Scott Shrock demonstrates proper axe-throwing form at Arrowhead Ranch on Camano Island. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Scott Shrock demonstrates proper axe-throwing form at Arrowhead Ranch on Camano Island. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Axe throwing hitting a bull’s-eye in Everett and Camano Island

“It’s not scary. It’s a fun night out and a stress reliever,” says an axe-throwing devotee.

  • Sunday, January 9, 2022 7:35am
  • Life

By Megan Campbell

Special to The Herald

Alissa Wetherbee knows when she’s had a good throw.

“You just feel it,” she said.

Wetherbee, founder and owner of Axe Women Loggers of Maine in Ellsworth, Maine, is a modern-day lumberjill who competes in axe throwing.

She walks up to the line, 20 feet from her target. Gripping the axe’s 24-inch handle with both hands, she raises it above her head, steps forward and releases, fingers pointing at the bull’s-eye. The axe completes a full rotation before its 3-pound double-bitted head sinks into the target.

Once confined to frontiersmen and loggers, axe throwing has entered the mainstream, with one venue each in Snohomish and Island counties where novice throwers can try their hand at the sport.

But urban axe throwing is a little different than the competitive sport Wetherbee knows.

For one thing, it’s a sport many want to mix with alcohol.

And for another thing, urban axe throwing is typically done with a hatchet half the size of Wetherbee’s axe.

“It’s kind of like comparing darts to archery,” Wetherbee said. “I’m sure it’s fun — but I don’t think it’s as fun as what we do.”

Lisa Riddle celebrates a bull’s-eye on her last throw of an axe-throwing session at Arrowhead Ranch. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Lisa Riddle celebrates a bull’s-eye on her last throw of an axe-throwing session at Arrowhead Ranch. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

While the International Axe Throwing Federation claims this new form of axe throwing is the world’s fastest growing sport, it’s still relatively new to our area. Locally, you’ll find it at High Trek Adventures in Everett and Arrowhead Ranch on Camano Island.

High Trek Adventures founder and co-owner Brad Halbach is working to change this by adding a second, 10,000-square-foot indoor space near the Everett Mall for axe throwing, darts, mini golf, shuffleboard and laser tag.

“It’s a social activity,” Halbach said of urban axe throwing. “Bowling is kind of the old-school social experience.”

With axe throwing, “there’s the thrill, the weight and the thud of it,” he said.

High Trek Adventures provides throwers with 14-inch, 1¼-pound hatchets, allowing for more players to successfully throw.

“I would say that the majority of our clients have never thrown an axe before and are just intrigued to try it,” said Shannon Olson, whose title at High Trek Adventures is general manager of fun. “They’re not serious axe throwers. It’s just something different and something new.”

High Trek Adventures, at 11928 Beverly Park Road in Everett, in Paine Field Community Park, opened in 2017 as a high ropes obstacle course with zip lines. In addition to the ropes course, the venue has a mini golf course, outdoor laser tag and axe throwing.

Aspen Harder tries her hand at axe throwing at High Trek Adventures in south Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Aspen Harder tries her hand at axe throwing at High Trek Adventures in south Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The 1,000-square-foot axe-throwing addition has eight 12-foot-long outdoor ranges. You can rent a range for up to five players for $80 an hour. Or get two to four ranges for six or more players at $70 per hour. Players must be at least 12.

Halbach wants to turn this seasonal business model into a year-round staple — inclement weather decreases interest in activities near Paine Field. He hopes expanding to the Everett Mall area will allow him to do that, because it’s indoors.

Arrowhead Ranch on Camano Island, 615 Arrowhead Road, was founded in 2016 by Randy and Marla Heagle. It hosts the Stanwood and Camano Island Soap Box Derby. In addition to a soap-box track, Arrowhead Ranch offers axe throwing and craftsman workshops.

Its axe-throwing barn is 1,150 square feet. The barn features two 12-foot-long ranges with two targets each. Players throw 12-inch hatchets that weigh about 1¾ pounds. Each rental allows for 90 minutes of play time. Rent one range for four to eight players for $35 each — or book nine to 12 players and get the space for $300. Rent both ranges for 13 to 24 players for $500. You must be at least 15 to play.

“Maybe it’s the new bowling or darts — it’s definitely similar,” said Katie Shrock, Arrowhead Ranch manager. “I’d say it’s becoming very popular.”

Katie Shrock pulls an axe out of a wooden bull’s-eye at Arrowhead Ranch. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Katie Shrock pulls an axe out of a wooden bull’s-eye at Arrowhead Ranch. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

If you want to get serious with urban axe throwing, you can join the World Axe Throwing League, which has official rules and tournaments. Arrowhead Ranch is a registered member of the league.

High Trek Adventures is willing to offer tournament play if there is enough interest. Halbach’s goal is to form leagues in the spring (May though June) and fall (September through October). Email info@hightrekeverett.com if you’d like to get on the waiting list.

It’s not hard to find an “axe throwing gone wrong” video on the internet, where the axe bounces back at the thrower.

Arrowhead Ranch has certified “axe-perts” on hand to instruct customers on throwing the axe and removing it from the target. They also ensure that no one is throwing while other players collect their axes.

“A lot of times people get really excited and they’ll chase after their axe, so they’ll throw it and kind of run toward it,” Shrock said. “So (the axe-pert) is there to grab them back.”

The experts at Arrowhead are trained by the World Axe Throwing League.

As long you follow the safety rules and recommendations, axe throwing is safe, Shrock said.

“We get a lot of people who are nervous; they’re worried,” she said. “And then they throw it that first time, and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is fine.’”

Staff at High Trek Adventures receive safety training from Olson, job-shadowing him for a week to learn how to keep customers safe.

Both High Trek Adventures and Arrowhead Ranch require customers to sign a waiver before they pick up an axe.

“Everyone should come and try,” Shrock said. “It’s not scary. It’s not bad. It’s a fun night out and a stress reliever.”

As Halbach plans his next axe-throwing location in Everett, he’s coming up with a system that uses thick rubber mats to prevent axes from bouncing back at throwers.

Axe bounce-back worries Wetherbee when she thinks of urban axe throwing. She likes to throw her axes in an open field. With nothing behind the target, there’s nothing for the axe to bounce off.

“As long as you do it correctly, it is safe,” she said. “But people might not think of all the aspects of everything involved when they’re going in and having a beer and throwing a little hatchet.”

Unlike bowling, alcohol consumption and axe throwing don’t go together here — at least not yet.

Akira Andrews (left) and Aspen Harder get ready for another throw at High Trek Adventures. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Akira Andrews (left) and Aspen Harder get ready for another throw at High Trek Adventures. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has been asked to develop rules allowing alcohol consumption at axe-throwing venues. Blade and Timber in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has a permit under a pilot program to sell axe-throwers two drinks during a 90-minute stay.

Alcohol is not allowed at either High Trek Adventures or Arrowhead Ranch. But High Trek’s Halbach said he plans to apply for a liquor license for his Everett Mall location, which he expects to open in March.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board expects to have a final ruling on alcohol and axe throwing in April.

Some tips if you go: Wear close-toed shoes. Stand behind the line when you throw. It’s not about strength — it’s a skills game. Grip the handle with both hands. Throw the axe so it rotates just once. Don’t forget that the experts are there to help. Never hold the axe by the blade.

“The best is when people come very nervous and timid, and learn that they can throw and get a bull’s-eye,” Shrock said, adding that about 90% of customers get at least one bull’s-eye. “Watching the progress is a lot of fun.”

You don’t have to dress up like a lumberjack or lumberjill to play at High Trek or Arrowhead, but some do. They’ll wear suspenders, a long-sleeved plaid flannel shirt and logger boots.

Does Shrock channel her inner lumberjill when she’s throwing an axe? Not exactly.

“But I do feel strong,” she said. “Like I can protect myself. Women feel vulnerable. This gives you a sense of strength and like you can do anything.”

If you go

High Trek Adventures, 11928 Beverly Park Road, Building C, Everett. Call 425-382-2966, email info@hightrekeverett.com or visit hightrekeverett.com/axe-throwing.html for more information. Schedules vary; check the website’s calendar. If you want to go on a day it’s closed, book a group event of 10 or more in advance.

Arrowhead Ranch, 615 Arrowhead Road, Camano, is open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Call 360-572-1737 or go to arrowheadranchcamano.com for more information.

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

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