Put up no trespassing signs. Dig a 15 ft deep trench around the entrance. Hang barbed wire. Wrap razor wire. Remove the railroad beams. Do whatever you like, but as long as the frame remains, I will never stop going to Vance Creek Bridge. Let me tell you why.
I’m currently camped out in Washington State’s Olympic National Forest, less than a mile from not only the tallest railway bridge in the country, but the second tallest as well. Getting here was quite the journey, so don’t think too poorly of me if I insist on telling the story from the beginning.
If you haven’t read the first installment, click below! Or don’t, if you’re one of those monsters who reads the last page of a novel before going through the whole book.
The premise of this little adventure started out quite simple. Drive to Vance Creek Bridge—stopping by Olympia on the way—and spend a night below the stars. Oh, and below the incessant rain. In Seattle one must never forget to mention the rain when writing, as that is known to push the next dry day back another 24 hours.
The drive over to Olympia was fairly uneventful, however I did make a quick stop to relieve my boredom...
As to the capital building itself, well, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Miata shown for scale.
This is the second time I’ve been here, and the scale of the building still blows me away. The place was absolutely teeming with patrol cars. As I drove around the building looking for good photo spots—or even visitor parking, which was nonexistent at the time—I felt a hundred pairs of eyes, following along with me. I eventually just said fuck it—parked in the middle of the road—car on, cops looking my way—and jumped out, proceeding to shoot like every shot might be my last. Which is a poetic way of saying, sorry for the amateur photos!
Long story short, I was approached by no less than six officers who chatted with me about the car, my trip, and a life served protecting our state capitol. They even took a few pictures, although understandably requested to be left out of anything that I shot. Chill guys.
With that out of the way it was time to get back on I-5, and find my way to the bridges. Vance Creek Bridge. High Steel Bridge. Where do I even start? Nothing I say will get the sheer majesty of these monuments across to you, no picture taken could show the effect it has on even the most jaded of travellers. So I suppose I’ll start with some background.
Both bridges were built in the early 1900's to allow loggers to get to the prime wood of the time. High Steel Bridge is one lane, with railings on either side, and for all its beauty—check out the header image—it’s greatly overshadowed by it’s controversial brother.
Vance Creek Bridge has no railings, and cannot be driven across, as it’s nothing more than wooden beams laid across a metal frame, with rusted out railroad tracks laid out on top. For years, a battle has been fought between the logging company that owns the bridge, and the public that sees it as a national landmark. The logging company is liable for anyone who falls off, and as such goes to great lengths to keep people away. The took it up a notch this last year, when they dismantled the bridge entrance, hung barbed wire, and removed a good 75 feet of walkway, leaving nothing but the frame. Below are before and after images.
While I completely understand the logging companies predicament, what they’ve done here has made the situation so much worse. People have continued to show up. And they continue to get on the bridge however they can. The only difference now being there is no longer a safe way to do so. Ironically, the chance of injury or death has been increased tenfold... It’s an unfortunate situation for all parties, especially since Washington state has shown interest in turning the Bridge into a National Park.
But this is not a sight you would be greeted with at a National Park. Rope, discarded railway beams, and tarps made for an incredibly sketchy way past the multilayered flesh-tearing instruments laid out around the bridge. However, after a three hour drive we weren’t about to turn back.
We made it up to the top, surprisingly without a scratch. But the hard part was just coming up. Now we had to go from the bridge entrance, to the slatted section, crossing 75 ft of bare frame in the process.
Once again, we made it across. One quick picture to win a bet and our cameras were put away. This was something to experience, not to see on a small screen. I truly hope to someday see a headline proclaiming Vance Creek Bridge open to the public. But until that day, I’ll take solace in the fact that no obstacle is insurmountable. When you live for the challenge, every additional barrier is just more motivation to keep going. You may not agree with me, and and I completely respect that. But I am in no way apologetic.
This is a beautiful world. Go out and see for yourself.