Talking Bigfoot and Burgers at Cliff Droppers in Packwood, Washington

Packwood, Washington, is Bigfoot country.

The whole White Pass corridor is, in fact. Years ago, a woman at the desk of the Seasons Motel in Morton, Washington, near the west end of Highway 12, told me that guests had flown all the way in from Germany for two weeks of searching for Bigfoot. It’s THAT much of a Bigfoot destination, my friend.

Packwood also happens to be among my favorite spots in the Pacific Northwest, so much so that I’m hesitant to even write about it and spill the secret. I like that, same as Lake Quinault, it sees nothing close to the kind of traffic that spots like Mount Rainier or Mount Saint Helens do.

But the Northwest Nomad has a mission, and that mission is to bring the best of the Pacific Northwest to you. The mission is the priority. It must be completed.

During my last visit to Packwood, I discovered two things equally fantastic: a Bigfoot story and Cliff Droppers, purveyor of one of the best damn burgers I’ve had in my entire life.

Not just in Packwood, friends. Not just in Washington, nor the Pacific Northwest, nor even the United States of America. It was one of the best damn burgers I've ever had, anywhere. 

PERIOD.

So if you don’t dig the Bigfoot or elite-level burgers, maybe you ought to mosey on out of here. Commies aren’t welcome on the Northwest Nomad’s page, anyway.

I was back there in Packwood to hike the Packwood Lake Trail, which may be the best non-snowshoeing winter trail I’ve ever found. Definitely top 10.

On that trip, I stopped in Cliff Droppers for a burger and got two great surprises.

First, the Bigfoot Story

I asked the young woman working the cash register if she’d seen any Bigfoot. This is my standard conversation-starter, regardless of where I am. Fortunately, on this particular day, I happened to actually be in Bigfoot country, so I got a response.

She told me she’d been out hiking with her husband when they came across monstrous, barefoot humanoid tracks in the show. Her husband she was a very large man, she told me, and his boots were dwarfed by the size of those tracks.

Now, what’s more interesting is the fact that these tracks eventually just stopped. They were in snow. There was no place for the creature to go. Yet, they simply evaporated.

This strange phenomenon is consistent with the findings of folks like John Keel and Jacques Vallée, as well as more contemporary researchers like Ron Morehead, who believe the Bigfoot phenomenon is something more akin to the supernatural/paranormal aspects of Weird Reality than it is to the notion that Bigfoot are animals living in our forests, in our dimension, fulltime.

But, that’s a whole other thing for a whole other time.

For now I'll just say I was thrilled to get a firsthand Bigfoot account. It doesn't matter to me if Bigfoot is real, by the way. I love life, especially it's weird aspects, and I love hearing people's stories. It was a pleasure to hear hers. 

Second, the Cliff Droppers Burgers

Woe, woe upon me for not having my camera with me at Cliff Droppers.

“Camera?” you say.

“Yes,” I say.

I don't own a smart phone, my friends. It's true...shameful but true. My cell phone pictures are so poor quality, too, that I never even think to sue it.

In this case it’s a sad thing (not nearly enough to make me buy a freaking smart phone ever again) because I didn’t get a picture of the most righteous of burgers.

Every year I hike Mount Si and end the day with a burger at Twede’s Cafe, for I have long considered Twede’s to be Washington state champion among the burger places. After this last visit, I officially declare a new tradition of hiking Packwood Lake and getting a burger in Cliff Droppers.

Let it be done.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better burger, really, than the one I had at Cliff Droppers. Hard to say. I’ve had some damn good burgers in my life.

Cliff Droppers was, at the very least, as good as the best. Fantastic. Juicy. ELECTRIC with flavor. 

At this point I think it's good to remind readers that the Northwest Nomad is all indie. I don't collect any money from any place that I write about. These are my honest feelings. Cliff Droppers is fantastic and has a warm, friendly atmosphere--even in this strange pandemic age of dehumanizing masks over our faces. Still the face had a down-to-Earth human warmth, and I can't wait to visit again.

Let’s Call it the PLT-BF-CD Trifecta, Shall We?

Packwood Lake Trail-Bigfoot-Cliff Droppers, that is. PLT-BF-CD.

Hit them all there in Packwood, one of the best-kept secrets in Washington state, where the people are as real as the Sasquatches and the burgers are delicious.

Happy nomadding, friends.

How to Stay in Shape While Working from Home: Herschel Walker Your Way to Wellness

It’s actually very simple, so I’m not going to waste your time with a big chunk of intro text.

If you’re working from home, you’re probably working on a computer. If you’re working on your computer, you’re probably feeling fat and tired and increasingly oily from all the stationary time spent on your rump. That’s why you’re sniffing around the ‘net looking for answers.

Am I right? Of course I am.

Well, check this out–all you need to do is borrow the style of fitness used by football great and MMA phenom (in terms of the advanced age at which he competed and won) Herschel Walker. Doing this won’t make you Herschel Walker, of course, but it will get you in shape.

It worked for me.

I’m not just blowing smoke up your keester. I started doing this about midway through the pandemic and got myself back into respectable shape after I’d gotten quite pathetic physically.

The story has it that Herschel Walker stayed fit by doing bodyweight exercises when commercials came on between television shows every night. This wasn’t just some side work that he did. He credited this style of fitness with his world-class level athleticism.

My system, and the one I'm suggesting for you, is simply modifying Walker's routine so that you exercise for 5 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes, rather than during commercial breaks. You should never do so at high intensity, but rather very moderately or even low intensity. 

I know this flies in the face of most of what you see touted by fitness gurus out there. I really have no science to refute them. I just have my experience, the experience of Herschel Walker, and the experience of some other people who have gotten in great shape this way.

This worked for me. Big time.

So, it works like this:

Set a daily number of reps for each exercise you want to do. I do push ups, squats, lunges, flutter kicks, jumping jacks, snatches, curls, and pull ups every day.

(I won’t list my daily count here because no one will believe me. I spent a few years in the Second Ranger Battalion and conditioned my body to some outrageous numbers of bodyweight reps. It doesn’t really matter, anyway. Just set the number that works for you.)

While setting your own numbers, though, remember the simple rule that you should never feel exhausted or burned out. You shouldn’t feel even close to those things. You’re goal is to do this every single day, not to be sore and beaten up from each session.

Decide upon a schedule to do your reps. I do mine for 5 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the day’s work demands). I set a timer, get up, and work out for 5 minutes, going mostly through bodyweight exercises but also through some curls with a dumbbell and snatches with a kettle bell.

There is Another Benefit to this System

The second benefit may be even better than the fitness itself.

By working out consistently at a moderate pace all day, I significantly increase my work productivity.

Consistently getting up and getting the blood flowing a bit makes my mind work better and keeps my attention engaged on my work. My productivity significantly improves.

Since adopting this system eight months ago (approximately), I’ve missed only a few days. At the end of those missed days, I invariably (literally every time) felt sluggish and depressed, and I realized that I’d gotten very little work done.

If you adopt this way of working, I’m confident you’ll feel your overall effectiveness increase.

Try it For Just One Day

I’m confident that if you try this system for just one day, you’ll be hooked.

It keeps your mood up and increases output. It also gets you back to feeling alive again.

And, finally, it gets you back in shape. Pretty good deal for something that costs nothing.

Secret Worlds of Tacoma, Washington

Tacoma isN’T what you think it is
Mysterious orange stone in the stone eye of Tacoma.
The Eyes of Tacoma are everywhere, yet no one sees.

I don’t expect to live for very long after posting this blog.

That’s fine. A man has only one Earthly life to live. Best to live it with courage. Cowards have no love or gratitude in their hearts. I refuse to be one. Even in the face of insurmountable evil, I will laugh, love, and dance—and speak.

Two years ago I wrote a piece for Grit City Magazine. It was about the Shanghai Tunnels reputed to run beneath Tacoma, Washington. It was supposed to be just a fun bit of local history, and it was—at first.

See, I published that story with a magazine titled Grit City. I like to think it’s a well-written piece, though perhaps unextraordinary, and certainly not anything that would shake anyone’s sense of reality.

The truth, though, is that I never shared what I actually found during my research for that piece. Nor have I shared what I continue to find, as this seemingly endless horror story continues to unroll before me.

It’s my life now, the real, secret history of Tacoma. I’m as tied up in it as is the Maury Island Incident, the Servants of Awareness, or Fred Crisman.

The biggest myth about Tacoma isn’t that the Shanghai Tunnels were or are real. They exist—in a way few can comprehend, in fact.

The biggest myth about Tacoma is, instead, that the Shanghai Tunnels are abandoned.

The tunnels are very much active and very much active. They’re much bigger than they used to be, in fact.

They are home now to alien-made baboon-mutant species I call “unhumans,” because I don’t know what else to call them. Some dark occultists, too, whose connection to the unhumans is unclear to me even now.

Then there’s the Cabal, the Eyes, the Pythians, and the Chatter. Others. Too many. More than even I know.

It’s a goddamn rat’s nest of monsters and lunacy down there.

Yes—I said it, and I meant it, and I don’t give a damn who believes me, anymore.

The unhumans live mostly off of barnacles scraped from the bottoms of ships in Thea’s Inlet, though they aren’t opposed to snatching some of that delicious human meat when the opportunity arises. That’s only one of their secrets, though, and the least terrifying of all.

They aren’t the end of Tacoma’s madness. Not even close. They were the way I entered into this nightmare, however.

That’s the thing I never told the blissfully ignorant publishers of Grit City magazine. I didn’t just read history about the tunnels when I wrote that piece. I went inside them.

One starless, fateful night, when I unwittingly stepped out of the fake Tacoma and into the real one.

That was where this all began. Twenty feet below the surface of Tacoma. Two years ago. Ten lifetimes ago. I was a different man, then.

But, ah, I’m rambling.

If I’m going to tell the true story of the secrets of Tacoma, Washington, then I’d best start with that night I went down into the tunnels.

So be it. I’ll tell as much as I can before this blog is shut down—or I am.

I am the Northwest Nomad. I hide from no man and no monster.

If these are to be my final days, then let me spend them finally telling my story.



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!

Old Machinery in the Yard at Blue Heron French Cheese Company

Close-up image of rusted tractor-side reading "Built by Buffalo Company, Buffalo, NY."I love rust. I can’t really explain why; I just do. My appreciation for the aesthetics of metallic aging is particularly strong in regards to old machinery.

Something about the pattern and gradation of rust on tractors, cars, and trains is beautiful and fascinating to me.

So, whenever I visit the Blue Heron French Cheese Company in Tillamook, Oregon, my interest in the aesthetics of rust is what drives me to leave behind the delicious wine and cheese and spend most my time photographing the old machinery that fills the grounds like art installatnions in a sculpture garden.

Old Machinery in the Yard

It’s kind of a no-brainer that the Blue Heron has great cheese and wine. What you may hear less about is the old machinery in the yard (there are animals to pet, too).

For the aesthetically minded person, though, those rusted relics are captivating and fascinating. Well, they are for me, anyway. Maybe it takes a weird sort of mind to find so much intrigue in such a thing; if so, then be it—this is a post for the select group of weirdos that enjoys rusted and old machinery.

Vehicular Dinosaurs

The Blue Heron sits on a large piece of land with ample room to fit all kinds of decorative oddities, including the old tractors and buses I’ve alluded to.

If you’re the weird sort of person who also enjoys this kind of thing, then I highly recommend that you visit. Here are some pictures from my latest excursion:

Honestly, I’m not entirely happy with the quality of the shots I got, but that’s okay because it’ll just give me another excuse to go back and get more!