The mural on the old police station said it all, “Welcome to Concrete, the center of the known universe.”
“Well, that’s pretty presumptuous,” I said to Chris.
We drove past massive concrete structures and through the half-vacant old-town main street of the tiny “haunted” quarry town settled amidst Mount Baker, the Baker River, and the snow-capped North Cascade mountain peaks. An historic 100-foot-tall concrete silo adorned with the red words, Welcome to Concrete, consumed our view and confirmed its name. A run-down paint-peeled vacant concrete high school deteriorated adjacent to town; a monumental cluster of early-1900s concrete silos loomed ominously on the edge of town; the notable single-arched, single-lane concrete Henry Thompson Bridge connected two sides of town; and the awe-inspiring 312-foot, cement Lower Baker Dam rose up from the trees over Baker River and shot up into the horizon.
We took the high road and headed to Devil’s Tower. The gravel road marked as “primitive” surprisingly led us on a smooth ride up through the forest to the site of local lore. We arrived at a gated entry marked with decades of angst, its spray-painted scribbles marking the beginning of a short hike to our eerie destination. We saw a young couple walking down the hill back to their car.
“Is it up there?” I asked.
“Yeah, and no one’s there,” said the girl. The boy nodded and they drove off.
Chris prepped the kids, “Ok, this is a place where you need to stay close to me and Mom. We all need to watch our steps, no running ahead.”
The litter showed us the way. Paint caps, pop cans, beer bottles, an ice cream carton, the trash increased exponentially with every stride. [Lesson #2, kids, don’t litter. Ever. And don’t touch anything.]
We heard it first, dripping heavy with rain and sorrow, and we looked up to find it. Covered in moss, rusted rebar, horror stories, and graffiti bombs, we arrived at Devil’s Tower. An abandoned quarry mine building from the 1960s, the concrete structure unfolded before us. Prolific and decrepit, vibrant and grim, we ventured closer, listening to the water drip its way through the hollow old conveyor system, through the roof, and down the bashed-in mesh-filled metal and concrete walls. We also heard sounds we could not identify. The place, while lonely and abandoned, seemed alive, which simultaneously terrified and fascinated us.
While Chris ventured deeper inside, the kids and I looked closer at the art. We talked about the artists and what they may have been feeling or experiencing in their lives. We noticed the most brilliant pieces had been painted over disrespectfully by others. We imagined the people who walked on this ground before us and what they might be doing now. We wondered if a garbage can was placed outside, would anyone use it?
Beyond the tower and through its holes, we beheld Lake Shannon, a reservoir created in the 1920s by the damming of the Baker River. The rain subsided into sun, and yet the day-use beach access felt eerie, quiet, and rather lifeless. Tree stumps arising from muck, rusted tractor tracks, oxidized metal wheels, broken glass, shotgun shells, shattered orange clay targets, three buried golf balls, a spread-out-and-forgotten flannel shirt all told us their stories, and we watched our steps, making the best of it. Further out toward the water, we discovered, the more the mud, the less the trash. To our surprise, our remarkably-hygienic almost-teenage son slopped through it, first his feet, and then his hands. I worried briefly about the subsequent state of our van. And then Chris joked about radioactive mud…and my imagination ran.
“Ok, kids, rinse your hands and shoes off in the lake; time to go!”
The sun led us the whole way home.
Have you ever been somewhere “creepy?” What made it feel that way?
How do you feel about graffiti? When/where is it appropriate…or not?
Let us know in the comments!
Until next time,
Angela and Chris