There’s no telling what you might stumble across when hiking in Western Washington. Bigfoot, vampires, bundles of cash. Maybe even Paul Bunyan.
The region is steeped in nearly as much intriguing pop culture as it is good options for fall hikes.
After talking to Lloyd Prouty, we decided to merge both with seven hikes that will give you a taste of the region’s pop culture, or at least get you close to the legends.
Who’s Lloyd Prouty? He’s the man who’s made it his mission to save Paul Bunyan and reunite him with his blue ox, Babe, in Shelton.
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According to legend (or at least the 1958 Disney cartoon “Paul Bunyan”), the giant logger exiled himself to Alaska when he lost a logging contest to man with a steam-powered chainsaw. But apparently he got waylaid in Tacoma where he took a job as a fiberglass statue at a Bingers gas station.
The 21-foot tall statue might have become a Tacoma landmark had it not first become a target for vandalism. In the early 1960s, Prouty said, the Bingers moved Tall Paul to their Shelton station.
“I used to walk by it every day on my way to school,” Prouty said. “I was fascinated with Paul Bunyan.”
When Gull bought Bingers, Bunyan was given to Shelton High where he served as a mascot until some fans from rival Tumwater High stole his 9-foot ax. In 1995 Prouty was among a group of Shelton residents who went looking for the ax. Thanks to some tips, they found it hidden in a Tumwater man’s backyard.
The man returned the ax and Tall Paul was back in business. He no longer stands over Shelton High, but is kept on Prouty’s property away from vandals and he comes out for special events.
But for decades, Prouty sensed that Paul Bunyan needed to be reunited with his companion. “But I kept saying ‘I’ll do it next year,’ ” Prouty said.
So this year, backed by an $11,000 donation from a Shelton man, he commissioned a Wisconsin company to build a 17-foot-3-inch long, 8-foot tall blue ox that arrived in Shelton on Sept. 18. Both have been mounted on trailers for easy travel.
“Shelton is the only place in the country where you will find a mobile Paul and Babe,” Prouty said proudly while taking a break from installing a mister that will allow Babe to blow steam from his nostrils.
Prouty says work on Babe is almost complete and the fiberglass statues are set to make their first appearance together at Shelton’s Christmas parade Dec. 3.
“I hope it’s a good tourist plug for the community,” Prouty said. “But what I like best is seeing the kids smiling when they see Paul and Babe. That’s what it is all about.”
1. PAUL BUNYAN
THE HIKE: If Paul Bunyan took Babe for a walk, he’d most likely use nearby Huff-n-Puff Trail, near his old stomping grounds at Shelton High. Despite its name, the trail is mostly flat, short (1.5 miles) and a pretty easy walk through the woods. But the various loops that make up this hike are a popular workout spot for locals.
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. 101 in Shelton take the Wallace Kneeland Boulevard exit and turn right. Turn left on Shelton Springs Road and continue to the trailhead.
WHERE TO EAT: Xinh’s Clam and Oyster House, 221 W. Railroad Ave., Shelton, is a good place to stop for seafood, especially if you like shellfish. Xinh’s is open Tuesdays-Sundays from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Reservations are recommended, 360-427-8709.
MORE INFO: explorehoodcanal.com
2. BAREFOOT BANDIT
A crime spree that included several barefoot heists earned Colton Harris-Moore the nickname the Barefoot Bandit. While he kept authorities guessing, his notoriety grew to include a Facebook fan page, merchandise sales and the television and radio airwaves proliferated with chatter about the young criminal from Camano Island. He was captured in the Bahamas in 2010 but his legend continues to grow. He has reportedly signed a book and movie deal.
THE HIKE: Camano Island State Park has three miles of hiking trails and more than a mile of shoreline on Puget Sound. You’ll also find some pretty good views of the Olympic Mountains here on the west side of the island. “That’s probably the best place on the island to hike,” said Karen Daum of the island chamber of commerce. The chamber sells an island hiking guide for $1.
DIRECTIONS: Arrive on the island via state Route 532 and continue south on East Camano Drive. Turn right on Monticello Drive, then left on Southwest Camono Drive. Continue south as the road turned to Lowell Point Road and enters the park.
WHERE TO EAT: Camano Island Waterfront Inn, 1054 S. West Camano Drive, overlooks Saratoga Passage and offers everything from a $11 burgers at lunchtime to a $35 veal scaloppini on the dinner menu. The restaurant is closed Mondays. Camanoislandinn.com
3. BIGFOOT SIGHTINGS
Out of work since the Seattle Sonics moved to Oklahoma in 2008, Bigfoot apparently traded his life as an NBA mascot for his original job lurking in the woods and surprising hikers. While Bigfoot sightings have been reported around the country, most come from the Northwest, including a 2001 investigation by the Weekly World News that broke the story of a female Bigfoot who groped and kissed a camper in the Olympic Mountains. Olympic National Park seems like a good place to look for the hairy ape man. In her 2006 book “Haunted Hikes,” Andrea Lankford writes of four men who claimed to see an 8-foot-tall creature run into the woods in the park.
THE HIKE: The moss-covered trees of the Hoh Rain Forest provide a perfectly eerie setting to look for Bigfoot. The Hoh River Trail is a 17.4-mile (each way) trail that leads to Mount Olympus. Most people take shorter day hikes on the trail. The trail can be busy in the summer, but it’s open all year and in the fall-winter you might have it to yourself. Or will you?
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. 101 south of Forks, drive east on Upper Hoh Road to the rain forest visitor center.
WHERE TO EAT: The Hard Rain Café, 5763 Upper Hoh Road, is a popular stop that is best known for its Mount Olympus Burger, a half-pound burger with Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. The cafe is only open Fridays and weekends in the fall and winter and often closes completely in December and January.
MORE INFO: nps.gov/olym
4. CURSED VIDEO
As far as cinematic suffering goes, the beach at Fort Worden State Park is hard to beat. It was hear that Zack Mayo (played by Richard Gere) ran himself into the sand with his rifle over his head in the 1982 movie “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Twenty years later it also served as the location for one of the scenes in the cursed video for the Naomi Watts horror flick “The Ring.” The scene showed a horse carcass on the beach and the idea was anybody who watched the video was doomed to die.
THE HIKE: Fort Worden State Park is packed with old concrete gun emplacements that are fun to explore or play hide and seek. The park boasts 12 miles of hiking trails but if you want to walk the famous beach to the Point Wilson Lighthouse, start from the trailhead on Kuhn Street.
DIRECTIONS: Follow state Route 20 to Port Townsend and turn left on Kearney Street. Turn right on Blaine Street, then left on Walker Street and then continue on Cherry Street to Fort Worden State Park.
WHERE TO EAT: Pizza Factory, 1102 Water Street, is a fun stop on the Port Townsend waterfront. In addition to good pizza and calzones, the kids are sure to appreciate the atmosphere which includes wood picnic tables instead of traditional tables and chairs.
MORE INFO: parks.wa.gov/fortworden
5. D.B. COOPER
In 1971, a man known as D.B. Cooper hijacked a Portland-bound jetliner, collected $200,000 in ransom money and parachuted out of the plane. Whether or not he survived is still a mystery but Cooper remains a cultural phenomenon. There are many theories about what happened to Cooper, who he might be and what happened to the money. In 1980 a boy found some packets of money along the Columbia River. The FBI later confirmed the bills were part of the ransom money.
THE HIKE: Many believe that Cooper and his cash landed somewhere in the Washougal River drainage. A new trail along the river seems as good a place as any to look for bundles of old cash. The Washougal River Gateway Trail offers a flat, paved 1.1-mile multipurpose trail with access to the river. For a longer hike, visit nearby Lacamas Park (4.5 miles) and Lacamas Heritage Trail (7 miles).
DIRECTIONS: Take state Route 14 east from Vancouver about 15.5 miles to Washougal. Turn left on Sixth Street, then left on Third Avenue. The trailhead is near the intersection with Shepherd Road.
WHERE TO EAT: Twilight Pizza Bistro, 224 N.E. Fourth Ave., opened in downtown Camas in 2007 and quickly became a popular local dining spot. The restaurant encourages a family-friendly atmosphere by eschewing televisions in favor of board games.
MORE INFO: www.ci.camas.wa.us/parks.
6. TWIN PEAKS
Laura Palmer was murdered near North Bend in the fictional town of Twin Peaks. For two seasons the quirky and addictive “Twin Peaks” program had a “Lost”-like following as viewers tried to figure out the killer. Snoqualmie and North Bend provided the backdrop for the show.
THE HIKE: Mount Si and Rattlesnake Ledges near North Bend are two of the state’s most popular hikes. If you want to avoid the crowds try hiking Bare Mountain instead. The 8-mile hike climbs more than 3,200 feet to 5,353 above sea level. The views are spectacular and the trail is typically passable into November.
DIRECTIONS: From North Bend follow Ballart Street (which becomes North Fork Road) about four miles outside of town to a fork in the road. Stay left and continue on what becomes Forest Service Road 57 for about 23 miles to the trailhead.
WHERE TO EAT: The cherry pie at Twede’s Café, 137 W. North Bend Way, North Bend, is as good as they claimed on the show and the burgers aren’t bad either. Don’t be ashamed to ask your waitress to take a picture with your pie. Twenty years after the show aired, it’s still a common request.
MORE INFO: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, 425-888-1421.
7. VAMPIRE SEEKERS
Stephenie Meyer transformed Forks from a dying logging town into a thriving tourist attraction with her four “Twilight” novels. The books, set in Forks and published 2005-08, tell the story of a love triangle between a schoolgirl, a handsome vampire and a werewolf with washboard abs. Three of five “Twilight” movies have been released with the fourth, “Breaking Dawn Part 1” scheduled to be released Nov. 18.
THE HIKE: Second Beach and Third Beach are scenic beaches west of Forks that can only be accessed by foot. Second Beach is a 4-mile roundtrip and Third Beach is 3.6 miles. The beaches are sandy and offer tide pools to explore. And, for you “Twilight” fanatics, the beaches are mentioned in the books.
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. 101 just north of Forks, drive east on La Push Road to the either trailhead.
WHERE TO EAT: Forks Coffee Shop, 241 S. Forks Ave., was around long before the vampires and is known simply as “The Diner” around town. Among a wide variety of choices is the option to purchase a sack lunch for your trip.
MORE INFO: nps.gov/olym