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Here there be Spirits of Iron…

When you first glimpse Dan Klennert’s Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park on your way to Mount Rainier National Park, you might just brake to a stop. And if you don’t, we guarantee you will want to when the next opportunity arises.

Peering over the fence you may wonder, “What IS this place?” In Latin “Ex-Nihilo” translates to “something created from nothing.” The park is a random collection of animals, monsters, motorcycle riders and structures – all wrought from the imagination and materials found by the artist.

Go ahead, drive in and allow plenty of time for your journey through Spirits of Iron. Klennert has worked for years to create this garden, though he’ll tell you that making art seldom feels like work – days pass like hours when he’s inspired.

The yard is his canvas – his tools are his imagination, welding skills and junk others have discarded or forgotten. The garden has something for all ages – children will fall under the fairy-tale spell of dinosaurs, adults will also find themselves smiling, some may find some of the spirits a little unsettling. Art is not always “pretty.” The purpose of art is not only to make “something” from “nothing” or create beauty; it can also incite and inspire one to think.

In a word, the Sculpture Park is astonishing – there is no place like it. You may feel as though you’ve walked into the studio of a surrealist when you see a giant sea horse fashioned from horseshoes, deer fashioned from “found” wood, a metallic bird just hatched from a giant egg, all scattered amongst disparate objects (gas pumps, logging wheels, wildflowers, bird boxes and lots of “and more”).

Klennert’s material is anything he finds ranging from incomprehensible shapes of rusty metal to animal skulls and jawbones or “junk” others have tossed. He scours abandoned farms and junkyards for much of his material. Animals fashioned from driftwood stand peacefully in the lush grass; nearby a skeleton rides a chopper motorcycle (entitled “The Angel From Hell”), a skier poised to ski and a rock musician about to strum a chord.

According to Dan, he’s been collecting “junk” since he was a kid; he worked as a mechanic in his 20s. Klennert’s mechanical skills combined with his love of sprockets, gears and metal resulted in this artistic meltdown scattered throughout his property and the region.

If Dan isn’t around, he may be found working in his shop or out in his garden. When the Gift Shop is open, be sure to go inside for more displays. If he’s there, he may enjoy a conversation as well.

While the sculptures in the front yard may over-saturate your senses, don’t stop there. There’s more in the backyard that defies description, including pieces that will strike at the political chords of your belief system. The “Men’s Room” in the backyard is a piece of art you won’t forget.

His work has been displayed throughout the United States including Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Canada. Once you’ve visited the Sculpture Park you’ll recognize Dan’s art when you see it – look for one of his sculptures at the McDonalds in Graham along Highway SR 516.

The park is continually evolving; one visit cannot begin to capture it all. Include the Sculpture Park as part of your Mount Rainier experience. Please leave a donation.



Address: 22410 Washington 706,  Ashford, WA 98304


About The Author

Karen Sykes

Karen (1943-2014) was a Washington native, born in Shelton and lived in Washington most of her life. She started to hike in 1979 and joined The Mountaineers the following year. By the 1980s she was leading hikes for the Seattle branch of The Mountaineers. Around the same time, she began writing articles for Signpost Magazine (Pack and Paddle) and contributed to so many hiking reports that her name became familiar to other hikers. She was contacted by The Seattle Post Intelligencer to write the "Hike of the Week" which turned into years of writing this weekly column, until The Seattle Post Intelligencer stopped their printing presses in 2009. Two of Karen's books have been published by Mountaineer Books - Hidden Hikes (out of print) and Best Wildflower Hikes with Al Kruckeberg and Craig Romano. Karen was as passionate about photography as she was about hiking and both The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post Intelligencer have published her photographs.