Washington state is known for magnificent mountains in the Cascades and Olympics; dry desert-like conditions of the east; 100+ wonderful Washington state parks, and the perfect Pacific Coast. Hiking, backpacking, camping and kayaking are popular outdoor recreational activities for this state. Today though, we’re not talking about any of those. Instead, we’re going to share some little known, yet still intriguing and exciting, attractions that will capture your imagination. We’ve lived in the state a number of years and we’re still finding these less explored areas which we like to refer to as hidden gems.
This wild horse monument, which consists of 15, life-sized steel ponies, in a stampede-like race formation along a high plateau east of the Columbia River is an unfinished work of art by David Govedare. The completed work would include a 36-foot diameter steel basket, tipped over, from where the ponies have been “cut loose”. Look for signs while driving east, just past Vantage on I-90, for the exit. The parking lot provides amazing views of the Columbia and surrounding area. To reach the ponies you’ll have to hike up the rocky ridge. Plan your visit here during sunset for a great photo opportunity!
The last train to travel this 2.3 mile long tunnel, which runs through the mountains of Snoqualmie Pass, was in 1980. It has since been acquired by the state and is part of Iron Horse State Park with the John Wayne Pioneer Trail running through it. Hikers, bicyclists, and snowmobile riders now make their way through this dark, wet, and cold underpass on a daily basis. All but the pinhole light coming in from the other end, this tunnel is nearly pitch black. There’s dripping water from the ceiling and walls. The temperature is about 20 degrees cooler inside than out. Bring lights, gloves, a jacket, and maybe a friend or two if you’re scared of the dark!
If you’re interested in creepy places, the supernatural, and symbology, you’ll want to make a trip out to San Juan Island. Located in the forest, near the town of Roche Harbor, is a unique, historical, and beautiful mausoleum. Built from 1930-1936, by the 32nd degree mason, John S. McMillin envisioned this as the final resting place for his family and himself. And that’s exactly what it is… The center of the mausoleum boasts the round table of limestone and concrete surrounded by six stone and concrete chairs. The chair bases are crypts for the ashes of the family, while the whole represents their reunion after death.”–Historical Signage from Site
So you don’t have a passport but you still want to cross the border, what to do, what to do? Simple, visit Peace Arch at the I-5 border crossing in Blaine, WA. Here you can legally cross the border into Canada and vice versa. Peace Arch Park straddles both sides of the border and consists of Peach Arch State Park on the American side and Peace Arch Provincial Park on the Canadian side. There are no gates or fences around the entire park. Of course, there is a “gotcha” with this, you have to stay within the entire park boundaries and you’re only allowed to exit the park on the side you entered from. While it appears to be super easy to just walk out of the park on the other side, we opted not to try it.
No need to travel across the Atlantic in order to see Stonehenge. It’s right here in the Evergreen State! Well, a replica of it is here, and it’s a pretty good one because it is full size. It’s also the complete version of the prehistoric monument before it started falling apart. It’s located in the town of Maryhill and overlooks the Columbia River Gorge. It was built by the same person who built Peace Arch, which is Samuel Hill, who is also buried on site. The replica is a memorial to those who gave their lives for World War I.
In 2009 a major landslide occurred in the Mt. Baker foothills. It exposed sandstone rock which was deep in the earth. Within the rock lies fossilized plants and footprints. A rare footprint of a Diatryma flightless bird, which lived 50 million years ago, was found on a 1,800 pound slab of sandstone. It was helicoptered out of the area and brought to Western Washington University for display. Although footprints and vertebrae are hard to come by, the area is populated in plenty of leaf fossils.