Part 2 of the I90 tour brings adventures at the Petrified Forest and The Wile Horse Monument! If you missed part one, click here!
The next stop on the route is the Petrified Forest! I don’t know about you, but I have lived in Seattle my entire life (give or take a couple years) and have never been there! Every time I drive to and from Eastern Washington I say I am going to stop but it never happens. Well, I finally went and it was worth every minute!
We did it backwards, we went to the forest first and then to the Visitors Center. I highly suggest starting at the Visitors Center just off the freeway at Vantage. There you can learn what petrified wood looks and feels like because you cannot touch the wood in the forest. There is a short video, cheesy but amazing, that tells a history of how the surrounding area was carved out, about the habitat, and what/who calls that area home. There is also a display of many different woods that have been petrified and what each species looks like once it’s been petrified.
Along with all of this is the amazing view of the Columbia River, the Vantage Bridge, and (hint, hint) the Wild Horse Monument. This is a great place to have lunch; there is a nice grass lawn, picnic tables, bathrooms, and even a place to buy bags of ice and soda. While you are there you may run into a heard of mountain goats that live in the area, I have heard from several people that they have seen the same family as I did. Once you leave, head up the hill to the “forest.” I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed with the actual forest, maybe it’s just my notion of what a forest is. You will take a one mile loop of the 2 dozen petrified stumps that have been found buried beneath the ground. The trees are surrounded by metal boxes and grates over the top as to preserve them, but for those of us who learn via touch, it makes it hard. Alas, it was still worth the stop to see the trees in their natural habitat along with the beautiful scenery up on the hills.
From here you need to back track back to Vantage and cross the bridge over the mighty Columbia! Just east of the bridge sits the Wild Horse Monument. The monument is made from steel plates welded together by David Govedare, who is also famous for the Runners in Spokane on the waterfront and in Seattle’s Sculpture Park. The 15 ponies were put on that bluff in 1989 to help celebrate Washington’s Centennial celebration. There is a nice big parking lot but not much else (no bathrooms, make sure to go before hand)!
You can enjoy the views of the gorge, the Columbia, and the Petrified Forest to the west. To the east atop the bluff you can gaze at the ponies, or, you can hike the couple hundred yards up to the top. From there you get an up close view of the ponies and how big they really are, you also get an amazing 360 degree view. It is really unfortunate that so many people have signed their names on this piece of art, but it can lead to great conversations with your kids about respect, not only the art but the wild life and nature around them. I saw many kids going up and down this steep trail but there was a lot of loose gravel, make sure you are wearing appropriate shoes.
After spending the day hiking, running, and maybe even learning something, everyone will be ready for the trek home. From here it is very easy to hop back onto I-90 west for the 2 hour drive back to Seattle. Not feeling like driving home? There are dozens of camp-grounds in the area and you are bound to come across one that suits your needs!
A couple of things you may want to bring with you. First, don’t forget your Discover Pass, you will need it at the Petrified Forest. Also, bring plenty of water and a sack lunch, there are ample places to stop and have lunch. Consider bringing a kite, there is always a nice breeze through Central Washington. Lastly, do not forget the sunscreen like I did, as evidenced by the photo below.