RUTLEDGE CORN MAZE
I knew I was in trouble when all I could see was green. Did Danny Rutledge tell me to turn left at the second intersection ... or was it a right? I took a little comfort at his parting assurance as I had entered his familys corn maze: You can call us and well come get you. Every year, the Rutledge family turns its cornfield into eight acres of mazes. Yes, theyre maize mazes. The first is a mile long and the second is 2.3 miles. Thats, of course, if you took every wrong turn. Which I did until I found one of the bridges a maze-goer can ascend to get a birds-eye view of the thing. According to my research, that simply confirms youre lost. Only a helicopter ride would clue you in that the mazes were planted in the likeness of Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch. At night, the family opens its third, haunted maze with actors and special effects. I was satisfied just reliving key scenes from Children of the Corn during my day trip. Free horse-drawn and tractor-drawn hay wagons take visitors around the mazes and into the pumpkin patch. Pumpkins are 30 cents per pound. There also is a produce stand on site. Bring your lunch or eat elsewhere. Snack offerings are meager. MIMA MOUNDS NATURAL AREA PRESERVE Ive never been in a war zone, but I felt like I was as I got out of my car at the other-worldly Mima Mounds. Gunfire was erupting all around me. Turns out, the nature preserve is bordered by the Evergreen Sportsmens Club a gun club.
Its a little unnerving, said Becca Stephens, who was visiting the site from Tacoma with friend Kristine Kordell. The pair served overseas with the Army.
A two-mile-long loop trail heads south from the parking area and will take you out of earshot of the shooting. The 637-acre site preserves the baffling Mima (pronounced MY-ma) Mounds. They are baffling because no one is quite sure how these hills, which stand up to 7-feet tall and 40-feet wide, were made. Eight to 10 of the mounds fill an acre. From the air, it looks as if the Earth has goose pimples. Charles Wilkes, an 1841 explorer, thought they might be burial mounds. The Upper Chehalis tribe thought they were caused by waves from a long-ago flooding event. One theory suggests small pocket gophers created them. (Just ignore the urban myth about gigantic rodents.) What scientists know for sure is that they were born after the Ice Age. Trails wander through the site, but this isnt a place where a visitor should expect a variety of scenery. There is a monotony to the mounds all the better to ponder the mystery of why theyre there.
Teninos famous sandstone quarry swimming hole is closed for the season, but the golden stone it produced is featured prominently in the small towns buildings. Just down the street from the citys newspaper offices (a recent front page features an alleged indiscretion by the towns colorful mayor) is the Sandstone Cafe.
I had a juicy Dingo Burger for $7.69 (made from beef, not Australian dogs). It was covered with grilled onions, peppers, salsa and Swiss cheese and served with fries. The bright cafe was popular with locals. My visit was just days before the grand opening of Scatter Creek Winerys new tasting room next to the cafe on Sussex Avenue West.
Dont howl at the wolves. Thats what I was told when I joined the one-hour tour at Wolf Haven, a private nonprofit sanctuary for rescued wolves. The howling disturbs them. And its disrespectful, I was told.
The grounds at Wolf Haven are something to howl about. Huge oaks drop a steady crop of acorns, a sunny restored prairie (with genuine Mima mounds) stretches into the distance. I was happy just to wander among the trees. But I came for the wolves.
The volunteer guide wasnt polished in her delivery, but she was full of facts about the gray and red wolves (and two coyotes) that populate the sanctuary. We learned their personal stories as well as the habits of their species. Nearby a raven cawed. They are the natural companions of the wolf, our guide told us, alerting them to prey. It was the first time I had been marked for death by a bird. While the sanctuary has 50 wolves in residence, only 18 are visible on the tour. Fifteen wolves are part of a federally managed Species Survival Plan, and the rest have been mostly obtained from people who thought it was really cool to have a pet wolf until it grew up.
The wolves lounged in the sun, a pair per enclosure. They ranged from pure white to charcoal to red. Most ignored us and the ravens. MONARCH SCULPTURE PARK
I knew I was in for a stimulating experience when I read the notice on the Monarch Sculpture Parks website: Periodically, there will be found on the grounds and in the gallery fine art works that express the unclothed human form.
Translation: Keep yer eye out for nekkid people! Alas, my prurient interests werent satisfied nudes were in short supply. But my artistic ones were. This nonprofit park looks like a nature preserve after an airdrop from the Museum of Modern Art. More than 100 sculptures from a variety of artists dot the grasslands, woods and creek. The styles range from representational to abstract and encompass a range of media. Tall shards of glass, as if they were lifted from a winter pond, hide among trees while a gigantic mental hand nearby holds pick-up sticks. There really is something for every art lover here. LATTIN'S CIDER MILL
If you havent eaten by the time you hit Lattins Cider Mill, youre in luck. Pulled pork sandwiches, apple fritters, pies and, of course, fresh cider by the gallon are all for sale. The mill has a farm-meets-carnival atmosphere with baby chicks peeping near childrens games. A huge pumpkin patch had plenty to offer on my visit. I ran into cowgirl hat-wearing Debbie Lattin at the mill. She co-owns the kidtopia with her sister and mother. I was a little skeptical about the adult-orientated activities at the mill until Lattin directed me to the apple slingshot. The only thing that could beat that is a pumpkin trebuchet.
The $2 fritters are not to be missed, and most people dont. There often is a long line to get them. The mill sold 54,000 last year, Lattin said. A staffer plied me with samples of several different kinds of fresh cider. Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541