetation, BUT it’s also kind of cool because now the sign is sort of like a hidden artifact.

What is not so hidden is the pair of houses you can find atop the hill where the road leads down into the park.

House at Tumwater Historical Park.
The interior of this house can be toured at certain times. It’s got beautiful landscaping and an educational flower garden.

 

A house from the early 20th Century.
As the placard in the lower screen says, this is a house from the early 20th Century. It’s so beautifully maintained that I didn’t realize it was a historical site until happening by and seeing the placard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These sites aren’t going to blow many minds, I’d wager, but they make Tumwater Historical Park a great little spot for a lazy weekend afternoon. For history buffs such as myself, they’re a bona fide destination.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than taking in some history, and Tumwater Historical Park is a great place to explore and feel the tides of Time lapping around your feet.

You don’t even need to visit the historical sites to enjoy the park. It’s got a huge playground for kids and a great big stretch of grass for soaking up the sun or throwing a ball around.

But, if you happen to be a history enthusiast, it’s got some real magic to offer—and it’s all free!

Things to Do at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Tucked away smack-dab in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula Loop, Lake Crescent is one of the most beautiful destinations in Washington—a state FULL of beautiful destinations. I visit Lake Crescent often (and often make a dual trip of Lakes Crescent and Quinault), so I figured I’d put together a list of things to do at Lake Crescent.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and people with boats will almost certainly come up with a radically different itinerary. This is just my perspective as a guy who prefers to keep the earth under his feet.

#1 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Storm King

For intrepid hikers, Storm King is a must when you visit Lake Crescent. It’s my favorite hike in that area, and one of my favorites in the entire state.

From the top of the trail you get an awe-inspiring view of Lake Crescent and the surrounding area. Be warned, though, my friends—with courage, endurance, and grit, you must EARN this particular view.

Mean, Mean Mount Storm King: Path to Stunning Views Littered With Bodies of the Broken and Dejected

#2 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Marymere Falls

It’s with great shame that I admit my inability to find any of my pictures of Marymere Falls, though I’ve visited the location more times than I can count. I’ll shoot out to this location every time I visit Lake Crescent.

My lack of falls-photographs does, however, give me an excuse of the tunnel on the trail to the falls. I call it the Hobbit Tunnel, though far as I know it has no official name.

Tunnel through stone wall leading to Marymere Falls.

I think the reason the tunnel always brings Lord of the Rings to my mind is because “Marymere Falls” sounds like something from the Shire to me, and because…well…this tunnel looks like a Hobbit tunnel.

Marymere Falls is a much easier hike than Storm King, and it really is a must-see for visitors to Lake Crescent. The Washington Trails Association covers it well here.

#3 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Jeez, Just Chill and Enjoy the Lake

Many of these sorts of blogs go for outrageous, death-defying adventures. That’s all fine and good, but sometimes I feel like people get too caught up in chasing what will look cool on Facebook, rather than doing something that’s simply relaxing and rejuvenating (what crazy concepts in this modern age).

Bird perched in a tree.
Just BE…like this bird I found in a tree on the shore of Lake Crescent.

Lake Crescent is beautiful. Period. You can just relax on the shore and look out over the water and enjoy the simple pleasure of being alive. It’s okay to just…BE.

I still remember the first time I drove around a bend on 101 and caught sight of Lake Crescent. It pops up out of nowhere after a long drive through thick woods and high mountains.

The glacial water’s got a stunning shade of blue you won’t find in many other places around the country.

Personally, it’s natural beauty was, and IS, enough for me. My favorite times of each trip usually end up being just sitting on the shore and contemplating the beauty.

#4 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Eat at Granny’s

Roughly 10 minutes east of Lake Crescent is one of the best-kept secrets of the Olympia Peninsula Loop: Granny’s Cafe.

Especially after a hard hike up Mount Storm King, Granny’s burgers and milk shakes are unbelievably good. This place is an absolute gem.

Granny’s Cafe near Port Angeles, Washington: One of the Best Places to Eat on the 101 Loop

Send Me Your Tips!

If you’ve got any more suggestions for things to do at Lake Crescent or just want to share your experience, please drop me a line or leave a comment. I’m always ready to learn something new!

Peace out, fellow travelers.

Enjoy the Northwest!

Murder of a City, Tacoma: Introduction and Preface

My Plan to Chronicle Murder of a City, Tacoma

I’ve been trying to figure the best way to cover Murder of a City, Tacoma. The book is long out of print. As of this moment, I can’t find any copies for sale online. Thus, it appears I was highly fortunate to snap a copy of this weird slice of Tacoma history, and I want to share its contents with the public in the best manner possible.

Covering the book is no easy task, however. This wild little tale is packed full of information.

I fear that too broad an overview will be too shallow. Likewise, I fear that too detailed of a reading will bore readers back to their television screens. I’m a fan of “long form reading” (which I used to just call “reading”), but I’m a realist, and I understand that most readers these days want things in small chunks.

So, in that spirit, I’ll be covering one chapter of Murder of a City at a time, keeping each post under 1,500 words. This first post is slightly different, as the Introduction and Preface are short enough to cram into one story.

Disclaimer

I intend to write about Murder of a City, Tacoma, as it stands on its own two feet. Later I will dig into other historical accounts and test the veracity of Crisman’s story, but here, I’m just sharing what’s inside this rare book.

Murder of a City, Tacoma, is about a political war that took place in the late 1960s. It was written by one of the information soldiers in that war. As such, it’s full of mud-slinging and accusation.

Most, if not all, of the central characters are dead now. I’m not concerned about law suits. However, I want to make clear out of respect for the dead and out of the desire to preserve my own credibility, that I do not endorse any of Crisman’s claims (nor do I disavow them).

I’ll research and present what I find later. For now, I’m just covering what’s inside this book.

So, with no further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Murder of a City, Tacoma.

Murder of a City, Tacoma: Introduction

Dedication in Murder of a City, Tacoma. It reads "To Fred Crisman, Jr., who gave up his summer for "The Murder of a City." JGMurder of a City, Tacoma opens with Crisman’s dedication to his son. Here, you can see it signed “JG,” which refers to the author-name on the book’s cover: Jon Gold.

Jon Gold was a pseudonym used by Crisman, not only for this book but during the time written of in the took. The reason why he chose to go this pseudonymous route is explained in the Preface section below.

The book’s Introduction is one page written by Virginia Shackelford in August 1970. I’m not exactly sure who Shackelford was, but I did find someone with her name as a 1983 recipient of a Governor’s Arts and Heritage Award. If this is the same woman, I can’t be sure. I’ll dig more into this later.

Shackelford’s description of Gold/Crisman can only be described as “epic,” in the truest sense of the word.

“He burst like a bombshell upon the political scene,” Shackelford wrote. “Fast talking, abrasive, highly opinionated, aggressive…JON GOLD! He was a new radio commentator with an evening talk show, and he stirred immediate interest and aroused even more immediate support and opposition.”

She describes Gold’s talk show as having “fire and a drive that fascinated all who listened, whether they disagreed or agreed with his political stance.”

Shackelford then contrasts this description of a larger-than-life Gold against a much more pedestrian one of Crisman.

“Then…there is the man Fred L. Crisman. Quiet, soft-spoken, diffident by nature, he is totally different from his alter-ego, but, it is as Jon Gold that he will be remembered in Tacoma.”

Shackelford finishes her introduction by saying that Crisman gave her and the city of Tacoma hope.

“For those of us who had long fought to bring a more representative form of government to our torn city, and who had waged an almost impossible battle against a monopoly in the news media, Jon Gold became a fulcrum which helped us upset the balance of power and to give us some hope that we might triumph at long last.”

(To put these statements into context, one has to understand that Tacoma was to the 60s–90s what Detroit, Michigan, is to 2018…a corrupt, violent, economically depressed wasteland.)

Into this scene of ruin and despair charged one Fred L. Crisman, riding under an alter ego, as any good superhero should.

Dramatic stuff.

Trust me, though, the book only gets wilder.

Preface

The preface is written by Crisman himself, under the name Jon Gold. It’s his condemnation not only of the corruption of Tacoma specifically, but also about the inherent corruption of any form of “City Management.”

I don’t know exactly what, if any, classification Crisman would give his political belief system, but he’s clearly and unambiguously suspicious of government power. I suspect he’d call himself a Libertarian today, but I can’t be sure about that. His hatred for government seems so deep that for all I know he would have called himself a full-blown anarchist.

Crisman explains that the story told in Murder of a City happened between 1967 and 1970. He wastes little time before going on the attack.

“I have stated on radio, television, and in print that City Manager government is the most wasteful, inefficient, bumbling, and dishonest form of government ever devised by men for the grabbing of a dishonest dollar,” Crisman wrote.

“It is a pure dictatorship, and it is based on corruption,” he went on. “That may seem to be a strong statement, however, for a City Manager form of government to operate at all, it must have a compatibility between the controlling majority of the city council and the man picked as Manager of the city. Any city manager, worth his title, is aware that he must please that Majority to keep his job, and there is usually one thing in their mind that pleases them most of all and that is money!”

(To me, Crisman has an endearing habit of using exclamation marks quite profusely. Others may be put off by the style.)

The rest of the Preface continues much like the quoted portion above. Many, I think, would call it a rant. Far as I can tell, though, one man’s “rant” is another man’s righteous monologue against injustice, and until I know more about the veracity of his claims I won’t label it one way or the other.

Crisman explains an aspect of Tacoma corruption that will figure importantly into the story: “One of the best weapons that City Management has is the ‘false charge’ and that usually takes the form of making an all out attack upon its critics by branding them as criminals. That was a favorite tactic of the Tacoma City Management and it has a record of character assassination that is a horrible thing to examine.”

It is because of that City Management track record for criminal accusation, I presume, that Crisman changed his name to Gold.

Crisman’s Fight Was Personal

Crisman was born in Tacoma, but he’d been gone for a long time before returning to live out the events described in this book. He’d left for the east coast after serving as a fighter pilot in WWII (this is the claim, anyway, and again I haven’t verified his military record…just going by the book and general mythology).

In the Preface for Murder of a City, Tacoma, Crisman explains that he came home to find “what had happened to my home town in the many years I had been gone. It turned out to be a mounting story of terror tactics, graft, dishonest and political police, blackmail, and crimes for almost every description committed in the name of ‘clean government.'”

Crisman concludes, “There was little doubt that Tacoma had fallen into the hands of the Far Left and it was to be a well kept secret for many years and it is a matter that is being argued at this very hour…It turns out to be a close and political life of the city. It turns out to be a close knit small band of conspirators against he common good! All of them in the far, far Left of Liberal politics.”

Crisman gives a respectful account of Tacoma’s first City Manager, one Fred Backstrom. Crisman describes him as a man “who seems to have made a sincere effort to make the city manager form of government work.”

According to Crisman, Backstrom was unfairly criticized for his “conservative views on public finance and the attitude towards large federal grants of tax money for the city!”

After Backstrom left, Crisman says, David Rowlands of Eur Claire, Wisconsin, moved in. This is where we meet our primary villain.

“Rowlands is a cruel, vain man with an icy coldness that freezes one’s ability to speak directly to him,” Crsiman writes. “Fond of referring to himself in the third person, his ego and his temperament were not suited to the needs of the city or to those who had been at work in Tacoma to make it a better town.”

The above description is consistent with the remainder of Crsiman’s presentation of Rowlands—a man the author gives no quarter.

Tacoma News-Tribune

Crisman then fingers the Tacoma News-Tribune as the propaganda arm of Rowlands’ establishment.

“Directly from the handbook of the International City Managers Association comes the direct planning of Rowlands. It directs all city manager thinking. Part of that thinking is to supply the local press with advantages that will lead them into total support. The Tribune was given every tax-break possible, it was given a direct re-zoning in the middle of a proper residential district to erect a 200 foot steel tower of the instillation of a TV station and radio broadcast area…The Tribune prospered and Rowlands was painted to the citizens as a White Knight on a White Horse.”

Crisman, it’s safe to say, disagrees with the Tribune‘s presentation of Rowlands (to put it euphemistically).

This is the historical backdrop Crisman paints for us: Tacoma, a city dying in the clutches of a corrupt political machine as blindly and unremittingly evil as a fantasy novel monster.

“All of this leads up to late 1966 and my return to my home town, a broken, beaten, desert of rubble that resembled a bombed out area in Eastern Europe.”

Crisman came home to find his city in shambles, and he decided to do something about that. That “something” is accounted for in the remainder of Murder of a City.

Crisman’s Sign-Off

In regards to the final paragraph in the Preface, I can’t resist from adding a little commentary for those unfamiliar with Tacoma history.

I live in Tacoma right now (2018), at a time when we’re experiencing a continual renewal that’s been going for over a decade.

Sunset Magazine declared Tacoma the best place to move to in the Pacific Northwest in 2018. Our art scene is thriving. Our job market is strengthening. It’s a good place. I love living here.

But, back there in 1970, Crisman ended his Preface with the statement:

“I have called this story: The Murder of a City, and I am sure that you will agree that if the city ever recovers from the heavy damages that wounded it, it will be so close a call, so narrow a margin of escape, that it will not change the title. For the Tacoma that I knew died under the crushing heel of a 13 year dictatorship every bit as cruel, heartless, and bitter as any that has ever existed!”

And with that, I’ll close this first post. Chapter 1 coming soon…

Camping Outside Mount Rainier: La Wis Wis

Mount Rainier is the crown jewel of Washington state, which means that it can get downright packed in the peak summer tourist season. So, if you’re looking to visit but having trouble finding lodging available within the park (or simply want to avoid the thickest crowds), then camping outside Mount Rainier is a great option.

There are multiple options for camping outside Mount Rainier, but today I’m going to share my thoughts on the National Forest Service’s La Wis Wis campground. I’ve written about La Wis Wis before in my Introverts Getaway Series, but that was in autumn, during the off-season.

Now that I’ve had a chance to try La Wis Wis during the busy tourist season, I’ve decided to cover it again. (This happens to be where I was camping, by the way, when I wrote my Pub Beer review.) Same campground, but different vibe, as last time I nearly had the whole place to myself but this time every spot was taken.

Three Easy Hikes at Mount Rainier

My brief summary of La Wis Wis during the busy season is simple: it’s very good. I highly recommend it to all visitors interesting in camping outside Mount Rainier. I stay at Forest Service campgrounds often, and I’d rank this as one of the better in the state of Washington.

The campground was filled to capacity when I visited in July, but my spot was wooded enough that I didn’t feel encroached upon. As you can see in the photo the left, there was a tent spot about 20 feet from the picnic table and fire ring, which is a feature I always enjoy in campgrounds.

With the separate tent spot, you don’t have to worry about stray sparks burning a hole in your tent, or about feeling crowded in when you sleep.

The fire ring has a grill and is excellently ventilated, so you can get a good hot fire going. Most of the spots are at least relatively close to water, which is also nice.

The campground is close enough to the town of Packwood that a short drive can get you to supplies, but the area in general surrounding area is so underdeveloped that it’s still nice and quiet.

The south entrance to Mount Rainier itself is not far from Las Wis Wis, which is also what makes it an ideal location for people who want to visit Rainier but not stay there. One thing that may confuse visitors is that it’s listed as being in Randle, but you drive many miles east of Randle before you get there.

You actually have to go all the way through Packwood and a few more miles east up the spectacular White Pass Scenic Byway before you get to La Wis Wis. You get ample warning that the turn is coming up, but it still kind of sneaks up on you because it’s right next to a bridge.

So, if you’re looking for camping outside Mount Rainier, I don’t believe you can go wrong with La Wis Wis. I’ll review some other sites in upcoming posts.