The peaceful blue-collar town of Shelton (pop. 9,000) occupies the head of Oakland Bay on the southwest toe of Puget Sound. It is both the Mason County seat and the only incorporated city in the county. Put on your plaid shirt and baseball cap to blend in.
It’s easy to see the importance of timber here: a sprawling yellow Simpson Timber Co. lumber and plywood mill dominates the town, and the surrounding land is filled with tree farms in varying stages of regrowth. Rayonier Research Center, where the chemistry and manufacture of pulp is studied, is also here, as is a maximum-security state prison.
Downtown has wide streets and a friendly atmosphere, but up the hill you’ll find homogenized America, with a McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and Super 8 Motel.
Mason County is one of the nation’s largest Christmas tree–producing areas; every year, over two million trees are shipped worldwide. Originally named Sheltonville, the town was founded in 1855 by David Shelton. Forestry and oystering were, and still are, the primary industries here, beginning in 1878 when the first shipment of highly prized Olympia oysters left Kamilche.
Mason County Transit (360/427-5033 or 800/374-3747) has free bus service throughout the county. All buses are kitted-out with bike racks. Olympic Air (360/426-1477, www.olyair.com , $250 per hour) offers scenic flights over the area.