Reflections on the Mysterious Bicycle Tree of Vashon Island, Washington

bicycle-tree-vashon-island (Image: Jim Simandl; the mysterious Vashon Island ‘Bicycle Tree’, Washington)

Regular readers of Urban Ghosts will be highly familiar with the process of decay that grips abandoned buildings after they’ve been deserted by those who lived or worked within them. Even the mightiest icons of industry and wealth will soon fall into ruin once left alone for long enough. For that reason, we looked back into our archives to reflect on those places and objects that truly have been reclaimed by nature – like the so-called Bicycle Tree.

The Bicycle Tree really stood out, not because it was created of industry or commercialism, but because it was the stuff of childhood. For decades, the bicycle embedded in a tree on Washington State’s Vashon Island has attracted a surprising number of visitors. One employee at a nearby office building remarked that it wasn’t unusual to see anywhere from 20 to 40 people visiting the Bicycle Tree in a single day.

What’s more, it seems that just about everyone has a theory to explain how the rusty red bike came to be there. Some say it was left behind by a boy heading off to war, but others insist that it’s too small a bike even for the war’s youngest soldiers. Others suggest that it was hung in the tree by a malicious big brother, or that it was left by someone who had every intention of coming back to get it – only for something terrible happened before they could do so.

abandoned-bicycle-tree-on-vashon-island-washington-2 (Image: Jim Simandl; the back wheel completely reclaimed by nature)

Finally, Seattle-based Komo News tracked down the real story of the Vashon Island Bicycle Tree. The abandoned bike belonged to a local boy known as Donny Puz, who grew up to be Sheriff Don Puz. A longtime resident showed reporters a yearbook photo of the future sheriff, and when the news channel tracked him down to a nearby town, Sheriff Puz confirmed that the mysterious bike had been his.

He said the bike was located just several hundred feet from his childhood home, in the woods where he once played. The story has tragic beginnings; after a fire destroyed his home and killed his father in 1954, the community had rallied around the family.

One of the items donated to the 9-year-old Donny was the small bike. He’d hated it, though. It was a child’s bike – and a little girl’s one, at that. So he’d hung it in a tree, gone home, and told his mother that he couldn’t remember where he’d lost it. Today, Don Puz believes that his abandoned bike belongs to the tree in the woodland of Vashon Island.

abandoned-bicycle-tree-on-vashon-island-washington (Image: Steve WeilemanEssex Explorations; the sad, vandalised frame of the abandoned bicycle)

But sadly, the mysterious nature of the Vashon Island Bicycle Tree – and the urban legends it’s given rise to – haven’t succeeded in keeping it safe from vandals or souvenir hunters.

In 2014, the abandoned bike turned offbeat tourist attraction – which had endured in the forests for more than half a century – was stripped of everything that could possibly be removed. Today, all that’s left of the Vashon Island Bicycle Tree are the pieces of rusting frame that the tree itself is holding onto.

Related – The Weird History of the Mojave Phone Booth, Where the Number Lives On



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