Crossing the U.S.-Canada Border, Shadow Scout-Style

Crossing the U.S.-Canada Border, Shadow Scout-Style

I recently scouted a section of the U.S.-Canada border in the remote Pasayten Wilderness of north central Washington. I wanted to determine if there was a viable infiltration route into Canada in this area, in case I ever need to get into or out of the USA without bothering the authorities. Here is a video I made of the mission:

The Abandoned Artillery Bunkers of the Strait of Juan de Fuca

The Abandoned Artillery Bunkers of the Strait of Juan de Fuca

In the early 1940s, a series of observation posts was constructed along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to assist in the targeting of enemy ships for the coastal defense artillery batteries at Camp Hayden. These bunker-like structures, called “base end stations” or “observation stations”, were built high upon bluffs overlooking the Strait and equipped with azimuth and range-finding telescopes that could determine the direction and distance of enemy ships. These coordinates, relayed to the batteries via phone lines connecting the stations, were triangulated with data from other stations to precisely target ships. Here’s a picture of an observation station in action, and an old film explaining how the system worked:

What the interior of an active observation station might have looked like in the early 1940s.


This was state-of-the-art coastal defense technology in the early 20th century, but by the 1950s, with the advent of radar, jet aircraft and ballistic missiles, the system was obsolete. So these bunkers were abandoned—left to be swallowed up by the lush vegetation and eroding cliffs of the northern Olympic Peninsula.

An overview map of now-defunct Puget Sound coastal defense installations.

I read about some of these bunkers online a few years ago after I moved to the area and was intrigued. The pictures–showing blocky concrete structures overgrown with vegetation like ancient abandoned stone temples, many in spectacular locations overlooking the ocean—looked like something out of a movie. I did some research but found surprisingly little information about them. I did manage to find some old military maps, and last summer I visited a couple of them—Battery 249 at Camp Hayden (actually a gun battery, not an observation station), and the observation post at Agate Rock. I learned that there were at least a half-dozen other stations along the Strait, but wasn’t able to explore them until this summer. Thanks to some additional information acquired via an online contact, I also learned about three similar bunkers on the Pacific Coast near Neah Bay and was able to locate those. As of this writing, I have now visited every observation station and gun battery in the northern Olympic Peninsula, with the exception of one that is now part of someone’s house (Gettysburg).

Here is a video compilation of my recent visits to several of the bunkers:

Below are pictures of most of the bunkers I have visited to date. Finding them has provided an interesting scouting challenge that required skill in research, logistics, intelligence gathering, navigation, stealth and wilderness travel. I also consider the sites potential resources for our Shadow Empire, for use as meeting places, cache sites, survivalist bunkers and temples. If someone else wants to visit them as I have, let them do the research and demonstrate their scouting skill and dedication. I like to think of this as a kind of initiation for anyone wanting to become a Shadow Scout in this corner of the world. Perhaps there are similar ruins in your area and similar initiations available? Feel free to contact me here if you have any ideas along these lines.

Mission to Devil’s Tower

Mission to Devil’s Tower

A S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Mission

Lately, inspired by the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. meme and youtube Chernobyl adventures (e.g. here and here), I’ve become fascinated by the idea of scouting “exclusion zones”: places that are off-limits to the public which may contain spooky ruins, strange artifacts, unusual people (“Stalkers”), wild nature and anomalous phenomena. My recent Salmonberry River mission gave me a taste for this kind of adventure; looking for another one, I remembered “Devil’s Tower”: a ruined cement factory near the town of Concrete, Washington that is known as a gathering place for artists, explorers, vagrants and weirdos. I visited the place about five years ago and there didn’t seem to be much security, but apparently authorities have been cracking down and ticketing trespassers due to injuries and deaths that have occurred there (doing things at your own risk isn’t good enough for governments). Intrigued by the challenge of exploring the Tower with the heightened security, I travelled to the area with fellow Scout Raven to investigate.

Day 1: Forbidden Zone Recon

The first day we drove up from Concrete to do some recon of the zone. The main access road passes through a closed front gate with warning signs and a guard station; it looked far too paranoid to approach. There was also a back entrance that was gated but probably a better option. From forest service maps I found a third possible approach: an abandoned forest road less than a half mile south of the tower.  Raven dropped me off there to scout the route, and as I passed the no trespassing sign and concrete road blocks I got an immediate surprise: a mannikin sprawled out on the ground behind the blocks, clothed and clearly meant to look like a corpse. It was either a rather dark joke or a warning; either way, it was an ominous start to my recon of Devil’s Tower!

A warning message at an entrance to the forbidden zone?

That wasn’t the only surprise; a quarter mile in, the overgrown road opened up ahead and there was a large parking area, many trucks and a large hangar-type building. It was some kind of construction site, and I couldn’t see the tower which should have been just beyond it. Where was it? I started to worry that the tower was either already demolished or in the process of being demolished, and this whole mission would be a waste of time. As I watched a truck drive up the road away toward the tower area it was clear that the area was very active and I wouldn’t be able to get to the tower by this route, so I headed back to the car.

We drove to the back entrance to the access road, which was also gated off and signed, and there were a few people at the nearby boat launch. It looked doable, but risky. We decided to return a few hours later with our e-bikes, which we rode up from the town of Concrete so we wouldn’t have to park a possibly suspicious car anywhere near the forbidden zone. We waited until the two or three people at the boat launch weren’t paying attention and quickly pushed our bikes around the gate and pedaled up the dirt road and out of sight. The short ride was very scenic, with spectacular views across Lake Shannon toward mighty Mount Shuksan to the north. We soon approached some fencing and gates that closed off the construction site to the left, and to the right…there it was! The front wall of the old factory, with a huge painting of a skull and graffiti scrawled all over it. Devil’s Tower still stood!

We studied the wild art and graffiti in the crumbling remains of the outer building, and I placed an idol of the demon Pazuzu in the rubble as an offering, noting the synchronicity that someone had painted “I (heart) Pazuzu” in two places on the walls. Still thinking this was all that was left of the tower, I got a pleasant surprise when I walked over to a ledge and noticed that the whole factory complex was still there, hidden below in the trees and covered in crazy graffiti. I got another surprise when I noticed that sitting down in the ruins was a young redheaded “stalker”, who looked up and calmly greeted me. I talked to him for a few minutes, and he told me that he lived there for now, wanted to be a prizefighter, didn’t have too much trouble with security, along with some odd personal details. The dude seemed a little off, possibly from drugs or schizophrenia, and had an air of physical menace about him.

Things got weirder when he suddenly appeared up on the bank near me, motioning for me to come over to the edge to look at an “apple tree” and to show me some kind of “portal” he’d made in the bushes. I changed the subject and told him that I needed to go talk to my buddy, who had disappeared by now, probably spooked by the guy. I left and found Raven riding his ebike up the road on the other side of the fence, and I quickly joined him. We both agreed that we should come back the next day to explore the tower, hoping that the stalker would be gone. We rode out the front entrance this time, past the guard shack and the gate and didn’t see anyone, then down to Concrete. Here’s a video I made of our first day recon mission:

Day 2: Into the “Dojo of Pain”

The next day we returned to the back entrance to the zone on foot, but there were people near the gate so to be more discreet we bushwhacked to the access road. The construction zone was closed and the tower area was clear of people, so we were able to explore it thoroughly. It was an incredible place, covered in the most bizarre and colorful graffiti, like the scene of a post-apocalyptic rave or cult temple. The main building had several floors, with large holes that could be death traps, and an amazing elevated tunnel that led to an overgrown and graffitied tower. This was the highlight of the mission for me: walking on top of the tower, with spectacular views over the lake and mountains, eldritch symbols and artwork painted on it, with a walkway high up in the trees, made me feel like the sorcerer Saruman atop his tower in Isengard in  Lord of the Rings. The tunnel itself was like an anarchist art gallery, with spray-painted murals along the walls and holes in the floor that could drop the unwary far down to the forest floor below.

I walked back down the tunnel and made a dangerous crossing over to main building; I trusted two thin pipes stuck in the ground to keep me from tumbling down the steep slope to the lake. Then I entered the main building at the basement and went back up to the main chamber. As I was admiring the scene, I heard a noise, and as I turned around, there on a platform was my red-headed stalker friend from the day before! I pulled off my mask and said hello; he suspiciously greeted me and asked me what I was doing (my tactical clothing made him think I was a cop). After a tense conversation we both calmed down, then he said rather dramatically: “welcome to the dojo of pain”. I liked his name for the place; it really did look like some kind of dangerous dojo, or as I called it, a “temple of chaos”. We talked for a few minutes then I took off, having seen the whole site and not wanting to push my luck by sticking around.

The resident stalker, who said his name was “nobody”, surprises me in the “Dojo of Pain”.

This was one of my favorite missions to date. I’m glad I got to see the tower again, because I have a feeling that the place is going to be demolished before too long. The place has  a combination of chaotic energy, natural beauty and impressive ruins that you don’t find very often. The encounter with the stalker was a little disturbing, but appropriate for this weird “forbidden zone”. Here’s a video I made of day two of my mission to Devil’s Tower:

Scouting an Abandoned Railroad and Ghost Town in Northwest Oregon

Scouting an Abandoned Railroad and Ghost Town in Northwest Oregon

I recently travelled to northwest Oregon to explore an abandoned railroad and ghost town on the Salmonberry River. The section I explored is part of the 86 mile long Tillamook Bay railroad that was damaged and abandoned in 2007 after a heavy storm. My mission was to hike five miles from an access road down the tracks to a ghost town called Enright.

From my research, I learned that there are plans to develop the railroad into a rail trail that will allow cyclists to ride from the suburbs west of Portland all the way to the coast at Tillamook. I also learned that the trail has recently been closed to the public; apparently it became a popular place to go after some internet posts a few years back, and the authorities were concerned about public safety. They had been allowing people to visit at their own risk, but that was no longer good enough for the government, who apparently acted after someone’s dog fell 180 feet off a bridge and died. Wanting to see the route before the rail trail tamed it, and not worried about restrictions that were probably unenforceable and designed to keep non-Scouts out, I packed up my Scout bag and headed south.

I began my hike from the confluence of the Salmonberry and Nehalem rivers; the more popular starting point is at Cochran Pond 16 miles up the tracks, but I was intrigued by the ghost town and wanted a more discreet access point that was less likely to be monitored by authorities. The tracks at the access road looked almost normal, like you’d see at any rural railroad crossing, but that would soon change. I ignored a sign saying the area was closed and walked quietly past several houses near the tracks, feeling rather exposed in broad daylight.


Fortunately the tracks soon became overgrown and the houses ended as I passed into one of the wilder sections of the route. The tracks ran along the Salmonberry river, which was a beautiful clear turquoise that looked very inviting as the day warmed up. Half a mile down the trail I ran into three friendly loggers, who warned me about some lines they had put in place two miles further down but didn’t seem concerned about my presence at all. I crossed trestles and an impressive bridge, which was built in 1922 but still looked very solid:

The next notable sight was a piece of track hanging in mid-air from where the storm had washed out the bank beneath it:

I also caught my first glimpse of the fiber optic cables that ran along the tracks, which were laid in the early 2000s to connect Portland to transpacific cables going to Asia and Australia. Apparently they were also damaged by the 2007 storm and abandoned.

A few miles in the going got more difficult, as the tracks became overgrown and swampy and I was forced to bushwhack, jump and machete my way through. It was impressive to see how quickly nature reclaimed the abandoned tracks, and it made me realize that if they don’t develop the rail trail and keep the area closed, this route might become totally overgrown and unhikeable in a few years.

The trail opened up as I approached the location of Enright, and suddenly looming over me on my right was a huge, rusted tower that looked like a giant teapot:

I assume it was a water tower, thought it might have held something else that was loaded onto freight cars at this stop. There was a rusted ladder running up the side, which I quickly started climbing, wanting to see if I could get inside the tank. Halfway up, the ladder started to get wobbly and I decided that it wasn’t worth risking a dangerous fall in the middle of nowhere. So I unfurled my shadow sun banner instead and claimed this tower for the Shadow Empire.

Moving on, I soon came to a no trespassing sign on my right. Investigating, I saw that it led to a house with a large lawn that had been mowed recently. Retreating back to the tracks, I walked quietly past the rustic house, which appeared to be empty but well maintained. It was a creepy scene, like some post-apocalyptic country home where you might encounter mutant hillbillies or zombies or whatever disturbing thing you want to imagine.  Fortunately I didn’t find any of that and soon moved on. I passed a long line of overgrown rail cars that had apparently been stranded here after the storm, which added to the end-of-the-world vibe. Then I came to a second house, also empty but with a large well maintained yard and some rather aggressive signs warning trespassers:

Who was mowing these yards and maintaining these houses, miles from civilization down a rough trail? Were they owned by the railroad? Were they planning to turn them into rental cabins? Your guess is as good as mine.

Near the second house, I came across this piece of artwork on one of the rail cars:

The artist presumably favors keeping the Salmonberry river wild and opposes the rail trail, and I can’t disagree with the message.

At this point I had seen what I came for and decided it was time to head back. I did some more Scout rituals to symbolically mark the area, then began the long trudge back to civilization.  On the way back I did a little ninja training, using my grappling hook on the rail to climb up and down the steep railroad embankment and climbing on top of the bridges.

This was a magical expedition into a beautiful post-apocalyptic world, which I will definitely be back to explore further in the near future. Here is a video I made of my adventure:

Scouting the Lost Bunkers of the Pacific

Scouting the Lost Bunkers of the Pacific

I recently travelled to the far northwest corner of Washington state in the Makah nation to look for three World War II observation bunkers located on the Pacific coast: at Anderson Point, Portage Head and Wa’atch Point. These bunkers are more obscure than the Camp Hayden fire control structures on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, such as the Camp Hayden and Agate Rock bunkers I scouted previously. I’d never heard of them until a local informant sent me some interesting documents published about 30 years ago by a local military historian. By studying these documents and some old topographical maps I was able to determine the approximate location of the bunkers, though the exact routes and conditions of the trails were unclear. The trail to the Anderson Pt. bunker was shown on a 1960 topographical map, but it was removed from all later maps. I couldn’t find a trail to the Portage Head bunker on any maps, so I assumed I would have to bushwhack the third to half a mile up the bluff to the bunker location. The Wa’atch Point bunker was at the end of an old forest road that was still on maps, so I didn’t expect it to be too difficult.

For this mission I met a local informant and fellow scout named “Dabquatch”; we made a base camp in the Makah fishing village of Neah Bay and spent two days exploring the area. We eventually found all three bunkers, but I don’t want to give away too much information about how we did it. The tribe seems to want to keep their locations obscure and I respect that; I wouldn’t want to see them become too easy to find or turned into tourist attractions—better to leave them to the Scouts.

After finding the Anderson Pt. bunker high up on a bluff, we couldn’t locate any trail to the Portage Head bunker; all obvious traces of the old access road were gone. The bushwhack looked very difficult and we were on the verge of giving up when a local Makah scout that I recognized from a youtube video happened to come rolling down the trail in an ATV. I told him what we were doing and he very helpfully guided us to the vicinity of the old road to the bunker. It was totally overgrown and very difficult to see; if we hadn’t run into this local we would have missed it. He asked us to bushwhack in from the side to keep the location of the road secret, which we happily complied with. We hiked up to Portage Head and got spectacular views from the top of the bunker down to rock formations near Shi Shi beach and west across the Pacific.

The next day we drove north past Wa’atch point where another observation bunker was supposed to be located at the end of an old access road. This was an easy hike but the bunker was buried under a mound and I didn’t see it until I walked down to the cliff beyond it and turned around. The views here were also spectacular, as you would expect at the site of a Pacific coastal lookout.

Here is a video I made of this scouting mission:

At the entrance to the Portage Head bunker.
Admiring the view from the Wa’atch bunker.
A “No Roads” Bug-Out Mission

A “No Roads” Bug-Out Mission

A Bug-Out Mission

I recently decided to do a bug-out mission on foot, travelling from my house to to a wooded area on the other side of town. To simulate dangerous bug-out conditions such as civil unrest or a fugitive situation (i.e. the police are at my door), I would be avoiding all roads. I worked out a route in advance using google maps and gaiagps that would enable me to get to my bug-out location via trails, woods, fields and urban environments such as parking lots, shopping centers and parks. I would be passing through several private properties, and the bug-out destination was in an off-limits wildlife refuge, so I would need to be as discreet as possible.

A “No Roads” Mission

This mission was inspired by the popular youtuber Geowizard, who pioneered “straight line missions” a few years ago with his Mission Across Wales series, wherein he attempted to cross the width of Wales in a completely straight line. He has since attempted crossings of Scotland, Norway and Wales again, spawning dozens of imitators in the process. With his latest video, he has pioneered another genre of adventure video–the “no roads mission”:

This is a clever idea; Geowizard combines urban exploration and straight line missions in an attempt to cross between two towns using no roads–just alleys, parking lots, wooded areas, canals, rooftops, shopping centers and whatever else is available. It puts an urban twist on off-road missioning, where instead of obstacles like angry farmers, hedgerows, brambles, rivers and cliffs, he faces spiked fences, filthy canals, junkie hovels, industrial areas and crazy locals.

I was fascinated to watch this; it’s basically what I call “Shadow Scouting”, or travelling by “Shadow Routes”: obscure routes that aren’t known or frequented by the authorities or general public. For example, my recent power line mission was mostly a “no roads mission”; I used a power line corridor to travel between towns, except in a few places where it wasn’t feasible.

Mission Results

My no roads bug-out mission ended up being a 7 mile walk to the destination camp site.  I bushwhacked, evaded homeowners, followed game trails and stealth-travelled across forests, fields, highways, brambles, private property, parking lots, parks and wildlife refuges. I walked another 1.5 miles to the coast to do some recon for a future scouting mission to a forbidden island. It was a fun adventure; I highly recommend trying something like this in your area. Here is a video I made of the mission:

Power Line Scouting: P.A. Station to Deer Park

Power Line Scouting: P.A. Station to Deer Park

I’ve posted before about “shadow routes”, which are stealthy routes that aren’t frequented by authorities or the general public. There are many forest roads, hiking trails and bike paths in my area, but some are popular and not really off the beaten track. That’s why I like to scout power line corridors, which often have access roads or trails allowing foot or bike travel for miles, but are never crowded.

Mountain bikes are excellent for scouting power lines in some locations.

One reason for their unpopularity is that power lines often run through private property—farms, ranches, yards, industrial areas—where you might have to deal with fences, owners, dogs, etc. Another reason is that the lines are laid straight from point to point, and don’t have much regard for topography and terrain. Lines may go up or down very steep slopes, across rivers, swamps, brambles and other difficult  terrain. As a Shadow Scout I don’t let those obstacles stop me; in fact I see them as a challenge and an opportunity. 

I recently decided to scout a section of power line corridor near my home to see how well it would work as a stealth travel route. I first reconned the route on Google Earth, which gives a detailed 3d view, showing houses, fields, fences, forests, ravines, creek crossings and other challenges I would have to deal with. The street level view on Google Maps showed close-up images of some of the road crossings to give me a better idea of which areas I might need to bypass; Gaia GPS maps showed me forest roads and trails I might be able to use for detours. I thought about conducting the mission at night for greater stealth, but decided to do it in the daytime because if you run into a property owner you look far more suspicious if you’re creeping around at night.

The mission turned out to be very interesting; I was able to travel several miles without any major obstacles, passing through private properties without encountering any hostile owners. I did have to detour twice; once using a main road and once by a long side trip down an abandoned forest road, across a creek and up a steep bushwhack back to the road on the other side. I could have stayed on the power line corridor the whole way if it I absolutely had to, but in broad daylight some of the properties were too exposed and had too many fences to safely cross. I learned that his section of the corridor has good potential as a shadow route in a stealth travel/bug-out scenario; I will be returning to where I left off to continue scouting this power line corridor soon.

Here is a video I made of this mission:

The Domino Vendetta

The Domino Vendetta

The Domino Vendetta, published in 1984 by Adam Kennedy, is the sequel to his excellent 1975 novel The Domino Principle, which I previously reviewed here. It continues the saga of everyman Roy Tucker, a working class murder convict who was sprung from prison by a shadowy cabal of powerful men in return for carrying out a high-level assassination.

Vendetta continues where Principle left off,  as Tucker, following the grim ending of the last novel, is still in Costa Rica and under attack by agents of the cabal. Tucker survives the assault, then proceeds to burn down his villa, dump his attackers’ car in the ocean and take off on foot, their identity cards and cash in hand. Using those, Tucker flies to Brazil to hide out and figure out what to do next. But the cabal soon finds him and tries to frame him for a murder, which Tucker narrowly escapes.

Meanwhile, everyone involved in the assassination plot is being killed off, including Tucker himself, according to a newspaper report. Tucker decides that he’s through running and returns stateside to take the fight to the cabal. The problem is he has no idea where to find them or how to take them on. He turns to the last person alive who can help him, his long-time lawyer and close friend from his Vietnam War days, Robert Applegate. Applegate has gone into hiding, but Tucker manages to track him down and get him to talk.  It turns out that Applegate has some inside information about the conspirators who enlisted Roy for his hit on the American ex-president. The description he provides of the cabal and their agenda sound all-too plausible, even more so today than in 1984:

The group, which calls itself Interworld Alliance, admits that it aspires to a position of high-level international influence, something apolitical, extra-political, a kind of world government outside government that speaks the language of business. Profit and loss, expansion and growth, acquisition, manipulation, and planned obsolescence. Brave New World, Man and Superman, business is business, money talks.

We learn that Interworld’s chief military advisor, an American general named Reser, has a devious scheme to get permanent control of Middle Eastern oil. We also learn why Interworld targeted an ex-president for assassination and enlisted Tucker for the hit.

Roy Tucker, being a common man motivated by common emotions, doesn’t much care about this larger conspiracy. He simply wants  violent revenge for the wrongs the conspirators have done to him and his loved ones, and in particular, revenge against Reser. Ever the cunning redneck, Tucker prepares a trap to bring the Interworld men to him so that he can get to them. The novel moves quickly toward a dramatic climax, as Tucker makes his way to New York, where Reser is scheduled to address the United Nations and announce his “peace initiative” in the Middle East. Tucker uses his natural ninja cunning to get close to his target, and like the first novel, this one ends with a violent, dark twist.

Vendetta was a worthy sequel to The Domino Principle; though not quite as riveting and a little slow at times, it was a well-written, tightly plotted continuation of the Roy Tucker saga. It fleshes out the events of the first novel, not only with regard to the assassination conspiracy, but Tucker’s early life, the events that landed him in prison, his time in Vietnam, and the love of his life, his late wife Thelma. The tough, resourceful, poor country boy convict from West Virginia is a sympathetic character, like a more human and likeable Jason Bourne, on the run from sinister power players but determined to survive and get revenge. This series is definitely worth your time if you enjoy classic assassin/conspiracy thrillers along these lines.

Get a copy of The Domino Vendetta here.