Tag Archives: Pt. Defiance

The Mystery Stones of Pt. Defiance Park

Last weekend my girlfriend and I decided to go to Pt. Defiance Park and walk some of the trails. It’d been months since I took the time to do so. As we walked through the forest, I noticed a rock sitting on a log. It was obvious that it had not arrived at that spot naturally. Looking at the rock I noticed it had a little design on it. I thought that it was cool so I picked it up and put it in my pocket.

Then about fifty yards further down the trail I noticed another rock in a strange place with a different symbol on it. Once I figured out that it wasn’t just a one-off but some sort of mysterious public art project, I found another spot for the rock in my pocket and took a photo of each of them. As the walk continued we kept our eyes out for more rocks and found about eight of them, each with different symbols in what appears to be white ink stamp. Each time I took a (blurry) photo with my cell phone.

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Once I got home, I started looking online to see if I could find any information about these rocks, but a quick search didn’t find anything. I posted some photos of the rocks online on the TacomaStories Twitter and Facebook page. And then I decided to go back again the next day.

The following day I found additional rocks on the same trail. I also found that some rocks from the day before were gone. Others had been moved. I took photos of every rock I found and decided to come back yet again.

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Today I went on the same trails as before but also some new ones. Some trails I found no rocks at all. Others I found quite a few. It would appear that they are not each unique designs. I found some identical designs on different rocks.

Who is putting these rocks out there? Is there a meaning behind them or is it just art? Just how widespread are these stones? These are all questions to which I’d love to find answers. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to determine whether or not the person or people who placed the stones are the same ones moving or removing the stones. The first stone I found was moved by me. Others likely disappear when people find them and pocket them. Are the new ones I find on the same trail new or just stones that were moved or I hadn’t noticed the day before?

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Someone or a group of someones has made exploring Pt. Defiance Park even more fun and I’d like to thank them for it.  For more photos of the Pt. Defiance mystery stones, check out the Tacoma Stories Facebook Page. If you know anything about these stones, contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com. I’d love to talk with you and perhaps do a 5 Question Friday.

Enjoy the photos and if you’re in town, take the time to find some on your own. I highly advise that if you start hunting for these stones you employ the old adage, “Take only photos, leave only footprints.”  In other words please leave the Pt. Defiance Mystery Stones alone for others to discover.

– Jack Cameron

Tacoma’s First Underground Tour

My friend Jenya and I before embarking on the Underground Tour

I’m not one for tours. For the most part I like exploring things on my own, but when I saw Angela Jossy’s announcement of a ‘Once In A Lifetime Underground Tour of Tacoma’, I had to go. The Facebook page spoke of the legendary Shanghai Tunnels, the vaulted sidewalks, Old City Hall, and Never Never Land figures. For those who are unaware of some of these Tacoma legends, here’s a bit of background.

The Chinese Tunnels are among Tacoma’s oldest legends. Depending on who you’re talking to they were for literally shanghaiing unruly customers at shady bars, sending the unsuspecting patrons to the basement, through the tunnel and onto a ship down on the waterfront or they were for smuggling Chinese workers after their expulsion from Tacoma in 1885 or they were used as  opium dens. But as many stories as there are, there is a distinct lack of evidence of these tunnels.

Old City Hall is one of Tacoma’s oldest and most beautiful buildings. Sadly, due to a series of unfortunate events, Old City Hall is now vacant and in some areas unsafe. It’s future remains uncertain.

Walk the streets of downtown Tacoma and look down. Occasionally you’ll see thick opaque glass. These are the vaulted sidewalks of Tacoma. In other words, there’s something under that sidewalk.

And then there was Never Never Land. As a child I remembered going to Never Never Land at Pt. Defiance Park. There was a meandering trail through the woods where various figurines acted out parts from famous fairy tales. It was kind of cool but kind of creepy. Never Never Land closed many years ago and left behind empty areas along the trail where once stood Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs. Recently even the trail was removed leaving almost no evidence that Never Never Land ever existed.

Given all of this, I was excited as hell to go on this tour. Unfortunately in the days leading up to the tour, Angela had to cancel the Old City Hall portion of the tour due to lack of cooperation from the current tenants. She also reminded people that any tunnels were long ago filled in and we’d only be seeing the entrance to one and that this was not going to be like the Seattle Underground Tours. None of this deterred me.

It turned out that Jenya, an old friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in years was also interested in going on the tour. We met up in the early afternoon to catch up and then headed downtown.

We were supposed to pick up tickets any time after 3:00pm at the Gritty City Gift Fair at 9th and Broadway. We arrived at around 5:30pm. When we got there, the earliest group we could sign up for was 7:40pm. We met up with a couple of other friends and went to PSP (Puget Sound Pizza) for a couple drinks and some awesome pizza while we waited.

We came back at 7:30pm to find that the 7:20pm team was just now leaving. We wandered around the Gritty City Gift Fair. I ran into Kris Brannon otherwise known as Sonics Guy as well as ThanksGIVING founder Heidi Stoermer. I also saw Fingerprint Confection Owner, Clay Richart along with his wife who were selling their amazing caramels at the Fair. It was like a 5 Question Friday gathering.

A previous tour returned. We were told to grab the hard hats from them and be sure to sign the release form. I heard one returning person say that the tour was ‘underwhelming’. Not knowing this person, I had no idea what they expected it to be so this didn’t really bother me.

As the time crawled past 8pm, I became a bit concerned. Luckily the tour started a few minutes later. It turns out that two of the tour guides had gone home. One had hurt their ankle and the other, we were told, um, stepped in a puddle. The result was that Angela and another guide whose name I did not get were taking almost two tours worth of people at once to help get things caught up. We followed her down the hill to Pacific Avenue then took a left towards South 7th Street.

As we approached Meconi’s Pub, we were split into two groups. One went into Meconi’s. The other group (my group) was taken around the back of the building to find a man named Darryl who would show us where to go.

Around the back was an open door and Darryl. He led us to a spiral staircase covered in plastic sheeting that went down to the basement. In this basement, there were dozens of figurines. Every one of them creepier than I ever remember them being. The idea that at one point these were meant to entertain children is disturbing. That I was one of those children is even more bothersome.

Here are some photos of these almost forgotten relics:

Three Little Pigs

Big Bad Wolf

Assorted Characters

Ummm…

Past the figurines walking towards the direction of the street was a dark area where the flashlights were absolutely necessary. The stone floor was wet. There was thick glass above us in certain areas that I recognized as part of the sidewalk. These were the vaulted sidewalks of Tacoma. You can’t really see through the glass, but it was clear that if it was day, the sunlight would have provided at least a little illumination.

Vaulted Sidewalk

We walked back past the Never Never Land figures and up the stairs to switch places with the other group. Once inside Meconi’s we were led through a door, down another staircase to another vaulted sidewalk. This one had a substantial pool of water on the ground. I assumed this was the puddle that took out a previous tour guide. I walked through it with no problem.

Back in Meconi’s we walked through to the back of the bar where we went through another door and another staircase. Here there was a wall of brick and cement framed by a doorway. This we were told was once an entrance to a tunnel that went all the way to the docks.

In the 1880s, this area of Tacoma was full of illicit activities so a secret tunnel to the docks wasn’t even a little far fetched.

We left Meconi’s and head back up towards 9th and Broadway by way of the Spanish steps, near the old Elk’s Lodge that McMenamin’s has recently purchased and promised to turn into what might end up being one of the best night spots in Tacoma. It seemed fitting to end the tour through Tacoma’s past with a glimpse of what’s in Tacoma’s future.

The entire tour took about twenty minutes or so and if I had been expecting something out of Indiana Jones, I suppose I too would have been underwhelmed. As it was, I had a great time with my friends exploring forgotten bits of the City of Destiny. That to me was more than worth the $10 price of admission.

As a side note, Angela Jossy recently found out that they’re not destroying the vaulted sidewalks in January like she thought and there may yet be time for another round of Underground Tours for those who missed it this first time around. If she does, I’ll post that information on this article when I have it.

I’d like to publicly thank Angela Jossy and everyone else who helped her put on this tour.

– Jack Cameron

My Memories of Camp 6

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite place in Tacoma is Pt. Defiance. When they put speed bumps through Five Mile Drive, making it so a nice relaxing drive is interrupted periodically by a big bump, I got no less than five phone calls asking how I felt about it. When they tore out the wood benches along the walk between the Boat House and Owen Beach, I actually cried. A few weeks ago when some brain dead teenager set fire to the Pagoda at the Japanese Gardens in Pt. Defiance, I didn’t even write about it because I was simply too angry. And now another era ends. Camp 6 is closing.

There are plenty of other online and offline news outlets that are doing a fine job of covering the history of Camp 6 and the steam logging museum located there. So I’m going to spend this post talking about my personal history with Camp 6.

As a child, I loved trains. My grandfather worked for Burlington Northern Railroad and for my eighth birthday, he got me a ride in a freight train locomotive. Every year at the Puyallup Fair, the thing I looked most forward to was going on the miniature train ride. The fact that Pt. Defiance Park had a real honest-to-God steam locomotive train that you could ride was amazing to me.  And when the train wasn’t running, you could actually walk on the train tracks with no fear of a train running you over. As a kid, Camp 6 was like a life-size train set.

In my teens and early 20s, Camp 6 became something else to me. It was the secret place in Pt. Defiance. Everyone went to the Owen Beach or Fort Nisqually or the Japanese Gardens, but Camp 6 was the last stop before the exit to the park. By the time most people got there, they had already had their fun in the park. Camp 6 was the place you could go and be alone with someone. There were few girlfriends or girls I wanted to be girlfriends I didn’t take to Camp 6.

As a father, my son and I have spent hundreds of afternoons at Pt. Defiance Park. The train didn’t run as often, but still ran occasionally during the summer. I remember one particular afternoon we were traipsing through the forest trails that go throughout the park and we found ourselves near the entrance of Camp 6. We walked in and they just happened to be running the train. We paid a few bucks and got on board. It was a nice break after spending hours going through the trails. The next time we went to the park, my son wanted to go to Camp 6. We pulled into the gravel parking lot and walked on the train tracks. I happened to have my camera and took a few photos. One of which I’ve included in the post.

The owners of Camp 6 leased the land from Metro Parks. They wanted to sell it, but could not find a buyer. They’re now going to sell the parts of old train cars, and all of the old logging equipment to whoever will buy it. They’re also going to tear out the train tracks and remove all other heavy equipment. Metro Parks says they have no idea what they’re going to do with the area. This isn’t the first time a significant attraction has closed down permanently. Years ago, Never, Never Land closed. Easily identified by Humpty Dumpty sitting on top of a stack of books, Never, Never Land had a selection of statues from various fairy tales. You’d walk down the path and see all of these life size scenes from tales you grew up hearing like the Three Little Pigs. When it closed down, most of the statues were taken out and nothing else was really done. They let some of the bigger displays rot. I expect that similar lack of care will be taken in the end of Camp 6. It’s a sad day for me. It’s a sad day for Tacoma.

-Jack Cameron