Take a hike and get to know the neighborhoods close to the hearts and minds of Northwest legends ranging from Bigfoot to Paul Bunyan to the Barefoot Bandit.
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 in good options for cool-weather hikes.
After talking to Lloyd Prouty, we decided to merge both in a list of 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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A fiberglass statue of the legendary giant logger originated as a roadside attraction outside a Tacoma gas station, and later in Shelton, in the early 1960s.
“I used to walk by it every day on my way to school,” Prouty said. “I was fascinated with Paul Bunyan.”
The statue was given to Shelton High School as a mascot, but 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 comes out for special events.
But for decades, Prouty sensed Paul Bunyan might want his old pal. Last year, with an $11,000 donation from a Shelton man, he commissioned a Wisconsin company to build a 17-foot-long, 8-foot-tall blue ox, which arrived in September. Both figures 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.
Look for Prouty’s Paul Bunyan and Babe in Shelton parades and festivals this year. Meanwhile, here’s our list of lowland hikes that will get you in the right frame of mind to meet up with such legends around the region. And we include dining tips because you don’t want to rub shoulders with these legends on an empty stomach.
Paul Bunyan’s backyard
The Hike: When in Shelton for the Forest Festival (the weekend after Memorial Day) or Oysterfest (October), go where Paul would most likely take Babe for a walk: the 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 Highway 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. 360-427-8709.
More Info: www.explorehoodcanal.com.
Barefoot Bandit land
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, and the television and radio airwaves proliferated chatter about the young criminal from Camano Island. He was captured in the Bahamas in 2010 and recently sentenced to prison, but his legend lives on.
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. “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 Highway 532 and continue south on East Camano Drive. Turn right on Monticello Drive, then left on South West Camano Drive. Continue south as the road turns 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 $11 burgers at lunchtime to a $35 veal scallopini on the dinner menu. www.camanoislandinn.com.
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 story by the Weekly World News 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 wrote 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. While busy in summer, the trail is open all year and in the winter you might have it to yourself. Or will you?
Directions: From Highway 101 south of Forks, drive east on Upper Hoh Road to the rain forest visitor center.
Where To Eat: The Hard Rain Cafe, 5763 Upper Hoh Road, Forks, is best known for its Mount Olympus Burger, a half-pound burger with Swiss cheese and bacon.
D.B. Cooper’s world
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 over Southwest Washington. Whether or not he survived is still a mystery, but Cooper remains a cultural phenomenon. 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 river access.
Directions: Take Highway 14 east from Vancouver, Wash., 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., in downtown Camas, encourages a family-friendly atmosphere by eschewing televisions in favor of board games.
More Info: www.ci.camas.wa.us/parksrec
Vampires and views
Stephenie Meyer transformed Forks from a dying logging town to a thriving tourist attraction with her four “Twilight” novels. The books (and subsequent movies), set in Forks and La Push, involve a love triangle among a schoolgirl, a handsome vampire and a werewolf with washboard abs.
The Hike: Second Beach and Third Beach are scenic beaches near La Push accessible only by foot. Second Beach is a 4-mile round trip, 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 Highway 101 just north of Forks, drive east on La Push Road to either trailhead.
Where To Eat: Forks Coffee Shop, 241 S. Forks Ave., was around long before the vampires and is known around town simply as “The Diner.” Among a wide variety of choices is the option to purchase a sack lunch for your trip.
More Info: www.nps.gov/olym or www.forkswa.com/twilight
Seattle Times staff
contributed to this report.