Category Archives: Travels

Quincy, washington’s wild horses monument couldn’t drag me away (yes, i just dropped that cheesy line)

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.

For, you see, the roadside sign may call it the Wild Horses Monument, and that may be what it’s listed as on Google Maps, but according to the Washington Trails Association, it’s actually named Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies. So, the latter deserves the distinction of capitalization.

(Do you SEE how clever I was being, now? Do you SEE?!?!)

Wild horse sculptures with Columbia River in background
This is the view from atop the monument, facing northeast. That’s the Columbia River down there.

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.

Happy nomadding, friends.

View of Quicy, Washington, and Vantage, Washington from wild horses monument
From the monument you get a pretty view of the Columbia River and surrounding landscape.

Faith restored in Roslyn, Washington, united states of america

New Magic, Old Ghosts, Good Times

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.

Coiled metal wire
The center of downtown Roslyn holds some old coal-mining artifacts. I thought this looked interested up close.

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.

Roslyn Yard in Roslyn, Washington.
Outdoor eats, music, happy people in the Roslyn Yard.

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.

Clock above door to historic Roslyn building.
I love this old clock and doorway in an old brick building in Roslyn, Washington.

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.

Hiking carlson creek loop trail in Teanaway, washington

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.

Roads branching at Carlson Creek trailhead.
Take the road on the left. The LEFT! No more than 100 feet beyond that you take another left onto the 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.

Boulders on the Carlson Creek Trail, Cle Elum, Washington
These boulders are about halfway along the trail. Beautiful voodoo, surrealistic stonescapes.
Lime green moss against black tree trunk
I love the contrast of this moss against the burnt tree.

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.

Looking down on Carlson Creek from up high.
Carlson Creek overview.

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.

View of trees and distant rocks from Carlson Creek Loop.
I love the smooth, flowing stonescape in the distance.

Enjoy, my friends. And, as always, happy nomadding.

Hiking Little Si Trail, North Bend, Washington

Little Si: The Rodney Dangerfield of North Bend Area Hikes

Little Si gets overshadowed by its big brother, the Mount Si Trail (which doesn’t even have the basic decency to add “Big” to its name). The Rodney Dangerfield of North Bend area hikes, Little Si gets no respect.

The public’s low estimation is unwarranted. Like you and the new person your partner left you for, neither the Little Si or Mount Si trails are better or worse than the other–they’re just different.

Little Si is shorter than the Mount Si trail, stretching a total 3.7 miles versus Mount Si’s 7.5. It’s also less steep, though there is a pretty good shot up at the beginning and an even better one at the end–meaning those who are still working themselves back into shape should be prepared.

view from atop Little Trail
This is the view from the top of the Little Si Trail.

Little Si is Good for Getting into Hiking Shape–With One Side Note

I agree with those who say that Little Si is a great trail to use for getting into hiking shape, but I would add that that doesn’t mean that the trail is “easy.” The two steep climbs at the beginning and the end, particularly, can be rough on newbies or the out-of-shapers (especially if it’s a hot day), so be prepared.

I just hiked Little Si on April 16, 2021. The temperature was about 70, I’d say, and many people were hurting. This was also coming off of the COVID-19 lockdown, of course, so many of those people were probably quite out of shape.

Still, I encourage everyone to do this trail for getting into shape, but I also add that you shouldn’t take it too lightly. There are a couple difficult climbs, and quite a bit of the trail is exposed to the sun.

What’s Waiting at the Top of Little Si?

The rocky top of Little Si offers beautiful views of North Bend and the surrounding countryside. You can stop at various places along the top. There is no one final, “official” destination.

Back-end view from Little Si trail
Continuing over the rocky top of Little Si, you can find more views such as this one.

While I can’t say that the Little Si views match those of Mount Si, I will say that they definitely are stunning in their own right. There’s also some fun, simple rock scrambling to be had up at the top.

Little Si is an excellent trail, whether you’re using it to get into shape or as an adventure in its own right. I also think it’s an excellent trail for those who are just starting to explore the trails of western Washington.

If you’re thinking about trying out a new identity as an “outdoors type,” then I do believe Little Si is a great choice. My number one suggestion would be the Licorice Fern Trail, but that story has to be writ in the Northwest Nomad achives.

It’s coming, though…it’s coming.

Happy nomadding, friends!

Where the Heck is Melmont Ghost Town, Anyway?

The Hike to Melmont is Great but May not Be What You’re Expecting

Where the heck is Melmont, anyway?

Every single group I came across on my hike asked me some variation of that question. I was never able to answer. I just asked the question in return.

Looking back after having returned and done some research, I realize that we were all in the midst of Melmont as we asked where it was. We just didn’t realize it.

I say none of this to deter anyone from going there. I plan on going back. It’s a great trail. Beautiful. Quiet. Humming with history and nature.

Just know this beforehand: there is no grand, dramatic destination. No distinct town waiting there in the woods to be discovered. You aren’t going to turn a corner and find yourself looking at the clearly defined perimeter of an old mining town busy with ghosts.

It’s still pretty cool, though.

The Foothills Trail to Melmont

This sign is at the trail head.

The trail to and through Melmont is named the Foothills Trail. It’s maintained by the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition.

There are at least three entry points onto the Foothills Trail. All three are clustered fairly close together along the side of Washington State Route 165 south of the town of Carbonado, Washington.

The spot I used was exactly 1 mile south of Carbonado. From 165, you can clearly see the sign I have in a picture up above.

If you’re traveling south through Carbonado, the sign will be on your right. If you’re going north, it will be on your left.

Remnants of Melmont are Scattered Along the Trail

This is a retaining wall at Melmont.

The first clearly defined Melmont artifact I found was a retaining wall. The view I show up above is the view you get after you walk down the slope off the trail.

From the trail itself you’ll see some of the stonework wall, but if you want to get a really good look at it you have to walk down the hill. The slope is very steep, and the footing can be slick. This is especially true during rainy season.

Beyond the wall is another old building that you’ll see just off the trail. Another blog claims this was a dynamite storage shack. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but Visit Rainier is a good site so I assume it is.

Supposed dynamite storage shack.

There is also an old schoolhouse up the trail, but keep in mind that it looks basically like the dynamite shack above. It’s not so nicely maintained that it immediately resembles any kind of building in particular.

Great Trail, Know What You’re Getting Into Before Making the Drive to Melmont

I love this trail. I can’t wait to go back again. However, I do wish that the other blogs and sites were clearer about the fact that Melmont is not a big centralized ghost town. It’s a (very) few buildings nestled in the woods off the side of the Foothills Trail.

So, in my opinion, this is a great trail for hiking and a great trail for running. It my also be a great trail for camping (though I don’t know the legality of it). But, it’s not a great trail for seeing a ghost town or a mining town.

In terms of humanmade artifacts, I actually enjoyed the Fairfax Bridge most of all. It’s a historic site that looks really interesting from the trail trail that runs underneath it. I tried to capture the “really interestingness” in the photo below.

I’m a writer, not a photographer, so forgive the poor lighting. I’ll be adding this skill of photography to my repertoire soon.

The Fairfax Bridge as seen from the Foothills Trail.

By all Means, Go to Melmont

Hike the Foothills Trail. Enjoy the pieces of Melmont mining town. Absorb that beautiful walk and the countryside surrounding it.

Just know before you go that the town may not be what you’re envisioning or expecting when you hear “ghost town.” You may find yourself on the trail asking, “Where the heck is the town of Melmont?”

Chances are, when you ask that question, you’ll be standing right in the middle of it.

Happy Nomadding, friends!