Well, this is a Pacific Northwest adventure blog, but I recently drove back and forth across this amazing nation I call home and have to say that I was continually stunned by the beauty of Montana (and South Dakota). There’s a wild desolation to the landscape that sings to my soul.
I pulled off the road just inside the eastern border of the state to take some pictures and video. The clouds were churning around the sun as though being sucked into it.
I’ve never seen a cloud formation quite like it. It looked positively sublime over the long expanse of highway and high desert terrain.
For two months I’d been bragging to friends that I was driving cross-country country in order to bring the Mothman’s head back on a pike. I was going to reach Point Pleasant, West Virginia, I was going to track the Mothman down, and I was going to take his head. Precisely one hour outside of Point Pleasant, however, the Mothman took mine.
Not literally, of course. I am not, in fact, writing this in a state of decapitation. He did take my car, though, and I loved that old soldier with all my heart. He also cost me three days of disrepair and hotel charges.
The Mothman is not to be trifled with.
Onward to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Home of the Mothman
The tale I have to tell is about my ill-fated journey to Point Pleasant, West Virginia. My final destination was actually my hometown in Pennsylvania, but since I was driving all the way there from Olympia, Washington, I figured I might as well knock out a lifelong bucket list item and see the location of my favorite paranormal event.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the Mothman was a creature spotted from late 1966 into 1967. There’s far more to the story than I can recount here, but suffice it to say that the event was one of the strangest ever recorded and, in my humble opinion, the best entryway into what I like to cal the Grand Unified Theory of Weirdness, which is the hypothesis put forth by people like journalist John Keel and physicist Jacques Vallee, suggesting that all paranormal and UFO phenomenon links back to some broader aspect of reality that we don’t yet understand. Specifically, some sort multi-dimensionality that allows forces from other planes of existence to enter our own, tangled up somehow with our individual and group consciousnesses in a way that as yet transcends our scientific understanding.
The Mothman story was captured surprisingly well in a 1993 film titled The Mothman Prophecies. I say “surprisingly” simply because the original story is so bizarre, and so non-linear in many ways, that capturing it in a film format seems profoundly difficult.
While I appreciate the film, it’s the book that made me fall in love with the story. Its author, John Keel, happens to be among my literary heroes. He lived a remarkable life and was a great storyteller. If you’ve not read it, I really can’t recommend it highly enough.
To fully grasp the strange mystery and stranger implications of the Mothman story, the book is the way to go.
Home…but First the Mothman
I took my loyal but battered and war-weary 1997 Subaru Legacy (which is really an Outback they dubbed a Legacy for some reason) and drove from Tacoma, Washington, all the way to Chillicothe, Ohio, before that noble, determined machine finally had enough and broke down. When I say “broke down,” I don’t mean that it sputtered out or wouldn’t start, I mean that I was driving down the highway when it sounded like something exploded, smoke billowed out of my hood, and the car slid to a very permanent halt.
My very first thought was, "The Mothman got me." He'd heard me talking trash and decided to remind me who was boss in that region of the world.
The Mothman would not allow me, a mere mortal, to mock him. He'd enacted his revenge.
I spent the next three days in Chillicothe. I honestly don’t know if there is a better place to break down. It was my first time in that city, and I will tell you that Chillicothe has some of the friendliest, finest people I’ve ever met in all my travels.
A handful of Chillicotheans stopped to get out of their cars and ask me if I needed help while I was stuck on the side of the road. These were legitimate offers for help, not empty niceties.
The trooper that stopped to check on my status was equally good-natured. The good people at Vest Automotive Service were similarly helpful, as were the folks with Tony’s Taxi.
Even the salespeople of Nourse Automall, who sold me an Acura, were honest, professional, and friendly. They made my situation so much easier than it could have been and executed the most efficient, stress-free car sale I’ve ever participated in.
I would recommend Chillicothe for any person whose car explodes on the highway! I would also recommend it for anybody looking for a new place to visit. I really dug the vibe there. They do outdoor theater called the Tecumseh Drama every summer, and I’d like to go back with the time to see it.
Upon receiving my new car from Nourse, the first thing I set out to do was to complete my journey to Point Pleasant. There was no talk of taking heads this time, though. I went there with humility and deference to the Mothman–long may he reign.
The town itself is like stepping into a time portal back into the 60s. You can imagine yourself back there in ’67 when the Mothman was rearing his beautiful, horrible head.
Point Pleasant would make a great destination even for those with no interest at all in the paranormal.
The Mothman Museum
All that being said, my goal was the Mothman, and I achieved that goal.
The Mothman Museum is not a particularly large place. When I initially walked in, I also thought it was kind of campy. Digging closer into that little curio shop of the Damned, however, I found that it was much more substantive than it initially appeared to be.
The museum holds the original diary pages from one of the young women present at the very first Mothman sighting in 1966. These pages were my favorite attractions in the museum. You can actually stand there and read the thoughts and feelings of the young lady after she came back from her sighting, all as written in her own words on that fateful night.
There are also the original Derenberger tapes (as in the actual, physical tape reels).
I greatly appreciated the tribute to John Keel who, as I mentioned previously, is a hero of mine. They have his white suit coat, his desk, his typewriter, and other effects.
There is a gift a shop connected to the museum. Gift shops often strike mas almost redundant in the internet age when you can order things from anywhere instantly, but this one has a great collection of little oddities that I doubt you’d find surfing the web.
The TNT Area is Now Called the McClintic Wildlife Management Area
So, for any Mothman enthusiast, the famed TNT area is the main attraction. That’s where most of the Mothman action happened back in ’67. It was an area where they made munitions for World War II, hence the TNT Area name. Back in ’67 the area was already abandoned and left to be a party and make-out spot for area teens.
Today, it’s called the McClintic Wildlife Management Area. This designation robs some of the mystery of the area, perhaps, but it’s highly beneficial in that it has kept the spot relatively untouched and publicly accessible, which means you can freely cruise the same backroads as those who saw the Mothamn all those years ago.
My only real regret from my trip is that I didn’t get to hike the area more thoroughly and that I didn’t get to go there at night. Those were my two primary goals, but with the breaking down of the car, time was no longer available. Oh, well, it gives me an excuse to return–and return I shall.
Sometimes Crappy Situations Make Great Stories
It definitely wasn’t fun to break down on the side o the highway 3,000 miles from home–nor was it cheap. My little Mothman trip cost me far more than it should have.
However, I can now claim to have been the Mothman’s final victim, and I can urge people to refrain from talking trash or bragging about taking its head home on a pike.
The Mothman is still out there my friends. He has something to say. He said it pretty loud back there in 1967, but we’re all still trying to figure out exactly what he meant.
You Can the Wild Horses Monument it from I-90, Just East of the Columbia River Bridge
Just before driving onto or off of (depending on your direction of travel) the I-90 bridge crossing the Columbia River between Quincy and Vantage, Washington, you can see the silhouettes of wild horses up on a hilltop. They’re running, yet they never move, and they are always there. This isn’t a riddle–it’s just the wild horses monument.
You, keen-eyed reader, may have noticed that I didn’t capitalize “wild horses monument” as should be done for a proper name. That was intentional, I’ll have you knw. I do write and edit for a living, you know. I was just being clever by keeping it lowercase, you see. Fiendishly, demonically clever.
(Do you SEE how clever I was being, now? Do you SEE?!?!)
Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies, less interestingly called the Wild Horses Monument, is an incomplete art installation started in 1989 by David Govedare, of the Chewelah tribe (White Hawk wrote a history of the people here).
The final project is supposed to have a basket tipped over on its side, from which the horses are running. Grandfather, being (to my understanding) a concept for the primeval natural god that creates the world, has tipped the basket over and let the horses loose.
It should be pretty spectacular at completion, but I rather like the incomplete version up now, as well. I prefer the Grandfather Cuts Loos the Ponies name over the Wild Horses Monument and think changing it was a mistake. It’s far more interesting, poetic, and intriguingly unexpected. But, ain’t no one caring what name I prefer, so the point is moot. It’s the Wild Horses Monument, for all intents and purposes.
Hiking up to the Wild Horses Monument
There’s a parking lot at the base of the sculpture, which is on top of a steep rise. There’s also a trail up to the monument itself. This affords beautiful views of the Columbia and surrounding landscape, but it also exposes you to the graffiti that idiots have added to the artwork.
The climb is steep but very short, but the earth is loose, which makes the walking somewhat tricky. Making the climb (which you can freely assess from the parking lot) is kind of a mixed bag, really. You get a pretty view of the surrounding landscape and you get to feel like you’re running with the horses, but you also have to see the graffiti garbage on the sculptures.
I thankfully didn’t see anything profane or not-safe for children, but it is a visual annoyance for sure and detracts somewhat from the purity of the art.
The Wild Horses Monument piece is just off the highway, easy peazy, and worth the stop in my opinion. The sense of motion that Govedare created is amazing. This is exceptional art.
I’ve been to Roslyn, Washington, more times than I can count. I’ve loved the town ever since the first time I went there in search of Northern Exposure artifacts. It’s much more than just a pop-culture landmark. The town has a certain magic. I feel a downright mystical vibe in that place, if I’m being honest. History breathes there in every building stone and pavement pore.
I’d become acclimated to the usual energy of the place, so I was surprised to find myself having such a potent visit on my most recent, which occurred on July 17, 2021, in the smoking aftermath of 2020 and the glimmering rays fighting the growing dark of an uncertain future. Such is this strange new world we find ourselves, I suppose.
Out of the Puget Sound Basin and into America
Living in an urban part of the Puget Sound basin, I often forget that the whole world isn’t full of angry people snarling about world peace and spitting on each other in the name of brotherly love. There are still places in this state where people live with a general human comradery and friendliness, places where people shamelessly love this amazing nation we live in. I found them in Roslyn.
What I experienced there can’t really be explained by the events alone. Before the madness of 2020 upturned reality, the things I did in Roslyn would have been trivial.
Yes, I had a great meal at the Roslyn Cafe (great and unique ragù). I once again explored all the historical buildings. I visited, for the first time, the amazing historic cemeteries (if you think cemeteries can’t be great destinations than you haven’t seen these…or been to New Orleans). I also hiked the Carlson Creek Loop, which is technically in Teanaway a few miles east of Roslyn, but still the same basic area.
These are mostly things I’ve done before or are at least the types of things that I’ve done before. On this trip, however, they took on a special magic.
The Human Circle
At the café there was no talk of politics. People flew American flags everywhere, and they did so shamelessly. The ’80s tunes on the café playlist were the same old hits I’ve been hearing since I was a kid, but they sounded life-affirming, this time, simple celebrations of this blessed gift of existence.
Part of this was, of course, the fact that we are coming out of the COVID lockdowns. It was good just to sit in sunshine and hear laughter, to share grins with strangers and banter with our most excellent server was more than that.
It was more than that, though. It was also stepping back into the warm sphere of shared humanity, one that gets filtered out completely by corporate and social media. Spend too much time on the screen and you start to believe that the whole world is full of doom, gloom, and hatred.
Certain places to indeed reflect that darkness, as well. I know this, personally, all too well, having experienced years of hatred spawned by political differences.
In Roslyn, Washington, however, people were just being people. There was a basic shared sense of humanity. A lot of people had come in to visit, and my guess is that the ideological mix was about representative of the nation as a whole. In that place, though, on that day, none of the differences mattered–just people being people, digging life.
It was the first time in a long time that I felt like I wasn’t a lonely ancient relic for loving the nation that I live in, for loving its people and its land, its bones and its spirit.
Simple Things Made Profound by Modernity
Kids laughed. People toasted beers. Servers smiled and cracked jokes. It felt like a Steinbeck novel made real. No, wait, more fittingly–it felt like a Northern Exposure episode made real.
I sincerely thank that little town for being what it is and reminding me that America isn’t dead. There are still good people in the world that just want to enjoy life with other good people, politics be damned (seriously, politics be DAMNED).
You want it? You can have it. It’s in a little town named Roslyn, Washington. United States of America, baby.
Happy nomadding, friends.
I’m going to close this out with Bobby McFerrin’s amazing “Common Threads.” Northern Exposures might remember which episode this was featured in. Drop it in the comments section and I’ll buy ya a drink of your choice. The song gives me goosebumps every single time.
Carlson Creek Loop Instantly Becomes One of My Favorite Day Hikes in the Cascades
I loved this short (4 mile), easy hike in Teanaway, Washington. I had gone to it with modest expectations, simply looking for a nice walk on my final day in the area, but ended up discovering one of my favorite day hikes in the Cascades.
What’s so great about it, you ask?
Well, I’m getting to that, friend. But, first, I want to help you out with something–I’m going to clarify how to actually get to the trailhead, which can be somewhat confusing because there are no clear signs.
I’ve also pinned the location to Google Maps with driving directions from Seattle here (click the “here“).
So, when you get to the destination pinned on that map linked to the “here,” you’re going to find yourself in a big dirt cul-de-sac with multiple roads, horse trails, and ATV routes branching off from it. Facing west from this locating, you’ll see the two roads visible in the picture below.
You want to take the road on your left. The one with the yellow gate and the peppermint-striped metal plate. No more than 100 feet beyond that gate, you’ll see the trail cutting off to the left. That is the Carlson Creek Loop trail.
Open Space, Blue Skies, and Wildflowers on Carlson Creek Loop
What I liked most about the Carlson Creek Loop was its openness. This might be an odd selling point, but I think hikers from western Washington will understand.
Western Washington has some of the most beautiful country on God’s green Earth, but it can get a bit claustrophobic as you hike for mile after mile of fir-tunnel. You’ll frequently go miles seeing nothing but soaring trees, pine-bed floors, and the sparse wildlife that that environment welcomes, only getting a broader view of the surrounding countryside at the final peak or viewpoint (assuming the trail has such a thing).
Carlson Creek Loop, on the other hand, has several clearings which, as of July 18, 2021, were filled with wildflowers, and which also afforded views of beautiful blue sky overhead. The trees are spaced out, which means you get a more expansive view of your surroundings, and which also means that wildlife has more room to roam. There were big mountain rabbits, butterflies, and birds all along the trail.
There are two gnarly boulder clusters, as well, and some positively psychedelic-looking mosses. You’ll find the boulders roughly halfway along the trail.
Carlson Creek Seen from Up High on the Carlson Creek Loop
Carlson Creek itself if a pretty little waterway, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it exceptional. At least, not exceptional from the creek-bank view.
From up high, however, Carlson Creek is quite beautiful. Fortunately, the Carlson Creek Loop affords just such a high-ground viewpoint. There’s a roughly quarter-mile stretch of trail that runs alongside a steep drop with the creek at the bottom.
PRO TIP: If you dig the nausea of vertigo (and who doesn’t?), try looking out at the treetops as you stand at this overlook point (which you can’t miss as you hike the loop). It’s a positively gut-churning experience.
Carlson Creek Loop is an Excellent Hike for Pacific Northwesterners Looking for Something New
Carlson Creek Loop doesn’t have the grandeur of Mount Rainier or Mount Si, and I don’t think I’d recommend it to out-of-towners who only have a short time to visit the region. But for those who have lived here a long time and are looking for something new, I would most definitely recommend this hike.
The trail is easy, and I promise you that I am not one of those people who undersells trail difficulty (as so many other hiking sites are infuriatingly wont to do). If anything I try to oversell the difficulty, because I personally despise when a site or person tells me something is easy and then I get there to find it’s a study in suck. Suck most definitely has its place, but I like to know what I’m getting into.
I love this little trail and plan on making a regular destination while up in the Roslyn area. Four miles is enough to get the blood pumping, but it’s a smooth, easy hike, with spacious skies and beautiful oddities to stumble upon along the way.
Enjoy, my friends. And, as always, happy nomadding.