What in the Sam Hill Were You Thinking?! Discover the Meaning Behind the Popular Expression

May 24, 2021

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Many rumors surround the old saying “What in the Sam Hill were you thinking?” This funny expression is used in place of more derogatory language. However, there is little to no evidence that it derived from an actual living person. Some say it came from Samuel W. Hill, a civil engineer and surveyor, who was known for swearing so much that his friends and colleagues started using his name in place of the crass language. 

Over the years, it has been also attributed to Sam Hill, who is known for the development of roadways, monuments and a museum in Washington. He built the Maryhill Museum, which opened in 1940 after his death in 1931. While he may not have started the popular saying, his real accomplishments made a great impact in his lifetime and beyond. In addition to the Maryhill Museum, there are numerous other museums that boast fascinating and unique exhibits. We’ve collected the top must-see attractions for the next time you visit the Columbia River Gorge in Washington.

Maryhill Stonehenge

Maryhill Museum & Stonehenge

Overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, Maryhill Museum has an array of special exhibitions and permanent displays. The special exhibitions are collections from the region’s top contemporary artists as well as select highlights of the museum’s current collection. Permanent displays can be enjoyed all year round, such as Indigenous Peoples of North America and Orthodox Icons. Outside you will find William and Catherine Dickson Sculpture Park, which consists of fascinating sculptures created by Northwest artists. Along with the sculptures throughout the park, you can enjoy the stunning greenery and views of Columbia River Gorge. 

If you’re looking for more of an adventure, a full-sized replica of England’s Stonehenge is located 3 miles east of the museum. The replica is a WWI Memorial. Sam Hill believed the original Stonehenge represented sacrifice, and decided to dedicate a replica to those who sacrificed themselves in WWI. The site is free to visit and is a great addition to a day at the Maryhill Museum.

Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center - Carson Ridge

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum

Discover the rich history, geology, wildlife and plants of the Columbia River Gorge. Featured exhibits to see include the Ice Age and Lewis and Clark. In addition to the permanent exhibits, there is a live raptor presentation available during select times and days. If you miss the raptor presentation, you can still participate by buying Hank, an American Kestrel, a mouse directly from their website. After exploring inside the museum, take your travels outside to walk the 50 plus acres that include native plants, a pond, and sights of the Columbia River Gorge. For a day full of history about the iconic gorge, plan a visit to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum.

History Museum of Hood River

The History Museum of Hood River provides a place for visitors to learn about the history of the generations of people who have lived along the Columbia River Gorge. The goal of the museum is to educate the public on the diverse and unique cultural history of the land. Starting with Native American culture, precious artifacts have been collected for you to get an idea of how life was back then. Fast forward to more present items such as the very first windsurfing board. Enjoy the exhibits while you marvel at the lovely scenery of the Columbia River just outside the museum.

Old Naval Plane flying in blue skies

Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile

Interested in classic airplanes and cars? The Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum, or WAAAM, has an extensive collection for visitors to enjoy. Check out the 1917 Curtiss JN-4D, which was the trainer plane for pilots for both US and England during WWI. If cars are more your thing, old classics like the 1913 Ford Model T Touring Car are on display. In addition to the abundance of planes and cars, WAAAM also features motorcycles, gliders, tractors, and military planes and vehicles. Get a chance to see how previous generations used to travel around, and plan a day at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum.

Interpretive Center

Travel back in time at the Columbia River Gorge Interpretive Center. The museum brings life to the stories and history of Columbia River Gorge and Skamania County. Exhibits include the history of The First Peoples – The Cascade Chinook, which goes into detail about their living style, religion and tools used. Continue along to the Community Gallery, which features a house being built. The house is yet to be finished (and never will be), but is an example of how mankind will continue to build and evolve. The Center’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer uninterrupted views of the Columbia River Gorge. Make sure to put the Interpretive Center on your list to experience amazing architecture and history.

View of Vista House at Crown Point above the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, United States

Vista House

Talk about a view! The Vista House has been an iconic stop along Interstate-84 since 1918. With unbeatable views of the Columbia River Gorge, the Vista House offers travelers a chance to stop and appreciate the beauty. Designed to be a jaw-dropping experience, the Vista House is a gateway to the majestic scenery of the river below. The Vista House is located on Crown Point. Once named “Thor’s Height,” the site boasts natural wonders and sheer brilliance. Next time you’re looking for that picture-perfect spot, head to the Vista House for a magical experience.

While it’s still a mystery as to where “What in the Sam Hill Were You Thinking?!” came from, there’s no question that the Columbia River Gorge holds an extraordinary past and future. The area allows adventurers from all over to marvel at its vast beauty. To continue your appreciation of the land, venture over to Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins. Built with nature in mind, Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins encompasses the natural charm of the Columbia River Gorge. Experience unfettered luxury and relaxation with your jetted tub, snack basket and more. Enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast each morning as you sip on a delicious cup of coffee. Complete your visit to the Pacific Northwest with an exceptional stay at Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins.