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Monday, February 6, 2012

Not Quite Stonehenge, But Nearly as Strange

I first spied the oddly convoluted landscape, now known as Chambers Creek Properties, from the deck of the tall ship Adventuress, several years ago. I had no idea what it was. Shortly after we sailed south of Point Defiance in Tacoma and under the Narrows Bridge, I noticed the bare acreage off the ship's port side. Wide open and sculpted, it stretched from the waters of Chambers Bay to the top of a long hill, between the wooded residential area of University Place  and the historic town of Steilacoom, Washington's oldest incorporated community. Here and there at the base of the hill stood the unidentifiable remains of massive concrete structures. I could tell that some serious alteration of the earth's surface had taken place there, and not by the hand of Mother Nature.

From Gravel to Golf

Later, I learned the history of this strange place, a saga going back over 200 years, to a time when the local Native Americans from the Steilacoom tribe lived in the area. The first non-native settlers arrived in 1832, with the Hudson Bay Company, and built Fort Steilacoom just south of the property. By the 1850s, as more forts were being erected around Puget Sound, the site already had a primitive gravel mining operation and soon became home to other industries to do with milling, timber, and gravel. Now, this expanse of well over 900 acres is owned by Pierce County and the former gravel pits have been reshaped to become a world class designation for golfers, selected as the site of the 2015 U. S. Open Championship tournament.

Even though I'm not a golfer, I wrote a previous blog post about this place after visiting the Chambers Bay Grill, and admiring both the view and the excellent food. That visit took place during the heat of summer, when the long walk down to the bay sounded fine but the prospect of walking all the way back up did not. So it wasn't until the first weekend in February 2012 that I actually took the time to walk the paved trails that wind through the grassy fields and past what remains of the mining operations, all the way to the beach via a lovely bridge that arches over the railroad tracks. Sunday morning, my husband and I arrived early at the grill and enjoyed a breakfast I'm still thinking about, perfectly prepared and generous. Then we drove (yes you can drive) down the long curving road to a parking lot below, where walkers had just begun showing up, many with their dogs.

Come along with me as I visit this interesting place once again, through my photos.


Elsa of Lake Forest Park said...

Wow...enjoyed your photos looks like a surreal landscape. Fun place with a camera. Will put it on my list. See my blog for snowy owl sightings. HUZZAH!

Bob Katica said...

Great photos...however as a golfer, the view from the 15th hole looking out towards the bay, over the beautiful par 3 hole green, with the only tree on the course standing behind it...that is a one of my favorite views from Chambers Bay. Unfortunately witnessing my golf ball bouncing into the surrounding sand trap is not a pleasant image.

Anonymous said...

Gravelhenge. I've walked the loop many times. Good pictures. Thanks for posting.

Caphall said...

Great landscape! It will be on my must see list when I visit Washington along with the Chihuly glass at the Glass Museum.